Realtors often see finished basements that are poorly done. These types of basements take away from a home’s value. When thinking about finishing a basement, a property owner should read this article first, contributed to our Blog by Bill Richards of ProTech Home Inspection
1. Not addressing water problems first – The first step in any basement remodel should be identifying and preventing any and all possible sources of moisture. This can include cracks in the walls, openings around utility lines, high humidity, poor grading around the house, downspouts that direct water against the house, leaking gutters, leaking pipes, or sewer backups.
2. Not making necessary repairs/upgrades beforehand – One of the advantages of an unfinished basement is you still have easy access to your HVAC system, wiring, plumbing, cable lines, etc. So it only makes sense to perform any repairs or upgrades to these systems before you start covering them up with ceilings and walls.
3. Finishing a basement too soon – It can be difficult to anticipate the above two items in a house you’ve never lived in. That’s why I recommend living in a house for a while before you start finishing the basement.
4. Making too many small rooms – A few, large multipurpose rooms generally work better than a lot of smaller rooms. Not only does a large space offer more flexibility, but basement rooms tend to feel smaller than they actually are due to lower ceilings and less natural light.
5. Not understanding code requirements for bathrooms & bedrooms – If your plans include adding a bathroom or bedroom in your basement, you first need to find out what your local building codes require. Beyond the obvious, a bathroom will require venting and GFCI outlets while a bedroom usually requires a heat source in the room, emergency egress, a smoke detector, and AFCI protected outlets.
6. Covering up important access points – Plumbing clean outs, floor drains, water shutoffs, electrical panels, furnaces, humidifiers, and sump pumps all need to be accessible after the basement is finished. Water valves, electrical panels, and sump pumps in particular need to be readily accessible without the use of any tools in case of an emergency.
7. Not installing HVAC ducts into the rooms – Simply put, every room in the basement should have at least one HVAC register.
8. Not adding enough electrical outlets – When it comes to electrical outlets, it’s better to have too many than not enough.
9. Not sealing & insulating properly – Sealing air leaks and insulating the walls can make your basement more comfortable and more energy efficient. Make sure to include these steps as part of your project.
10. Using untreated lumber against concrete – Any wood that comes in direct contact with concrete should be treated. The reason for this is water can seep through concrete and then into any wood touching it, which can then lead to wood rot and mold growth over time. Treated lumber is also termite resistant as well.
11. Not installing overhead lighting –Add overhead lights controlled by a switch to every room in your basement, you’ll be glad you did.
12. Only using can lighting for large basements – Can lights are very popular in basements because they are recessed into the ceiling. The downside of can lights is they only illuminate the area directly below them. This may not be an issue for a small basement, but it can take a large number of can lights to properly light a large basement. This increases both your initial material costs and electricity costs later on. One alternative to consider is adding wall sconces in larger rooms. They take up little space but since they reflect light off the ceiling and walls, they illuminate a larger space than a can light of the same wattage will.
13. Not performing a Radon test – If your house has never been tested for Radon, you should have it done before you finish the basement. This is important since you will be spending more time in your basement once it’s finished. It’s also best to do this early on so you will know if you need to include a radon mitigation system as part of your remodeling project.
14. Blocking off the combustion make-up air – Gas and oil burning appliances such as furnaces and water heaters require fresh make-up air to use for combustion. While many modern furnaces have dedicated intake ducts to supply them with outside air, many older furnaces and water heaters simply use the air from inside the basement. In that case, you may need to add a intake duct next to your furnace and/or water heater to supply enough fresh air for them to burn properly.
15. Using the sump pit as a drain – Sinks, washing machines, etc. should never drain into a sump pit. Condensation drain lines from dehumidifiers and HVAC equipment can empty into a sump pit.
16. Using a floor drain as a sewer line – Likewise, sinks, washing machines, etc. should never discharge into a floor drain. However, it is okay for HVAC equipment and dehumidifiers to use a floor drain.
17. Not getting help when needed – Finishing a basement is a great opportunity to learn new skills and flex you DIY muscles, but chances are even the most experienced do-it-yourselfer is going to need some help. Don’t be afraid to consult professionals for advice, many will gladly share their expertise if you simply ask. Just be upfront with them if you have no intention of using their services.
18. Not having it inspected – It’s always good to have someone double check your work. Especially if you’re doing most or all of the work yourself. Consider having a professional inspection of the basement done before you start work to identify likely problem spots. It is also recommended to have all the wiring, plumbing, and HVAC inspected before the drywall is installed.
19. Overestimating its value – If your primary motivation for finishing the basement is to increase the value of your house, you should proceed cautiously. Many people overestimate the value a finished basement will add to their home. Of course, this varies from house to house, so do your homework first or talk to a realtor who is familiar with the home values in your neighborhood.
20. Not insuring the basement properly – Once your basement is done, it’s time to update your home owners insurance to make sure it is fully covered. You may also want to add or increase your sewer backup coverage. This is usually an additional rider and is not standard on most policies.