(This post may contain affiliate links, which means we may receive a commission if you click a link and purchase something that we have recommended. While clicking these links won't cost you any extra money, they will help us keep this site up and running and keep it free!)
I salute all those who intend to renovate the basement and start such a difficult and expensive remodeling project. But let me tell you, it’s totally worth it. If you have the space, why not use it instead of throwing everything you don’t need downstairs.
When it comes to usage, we would all agree that family needs vary. And need is the mother of resourcefulness. You might want to use the basement as a guest room, gym, TV room, or home office. And usage will, in turn, determine the basement remodeling plans. You might need to install a kitchenette or bathroom, separate the room in several spaces etc.
No matter what you decide to do, one thing is certain: good planning right from the start will make the world of difference. There are no cutting corners whatsoever when it comes to the space below grade. And so you shouldn’t treat this project as if you would renovate the living room or dining room.
Although each basement renovation is different in terms of future usage, available space, budget, and overall intentions, all basements share some common features.
They are all:
- Below ground level
- Relatively dark
- Damp and moisture
- Susceptible to water damage
- The place where ducts, insulation, plumbing, and electrical equipment go through
In other words, basement renovations require great attention. Okay, let’s be fair. Nobody can predict what can go wrong in the future. And some mistakes are often unavoidable. But the fewer problems you have the better.
So, regardless of what you choose to do with the space downstairs, there are some mistakes you can avoid. Why bother, you might wonder! For two basic reasons:
- Your safety
- Avoiding problems once you finish the basement
Here are the 8 basement remodeling mistakes you should avoid
- Not checking the drainage
More often than not, drains systems get clogged. And having the right drainage is extremely important for the avoidance of water damage. First of all, you must have full access to the drain. It might not be very elegant having a drain in the newly finished basement but it’s better than dealing with a flooded basement. What you can do is cover this part with a tile or furniture which can be easily removed to frequently check the drain.
- Hiding equipment
The same goes for any other equipment found in the basement. From the furnace to the electrical box, you surely want to keep them out of sight. No disagreement here! But you should plan the basement finishing so that you will have access to such equipment for repairs and maintenance. And don’t forget that emergencies always occur. When you have access to equipment, you can detect problems and thus prevent their escalation. If you hide equipment behind walls, you won’t be able to check & maintain them and surely won’t know that there is a problem till it’s too late.
- Getting the wrong lights
Now, why on earth should anyone make a mistake with basement lighting? Hmm, think about it. Basements are already the darkest spaces in the house. Without the right lights, it won’t be romantic but depressing. And then it’s a matter of safety. Due to the relatively low basement ceilings, chances are that you will get recessed lighting. But if you do, you must first check if there is insulation in the ceiling. If there is, you should choose IC rated pot lights to avoid a potential fire.
As long as you choose the right products, recessed lights are ideal for basements. Of course, if the ceiling height is average, you can always install pendants too. Either way, you can get great ideas and very modern lighting fixtures at Lumens.
- Not waterproofing
Due to their location, basements are prone to water damage. And such problems don’t occur only when the drainage is clogged but also when a plumbing pipe bursts or during a heavy rainfall. So basement waterproofing is a must. It’s vital to have a sunk pump too.
The problem with basements is that there is high moisture. So, attention must be given to every material you choose. You want everything to be highly resistant to moisture.
If it’s necessary, place a dehumidifier. It will absorb condensation. It’s very important to take any measure necessary to minimize the levels of humidity but also the possibility of water damage. Water leaks and condensation feed mold and mold spreads fast. Condensation (and mold for that matter) leave a lingering odor and won’t make the basement a livable (or pleasant) space. By waterproofing, you keep the basement dry and so smelling good and free of mold and such things are vital to your health and well-being.
- Not planning for insulation
Proper basement insulation is also essential. Since this space is susceptible to dampness and it usually gets chillier than in other parts in the house, you need to insulate it. But it’s important to choose the right insulation for the avoidance of mold growth over the years. A good solution is spraying foam insulation. With the right floor, ceiling, and wall foam insulation, the basement will also be moisture and sound proof.
- Choosing the wrong floor & walls
Truth be told, today there are many basement floor options even among carpets and wood flooring. When you choose the new floor, you must be 100% sure that it is resistant to water. A good choice would be tile and vinyl flooring. It’s always best to avoid natural materials, like laminate or wood because they get water damaged quickly and are susceptible to mold growth. If you insist on getting carpets, get synthetic ones which are more resistant to mold and moisture. Tile carpets are also a good idea just because they are replaced easier.
As for the walls, standard paper coating drywalls will be easily damaged by water and will absorb moisture creating the ideal conditions for mold infestations. To avoid such issues, it’s best to invest in gypsum-based drywall boards.
- Overlooking existing problems
When you are still in the process of planning the basement remodeling project, it’s best to check for possible existing problems. And there are two ways to do that.
- Check for problems in the basement. These would include clogged drains, cracked walls, torn window seals and broken window frames, mold etc.
- Check for problems all around the house. A slow kitchen sink drain can lead to water damage and due to gravity, everything is traveling downwards. Water will end up in the basement. For the same reason, check the gutters and any problems with attic waterproofing and the roof.
Fixing cracks, cleaning gutters, and repairing any problem in the home that will potentially water damage the basement should be your priority. I guess the last thing you want is spend a fortune to finish the basement and then deal with water damage.
- Forgetting to check the local building codes
Before you finish the basement, you must take some permits. If you work with a contractor, he will help out. It’s important to adhere to the local building codes. They often require having a rather large window for emergency egress. And this is as important as having durable stairs.
The whole idea is to renovate the basement knowing that you have taken all the required steps to keep the room dry and ensure the safety of your family. Like any other home improvement project, basement renovation requires a very thorough planning and focus on how to avoid the above mistakes for peace of mind later. So, do some serious thinking, plan well, work with an experienced pro, and take every little detail into account. You won’t regret it later.