Planning Your Space: Tips and Tricks for Basement Renovations

When looking to increase square footage in your home, the answer lies right under your feet. Although basement renovations come with a unique set of challenges, most can be overcome with good planning. Here are some tips and techniques to help you transform your basement into a functional and beautiful living space.

Water is a basement’s worst enemy. Don’t even consider starting a project unless you have a dry basement to work in. Most water problems in a basement can be resolved by directing surface water away from the house. Do this by correcting the grade around your house and by re-directing downspouts away from the foundation. If you have a more persistent water problem, you may have to consult a professional to dig and waterproof the foundation and to repair or install a proper weeping tile system.

Planning is key to any successful renovation project. First, identify the rooms you require and then clarify the function of each of those rooms. Identifying the function of a room allows you to design and plan the appropriate features to address the needs of that room. A media room, for example, will require a square or rectangular shape with a clear wall at one end to accommodate a television or projector screen. It will need adequate width to accommodate seating for appropriate viewing of the screen and also areas for proper placement of audio and video equipment. When planning your layout, consider noise and isolation requirements for rooms. You don’t want a media room at the foot of the stairs if it means sound will travel to the upstairs. Also, take into account the need for natural light or no light. If a washroom is needed, don’t just default to a three piece without clearly weighing your options. If you don’t need a shower in the basement, don’t put one in. I can’t tell you how many basement showers I’ve built that never see a drop of water. Basement space is at a premium and unnecessary features eat up that space quickly.

Once your floor plan is in place, consider how it relates to the obstacles in the basement such as posts, beams and ducting. You now have to relate the ceiling plan to your floor plan and see how you can make the two complement each other. Don’t just box every obstacle in with framing and drywall. Try to incorporate the obstacles into your design to make them disappear. Columns can easily fall into partition walls and cabinetry, duct runs can be relocated to create coffered ceilings and plumbing pipes can easily be rearranged.

Preparing a proper plan and obtaining a building permit will ensure you address all of the mechanics of a basement properly. Correctly placed supply air and return air vents will ensure a healthy environment and professional plumbing will serve you well for years. The electrical layout should also be prepared on a plan to accommodate your needs for proper placement of plugs, switches and lighting, because proper lighting design in a basement is vital. It can transform the basement atmosphere from just ordinary to remarkable. Use different light sources on multiple switch controls and dimmers to provide you with unlimited choices for settings.

Always complete a furniture layout prior to construction to ensure a proper fit and a useable room. A furniture plan will provide you with vital information for your utility placements as well as traffic flow in your new space. Use moveable partitions, pocket doors and open shelving units to divide small areas without compromising space. Make sure you pay special attention to requirements in specialty rooms; for example, when planning a gym, ensure adequate ventilation and ceiling height as well as the electrical requirements of your equipment.

Initial research, planning and design will ensure your basement renovation goes smoothly and presents you with a space that will add value to your lifestyle and your home.