25 Tips for Turning a Basement into a Living Space
Homes that have extra, unused basement space have a readymade renovation project just waiting to be started. Finishing a basement to create an extra room can raise a home's value and provide a place for renters, relatives and friends who don't mind living in basement spaces. But finishing a basement requires careful planning and the right improvement choices. Don't rush in. Check out these tips for the ideal livable basement space.
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Know how much space you are working with. This is particularly important regarding height: Many local regulations on turning a basement into a livable area require that the basement be at least 7 feet tall, sometimes higher. Always consult local building codes.
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Inspect Plumbing and Wiring
You will probably need to add plumbing and wiring to your basement, including a separate bathroom. Check on existing sytsems to see what expansions and upgrades need to be done. Remember, you'll need a permit for this work. Plus: Plumbing Tricks of the Trade for Weekend Plumbers
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Add Insulation for Warmth and Sound
You will need to insulate the ground and walls of the basement to both protect against noise and low temperatures, using insulated panels, batting, and other common materials. This could involve important wall renovation choices, so consider all your options. Plus: How to insulate a house
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Add Moisture Protection
Living in basement conditions requires vapor barriers to prevent moisture from spreading beyond the concrete walls, so consider that as you ponder basement living room ideas. Here's how to waterproof a basement.
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Install Proper Egress Windows
One of the most important parts of those basement building codes we mentioned are egress windows, basement windows that both let in light and allow people to escape in case of an emergency. A live-in basement requires egress windows, so be prepared to expand existing windows and renovate your foundation to make room for them. We can help you install egress windows yourself.
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Include Proper Ventilation
Ventilation is important for air flow. Not only does this help keep the basement fresh, but it also ensures that any fumes from heaters, cooking, etc. are safely funneled away.
Here are a few factors you should consider if you’re planning to add a basement to your house.
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Check for Radon
Radon is a type of ground-based radiation. Its presence depends on local geography, and if radon is an issue in your area you may want to get a radon test kit and check levels in your basement.
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Image courtesy of Jeff Hahn, University of Minnesota
Check for Pests and Rot
Check wood, stone and concrete for any signs of pests or moisture damage. Pest access must be blocked and rotted materials replaced before you begin your basement remodel. Here, find out the cost of remodeling your basement.
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Install Durable Walls
Instead of drywall, use more durable materials with great resistance to moisture and extra insulation, such as wall panels and foam boards that can be easily installed in basement spaces. You will probably need to add framing for both insulation and your walls. Plus: How to finish basement walls
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Inspect and Upgrade Flooring
If people will be living in basement spaces, they probably don't want to walk on bare concrete. Wood flooring often doesn't work in basements because of moisture and warping, but engineered wood, tiles, and properly installed carpet are viable options.
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Have a Plan for Laundry
If you are creating a separate apartment in the basement, consider adding a mini washer/dryer set. A communal laundry room may seem like a good idea, but carefully consider convenience and privacy issues when coming up with basement bedroom ideas. Plus: Ways to save money on new appliances
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Protect Already-Present Appliances
Does your basement house a radiator, water heater, freezer, furnace and other large appliance? Build a framework around them and keep them clear of renovations, if possible. These appliances need space to perform their jobs and prevent overheating. Don't cover them up! Plus: Build an attractive, movable room partition
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Install a Sump Pump
A sump pump is a necessary installation in wetter areas where ground water can threaten basements. Now that your basement is becoming more valuable, you need to protect it the right way, which could require a sump pump as part of the renovation.
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Protect the Outside Foundation
Don't let moisture or standing water attack the outer foundation, either. Install gravel beds, sloping soil beds, rain diverters, and other important defenses against foundation damage around your house. Plus: Rain barrel diverters
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Expand and Upgrade the Stairway
Basement stairs tend to be narrow and dark. Be sure there is as sturdy handrail and good lighting. Plus: Install a new stair rail
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Choose the Right Kind of Lighting
Include as much natural light as possible in the basement living space by enlarging windows, if possible, when considering basement living room ideas. When picking out artificial lighting, go for warm lights that cover a lots of space to remove any of that leftover basement gloom. With enough ceiling fixtures and lamps, you should be able to create a cozy atmosphere. Plus: How to add a ceiling light fixture
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Plan a Ceiling with Room
If you want a proper ceiling in the basement, you probably need to install a drop ceiling. These paneled ceilings come in many styles, so look for a residential option that doesn't invoke the feeling of a commercial setting.
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Install a Wall-Bed-Bookcase Combo
A wall-bed combination or drop-down bed helps save a lot of room in a tight basement, so consider installing this DIY Murphy bed and bookcase. It's one of many great basement bedroom ideas. Further, a Murphy bed can be super simple: Some are just an upright box that contains a folddown bed. But this is a deluxe version because it includes ample storage. Get the full project instructions here.
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Don't Think About Adding New Walls
Modern basement living quarters rarely have extra walls, and for good reason: They usually turn an already-small space into cramped, uncomfortable rooms. Instead, plan an open floor plan, and use tasteful partitions for separating areas. Plus: How to install a load-bearing beam
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Expand Window Wells
Window wells provide an excellent opportunity to make living in basement spaces feel more comfortable: Think about expanding any current window wells to let in more light and allow for planting or even sitting outside.
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Don't Be Afraid to Let Some Areas Multitask
Review small apartment designs around the world, and you'll see a whole lot of ideas about how to make spaces pull double or triple duty when it comes to eating, working and relaxing. The right appliances, mobile furniture, pull-out features and other components can allow for a lot of flexibility, even in smaller spaces.
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Plan a Kitchen Area Carefully
What do you want in a basement kitchen area? Do you want a separate sink and oven? Do you want to downgrade to a microwave? Do you have the space for a dishwasher? These are important questions to ask when making the basement space as livable as possible. Remember that gas appliances require extra installation steps. Plus: Small kitchen space-saving tips
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Place Outlets and Connections Thoughtfully
Whoever is living in your basement will probably have a computer, phone charger and a variety of electronic devices. Additionally, you may want to set up a TV or other type of entertainment system. Carefully think about where to put in outlets and make them plentiful!
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Build Versatile Storage Space
Focus on storage that's easy to slide under other furniture or that can close up easily to create extra room when necessary. If you want one multipurpose closet, this one uses space very wisely. Plus: Clutter-busting strategies for every room
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Build a Walkout, if You Have Room
A "walkout" is an independent exit from the basement into the outdoors. This works well for houses that are built on hills or have basements that can otherwise access enough outside space for a door and walkway. It's a great way to make the basement more independent and renter- or guest-friendly.
Originally Published: November 27, 2018