Second in our series on customizing your basement for specific purposes, below you will find tips on how to build a basement ideally created for living space.
Turning your unused basement into living space increases the value of your home and provides more room to enjoy daily living. Investing time in careful planning and thoughtful design prevents problems. It can mean the difference between a finished basement that is in violation of codes or seldom used and one that meets or exceeds regulations, a customized living area that your family loves and appreciates.
Choices vary widely as to what is included in a basement that is customized for living. You may decide to construct basic bedroom space as well as a small bathroom. You might prefer a larger bedroom and a luxurious bathroom that includes a whirlpool tub and a separate shower. Part of the basement might serve as an office, workshop or exercise room. Maybe you would like to add a kitchen and dining area. Each choice requires that certain specifications be met.
Habitable basement space must have a ceiling height of at least 84 inches. For a basement bedroom with a sloped ceiling, at least half the ceiling must meet the minimum height requirement. The International Residential Code, or “IRC,” also requires that electrical outlets in bedrooms, bathrooms and kitchen areas be equipped with arc-fault circuit breakers. For added safety, plan to include carbon monoxide detectors and smoke alarms.
It is extremely important to preserve structural soundness when you make changes to your basement’s interior. Support posts and beams must not be compromised. If it is necessary to retain the support posts, the open-air concept can still be achieved by building around it. The image below is just one example of how one might incorporate the posts into the basement’s design without compromising their structural integrity.
Include in your plans how you will control basement moisture. Sometimes, a necessary first step is to construct a sump pit and install a pump to aid in keeping the area under the basement dry. You may want to lay a basement sub-floor to further reduce moisture. Plan to finish your floor with materials that are resistant to moisture and easy to clean.
To reduce heating costs, plan to insulate the basement walls. Then decide how you will provide heat. Two popular ways are to install electric baseboard heaters in each room or to add vents that channel warm air into the basement from existing duct work in the main part of the house.
Include plans for adequate ventilation. One way to ensure that your basement will have adequate ventilation is by adding egress window wells. For a basement room to qualify as a bedroom, the room must have either an egress window well or an exit door and bulkhead enclosure. Open egress windows are one way to provide airflow. Include existing and proposed egress window wells, doors and stairwells in your floor plan. If you do not plan to have bedrooms in your customized basement, you must provide at least one means of egress for whatever living area you develop.
Once you decide how you want to customize your basement for living, draw a floor plan. Sketch the location of each room, drawn to scale. Include every detail regarding plumbing, wiring, heating, lighting, ventilation and safety. Visit with your local housing authorities to learn whether you need to include further details or to make plan alterations in order to obtain the needed permits.
When you take the proper steps, you ensure that the finished basement will provide the living area you desire. Your newly customized basement will add enjoyment to your family’s daily lives. In addition, should you decide at some point to sell, your home will draw the interest of buyers because your customized basement is code compliant, attractively designed and structurally sound.