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Finishing a basement is not only trendy, but can add value as extra living space for you and your family. It also provides an opportunity to secure extra re-sale dollars when you're ready to move. Whether you're going to convert the space into an entertainment room, home office, playroom, gaming center, kitchenette or in-law apartment, the work will be time-consuming and expensive. In order to create a place that everyone enjoys spending time in, you'll want to avoid making these critical mistakes before finishing it.
Overlooking Moisture Problems
Creating a perfectly dry finished basement should be your number one priority. You may be anxious to get started on your project, but overlooking moisture problems now will lead to major headaches later.
A thorough inspection of the basement area should be done. Look for stains, white powder, cracks and water leaks on the foundation walls and floor. Cracks less than 1/2" can be repaired with concrete-patching compound or hydraulic cement. Condensation issues can be detected by taping plastic sheets on the floor and walls. Water droplets on the bottom side indicate you'll need to seal the concrete. A dehumidifier will take care of any condensation that has formed on the top of the plastic. Apply waterproof paint to the concrete walls after repairs are complete to provide additional moisture protection.
Checking Window Frames
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Inspect window frames to make sure they're structurally sound and sealed properly. You can apply caulking and weather stripping to keep snow melt and spring rains from seeping inside. Check with your local building department before finishing the space. Building codes may require a larger window for egress.
Take a walk around the outside of the house to be sure soil slopes away from the foundation. Diverters should be installed to take roof water safely away from the house too. Clean out gutters and window wells to ensure water doesn't pool along the foundation. This will help keep the basement dry and your new room comfortable.
Blocking Access to Equipment
Once you decide to finish your basement, you'll probably want to hide all the unsightly utility equipment. Putting up walls may keep the furnace, hot water heater, sump pump and electrical box out of sight, but occasionally you'll need to access them. Be sure to leave sufficient space for maintenance and repair work. Two to three feet should be enough area to work comfortably.
Keep shutoffs accessible in case of an emergency. It's important to keep the area well lit and ventilated too. Consider adding a battery backup and alert system to your sump pump. If the unit is hidden behind a wall, it'll be easy to ignore any problems until it's too late.
Using the Wrong Materials
The waterproofing experts at Royal Work Corp. recommend using below-grade materials to keep your finished basement from trapping moisture and promoting mold growth. Don't use fiberglass insulation against concrete walls. Instead, use a closed cell spray foam or XPS foam board to provide an excellent vapor barrier and high insulation value.
The paper coating on standard drywall will encourage mold growth so make sure you use a below-grade, mold resistant gypsum board. Interlocking panel systems are a great way to save time and space. Convenient wiring and drainage channels are built in to save even more installation time.
I don't recommend installing hardwood flooring in the basement area. A better choice includes laminate flooring. There's a large selection of patterns and designs available to fit with any decor choices. They're also scratch and moisture-resistant, so they are perfect for any application. If you want a softer surface, wall-to-wall carpeting is fine but be sure to select synthetic fibers that will resist mold and mildew.
It's easy to get so caught up in how your new room looks that you may forget to address how it feels. To keep the area warm and comfortable during cold months, install a separate thermostat and put registers at the floor. Electric baseboards are a great supplemental heat source and a direct-vent gas fireplace will warm up the room while creating a little atmosphere. Even simple area rugs will warm up cold feet on laminate flooring.
Don't forget to switch over to central air to cool your new basement area in the warmer months. It will keep the room air dry too, so the air quality will stay fresh and odor-free.
With the vast number of options available for finishing basements, it's easy to see why so many people are taking advantage of this space. It's important to plan out the project ahead of time and avoid making these critical mistakes.
Make sure the area is completely dry and moisture-free, provide access to all mechanicals, select the proper below-grade materials and provide comfort options for heating and cooling. Taking the time up front to manage all these items will help you create the perfect basement retreat for years of family fun.
Ready to get started on finishing your basement? Contact a pro today.