What do you need to finish a basement?

A basement is a perfect place to expand living space. Already equipped with a floor, walls and a ceiling, a basement can be inexpensively and quickly converted into a family room, exercise room, study or game room. Before you begin your project, you will need to consider a few things and take preliminary steps to ensure that your basement remodeling project is successful and safe.

A Dry Basement

Before you begin any basement remodeling project, the basement must be completely dry and free of water problems. Even scanty water puddling or wall condensation can wreak havoc on carpeting, wood framing and drywall; standing water also encourages mold growth, a health hazard. Consult with a contractor or basement waterproofing specialist. It may be that solving a water problem is as simple as moving a downspout or sealing the concrete walls.


Sufficient Headroom

Some municipal codes state that basements must meet certain depth requirements before they can be converted into living space. If your basement is too shallow, you may need to increase the headroom; this would require intensive excavation and restoration of the concrete subfloor–a laborious and expensive job. Then again, a deeper basement may allow you to install or improve perimeter drains or other waterproofing methods.

Radon Gas

Radon gas is a severe health hazard; the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that one of every 15 homes has elevated radon levels. Most radon problems can be detected with kits and solved with meticulous sealing of cracks and openings.

Sufficient Exits

Local building codes may regulate the presence, size and number of windows and exit points for the basement, for fire safety standards. Be prepared to install or enlarge windows or doors if local codes require it. Furnace and air-conditioning ducts may need to be completely sealed and covered, as well.

A Plan and a Budget

Create a scale drawing of your basement and make a list of major and minor installations or changes, such as interior wall partitions, window installation or removal and relocation of plumbing or heating vents. Set a budget, also; allow yourself a little extra for unexpected expenses, and discipline yourself to stay within the budget guidelines.

Building Permit

Building permits are established for the protection of homeowners and future occupants. Permits ensure that the work done on the home meets safety standards and modern construction methods. Failure to obtain a building permit may cause problems later, as you may incur fines or be forced to tear out your work, or suffer the foibles of shoddy, substandard construction.


Reader’s Digest: How to Finish a Basement

U.S. EPA: A Citizen’s Guide to Radon

Don Vandervort’s Home Tips: Why & When You Need a Building Permit

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