Remodeling a basement can be a fun project for the whole family, especially if your creating a new family room. There is always room for everyone to pitch in and help out with the demolition as well as lend a hand during construction.
There are a number of benefits that a homeowner can reap when remodeling a basement. Probably the biggest benefit though deals directly with space, not only do you add additional storage space, but, dependent on how the space is finished, you could add some much needed living space as well. However, before you jump in head first, there’s some things you really need to take in consideration before you begin remodeling a basement.
One of the most important things that you really need to do before taking on this project is to simply really take the time to get thoroughly familiar with your basement. I know it sounds corny but it’ll save you loads in the long run. Now I’m not talking about the same type of familiarity you may have with your wife like knowing every nook and cranny of her, although that wouldn’t hurt, but really just getting in touch with the total surroundings in your basement. How it is in it’s current state. The layout of it all. Does it have any load bearing features that you’ll need to be careful with. What factors are you going to need to pay special attention too during the renovation like the HVAC system or plumbing. Is the furnace going to get in the way? There’s a ton of factors that you’re going to have to get involved with that you might really not want to, but we’ll get into those a little bit further down.
When you’re looking at this, just keep in mind that there really are only two types of basements. The first type is the one where it was built with absolutely no thought whatsoever other than being this place you had underneath your home. This type was never intended to be a livable or even habitable space. If you are lucky, you’ll have a home that was built with the second type in mind, one that was planned to one day possibly be finished and actually a usable room. These are pretty easy to spot. Typically older homes more often than not have the first type where you were never supposed to go down there and newer homes have ones that were built with an eye towards finishing. There’s a fairly adequate time period for it all too, if you’re home was built prior to the 1970′s it’s quite likely that you’ll have the first type of basement, those built afterwards will tend to favor the second type due to not only the technological advancements but also becoming more of a norm.
Along those lines, if you have a newer home you’re probably going to have a much easier go at remodeling the basement. You’ll still have to contend with you’re own peculiarities but in general it should be much easier renovating. In general, what you’ll find is most will already have the plumbing all lined out already to make it easier to put in that bathroom by being able to tie into the existing lines. The basement ceilings will already have all the air ducts and pipes and wires tucked into the beams nice and neat, or they may be confined to a more out of the way place as the builder was looking ahead at someone being able to finish the space out. You’ll also find that the stairs will be built with better headroom so you don’t bump your head coming out of or into the basement and that they’ll also likely be more accessible. Now this may not hold true for all newer homes, but in general, there’s probably more forethought involved.
However, if you’ve been blessed by owning an older home with an older basement, say pre-1970, you probably have nothing more than an extra storage area underneath your home that had no forethought into it ever becoming a place that was supposed to be finished. These were built as places that the owner would have that they could have easy access to as a storage area and furnace holder, as it’s much easier to throw something down in the basement than carry it up a ladder for storage in an attic. Some of these may have some really thin and poorly poured concrete floors, or might not even have a concrete floor at all and just be dirt. The ones that do have a furnace pit will most likely not be functional at all due to all it’s extremeties and likelihood that the pipes and ducts running from the unit will be all over the place. If it ever was upgraded to a forced-air furnace, you might be one of the lucky ones where your furnace is actually smaller and have less lines running all about.
One thing to keep in mind even if an old basement has been upgraded with a new furnace is this, the space still may not be practical and compliant with building codes for a livable area. Sure, the new furnace will free up some much needed space in an old cramped basement, but the space still might not meet the minimum height requirements by code. You may still either have to raise the house or lower the floor. These type of jobs really aren’t for the weekend home improvement specialist that you live with and more along the lines something that a professional should bang out for you as they require the use of some pretty heavy machinery and could ultimately affect, should something go wrong, the liability on your house to your insurance carrier. If you go this route, just make sure the contractor carries adequate liability insurance to cover any damages that you may incur. What you have to look forward to is that once it is done, then you can start your weekend carpentry skills to finish the basement yourself. Fortunately, this isn’t a norm and only has to happen very rarely. But giving yourself adequate headroom will not only make your basement easier to remodel but definitely more comfortable to use as well.
Knowing this now, you could really go over the entire area in an old basement to start inspecting the layout and not just the furnace if you plan on remodeling it. Start with inspecting the overall mechanics of the place. Where do all the pipes, wires and ducts run and also how good of condition they are in. One of the last things that you’ll want to do after remodeling a basement is to tear down the new walls and ceilings to fix or replace some faulty pipes, wires or ductwork. Not only is it a painful process because your tearing down your blood, sweat and tears your poured into it fixing it all up, but it’s a costly one as you’re doubling your expense having to rebuild it once your done.