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How to Plan a Basement Remodel

An unfinished basement is a space brimming with potential. In some cases, remodelling a previously unused basement effectively doubles the size of your home. Your parents can spend the night there when they visit, your kids can have a new playroom or you can have a quiet, peaceful study to call your own. Before you get started, you’ll need to do some research.

Consider Your Vision

Before you start your remodelling project, decide what you want to do with the space. You could turn your finished basement into a:

  • Library

  • Gym

  • Extra sleeping area

  • Family game room

  • Second living room

Your decision will influence how you renovate the basement. If you’re going to put another couple of bedrooms down there, you’ll need to emphasise soundproofing the ceiling so people can sleep quietly. But this may not be a priority if you plan to use the space as a gym.

How to Plan Your Remodel

As with all construction projects, planning is a crucial part of the job, so you should prepare for your remodel before you start. Here’s a checklist to help you out.

1. Check Building Codes

First, check with a local building inspector to see if there are any codes you need to adhere to. For example, you may have to install emergency exits, specific types of insulation or moisture barriers. There could also be requirements for your ceiling to be a certain height. Once you know the building codes, you can easily plan your remodeling project.

2. Inspect the Basement

Check for any signs of moisture, such as a sagging ceiling or mould growing in a particular spot. Keep an eye out for any cracks that could be contributing to the problem and fix them before proceeding. Measure your basement dimensions — including length, width, ceiling height, and any staircases — using a steel rule or a laser measure, which gives you a more accurate reading.

3. Address Any Moisture Problems

You’ll hear a lot about moisture when discussing a basement remodel. That’s because basements tend to be more humid than the rest of the house, which can leave them uncomfortably damp. Additionally, excess moisture contributes to mould, which may cause an unpleasant odour and respiratory problems.

The space must be clean and dry before you start renovations. You should fix leaks, reroute any gutters pointed toward the basement and invest in a dehumidifier to dry the air. Professional contractors can help get your home in working order.

4. Draft a Floor Plan

The floor plan is your basement blueprint. Where will you build new walls, if any? Where will the plumbing and electrical wiring go? The floor plan also shows the location of doors, wall measurements, ceiling height and even where you’ll place the furniture.

When drafting your plan, be sure to consider your storage space needs. Will you include shelving for books or games? Additionally, pay close attention to lighting. Basements don’t receive natural light, so you should incorporate bright ceiling lights and floor lamps to illuminate the space.

5. Create a Budget

Sticking to a detailed budget allows you to plan renovations without breaking the bank. Instead of heading to the nearest hardware store and picking out your favourite materials based on their appearance — which, admittedly, every DIY-er has done at some point — decide how much you can afford first. You have to balance quality with practicality.

6. Choose Your Insulation 

Keeping the building codes and your budget in mind, pick out the insulation for the walls and ceiling. Do you want spray foam, extruded polystyrene sheets or something else? You might also need thicker insulation to muffle the sound of footsteps from upstairs. Hardware store employees can help you choose the right type of insulation.

7. Decide on the Plasterboard 

Pink isn’t the new black. Assuming you don’t want your walls to consist of fluffy, bare insulation that makes your basement look more like a padded cell, you’ll need to buy plasterboard to finish the job. You can find it at the local hardware store. When deciding which type of plasterboard to purchase, remember that basements are prone to humidity, so look for a moisture-resistant style.

8. Select Flooring

If you have a concrete floor, consider making it waterproof. Vinyl and laminate flooring are also excellent for a basement because of their moisture-resistant properties.

In contrast, wood tends to be a poor material for finishing a basement floor because of its propensity to grow, shrink and crack when it gets wet. It also stains easily. Carpet is not recommended for basements, either, because it can get mouldy. When shopping for basement flooring, you’ll want something easy to clean.

Bringing Out the Best in Your Basement

A basement remodel is the perfect way to upgrade your house and create a comfortable space for hanging out, watching movies, studying or sleeping. It can even increase your home’s value. With careful budgeting and space planning, you can create the finished basement of your dreams.

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