How to finish a basement

Though not near as common in newer construction, basements are prevalent in many older homes. Typically, a basement houses the mechanical systems of a home and the washer and dryer and is often cold, damp, and laden with insects. However, with an investment of time and money a basement can easily be turned into additional living space.

When contemplating finishing a basement, the first thing to determine is whether or not the basement is dry. Locate any floor drains, check for cracks in the walls and floors and investigate for signs of dampness or previous water damage. If water is an issue, it is best to eliminate the problem. Best case scenario is a few minor cracks that can be sealed with a concrete waterproof sealer. For major problems, consult a professional.

When youíre ready to finish the basement, decide how to incorporate living space and separate storage and mechanics. Decide if you want to simply hide the furnace, water heater, washer and dryer in an unfinished area or if you would rather finish off the entire basement by including a laundry room and utility room. Also determine how the finished space in your basement will be used, whether as an additional bedroom, family room, recreation room or home office.

The first step in finishing a basement is building walls. Just as you would do above ground, a finished basement needs framed walls that drywall or paneling can be attached to. Because the lumber will be framed to concrete, special tools are required for drilling into the concrete. If your plans allow, it is best to create a finished space that is as open as possible because natural lighting is poor in a basement.

With the rough framing in place, you will want to run all electrical outlets and lighting before you put up the finished walls. The walls should be completely finished before the ceiling is installed. Most common in a finished basement are drop ceilings, but framing and drywalling a ceiling is also a possibility if there is enough clearance overhead. Clearance for ductwork and pipes should all be taken into consideration in the planning stages.

Flooring in a basement can vary from painted floors if the concrete subfloor is smooth and level, to tile or carpet. If water, sewage backup or flooding is a concern, consider indoor-outdoor carpet. While it isnít quite as fashionable or comfortable as carpet with padding, it is more practical if thereís a possibility it could get wet.

Once your basement has received wall, ceiling, and floor treatments, you will have a finished space that adds more livability to your home as well as equity.