5 Things to Consider Before Refinishing a Basement

Do you have an unfinished basement that you are considering refinishing? A finished basement can give you a lot of extra living space and also add a lot of value to your home, but finishing a basement is a lot of work! Here are five things you should consider before you make any plans…


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Do you have an unfinished basement that you are considering refinishing?  A finished basement can give you a lot of extra living space and also add a lot of value to your home, but finishing a basement is a lot of work!  Here are five things you should consider before you make any plans…

1.  Know the Safety Standards and Zoning Codes

Make sure all access points meet safety standards – do the stairs from the inside of the house meet building codes?  Are there any exterior entrances or does there need to be?  Is the ceiling high enough?  Will any structural support be altered?  Is there enough airflow?  Have you gotten any permits that you need for the work you’re planning to do?  And if you’re planning to refinish your basement as a rental unit, you will need to check with your local municipality to be sure that rentals are allowed in your neighborhood.

2.  Make Sure It’s Dry

Lots of basements flood.  If you want to finish your basement, you need to make sure the exterior of your house has good drainage.  If you have an older house, this is especially important.  If you’ve recently purchased your house, consider living in it for a year before making any plans to finish the basement.  See what it’s like in all seasons, so that you know what kind of moisture issues you are dealing with.  If your basement has moisture issues, take care of them before you do any finishing work.  Whether you need to install a drain, re-landscape for better drainage, reroute your gutters, install a sump pump, or waterproof the exterior of your house, not taking care of the issue before you finish your basement is like throwing time and money down the drain.

3.  Decide What It Will Be Used For

Finishing a basement just to have it finished is a bad idea.  Decide beforehand how the space is going to be used.  Will it be a family room?  An office?  Converted into bedrooms?  A media room?  A game room?  Your plans for the room will factor into your design and ultimately the amount of time and money it takes to do the work.  For example, a game room might just need some walls, flooring, and paint.  But more extensive projects will require you to think about electrical wiring, plumbing, and ventilation well in advance of starting the project.

4.  Decide How You’ll Weather-proof

There is no sense in refinishing an area that is too cold to use in the winter and too hot to use in the summer.  There are many different methods of insulating, and you should research them to decide what type will work best for your house.  In addition to insulation you want to make sure you have the proper heating and/or air conditioning installed in the space as well.  This might mean rerouting or adding duct work to your home, installing small wall units, or even upgrading your home’s existing system if it is not equipped to handle heating or cooling the extra space.  Again, you will want to do all of this research before you start any work so that you don’t end up with any big, unexpected costs, or worse, a lovely finished basement that can only be used for a few weeks out of the year due to climate control issues.

5.  Decide on the Finishing Touches

There are so many options for finishing the ceilings, walls, and floors of your newly improved space that you will want to do some research ahead of time.  A lot of these choices will depend on what you plan on using the space for (see #3), and I’m not suggesting you have every last detail down to your paint colors chosen before you start any work.  It is in your best interest, however, to do some research and narrow down your decisions ahead of time.  Putting this thought in before any work begins will prevent your costs from skyrocketing at the very end of the project.

Basements are versatile rooms that add useful living space to any home, but refinishing them poorly is not only a waste of money, but can also detract from the value of your home.  Spending time planning, researching, and fixing any existing issues before you begin work will save you a lot of hassle and money in the long run!

Are you looking for a new home?  (Perhaps one with a basement that is already finished?)  We’d love to help you find your dream home.  Give us a call at Cooper Realty Associates – 302-644-2266 and put us to work for you!

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