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Home Improvement & Renovating

Finishing the Basement: What You Should Plan For

Finishing the Basement: What You Should Plan For

Having a finished basement will not only give you extra living space, but it’s also a good return on investment, increasing the value of your home.

Before diving in, it’s vital to have a solid plan that will help you achieve your vision in a timely, organized manner while staying on budget.

How do you plan to use your basement?

You probably already have a good idea of how you want to use your finished basement. This will guide you when designing the space and choosing features.

Would you like a play area for your children and a relaxing place to unwind with family and friends, listen to music, watch TV or play a game of billiards? The basement can also be transformed into an inviting guest suite.

Having a clear idea of what you want to use your basement for will help you design the layout that best meets your needs. It will also help you determine the costs so you can make sure it will be in line with your budget.

DIY or hire a contractor?

If you have DIY experience, good skills and enough time, you will be able to save on the labour costs of hiring a contractor. Refinishing a basement is a major project, so it will require good time management and patience to keep at it, even when there are unexpected challenges.

Certain work will need to be handled by a pro. It’s always safer to have your electrical and plumbing done by a licensed electrician and plumber.

If your time is limited, hiring a contractor can take a lot off your shoulders and free you up to do other things. If you plan to hire a contractor, electrician or plumber, it’s a good idea to get three quotes in writing.

Set your budget

Before you start renovating, make a list of all the materials you will need, and the work you will need to do to get a clear picture of the costs and time involved. Research the many types of building materials you will need to weigh their benefits and costs:

  • Flooring
  • Walls
  • Ceilings
  • Insulation
  • Vents
  • Windows, doors
  • Fixtures
  • Lighting
  • Paint

Don’t forget the critical electrical, plumbing and HVAC work you will need to do. Keep in mind that a bathroom will add at least another $15,000 to $20,000.

Visit your local building supply centre to look at materials, and ask about their suitability for your project, plus their availability, pricing and delivery options.

Another cost you may need to plan for is the services of an engineer or architect, depending on the complexity of the refinishing plan. For example, some older homes have very low ceilings in the basement so the floor can be excavated to raise the ceiling height.

Once you know how you want your basement to look and feel, you can work on a more accurate budget. Always include a buffer amount for those unexpected costs that usually arise in any renovation job. Remember to budget for the fun part – decorating, furnishings and the finishing touches!

Make a project timeline

Prepare a timeline that will help ensure that materials – as well as the electrician and plumber – will be ready at the right time to avoid delays. Consider the time of year and weather to ensure good ventilation during the work process. Build in extra time to allow for delays.

Work with the structure of your basement to achieve your vision

Make detailed drawings of where all beams, support posts, appliances, and equipment are currently located – your furnace, water heater, water softener, sump pump, laundry room appliances, and any roughed-in pipes. You may need to move some appliances to make the best use of your space.

Permits are a prerequisite

Always check the building code requirements in your municipality and get the permits you need before starting any construction. This will help you avoid costly surprises. Remember to include the cost of permits in your budget.

Deal with dampness

Check for signs of moisture in your basement such as mould smells, bumps, water marks and cracks. Never start refinishing your basement until you have taken care of moisture issues.

Be a drain detective

It will pay to look closely at your sewer lines to observe how water drains from appliances. You will want to avoid sewer backups at all costs now that you are investing in a finished space in your basement. Consider installing a sewer backup prevention valve. Ask your plumber to inspect your basement for proper drainage and possible leaks so you can remedy it before you start your project. To prevent moisture, mould and cold floors, you can install a subfloor.

Planning lighting

Lighting will be an important feature of your basement for the atmosphere and functionality. Dimmer light switches will ensure enough light when you need it most and for the times you want softer mood lighting. Plan according to natural light sources from windows and consider how different seasons will affect the lighting level. Think about the logical placement of outlets and switches.

Framing

This step will set the framework for the actual layout of your finished basement. You will typically frame your basement using 2 x 4 framing studs. It’s best to use pressure treated wood for the bottom plate when you need to frame on moisture-prone concrete floors.

Install electrical, plumbing and HVAC

It is much easier to install electrical wiring and plumbing pipes when your walls are still open. This includes drains, water lines and ventilation for a bathroom or laundry room. HVAC return and supply lines will be crucial to ensuring good ventilation for reduced moisture. You will need to have all of this work inspected before installing fixtures and switches or outlets

Insulation

Choose from batt insulation, rigid insulation sheets, or spray foam insulation to keep your basement mould-free and dry.

Drywall

There are many types of drywall to suit your needs – soundproof, mould resistant, and sustainable options for walls, ceilings and bulkheads.

This part of your project will require patience and time to ensure a smooth finish. Allow enough time for the compound to dry and make sure you remove any dents and other flaws as they will show up when painted.

You can use drywall on the ceiling or install a drop ceiling to give you easy access to wiring, plumbing and ductwork for maintenance and repairs.

Flooring

After you have repaired any cracks in the floor, and waterproofed it, or added a subfloor, you can move ahead and install the flooring. Top choices for flooring are laminate, vinyl planks or tiles and carpeting, which can add warmth and insulation.

Painting

Make sure you have sanded the drywall thoroughly to get rid of any scratch marks or dents. Apply primer for best results followed by your top coat. Lighter coloured paint will make your finished basement appear brighter. You can always add a darker shade on an accent wall to create interest.

Now it’s time to decorate and furnish your new finished basement!


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