Even if the lowest level is unfinished concrete floors home to boxes of seasonal items and your laundry room, chances are your basement has a lot of potential. According to the latest annual "Cost vs. Value" Report from Remodeling magazine, the average basement remodel at $61,303 with a 70.3 percent return of investment was among the smartest places in your home to remodel or renovate.
Many architects and contractors put the cost of finishing a basement versus an addition at one-third to one-half of the price, according to HGTV. Here are some tips to consider when transforming your lower level into useful, enjoyable square footage.
Planning Your Layout
Put your main socializing area in a place that gets the best natural light to draw people in. Bedrooms need egress windows, so those need to be located on the perimeter of the lower level. If you plan on using an area for a home theater, you can situate that space in a darker area of the basement to reduce glare and maximize the theater feel.
Test Your Waterproofing
This Old House recommends taping 2-foot squares of plastic sheeting to the floors and walls over your basement. If condensation forms underneath, your foundation is not sealed. If droplets form on top, your basement needs to be dehumidified.
Because basements are more prone to flooding and water issues, it's a good idea to have a battery backup for your main sump pump in case of a power outage and a second pump in the case the primary pump gives out.
If you're worried about moisture, pick flooring material that will hold up to water, such as floating vinyl planks or tile.
If you are opting for a dropped or suspended ceiling with tiles rather than drywall, there are plenty of attractive options rather than the standard tiles reminiscent of office spaces. Keep in mind that while a drop ceiling offers convenient access to electrical and plumbing lines, this ceiling type will reduce the amount of overhead space available.
Natural light is typically in short supply in basements, and unless you're intending for your basement to serve as a home theater, dim basement lighting can be a huge turnoff. When designing your basement, you'll need to account for extra light fixtures.
Recessed cans are a good option as they broadcast light in a cone shape. Space them close together to avoid dark spots. According to HGTV, a good rule of thumb is to divide ceiling height by 2 to get the maximum distance between cans.
Safe, Better-Looking Window Wells
Most building codes require a second exit path from the basement. Add additional natural light and satisfy code requirements by installing egress windows and window wells. Opt out of corrugated metal wells and look into installing prefab wells made from fiberglass or faux-stone material. Install grates or plastic covers to prevent people or animals from falling into the wells, but make sure the toppers can be removed easily in the case of an emergency.
Give Your Extra Space Functionality
If you're planning to include a storage area or laundry room in your basement remodel, make sure they're not an afterthought. Use stackable washer and dryer units to free up space for a sink area with open shelving to store cleaning supplies. Add additional storage opportunities to your lower level by adding a built-in shelves and cabinetry.
For information about loan options for remodeling and renovations, download our free Rehab & Construction Guide.