This article was crafted with the help of Bryan Sebring from Sebring Services

Tackling a basement remodel can be a huge undertaking—whether you simply want to make the space more livable or design a more elaborate room that allows your basement to blend in with the rest of your home. We enlisted the help of one of our Best Picks, owner Bryan Sebring of Sebring Services, Inc., Residential Remodeling in Naperville, IL, to answer some of the questions you may have concerning the basement remodeling process.

Common Uses for Finished Basements

Kid-focused rooms. There are many reasons why homeowners may want to transform their basement into a usable space, but Bryan says that one of the most common motivations for a basement remodel lies with having children. “Parents may have young kids and are sick of tripping over toys in the dining room or family room. For those customers, we typically create a playroom and TV room. Parents with teenagers often want their kids to have a fun basement to hang out in—a place where they can watch TV or play games.”

Adult spaces. While the majority of Bryan’s projects are kid focused, some homeowners want adult spaces that may include a bar, pool table, and TV area for football season.

Bedrooms. The basement could also be transformed into an additional bedroom for guests, in-laws, or a live-in nanny. Bryan cautions that “if you are adding a bedroom to your basement, you have to make sure that you have an escape window, and most houses built before 2002 don’t have the correct egress or escape window. Basement windows in older homes usually require you to lift the whole window out in order to escape during an emergency. In order to meet current codes, homeowners need ‘normal-use’ windows that lift or slide open easily. To add the correct window to an older house, the company has to cut the concrete and dig the window wells out deeper, which will cost the homeowner more.”

Exercise rooms. Bryan says that exercise rooms are also a popular renovation for the basement. “When creating an exercise room, you want to make sure that it’s not too small, because you won’t use the room if it is. The standard ceiling height in a house is eight feet; in most basements, you’ll probably have below that—closer to seven feet. For an exercise room, though, you have to make sure you have good ceiling height, especially with treadmills,” says Bryan. “You want to be able to step on a treadmill and use the incline without touching the ceiling.” Bryan recommends adding large double doors to open up the space while working out. “Sometimes we’ll add glass panes to the double doors, so you can see through to more space. The biggest thing with basements in general is to give the illusion that the space is grand, big, and open, not confined.”

Creating an Open Space

Lighting. As stated before, basements can be a challenging remodel because they often have lower ceilings than the rest of the house and lack natural lighting. However, a good contractor will be able to overcome the challenges basements present. “We’re really conscious about making the space feel bigger. That’s why we use ambient lighting such as track lighting or overhead recessed lighting—we add a lot of ambient lighting, which helps brighten up the basement and points your eye away from the ceiling. Lamps that point your eyes up toward the ceiling are best for rooms with cathedral ceilings where you want to show how grand the space is,” says Bryan. “In basements, you want to point your eyes down. Because the bulb in ambient lighting points down, your eyes are going to naturally look down.”

Carpentry. Another way to distract the eye from a low ceiling is to add wainscoting instead of crown molding. “We advise against adding crown molding unless the ceiling is at least eight feet high. Crown molding will draw attention to how low the ceilings are,” explains Bryan. “Instead, we’ll do wainscoting, which is a trim that is about three feet up from the floor; it helps keep you from noticing how low the ceiling is.”

Paint. Dark paint can make many rooms feel cozier, but in a basement, it can make everything appear dark and smaller. “I always suggest that homeowners paint their doors and trim white over staining them,” says Bryan. “When you stain your wood doors and trim, it gives the basement a darker look. But white paint really helps to keep the space bright.”

Windows. As mentioned earlier, egress or escape windows are required for basements that have a bedroom. Egress windows can also help to bring natural light into the basement, but Bryan advises against adding windows if it’s not required. “It’s great to add a window to your space, but it’s very expensive, and it can add significant costs to your overall project,” he says. “If you’re on a budget, I wouldn’t suggest it. If you don’t plan on using the space for sleeping, an egress window is not necessary.”

We will return tomorrow with more basement remodeling tips from Bryan Sebring, owner of Naperville, IL, Best Pick company Sebring Services. He gives advice on how to remodel on a budget, how to remodel an older home, and what other information you should know before hiring a remodeling contractor.

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This spotlight article was crafted by Sebring Services, a Best Pick in Basement Remodeling & Additions in Chicago. While we strive to provide relevant information to all homeowners, some of the material we publish may not pertain to every area. Please contact your local Best Pick companies for any further area-specific advice.