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How to Get the Most Out of a Basement Remodel

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Basement remodeling is one of the most sought-after home improvement projects, right after kitchens and bathrooms. If you have an unfinished or poorly-finished basement, you've probably dreamed of all you could do with that space. But making that dream a reality isn't cheap. So if you're going to make the investment in your basement, you want to get the most out of your basement remodel. Here are our top tips to make the most out of a basement remodel. Of course, the best thing you can do is work with a TrustDALE certified basement remodeling expert who has the knowledge and experience to bring out the best in your basement.

Planning the Layout

You may have grand plans for your basement or a vision for the finished product. But the first step in any basement remodel is planning the layout. When you're finishing a basement, the layout needs to strike a balance between your dreams and utility. More so than any other area of your house, your basement has features that will limit the bounds of your creativity and constrain your layout. But with some planning and forethought, you can turn those restrictions into design features.

Headroom

The first issue you will most likely have to contend with in your basement is headroom. Most codes require a minimum of seven-and-a-half feet of headroom. In a basement, pipes and ductwork can make that a challenge. So before you begin, consider how you will work around those things. You can move some pipes and ducts, though it will add to your final costs. You can also try to incorporate them into the layout by aligning your walls with areas that have the least headroom.

Walls

Speaking of walls, you want to avoid having too many. A basement doesn't get a lot of natural light. Having a labyrinth of walls and hallways underground can feel stifling and confusing. More than any other part of your home, your basement cries out for an open floor plan. That doesn't mean you can't divide up the space. But consider installing half walls, cutouts, or even using movable dividers to preserve the longest line of sight possible.

Joists and Posts

One immovable obstacle that confounds many homeowners is structural features like joists and posts. They can't really be moved—unless you want to go down the path of reengineering your home. So you have to work with them. Consider designing your walls and layout around these immovable obstacles. If you can incorporate them into your floor plan, they will look less out of place and fit more naturally into the finished basement.

Natural Light

Natural light is at a premium in most basements. Chances are that you only have one or two windows, and they are placed close to the ceiling. Try to maximize the natural light by keeping a clear path from the windows to as much of the basement as possible. As we said about walls, keep floor-to-ceiling solid walls to a minimum. If you can let even a little natural light into the basement, it will make a big difference in how the space feels.

Where to Put Things

As you figure out your layout, you need to decide what rooms you want in your basement and where you will put them. If you are adding a bedroom, it will need to be on the basement's perimeter with a window for emergency egress. If you are planning a TV room, take advantage of the area with the least natural light. You won't need it to watch TV, and it's a good way to use a space that isn't suitable for other purposes. If you want a playroom or rec room, try to give it as much space as possible. This is the perfect room to put at the base of the stairs so that the first thing you see when you enter the basement is a large open area. Avoid placing a hallway at the bottom of the stairs, or it will feel like you are entering an underground maze.

If you want to add a bathroom—and you probably should—take into account where there is already plumbing. Adding new lines can be expensive, and if you can use what's there, you won't have to shell out extra cash.

Part of finishing your basement is accommodating the appliances you already have down there. It is likely that your HVAC system and water heater are in the basement. Make sure that you leave enough room for a person to comfortably move around them for maintenance. Measure 2-3 feet around the appliance and keep that area clear. If you have your laundry in the basement, consider a stacking washer and dryer to save space.

Finishing the Basement

Once you've planned your layout and where everything will go, it's time to get down to the construction side of things. You may not be doing all the work yourself. Still, you will undoubtedly face a series of decisions about materials, colors, fixtures, and other finishings that you may not have addressed during the initial planning stage. So here's what experts have to say about actually finishing a basement.

The Ceiling

They say one man's ceiling is another man's floor. In a basement, you have to deal with the fact that people will be living, working, and moving around above the ceiling. You may even have noisy appliances that can rattle the floors, aka your ceiling. And unlike the ceiling that separates the first and second floor of a typical home, your basement ceiling likely includes lots of important stuff like ducts and pipes.

When you build your basement ceiling, you have to strike a careful balance between added functionality and giving up precious inches. It is unlikely that you have much headroom to spare, so every decision must be carefully weighed to avoid bumping your head on your new ceiling.

Since your basement includes lots of ducts and pipes, it may be a bad idea to seal those off completely. In case you need to work on your HVAC, sewage, or water system, you don't want to have to rip open your ceiling. One way to avoid that is to use a wall-hung ceiling—basically, ceiling tiles. The thought of ceiling tiles may conjure images of drab offices from the 80s, but modern ceiling tiles have come a long way. It is possible to install ceiling tiles that allow easy access to the components above them but hardly look like ceiling tiles at all.

Another important consideration for your basement is noise reduction. You don't want to hear it every time someone takes a step or slides a chair across the floor above you. One way to cut down on noise is to install insulation batting between the floor joists. The airy insulating material is excellent at dampening noise and preventing sound from traveling. Another neat trick is to create just the slightest bit of clearance, even a half-inch, between your ceiling's drywall and the joists below. There are several ways to do this, and it reduces the vibrations from upstairs.

The Walls

You have three general choices for the walls around the perimeter: traditional studded drywall, an interlocking panel system, or a proprietary modular system.

If you want to install traditional studded drywall, you will have to start with a vapor barrier against the basement's original wall. Next, lay rigid foam insulation on top of that. Finally, you can build a frame and hang drywall as you would anywhere else in your home. However, moisture is always a concern in a basement, and drywall can be a magnet for mold. Make sure to use a drywall product manufactured explicitly for high-moisture environments.

If you want to save as much safe as possible, you can use an interlocking panel system to keep your walls as thin as possible. Interlocking panels of rigid insulation attach directly to the basement wall. Next, you can lay the drywall directly on the insulation using integrated strips. This saves the space that studded walls take up. It can also save time and labor if you are doing the work yourself.

If you are hiring professionals, like these TrustDALE certified basement remodeling experts, they may use a modular system that can include the insulation, walls, ceiling, and sometimes even floor and finishes. There are several manufacturers of high-quality modular systems, so talk to your contractor about what works best for your project.

The Floor

Floors in your basement can be tricky. You need something that won't be too cold, can handle a little moisture, and will be tough enough for all your planned activities. And it needs to look good!

Wall-to-wall carpeting is a classic flooring choice for basements. It's one of the best options to keep the floor warm. And a quality synthetic carpet can stand up to a lot of hard wear as well as some moisture. Another benefit of carpet is that it can dampen noise, so you don't get the feeling of an underground echo chamber. But carpeting is not the only choice.

If you don't want carpet, floating vinyl planks can be a great hard-surface flooring material. They are easy to install, and modern etching and printing processes can faithfully reproduce the look of wood. You might do a double-take. They have some sound dampening effect, and they can stand up to a lot of abuse.

Another way to keep your floor warm is to install in-floor heating. You can use a heating coil or special heating mats installed beneath a tile or cement floor. If you want a warm floor without carpeting, talk to your contractor about this option.

Conclusion

There are plenty of choices to make when you're planning to remodel your basement. With so many decisions, it can be helpful to have an expert around to guide you. TrustDALE certified basement remodeling professionals can help you take your plans from dream to reality. And every TrustDALE certified business is backed by Dale's trademark $10,000 Make-It-Right Guarantee.