Finishing your basement: Easy fixes vs. construction
It’s time. You’re thinking of turning your musty, unused storage basement into a new living room or entertainment room. Before you start day-dreaming of large format TVs, home bars, wine cellars, leather couches and more, you’ll need to ask yourself a few key questions.
How high is the distance form the concrete floor to the bottom of the floor joists?
How tall are you?
Is there an exterior entrance? (you know fire code and safety stuff…)
What is the condition of the staircase leading to the basement?
Are you already meeting legal requirements for a living space?
If you’ve done this basic homework, then you’re ready to call a professional for an estimate and timeline for your projects.
We can break down basement remodels into basic categories:
New floor plan
Or a new foundation — including raising the house, excavating, then pouring a new foundation.
Cosmetic projects do not require much of any engineering. And depending on you… it can be as simple or complex as you like. In a cosmetic project, you can do things like add insulation, paint, flooring, sheetrock, new windows, electrical and lighting, and more without changing the structure of the home. It’s the most cost-effective undertaking.
Adding New Space
Here’s where homeowners often bite off more than they can chew, but no matter who you are a project can get big and expensive without proper preparation. So if your basement vision is a bit more involved and ever-growing, you can go further by changing the floor plan of your home to add a living space (like a bathroom or additional bedroom). Structural items to support the project may include framed walls, expanded plumbing and egress windows.
Some people think further if they don’t have a large family that the basement space is earmarked for. You may be thinking rent ($$$) or an accessory dwelling unit (ADU). This can be a flexible space that either serves as a bedroom or living area for friends and guests to a completely separate unit for rental income. Building a separate unit in the basement would fall under the “new floor plan” category.
A Completely New Basement
The third category for your basement renovation is starting from scratch. This is a big project, but usually driven from necessity. The projects often stem from the existing basement not meeting the legal requirements for the space. Things like the ceiling being too low will be the first sign of starting from scratch with a new foundation.
Another major factor is the condition of the current foundation. If your basement foundation is in disrepair or structurally unsound, you’ll probably need a new foundation before even thinking of that home theater getaway. Typically, these foundations are found in homes built in the early 1900’s (20s and 30s). Concrete from this time period is typically failing.
If this is the case with your basement, your new foundation will offer a lot of advantages. “It’s often worth it for people to buy an older home, lift it up, excavate the foundation, and pour a brand new one.
Four advantages to a new foundation
You can waterproof it on the exterior.
You get full eight-foot ceilings.
It will be earthquake safe and up to seismic code.
You’ll have lots of additional space!
When thinking about home equity and resell value, this is one of the most opportunistic categories there is when it comes to home renovation. You are basically increasing your home’s live-able space by 50%. Onward!