Know Your House: The Steps in Finishing a Basement
Learn what it takes to finish a basement before you consider converting it into a playroom, office, guest room or gym
First, though, you'll want to make sure that your basement is a candidate for finishing. Make sure there's enough ceiling height, the foundation doesn't leak and there aren't any egregious code violations.
That's not to say you can't fix these things. If the ceiling isn't high enough, you can lower the floor by removing the existing concrete slab, digging down and then pouring a new slab. If there isn't an egress window, you can cut through the foundation wall and install one. Just keep in mind that doing these things will add to the cost of the remodel.
One of my favorite ways to keep the water at bay is installing an interior drain tile system. This can be especially useful when, as in some older houses, an exterior system was never installed.
Another favorite method is to use oversize windows with large wells on the outside. While the tendency is to use smaller, less costly metal or plastic escape wells, I find that the larger ones can make the basement feel less like an underground cave and more like any other living space.
It’s also smart to place the new perimeter wall slightly inboard of the foundation walls. I do this because the foundation walls may not be plumb (straight up and down) and may have surface imperfections. And the space that gets created between the framed wall and the foundation wall is a great place to easily run conduit, cables and wires through. The added space will also increase the amount of insulation that can be installed.
Find a local pro to waterproof your basement
While it’d be less costly to install fiberglass batts, a better solution is to use a closed-cell spray-foam insulation. These types of insulations fill cavities, making an airtight seal, and can prevent condensation from forming on the concrete foundation walls.
A nice feature of spray-foam insulation is that the overspray can fill any gaps around the old sill plate and rim joist at the top of the old foundation. Any gaps that settling has created will get closed up, creating a more energy-efficient house.
Remember to leave a gap between the concrete floor and the bottom of the drywall. This will prevent any moisture in the concrete from being wicked up into the drywall. And if there’s one thing that can really cause problems in a home, it’s moisture trapped in building materials.
While drywall is by far the most common material used to finish the walls, there are many options for the ceiling finishing. Drywall is certainly one; just make sure you have access panels where there are pipes and other items you’ll have to get to.
You can also use drop-in tiles, which avoid the need for access panels but usually result in the loss of some ceiling height. And of course you can just paint the structure, leaving it exposed. This last option is especially nice where there’s a low ceiling and you want as much height as you can get.
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If it’s a playroom, you’ll likely want something that’s easily cleaned. If it’s a home office, hardwood is certainly an option. Some really nice basements actually have different floor finishes in different areas: something easily cleaned up in a craft area and something soft and comfortable in a sitting area.
How to Refinish Your Basement the Right Way
Basement tips and before-and-afters
Find building pros in your area to refinish your basement