Basement Refinishing

Key Considerations when Planning a Basement Refinishing Project

By Mark J. Donovan

Basement refinishing is an excellent way to gain more finished living space in your home. In most cases finishing a basement is also more cost effective.

For example, unlike a room addition, there’s no excavation and foundation work, nor external construction. However, basement refinishing has one unique issue that needs to be addressed up front.

Basements commonly have high moisture levels and in many cases outright water issues.

Prior to starting a basement refinishing project it is critical that all water and moisture issues in the basement be permanently resolved.

If they are not resolved, your finished basement will be plagued with mold problems rendering the living space dangerously unhealthy.

Basement Waterproofing Solutions

Solutions to eliminating basement water and moisture issues run the gambit. In some cases you may be fortunate enough to simply have to apply a coat of waterproof sealer to the basement floor and walls. In other cases, you may have to excavate around the foundation and put in a foundation perimeter drain system. To really know what basement water and moisture solution is right for you it’s advisable to call in a licensed waterproofing contractor.

Finished Basement Floor Plans

Once you’ve addressed the water concerns with your basement refinishing project you can move on to developing a finished basement floor plan.

I highly advise keeping a portion of your basement unfinished, particularly where oil tanks and mechanical items (such as a boiler/furnace) are located. Also, make sure in your finished basement floor plans to incorporate large doors to the mechanical items and tanks to allow easy access and replacement of them down the road.

 Basement Remodeling Bid Sheet

Basement Refinishing Lighting

Lighting is another major issue when developing your basement refinishing plans. If your basement is a walkout basement, incorporate as many windows and doors into it as possible.

It’s relatively easy to incorporate additional windows and doors in a wood frame wall associated with a walk out basement. If on the other hand your basement is not a walkout then make sure to include as much electrical lighting as possible in it. Abundant basement lighting is essential for creating a comfortable and enjoyable basement living space.

Bathrooms, Kitchens and Wet Bars in Refinished Basements

Bathrooms, wet bars and even kitchens can be incorporated into finished basements, however, they present their own unique set of problems.

In particular, how to provide drain pipes to toilets, sinks, and showers/tubs. You have two choices, either cut up swaths of the concrete basement floor to lay drain pipes, or build the bathroom/wet bar/kitchen on an elevated wood framed floor to allow the drain pipes to run under the flooring. 

Basement Addition and Basement Finishing

Often this latter method is not a possibility due to limited headroom in the basement, which brings me to another point.

There are building codes for basement refinishing projects, e.g. such as headroom height in the basement. Consequently, I highly recommend you contact your local building inspector during the planning stages of your basement remodeling project to understand what you can and can’t do.

Also, going back to the topic of installing bathrooms, wet bars and kitchens in basements; you may need to install a pump-up ejector system, and if you have your own septic system you may also need to modify the septic design.

Basement Refinishing Costs

Basement refinishing costs will vary with market locations, building material types, and time, however, expect to pay anywhere from $20 to $50 per square foot if you’re doing the project on your own and possibly double this if your contracting the work out.

Related Information

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