Once you decide to turn your basement into a cozy livable space, the hard part is figuring out how to plan for, prepare, and start the actual basement refinishing and renovation process. Basements of most homes are dark spaces with awkward layouts, water seepage problems, lack of ventilation, electricity, plumbing, metal beams and many other obstacles that make the idea of finishing a basement seem like a daunting task. The reality is that with careful planning and a little bit of creativity, you can turn your basement into a comfortable space that will meet your family’s needs.
Our basement waterproofing guide will help you get started and walk you through the important things you need to consider and do to successfully finish your basement.
Waterproof Your Space
Water leaks and moisture are serious problems that affect all basements. There are many causes of leaks such as basement’s proximity to the ground, poor landscaping, drainage issues, porous concrete walls that constantly absorb moisture, plumbing leaks, etc. This means that before you start investing time and money into finishing the basement, you must fix any existing water seepage issues. The water-proofing system needs to cover the basement’s entire perimeter, including the exterior. Skipping this critical step can lead down the road to disaster where your beautifully finished basement could simply be damaged by moisture, rot, mold, and mildew. Needless to say, you will want to take any reasonable, precautionary measures to avoid this.
Having a waterproofed basement means that any finishing materials you use for walls must be 100 % waterproof and should not absorb or retain any moisture. Avoid using materials such as fiberglass, drywall or wood, as all of them have a tendency to absorb and retain moisture. Similarly, “green” finishes such as bamboo, cork and recycled wood will also rot, grow mold, and will thus quickly require replacement. It is also critical to seal the basement walls with a high-quality water-resistant sealant that comes with a mold inhibitor, providing quality protection against mold and leaks.
For a completely watertight basement space, the floor must always be dry and warm. The basement floor is highly susceptible to water seepage, mold and many other water related problems because it is in direct contact with the ground. To protect your floor it is best to install a floor-matting system made of heavy duty polypropylene material fitted with tongue-and-groove square tile.
Purpose of Space
Once you have waterproofed your basement, before you can move on to finishing work you must clearly define the purpose of the space. Basements offer virtually limitless possibilities for additional functional space such as a gym, a home-office, a play room, a home theater, a guest room, an arts/crafts studio, and even an entire apartment outfitted with its own kitchen and bathroom. Your needs will define the additional construction, plumbing, and electric work that may need to be done, and will significantly affect the total cost of the project. It may also be the case that some things in your basement, like metal beams, may either be impossible or too costly to change, which means that you will need to carefully plan the layout of your basement space around these obstacles.
Focusing on specific activities and types of furniture, appliances, or equipment you would like your basement to accommodate will also help you plan the layout, and make the best use of the space. A game room with a billiard table, arcades, a poker table, and a bar will have a different layout from a media room, with a few rows of chairs and a big screen TV.
How to Make the Best of What You have
Initially most basement spaces are unlivable and unattractive, with poor lighting, exposed structural beams and duct work, and low ceilings. Especially if you are on a budget, it is important not to get discouraged and bring out the best of the unique features of your basement. Here, creativity goes a long way. Consider such neat design ideas as boxing in duct work with hollow beams for an interesting-looking coffered ceiling, or painting exposed pipes with a bold color to create a modern loft-like feel.
Importance of Lighting
Lack of natural light can be a major obstacle in refinishing the basement, but careful planning can help solve most lighting issues. Since there is no baseline ambient light in your basement, you will generally need more light than in other spaces at your home. However, in some cases when you intend to use your basement as either a game, or a media room, a dim lighting may actually be preferable.
To recreate the feeling of natural light and make the space look more inviting, consider installing recessed can lights close to the walls, or fluorescent linear fixtures hidden in a cove. Other lighting solutions include creating layers of light: ambient (general) lighting, task (specific) lighting, and accent (decorative) lighting. It is great to use torchères in the corners of the space, because they bounce the light up the corner and across the ceiling.
The colors that you choose for your basement will make a tremendous difference in the overall look and feel of the space. As a rule of thumb, regardless of the purpose of the space, warm colors, such as light caramel or ivory can work best in creating a cozy space that does not feel like “the basement”. Warm colors can also help soften the glare from all the lighting. Another tip that can make the space look more organized is to use different colors to delineate different areas according to their purpose. In case this is a kids’ play area, having different colors for different activity areas will also make it more fun for them.
To complete the look of your finished basement it is important to pay attention to small details. Finishing touches that make the rest of the house look nice, can also do wonders in the basement. You can use architectural details, such as crown molding, substantial baseboards, wainscoting, and beadboard ceilings to completely eliminate the feeling of a substandard space. Do not be shy in using other decorative accessories such as silk plants, paintings, carvings, pillows, and anything else that makes the space feel like an integral part of your home.