There comes a point in every home’s existence when the current space it has to offer just isn’t enough. Children grow, families expand, and interests widen. In order to create a larger livable footprint, many homeowners turn to finishing the basement. While it may be tempting to simply slap up drywall, lay carpet, and call it complete, take some time to research. According to the Ohio Building Code for example, a permit is required for a basement remodel that includesframing or drywalling a wall, drywalling a ceiling, or altering basement window. There is no permit required for laying flooring or making cosmetic changes such as painting. Make sure to seek out a qualified contractor who will adhere to these and building requirements. By being an informed homeowner during the initial stages of a remodel, basement bliss can be yours.
Basement renovation begins with what is, in essence, a blank slate. The valuable square footage it provides can be customized based on a family’s current needs and desires. Some design requests are very personal to the client and may include space for a craft room, a home gym, or even a wine cellar. Most Realtors warn against additions that are too unique as they may be a turnoff for potential buyers if you ever decide or have to sell. That lower level bowling alley you’re dying for? It probably won’t appeal to the masses. Most basement remodel projects, therefore, center around the top three must-haves: a main socializing area, a TV-viewing area, and/or an additional bathroom—with an additional bedroom/bonus room coming in at a close fourth.
Having raw space to work with in a basement remodel makes it easy to spot potential issues before the first measurements are even made. On their website, This Old House provides the following easy inspections homeowners can perform themselves before a basement remodel:
• Test for moisture by taping 2-foot squares of plastic sheeting to the floor and walls. Wait a couple of weeks. If condensation forms underneath, your foundation’s not sealed. If droplets form on top, your basement needs dehumidifying.
• Use an awl to probe for rot and insect damage in floor joists, rim and header joists, the sill plate, and wood-framed windows.
• Check floor joists for sagging by climbing a ladder until you’re nearly eye level with the underside of the joists. Look across them (perpendicular to their direction) to see if any are out of line.
By following these simple steps, savvy homeowners can approach basement renovation professionals with valuable insight into the particulars of their space.
Unlike a main house renovation project, basement remodeling is conducted below ground and therefore comes with a unique set of obstacles to face. One of the first issues addressed while planning the remodel? Basement walls and how best to finish them in order to combat moisture and mold. In his article “Building a better basement,” Columbus Dispatch home and garden expert Jim Weiker notes there are two hotly-debated options: “traditional drywall and stud construction or basement “systems” with mold-resistant panels designed for basement use.”
Panel systems are designed resist mold and can easily be removed for access to the foundation. Advocates of this method feel this choice is a no-brainer. “Representatives of panel systems argue that basements are inherently damp and that traditional studs and drywall are susceptible to mold because they contain cellulose, which mold thrives upon,” he writes. Although pricey—over $30 per square foot in some cases—the panel system virtually eliminates any and all potential moisture problems. One Grove City couple who were interviewed for the article also mentioned the added benefit of the mold control: potential relief for allergy sufferers in the family.
On the other hand, those who prefer to use the traditional method of drywall and stud construction can claim both look and price as an advantage. They contend that not only are panels expensive, their design looks very out of place in comparison to the rest of a typical drywalled house. The panels can also add 3 to 5 inches of thickness to the wall, which can condense usable space and make for an overall diminished design. While both procedures have advantages and disadvantages, most experts agree that the choice ultimately comes down to each individual project. Basement remodels in older homes with lots of water problems will benefit better from a panel system while newer construction can most likely rely on drywall and studs.
Once a design is agreed upon and a wall-finishing method is established, basement remodeling projects really begin to take shape. Ceiling height, floor type, and electrical wiring are all elements that need to be taken into consideration. If pipes and ducts fall below the standard 7-foot ceiling height, they may need to be raised or the floor may have to be dug out and lowered. Moisture is the constant threat on the lower level so avoid natural wood and opt for carpet, which softens the concrete underfoot and hides unevenness. Other current trends include built-in bookshelves, a bar/kitchenarea, and integrated fireplaces. It all comes down to personal preference. No matter how you ultimately choose to finish it, researching how best to remodel a basement is a great process to start and Renovate Columbus can help.