Making the Basement Livable

A  fully finished basement is attractive to potential home buyers and can increase the value of a house significantly.

Basements are below ground level, generally have low ceilings, and are often the utility hub of a household. These factors provide a unique challenge to making a basement livable.

Moisture. A basement must be adequately moisture-free before remodeling, because water can cause mold, mildew, and damage to carpets and furniture. Money and energy spent on a remodeling project will be wasted if the basement is too damp.

Lighting. Canister lighting is popular for basements, because it does not interfere with the already low headroom. Downlighting creates the effect of taller ceilings by pointing the eye away from the ceiling.

Climate and ventilation. Proper heating, air conditioning, and ventilation are essential. In some cases, a homeowner’s existing furnace and air conditioning system can meet heating and air requirements. In other cases, a dedicated heating and air unit may be required to condition the basement properly.

Supports. Support structures could disrupt the new space by creating unnecessary obstacles. Removing or relocating steel beams and posts is a difficult, and often impossible, undertaking. An easy way to incorporate these posts is to try hiding the supports within the new walls. Unsightly posts can be disguised with architectural elements.

Access. Meters, electrical panels, ducts, pipes, wires, and other utility hubs still need to be accessed. Drop ceilings are a functional way of retaining access to pipes and ducts. If a hard ceiling is installed, avoid blocking off access to valves and electrical panels. If walls cover essential points of access, be sure to include doors or removable panels in those sections.