Spaces for Life

The ReTouch Home Improvement blog



Spaces for Life: Get the down-low on basement finishes

By Lance McCarthy

Basement finishing – it all comes down to this…

As you may know, I am a book guy. One of my favorite books is “At Home” by Bill Bryson. In this book the author walks you through his old house room by room explaining amazing facts and history of the rooms. I thought it might be interesting to do something similar. Every few weeks, we will visit a different part of the house and discuss some of the things you should know about that part.

What better way to start than at the bottom? We have been getting more and more requests to finish basements, so let’s go through some things you might find helpful.

Basements are a chance to gain some great space at a great price. There are pitfalls to avoid, but if done well it can be the most affordable way to grow your family.

Some of our favorite basement finish products and design elements:

  • Home theater rooms
  • Projection screens and sound systems
  • Bars and kitchenettes
  • Vent-free fireplaces
  • Guest or “mother-in-law” suites (I’ve always wondered why the father-in-law doesn’t get his own place)
  • Play rooms and Home gyms
  • Laundry (if you are really into carrying clothes up and down stairs)
  • Wine rooms
  • Game rooms and billiard rooms
  • If you’ve seen 50 Shades of Gray, you may have other ideas for possible basement rooms

Pitfalls to avoid:

  • DIY nightmare  That Home Depot commercial makes it seem so easy.  We get a lot of calls from people who discover there is more to a basement remodel than 30 seconds of an exciting song and Josh Lucas’s sexy voice.  If this is something you are considering, call me in and I can help walk you through the pitfalls beforehand.
  • Too cheap to be true We find a lot of advertisements out there for $20 basements that trap a lot of people who just don’t know any different.  In just raw materials (studs, nails, sheetrock mud…) a normal basement project costs about $19 per square foot.  Something ain’t workin’ quite right if a bid is close to that.
  • Water feature There are a lot of basements in the city that have water problems.  Sometimes this is obvious (as in a big puddle) and sometimes it isn’t (as in vapor coming up through the slab).  Water in any form spells trouble for a basement finish.  Make sure you have checked this risk out thoroughly before swinging the hammers.
  • Egress The problem with many basements is the little windows.  In a fire or another emergency, these spaces can become death traps.  Make sure if the space is going to be lived in, that you have made a door or egress window to keep everyone safe and sound
  • Height Code requires half of any room to have a ceiling height of 7’ 6” or greater.  If your ceiling joists down there are lower than that, you can still finish it, but don’t expect it to count as space when you sell.

If you are interested in finding out more, or are considering doing something in that dark, spooky room at the bottom of the stairs, give me a call.

Ready to Take the Next Step?