Four Important Questions to Ask Before Starting a Basement Renovation

The kids moved out or you won some slice of the lottery or maybe you just got tired of wasted space and needless clutter, but something happened and now you’ve got an open area in the basement just waiting for transformation into an efficient and working part of the house. What do you do? What do you do? You start by asking some good questions and you make sure that you don’t skimp on the truth when the answers come.

Aren’t basements really too wet to make livable?

Moisture issues are definitely at the forefront of plans to turn the basement into a library, workout room, kitchen, bedroom or laundry. Water can get into the basement in a variety of ways including from the bottom up if the soil around the house is such that excess rain from above can stick around long enough to seep into the basement through the foundation or the walls. Condensation building on exposed pipes is another way for moisture to create basement problems when the water starts to drop to the floor. The best way to make sure the problems don’t interfere with your renovation plans is to come up with the most effective drainage system you can afford. Consult an expert who has experience with your specific moisture problems and the area in which you live. Commit to licking the dampness problem before proceeding with the renovation.

Should I fix cracks in the basement floor?

Well, you could ignore this basement issue, but the payoff at best may be unleashing a torrent of moisture into the basement. At worst, you could experience a surge in radon gas and the resulting health dangers associated with it. Not fixing cracks in the basement floor is up to you, but better to spend a few bucks now than thousands of dollars later.

Should I give up the dream of basement renovation if my ceiling is too low?

Renovating a basement with a low ceiling will present more work, but it’s no reason to quit. The community building codes tend to be pretty strict about headroom in a basement, usually centering around a minimum height of 90 inches for one half of the room. When the basement is going to include a bathroom, hallway or kitchen, however, that height requirement often is looser and come down as much as half a foot. The problem of a ceiling that is too high can be easily fixed with the installation of acoustical ceiling tiles that also help make the room sound better as well.

What about an emergency exit?

The rules differ regarding the necessity for an emergency exit in the basement space. Most building codes won’t mandate an emergency exit unless the renovation ends up with a bedroom or unless you install kitchen equipment or a fireplace. You have to be able to get out quickly and efficiently in case of fire, but if you are only planning on using the space for working out or playing games, you probably won’t have to worry about it. As always, of course, check with your particular city codes first.

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