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

In part one of this blog, Bryan Sebring of Sebring Services in Naperville, IL, detailed the most common uses for a basement and how to use lighting, carpentry, paint, and windows to keep the space open. Today, Bryan goes on to explain further considerations when remodeling a basement. Firstly, he recommends that homeowners keep the basement as a big, open space or an all-purpose room.

How To…

Get more bang for your buck. To increase the value of your home with a basement remodel, you should keep the basement versatile. For example, according to Bryan, “A fancy bar will not help the resale value of your home.” He also recommends that homeowners stay away from high-end interior design and instead stick to a more moderate design. When selling your home, the potential buyers should be able to easily see themselves in the space. Sometimes permanent, personalized touches can deter a potential buyer. Bryan does not warn against adding a bar to your basement, but he likes to remind customers that they may not see a return on their investment when they sell their home. “We’ve done expensive wine cellars and sauna areas,” says Bryan, “but the homeowners are creating these spaces for themselves, and they plan to utilize them for a long period of time.”

Adding a bar may not be the best way to increase the value of your home, but a bedroom or bathroom is a great addition. “A lot of realtors believe that adding another bedroom or bathroom helps with resale,” says Bryan. “If you choose to add a bathroom, then you should also add a shower and not just build a half bath. Since we have to jackhammer the floor for the toilet, it wouldn’t be much trouble to add a shower.”

Another word of advice from Bryan is to make the basement look like the rest of the house. “Use the same quality of finishes you have upstairs for the basement. It’s important to not go lower or higher in quality, because if you go too high, you’re typically not going to get that money back during resale.”

Remodel a basement on a budget. If you want to refinish your basement but are working on a budget, Bryan advises against adding plumbing. “Plumbing is expensive, so no bathroom or bar.” A basic basement would include a wide, open space with overhead recessed lighting and light paint colors. For an inexpensive solution to flooring, Bryan suggests carpet over other alternatives. “You can replace carpet three or four times before you pay the same for a tile or wood floor.”

Remodel a basement in an older home. Earlier, we noted that older homes with basement windows will sometimes require new windows in order to bring the space up to code. According to Bryan, older homes present the most complications in general during the basement remodeling process. “If you have a fairly new house—built within the last 20 or 30 years—you will find fewer surprises. The older the home, the more surprises you will have.” Bryan says this is due to poor construction work, faulty electrical systems, and old plumbing systems. “When you own an older house, you should plan to have surprises.” These surprises will unfortunately bring extra costs to the homeowner when remodeling. Bryan says that if the basement is unfinished, he will typically be able to anticipate most problems; however, if the basement is finished, it’s harder to tell what is waiting behind the walls. In most cases, a finished basement older than 30 years will need a complete remodel to ensure that it’s up to code.

Other Considerations

Doing your homework. Bryan says that with basement remodeling, there may be certain issues that should be addressed first. He recommends that homeowners repair any water issues before remodeling a basement. As discussed in another blog about basement remodeling, it’s extremely important to waterproof your basement before considering a remodel. Sometimes this cost is significant enough that it can be hard to carry the additional cost of a remodel. Also, a basement with a really low ceiling may not be a good candidate for remodeling.

Adding a door. An external door makes your basement more accessible and possibly more useful, but the process of adding a door can be complicated and costly. “It can be done, but you will need additional machinery, which can be expensive,” says Bryan. Along with replacing the landscaping in that area, proper drainage needs to be installed to avoid flooding. Waterproofing around the door is especially important because a heavy rain could end up on your basement floor.

Hiring a contractor you can trust. Having contractors in your home, drowning out the sound of jackhammers, or even deciding on the right layout for your finished basement may all seem tough. However, Bryan says that often the most challenging part of a basement remodel for homeowners is when they don’t trust the contractor. “Nothing is going to be perfect on a project—nothing. But ultimately, if homeowners trust that we will make it right, and if they know that all they have to say is, ‘Hey, there’s a problem here. Please take care of it,’ then the project will run very smoothly. They have to trust that we will take care of it and make it right without nickel-and-diming them.” Bryan’s advice is simple: If you don’t trust a guy, don’t hire him. He advises homeowners to interview the contractor and the contractor’s past clients, or reference a source that has already done so, such as Best Pick Reports. “This way, you build trust, so ultimately when you hire that company, you know that the people are going to do the right thing for you in the end.”

Tips for DIYers

For homeowners who prefer to go the do-it-yourself route, Bryan advises getting a permit. “No matter what you do, get a permit. If you get a permit, your work will be inspected by a professional. There are so many codes that you need to know—by having a professional inspect what you do, you can guarantee that your basement will meet the building requirements for your area.”

However, contracting out individual tasks is not recommended. Coordinating several contractors to work on one large project like a basement remodel can be overwhelming. Since you would be the general contractor in that situation, you would have to be available at all times during the project. You would possibly have to handle calls during the workweek and address problems at inopportune moments, because all decisions would have to be approved by you. “Instead of relying on one person to handle things that go wrong, you may have to contact each individual contractor to find the underlying cause of the issue,” Bryan says. This problem is eliminated when you hire one, trustworthy company to be in charge of the work. “If you’re using a contractor, use their recommended subcontractors, vendors, materials, cabinets, plumbing fixtures—they should do every single thing. If you do things on your own, it could lead to finger-pointing, and you may never get the problem resolved. When you deal with one person, you can make sure that they get everything right.”

The basement remodeling process can be an overwhelming task, but with a trusted contractor and a well-thought-out plan, you can turn your basement into a versatile and value-enhancing space. If you would like more information about basement remodeling, return to our blog this month for more articles addressing common concerns.

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This spotlight article was crafted with the help of 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.