Seven Tips for Finishing a Basement

Like many homeowners, you may have considered adding space to your home. You can choose to add an addition, or you can look at what you already have and make changes. If you have a basement, this is an untapped space that you can transform into an extra bedroom, a den, or whatever you like. However, you will need to be aware of some important basics before making your basement a livable space.

Manage moisture—Controlling water problems is crucial to prevent mold. Suppose you have an older basement with excessive humidity. In that case, you may not be able to successfully finish your basement unless you arrange to elevate your flooring by building a subfloor system that provides a dry, insulated barrier. Minor cracks can be treated with water-lock paint or caulking. You can also install drainage mats, which provide a protective barrier or collect moisture from the air with a dehumidifier to avoid condensation on the walls and ceiling.

Decide on the basement’s purpose—Plan according to the size and lighting. If you want to transform your basement into a sunny apartment, add windows to bring in sunlight since basements are usually dark. You won’t need much light for a gym or home movie theater. However, be cautious about bringing in tall equipment, which may be too large to fit due to basements mainly having low ceilings. Check that your basement ceiling is at least seven feet tall and consult with your local authorities about building codes.

Protect the walls—Walls are important because they control the room’s temperature, provide space, enhance aesthetics, and make it easier to run electrical wiring. To protect against mold and draft, you must waterproof and insulate basement walls. To waterproof, you can add drywall, plywood, paneling, or paint over the concrete with waterproof paint. Apply thick coatings to fill every hole and crack. Insulation will reduce heat loss and cut energy expenses but must be done after leaks are sealed. Foam is preferred to fiberglass because it is a better protector against mold.

Consider heating, plumbing, and electricity—Basic utilities will make your basement space livable. Check on upgrades that need to be done and secure a permit. Provide electrical outlets to comply with coding. Plan for supplemental heating and cooling, such as electric baseboard heaters, and tap into the existing HVAC ductwork to extend to your basement’s space as needed. Hire a professional to design your ductwork. Seal pipes and wires with silicone caulk to prevent the spread of fire from the basement to upstairs. Sealing will also save energy and absorb sound. Insulating pipes with foam sleeves can prevent heat loss and condensation.

Comfortable flooring and enhanced ceiling—You will want to warm the floor in winter. You have a few options. You can install a drainage mat to provide a moisture barrier, use electrical heating cables, and install cork flooring or luxury vinyl tile, which is sturdy and waterproof. Other flooring choices are paint, laminate, tile, or carpet. Installing carpet, however, is the least recommended due to the possibility of damage from moisture. You can hide unsightly pipes and ductwork with drywall, paneling, paint, or install a suspended or drop ceiling for your ceiling.

Lighting and windows—Due to a basement’s tendency to be dark, you’ll want to make it more inviting by investing in artificial lighting such as recessed or ceiling fixtures. In addition, coding requires the installation of egress windows that allow for escape in case of emergencies.

Plan for storage— Reserve space for storing materials you are not currently using, such as food, drinks, seasonal decorations, knick-knacks, and out-of-season clothing. Decide on an area where you can install shelving, a built-in storage unit, or a refrigerator.