Finishing basement space is one way to add living expense relatively economically. The box structure of floor, walls, and ceiling is already in place; all you have to do is add the finishes.
One of the keys to keeping the cost down is to properly plan out the basement renovation and to the various items that need to be accomplished in a specific sequence in order to avoid having to rework items already done.
The first priority is to define the space. By that, I mean; is it a complete set of living quarters with a kitchen, bathroom, sitting area and bedroom; or is it a large family room with an entertainment system; or maybe it will be a room to house the ping-pong or billiards table.
Once you determine the what, you have to determine the how. Many of the how questions, will be based on your geographic location.
- Heating: How will you heat and/or cool the basement areas? There are numerous choices, forced air, electric (radiant, baseboard), hot water (radiators, radiant), and using a fireplace. If the room is not completely below ground, an in wall HVAC unit could be utilized. If there is a bathroom, it could be heated with heat lamps. If you are planning on using a current forced air system or a current hot water heating systems, does it have the capacity to heat and/or cool the additional space?
- Plumbing: If there is a to be a bathroom and/or kitchen you will have to install drains and water supply lines. Is the current hot water tank or system capable of the increased demands? If not, you will have to replace the current tank or install another tank or use a tankless system.
- Ventilation: Bathrooms and kitchens require ventilation and will require make-up air for those ventilation systems. Fireplaces also require make-up air.
- Safety: Smoke alarms should be installed, especially if there are bedrooms.
- Electrical: At minimum, you will require receptacles on walls and some method lighting the new space. Electric stoves and ovens, heating and hot water will make serious demands on your current electrical service, can it handle the increased load. Will you need a sub-panel to handle the additional circuits or is their space in the current panel?
- Dampness: One of the prime distracters for finishing a basement is that most of them are damp. Damp can generally be taken care of relatively easily with vapor barriers and insulation. However, visible water on walls or the floor could require a major undertaking to correct.
- Take care of any water problems in the basement, walls, and floors. If there are windows, and they are going to remain as they are, make sure the frames are sealed for water ingress against the block or concrete walls.
- Replace or modify any major items such as HVAC main system units and perform the upgrade on the electrical service if required.
- Install any drainage for toilets and/or sinks if it means running the drains under the current concrete floor. This is also the time to install any electrical boxes with conduit for floor receptacles for power, cable TV, or telephone. Repair any concrete damage.
- If you are installing a fireplace, the fireplace hearth and flue should be installed next. If it is a wood burning stove that does not require a hearth you should add the flue at this point so that it protrudes through the wall or ceiling at a length sufficiently long enough to be able to connect to after the wall or ceilings are finished.
- Install any ductwork for ventilation and HVAC if required.
- If a bathtub, or stall shower is to be installed this is when it should be done (some plumbing for hot and cold water supplies may have to be done at this point. Only do what is necessary to bring the water lines outside of any unreachable area).
- If you are installing a sub-floor and vapor barrier, it should be done at this stage.
- Frame all wood or steel studs along walls and construct any room dividers needed.
- Install all drain lines and water supply lines that run in the walls and ceilings, don’t forget water lines for ice makers if required.
- Install all ceiling and wall ventilation units with the exception of kitchen exhaust hoods, which would be installed after the installation of the kitchen cabinets.
- If the ceiling will require strapping, install it at this stage.
- Install receptacle, switch and light boxes and run all wiring from the electrical panel to those boxes as appropriate, electrical heaters and kitchen appliances if required. Also, run all wiring for cable TV, computers, speakers, or other entertainment devices.
- Install all insulation in walls and/or ceilings followed by a vapor barrier.
- Install the wall and ceiling finish material, drywall, wood paneling, or other. Tape and sand drywall. (If you are installing a suspended ceiling, tape, sand, and paint the drywall on the walls before hanging the suspended ceiling).
- Do all painting to final finished coat.
- Install the flooring (I prefer to install kitchen base cabinets and bathroom vanities on top of flooring in order to maintain counter heights).
- Install all bathroom fixtures, including vanities and kitchen cabinets, base and wall units.
- Install all door trims baseboards, other moldings, and doors (if you are moving large items into the area you can remove the doors by popping the bolts after installation). Paint these items before installing and do touch-up after installation.
- Install ceiling and wall sconce lights, smoke detectors, do trim out on electrical boxes and ventilation grills.
- Install wood burning stove if appropriate.
- Move in furniture and appliances.
Enjoy your new space!
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