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Creating a basement apartment: what to know!

Last modified: 2022-10-26 | Approximate reading time 5 mins

Often, the basement is a somewhat forgotten space that doesn’t get the attention it deserves. This versatile room can serve many purposes including a play area for children, laundry room, man cave or even home-gym. But if you’re really looking to go the distance, you might consider turning your basement into a separate apartment.

This lucrative option is great for homeowners who are comfortable opening up their home to renters. But, what do you need to know about creating a separate entrance as well as the basement apartment itself?

If you’re ready to create an independent space for a renter but aren’t quite sure where to start, we’re here to offer

We've also prepared a highly practical checklist to help you manage the different steps involved in basement renovation project. Click here to check it out and be sure to keep it handy 

Creating a basement apartment

basement apartment_Creating a basement apartment: what to know!

Source: unsplash

1- Planning & legalities

When it comes to creating a basement apartment, the first step is carefully surveying the space and taking careful measurements while also considering the layout. Measuring everything will offer you specific figures to work with. An important mention is that some cities and municipalities will have a rule in place regarding the height of the basement ceiling. If the ceiling doesn’t sit at a certain height, it may not be possible for you to turn your basement into an apartment.

For this reason, after taking careful measurements, consult local building codes to make sure that this project will be possible. Another common zoning law may be the ability to take on tenants altogether. For some homes, it will be illegal for you to add a second tenant. Lastly, make sure you have considered fire escapes that support this space.

If your basement is not yet divided into rooms or sections, think about what will be a necessary addition to make the place as liveable as possible. Here are some questions to consider during the planning stages:

Check on all existing systems in place so that you know the amount of work that’s needed before diving in head first. If expansions or upgrades are necessary, you may be required to work with a professional.

When it comes to installing new plumbing or upgrading electricity, most municipalities have made this practice illegal if work is done without a license or assistance from an entrepreneur. The planning stage should be approached carefully, as having all your ducks in a row will make all the difference moving forward.

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2- Designing your basement apartment

Once all of the difficult decisions are out of the way, you’ll need to consider how you want to layout the space. Some may choose a traditional approach to an apartment layout while others may consider a studio apartment. Of course, this will come down to the amount of space you’re working with. If defined rooms don’t already exist, crafting a studio apartment will be much easier in a smaller space, and will save a significant amount of time and money.

Once you’ve determined the layout, you’ll need to create a floorplan for your basement apartment. The floorplan will act as a foundation for the project, so this step is particularly important. Consider the different rooms or spaces that will need to be created for an apartment:

  • Kitchen
  • Bedroom
  • Bathroom
  • Living area
  • Closet and storage

As we’ve mentioned, and depending on the state of your basement, you may wish to consult with a contractor or architect in order to play it safe and make the most of your space. This is especially important if you plan on doing any plumbing, electrical as well as insulation work. Further, if you’re working with a difficult layout or a small space, an architect can offer up some clever solutions.

3- Begin converting your basement into an apartment

basement apartment_Creating a basement apartment: what to know!

Source: unsplash

So you’ve taken care of all of the logistics and legalities, carefully crafted a floor plan and all that’s left is to begin converting your basement into an apartment. Of course, this is easier said than done. Depending on the state of your basement, there are many steps that will go into this process.

Aside from the aforementioned, there are some basic things that need to be taken care of. You’ll need to create a separate exterior entrance for your new tenant to use. This is quite an important piece to this renovation puzzle. Consider installing it at the back of the house, leading down into the basement. If this isn’t an option for you, make a separate entrance at the side of the house or away from the front door, as this will offer an element of privacy that a new tenant might be looking for. 

Flooring is another important consideration when renovating a basement into a livable apartment. The majority of basements have concrete flooring and when unfinished, are generally cold, hard and uncomfortable. Therefore, when converting this area, you may need to install new flooring. For some, carpet could be the easy option to make things cozier. However, your basement may be under risk of flooding, and if this is the case, we’d suggest avoiding carpet. Hardwood is another great option, but this may need to be heated. If you’re curious about heated flooring, read our article on the subject!

4- Installing amenities and decor

basement apartment_Creating a basement apartment: what to know!

Source: unsplash

Of course, we’re discussing turning a basement into a liveable apartment and thus, we have to think about the things that will need to be included to make sure it’s just that: liveable. Other than the basics, which include the kitchen, bathroom and living room appliances, a laundry room could be useful. If space allows, consider hooking up units.

Make sure that walls are kept in a neutral tone. Basements tend to be fairly dark spaces with low ceilings as they live underground, so work with a colour that plays with any natural light that you are afforded. Keep rooms looking fresh and avoid painting with dark colours or using too much heavy furniture.

When it comes to furnishing the room, we’d suggest playing this step by ear. It’s valuable to have a furnished space but if this means going out and buying an entire apartment’s worth of furniture, then it might be best to keep it on the empty side. Be mindful of what renting a furnished versus an unfurnished space will entail. 

Consult our great guide to house extensions which contains a checklist that you will be able to use to organize your project.

Get 3 renovation quotes for your basement renovation project can help you get quotes for your basement renovation project. If you submit your project to us, we’ll put you in contact with top-rated contractors. Fill in the form on the homepage (it only takes a few minutes), and you will get estimates from trusted professionals. 

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