One of the most common areas of the home to undergo a complete renovation is the basement. Often, homes are sold with unfinished basements – complete with only concrete floors, exposed cinder blocks or drywall, and uncovered plywood steps. Most people, therefore, choose to convert this space into a family room, playroom, home office, work space, or even a guest bedroom. By finishing the basement, homeowners are able to significantly increase the amount of usable space in their home.
Before rushing into a basement renovation project, however, there are a number of things to consider. Follow the four tips below to help ensure that your basement remodeling project is a complete success:
1. Choose the right flooring.
Because of basements’ high moisture content, some types of flooring that are perfectly acceptable for use on the other floors of your house should be avoided completely. Hardwood and bamboo floors, for example, are usually not well-suited for basement use, as they are subject to movement with humidity and temperature, and, because they are organic, they are more subject to mold and rot than, say, concrete or ceramic tile. Engineered hardwood, on the other hand, although usually not preferable to hardwood on other floors, is usually favored for basements. Carpet is also an acceptable basement flooring choice, as long as the fibers are inorganic. The carpet itself should also be installed over an inorganic subfloor and vapor barrier to prevent mold growth (which could possibly be toxic).
2. Insulate properly.
While most of the population is now aware of the energy that can be lost through inefficient windows, some are also forgetting the massive amounts of heat that could be escaping through their basements. Up to one third an average home’s heat loss could be due to a poorly insulated basement, so insulation should definitely be a key component of your renovation project. Not every type of insulation is appropriate for a basement, however. Because basements are so naturally damp, moisture-sensitive insulation framing materials, such as wood, paper, and fiberglass batts that are installed directly against the basement walls could lead to mold and fungal growth or eventually even complete decay of the frame. Experts suggest that homeowners choose extruded polystyrene (available in panels and sheets), as it does not absorb liquid, yet it allows water vapor to pass through it. For more information on proper basement insulation, see this article.
3. Don’t forget about lighting.
Basements usually aren’t completely wired for the amount of lighting you’ll need to utilize your space effectively. Most basements have only a few very small windows, if they have any windows at all, so natural lighting often isn’t a real option. It’s therefore important that professional electrical work be completed prior to completely finishing your space because if you forget to plan your lighting design, you could find yourself with dark spots or completely unlit corners of your room.
4. Consider your wall options.
Like insulation and flooring choices, wall options for basements are somewhat limited by the nearly inevitable high moisture content of the room. Painting your bare concrete walls with a waterproofing and mold proofing primer is always an option, and this primer can then be covered with the mold resistant paint color of your choice. Drywall is also an option, but because regular drywall itself is not mold resistant, purchasing mold resistant drywall (usually purple board or green board) is generally a smart choice.
When remodeling your basement, your biggest concern should be the room’s naturally high moisture content and temperature susceptibility. Flooring materials and walls, including insulation, should be basement-approved, and they should be both functional and attractive. Practical considerations, such as electrical wiring, are often slightly different for basements, so hiring a contractor, at least for the more complicated elements of your basement renovation project, is often a wise choice.
D.R. Hartman Construction offers commercial and residential remodeling and construction services to those in the Bethesda, Silver Spring and Rockville, Maryland areas.