FAQS and Tips About Basement Remodeling
PLANNING THE PROJECT
As a starting point for your remodeling project, think about your goals for the basement. Do you need mostly storage space? Will the basement be the new family hang-out spot? What about home office space? A playroom? Do you need a guest suite? Are you hoping to fit in a full bathroom?
With these ideas in mind, your contractor can provide some helpful design suggestions. Keep in mind that if you’re adding a bathroom or kitchenette, you may need to work with the existing plumbing layout. Moving plumbing around gets messy and expensive quickly. Your contractor will guide you toward the best solution. Contractor quotes should be detailed. Each quote you receive should cover cleanup and permitting costs, as well as the planned completion date. Make sure it also includes financial information, like the amount of the down payment or the structure of the payment plan.
Verify that the contractor you hire is properly licensed. If subcontractors are used, they should also be licensed for their trades. This is important for your protection as a consumer. It also helps ensure that the job is done well. Before the project begins, ask your contractor about local building codes and how they may impact your project.
SETTING A BUDGET
Before you hire a contractor, decide on your budget for the project. This step will help your conversations with potential contractors stay productive and realistic. Try not to become too attached to an idea before you have an idea of how much it will cost. Be sure to also clarify the areas where you are (and are not) willing to compromise to stay within budget.
You might, for example, choose mid-tier carpet but insist on a top-quality pad. Or you might decide to go with your second choice for lighting fixtures to make room in your budget for custom built-in shelves. Your contractor can help you find creative ways to maximize your budget and still get what you want. The key is to know your financial limits and keep an open mind.
HIRING A CONTRACTOR
When it comes to hiring a contractor, take your time and select the company that feels like the best fit for you and the project. You will be working closely with the contractor for an extended period of time.
Hire a company with the experience and expertise to bring your project to life. Make sure that you feel comfortable communicating and planning with the contractor, too.
Meet with several home remodeling contractors before making a decision. Compare estimates and company qualifications. Your gut feeling matters, too. If something doesn’t feel right, move on to the next company on your list. Price can be an indicator of the quality of work you will be getting. You may not necessarily want to choose the lowest-priced option. Oftentimes, a quote that falls somewhere in the middle range is your best bet. Be wary of quotes that are on the extreme low or high end of the estimates you receive.
Hiring a reputable, professional, and experienced remodeling contractor to handle your project is key. Verify insurance and licenses and ask for references to contact before you make a final decision.
CLEANING AND PREPARATION
Remodeling work can last from several days to several months, depending on the complexity of the project. Doing everything you can to get ready for the project will help save time and frustration. Your contractor will probably move some larger items for you. You will be responsible for packing up any small things that could get in the way or be damaged. If your basement remodeling project involves removing existing cabinetry or built-in storage, be sure to empty those spaces before any work begins.
Moisture. The basement must be dry before remodeling begins. Your contractor might use a moisture meter to make absolutely sure that the space is dry and ready for construction. Even small amounts of water can damage carpets and furniture or cause mold or mildew growth. If you have had moisture problems in the basement in the past, have those issues addressed before the remodeling work starts. A waterproofing contractor can assess the space and guide you toward some helpful solutions.
Lighting. The wrong lighting makes a basement feel small and dark. Canister or recessed lighting is popular for basements because it does not take up headroom. Downlighting points the eye away from the ceiling, making the room seem taller. Track lighting illuminates a basement without a low-hanging light.
Climate and ventilation. Heating, air conditioning, and ventilation are essential in a basement. Your existing HVAC system might be able to meet the requirements of the new space. If it isn’t large enough, you will need a dedicated HVAC unit. Depending on the size of your basement, a mini-split or heat pump system might be good options. An HVAC professional can advise you.
Supports. I-beams and other support structures might not look great in your new space, but they usually can’t be removed (or moved at all). Instead, talk to your contractor about creative ways to hide them. I-beams and other supports can often be disguised with architectural elements or hidden in walls.
Access. Electrical panels, ducts, pipes, and wires still need to be accessible once the space is finished. A drop ceiling is a functional way to do this, but not everyone loves the look of a drop ceiling. If you opt for a drywalled ceiling, make sure the crew doesn’t block access to valves and pipes. Work with your contractor to design access points for important utilities.
Dealing with noise. Renovation work can be very noisy, especially when tools like saws and hammers are in use. If you will be in the house while that kind of work is taking place, consider buying yourself some earplugs or noise-canceling headphones. If you are working from home, you may need to take calls or video meetings from a different location. Your contractor should be able to give you an idea of which trades will be in the house on a given day. That information can help you plan ahead.
Keeping kids and pets safe. Your contractor and the crews working in your house will do their best to keep the area safe. And since the bulk of the remodeling project will be confined to the basement, this shouldn’t be too difficult.
It’s really important that you do your part, too. Keep a close eye on your children and your pets. Don’t let them wander down to the basement to explore. These precautions help keep everyone safe and ensure that your remodeling project stays on track.