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How to Finish Your Basement

Last modified: 2018/09/12 | Approximate reading time 4 mins

The basement of your home shouldn’t be an afterthought. In fact, a significant amount of time and dedication should be focused around making this space comfortable and at the very least, livable. Not only will this add to the resale value of your home, but having a properly insulated basement will save costs on energy bills and keep indoor temperatures comfortable.

Potentially you’re even looking to turn an unfinished basement into a new room or a one-bedroom apartment? Whichever the case, here are a few things that should be taken into account before you dive head first into your basement renovation project.

Here’s how to finish a basement

The basics: what to know before diving into a basement renovation

So, you’ve decided to finally buckle down and finish that basement. Excellent! This project can add some much-needed space to a cramped home, either as an alternative living area or a bedroom. In other cases, you might be using your basement to house a laundry room or even an in-home gym. Depending on the amount of space that’s available, your basement could be set up to create additional storage, the possibilities are endless!

Of course, determining what your basement will be used for is the first step to taking on finishing it, as the steps of each renovation will be dependant on the end result. However, with every basement renovation, there is some preliminary work that must be done.

First, if working with electricity or plumbing in any capacity, such as setting up a washer or installing a toilet, moving or installing electricity and so forth, you will need to apply for a permit. In all municipalities and cities, electrical and plumbing work will always need a permit. This is due to the nature of this work, as it can be exceptionally dangerous for the novice. Even if you’re not working with electricity or plumbing, it’s crucial to look into whether or not you’ll need a permit for other forms of work. When it comes to applying for a permit, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Curious if your DIY renovation might get you into trouble? Check out this article to be sure. 

Can your basement be finished?

According to the CMCH (Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation), it’s crucial to ask yourself the following four questions before getting involved in any kind of basement finishing project.

  • Do you have to bend down to avoid a beam or a conduct?
  • Are there any signs of humidity and/or mold on the walls and floors?
  • Do the clothes and objects stored in your basement smell moldy?
  • Are there any cracks on the floors and walls?

If you answered yes to one of these questions, you need to consider additional steps that may be undertaken in order to make the project possible. This is due to the fact that any mold found as well as severe structural issues could point to complications and concerns that may require the help of more than a single professional. 

Humidity: a basement renovation challenge

Your basement is buried underground, this can’t be denied. As a result, the room temperature within its walls will vary less than in the other parts of your house. In order to keep your basement pleasant year-round, you’ll need to make sure that humidity levels are well under control and find a way to do this in the renovation process.

The basement walls will need to be constructed in a way that turns them into barriers against humidity coming from the outside. This generally means properly insulating them. We should mention that this kind of work is very delicate and contains risks. Therefore, it's better to work with a professional contractor who will make the right choices.

Wondering about how to properly insulate this space? Read this article all about insulation!

Photo: Decor Pad

Photo: Decor Pad

Further considerations for your basement renovation 

Whatever the purpose of your new space, you'll want to create a basement that is well-organized, functional and comfortable. There are some obvious aspects that lead a basement to differ from other rooms of the home, and this includes access to natural light, dampness as well as maintaining temperature.

If you're going to use the basement on a regular basis, we’re recommending that you include sources of natural light whenever possible. This can be done using windows and light shafts. If you’re turning your basement into a bedroom or an apartment, use room dividers that let the light in as much as possible. This can be done using glass panes as well as clear glass blocks. Mirrors are another excellent way to reflect light and open up a space, just make sure they’re pointing towards a source.

If natural light isn’t a possibility for you, the next step would be to consider artificial lighting systems you could use. Options include light fixtures which are mounted inside the ceilings or floors, wall lights, and lamp posts. Even with natural lighting coming into the rooms, basements are arguably dark spaces so make sure this is reflected in your décor choices. Avoid painting with dark or drab colours as well as using light or minimal furniture.

Keeping with the idea of bringing in as much light as possible, choose decoration materials that have reflective qualities. Glass, metal and lacquered surfaces have the right characteristics to suit this purpose. Avoid painting with dark or drab colours and keep wall colours light and simple. Further, keep furniture light or minimal.

Lastly, if you decide to include a room where water will be used (laundry room, bathroom, indoor spa), you’ll definitely need a pump to get rid of wastewater. In this case, don’t forget to plan for an appropriate aeration system, which may be a whole project in itself

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