Basement Ideas

By: Danny Lipford

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Finishing or remodeling a basement is a great way to increase the living space in a home. Newer basements are often constructed with finishing in mind. They include higher ceiling, roughed in plumbing, and mechanical systems that are located out of the way. Some common uses include recreation room, home theater, children’s playroom, wet bar, spare bedroom, and home office.

Remodeling a basement presents some unique challenges that require careful attention to detail if the project is to be done right. Since the floor, walls, and ceiling already exist, finishing a basement can cost less than adding a new addition.

Designing and Planning a Basement Renovation

When planning the design for a finished basement, take into account:

  • Ceiling height
  • Heating and cooling needs
  • Supporting walls and posts
  • Existing ductwork
  • Location of existing furnace or hot water heater
  • Existing wiring
  • Potential problems with moisture
  • Location of plumbing pipes and drains

It’s important also to consider the return on your investment should you decide to move in the future. According to Remodeling magazine’s Cost vs. Value website, the average 2008 basement renovation in the U.S. cost $61,011 and returned approximately 73% of the money invested when the house was sold.

Planning for the future is an important part of basement design. For example, when planning a children’s playroom, consider how it can be converted into a game room once they’re older.

Creative approaches to concealing existing ductwork and plumbing include built-in storage benches and innovative ceiling designs. Varying the height and shape of the ceiling can also help to break up long expanses in large, open rooms and add an interesting element to the space.

Dealing with Leakage and Moisture in a Basement

While basements have a reputation as dark and dank, they don’t have to be that way. Potential leakage from outside and moisture or condensation can be problems, however, and should be dealt with before work on the interior begins.

This could be as simple and inexpensive as diverting rainwater and runoff away from the foundation, or as difficult and costly as removing the soil around the perimeter and waterproofing the exterior walls.

Certain materials, such as hardwood floors, should be avoided in basements due to the potential for swelling and warping. If high humidity continues to be a problem, consider installing a dehumidifier in the basement to reduce it.

Basement Windows and Stairs

Natural lighting and proper emergency exists are important considerations with remodeling a basement. If doors to the outside are not available, egress windows can be installed to provide light and act as emergency exits.

If the basement is fully underground, soil can be removed and a retaining wall installed to allow for windows.

It’s also important to be sure basement staircases meet building codes as to width, tread to riser ratio, and handrail. When installing a finished floor in the basement, make sure that all the stair risers are the same height to avoid a tripping hazard.

With proper design and planning, a basement renovation can add useful living space to your home without increasing the footprint on the lot.

Further Information

Other Tips From This Episode

Simple Solutions with Joe Truini:
Kitchen Cabinet Chalkboard

Kitchen Cabinet Chalkboard

Since it’s often the busiest room in the house, the kitchen is an ideal place to leave messages. But rather than plastering the walls with sticky notes, consider painting the inside of a cabinet door with chalkboard paint to turn it into a permanent, erasable message center. Start by masking off the area on the inside of the door with painter’s tape, then apply the chalkboard paint with a brush. Allow the paint to dry for 24 hours before applying a second coat. After drying for 24 more hours, the chalkboard is ready for use with regular chalk.

Best New Products with Jodi Marks:
Hyde PaintMiser

Hyde PaintMiser

The PaintMiser from Hyde Tools is a multipurpose tool that helps remove every last drop of paint from the can. It has a paint can opener on one end, straight and curved scraping surfaces that contour to the inside and outside of the can, and specially shaped edges to clean under and around the rim. With paint savings of up to 7% per can, it can pay for itself in just three gallons. The PaintMiser is available at The Home Depot.

Thinking Green with Danny Lipford:
Eliminating Mold in Your Home

Eliminating Mold in Your Home

The presence of mold in your home needs to be addressed as it can cause serious health problems, such as asthma and allergy attacks. However, many the harsh chemicals used to kill mold have health risks as well and require adequate ventilation when used. For a greener option, look for products that kill mold without using bleach, ammonia, or volatile organic compounds.

Power tools used on Today’s Homeowner with Danny Lipford® are provided by Ryobi.



Please Leave a Comment

3 Comments on “Basement Ideas”

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  • Deanna R. Jones Says:
    April 17th, 2015 at 3:10 pm

    The information about the best way to deal with leakage and moisture in a basement is very helpful. My basement flooded last night, so I woke up this morning to a basement that’s still dripping wet. As soon as I get the water pumped out, I’ll be sure to take measure to prevent it from being flooded. I really liked the tip in this post about removing the soil around the perimeter of my house and waterproofing the exterior walls. That seems like a good way to prevent flooding in a basement so that water won’t get in my house.

  • Barry Norman Says:
    April 27th, 2009 at 1:23 pm

    There are countless basements designed without an emergency exit and natural lighting.

    I hope your advices open the eyes of people and they finish the basement taking lighting and emergency exit into consideration.

  • James T. McKinney Says:
    November 17th, 2008 at 11:41 am

    If you can, please help us with a design to convert the unused space (12 x 24) under the house to use as a basement on a house that backs on a hill. Any help would be appreciated. Thank you.

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