How to Finish a Basement
An unfinished basement is ripe with possibilities. Before you start building anything, make sure that you’re finishing your basement correctly. When finishing a basement, make sure to:
- Check for water issues
- Before planning anything, check for any signs of water issues. This includes pools of water or drips coming through the walls. In addition, make sure to check the outside of your home for any issues around the foundation, including checking to see if the ground is graded away from the foundation, and whether or not there are any cracks in the foundation.
- Know your code
- After checking for water issues, go to your municipality to make sure that the work you are doing does not require any permits. If you are doing electrical or plumbing work, checking your code is very important.
- Consider fasteners
- Since basement walls and floors are usually constructed of cement, block, or brick, nails and screws won’t work when attaching framing. You will need a fastener and possibly anchors to help with these wall types. It’s possible you will need to rent a powder-actuated fastener.
- Add vapor barriers
- Your basement is a damp place, even after checking for any moisture issues. Add a vapor barrier to the walls and floors. A few days after you lay down the vapor barrier, check underneath to see if any moisture came through, and if so, how much moisture did come through.
- Offset space
- Even after checking for water issues and adding vapor barriers, moisture can still be a problem. To keep up with these issues, keep a slight offset from the outside wall by adding thin pieces of wood or metal. These pieces help to level a wall for adding framing.
- Keep it warm
- Insulation helps to control the temperature in your basement, adds additional moisture protection (by now I think we’ve learned how important moisture control in a basement is!), and reduces outside noise. Your insulation should have moisture protection on both sides. Your code requirements can tell you what types of insulation you should use. In addition to insulation, make sure to install heating vents at floor level. If you can tie it into your existing HVAC system, baseboard heating is a good idea.
- Drop ceilings
- While these ceilings reduce the amount of overhead space available, drop ceilings offer an easy way to hide electrical wiring and plumbing lines.
- Recess Lighting
- Recess lighting is a good option for a basement as it doesn’t take up the overhead space a light fixture would.
- Leave the utility room alone
- It may be tempting to finish the utility room, but this is one area in your basement that you should leave alone. There are very specific code requirements for these areas. The space around the HVAC unit and water heater need to remain clear and open, so there is plenty of access for inspection and repairs.
What to Use a Basement For
Once you have finished your basement, there are endless possibilities for the space! Some of the most popular ways to use a finished basement:
- A home gym
- A home office
- A playroom
- A game room
- A home theater
- An art room
- A laundry room
- A music room
- A “man cave”