Finished Basement Planning

Finished Basement Planning requires Sketches, Permits, and Moisture Abatement Prior to Construction

By Mark J. Donovan

Finishing a basement can be tricky due to headroom issues, pipe and ductwork, mechanical equipment and limited natural light. However, with a little upfront finished basement planning, you can usually overcome these issues to create a beautifully finished basement.

Unlike adding an attached home addition, a finished basement typically does not require any excavation or exterior work, except for the possibility of installing a window. Consequently, the cost of finishing a basement on a per square foot basis is usually lower. In addition, a full set of construction blueprints is usually not required.

Though a full set of blueprints may not be necessary, building permits are required and thus at least a fairly detailed sketch of the finished basement will be necessary for pulling permits. In addition, to ensure a quality finished basement, it is also important to do a significant amount of upfront finished basement planning.

Upfront finished basement planning includes first creating a set of sketches of your finished basement floor plans. Besides defining the shapes, sizes and purpose of each room in the finished basement, the sketches should also include the locations for any soffits to hide pipe and ductwork. After generating a set of sketches visit your building inspector to pull permits.

Besides creating a set of sketches, finished basement planning also includes specifying the unique features and materials needed for the remodeled basement. Leave no stone unturned when generating your feature and material lists. Every item down to the nail and curtain rod should be included. By creating this type of detailed list you can better assess your finished basement costs, as well as determine when materials need to be ordered and delivered.

 Basement Remodeling Bid Sheet

Note that many home building materials have long lead times. For example, cabinets for a basement wet bar could take 6-8 weeks to have delivered.

Another major finished basement planning activity that needs to be done is to assess the basement for moisture problems and to determine how best to deal with them. Wet, or even highly humid basements, can quickly ruin a finished basement due to the growth of mold and mildew. Usually it is best to have a basement waterproofing expert evaluate your basement for moisture issues prior to starting your finished basement project. They can provide recommendations for mitigating basement water or moisture problems that will help to protect your investment and to ensure a comfortable finished basement living space.

Finally, if your basement lacks a walk out door, or bulkhead, you will most likely need to include an egress window in your finished basement plans for fire and safety concerns. This is particularly true if your finished basement plans include bedrooms.

Standard narrow basement windows located near the basement ceiling won’t meet code for a basement egress window. An egress window has to be large enough for an adult to pass through and it needs to be located near enough to the ground for easy access. Consequently installing an egress window in a basement wall can be a little tricky and costly. Depending upon your basement walls this may include having to cut the concrete basement walls and installing a basement window well. This said, installing an egress window, also offers the additional advantage of letting in more natural light.

Framing basement walls in a basement remodeling project.

So before you break out the hammer and 2x4s, spend some time doing some upfront finished basement planning. By doing so, you will help to ensure your basement remodeling project goes smoothly and achieve the finished space you desire.

For more help on Basement Additions, see’s Basement Remodeling Bid sheet. The Basement Remodeling Bid Sheet will help ensure that your hire the right contractor so that your basement remodeling project is done correctly and you get the project finished on time and budget.

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