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How to Remodel Your Basement

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While many basements solely serve as a dark, dank space reserved for storage and laundry, they have potential for many other purposes. With a little work, you can remodel your basement into a functional living space and make a worthwhile investment in your home.

Find a Purpose

The first step in remodeling your basement is to decide on a purpose for the space. Depending on your preferences, lifestyle, and the amount of room you have in your basement, you can create:
  • A home office
  • An entertainment room
  • A playroom for kids
  • A workout room
  • A bar
Before you begin, you'll need to assess the current state of your basement to determine how "livable" it is and what improvements you need to make.

Drainage and Flood Protection

Many basements are susceptible to flooding, mold, mildew and other moisture damage. You may have already taken measures to prevent or minimize flooding and water damage in your basement, such as seal-coating your basement floors and walls, installing drainage channels or installing a sump pump.

If your basement still suffers from leaks and flooding, there are other preventative measures to make your finished basement more livable:
  • Use a dehumidifier to protect against mold and vermin
  • Install vapor barriers or vapor retarders into the floors and walls
  • Increase ventilation in your basement by installing a simple bathroom vent fan into one of the walls or hanging a ceiling fan if your ceiling isn't too low

TIP: Ceiling fans will also keep your basement cool during the summer if you don't want to connect your central heating and cooling system to your basement. During the winter, you can use space heaters to keep it warm.

Getting Connected

When remodeling your basement, you'll have to make sure it has good electrical connections. If the existing wiring and outlets aren't sufficient for your plans, you might have to add some additional wiring.
  • Collect the appropriate materials. You'll need: standard carpentry tools (hammer, drill, screwdriver, etc.) outlet fixtures, copper wiring, and a breaker box.
  • Make your electrical plan. Before you begin, you'll need to decide how you will wire the basement and where to install your outlets. Draw a floor plan of your home and basement to designate the number and positions of your outlets.

TIP: Keep outlets to a minimum to reduce stress on the power supply and prevent damages.

  • Set up your breaker box to code. Your breaker box installation must adhere to the restrictions in place by your city government. Failure to abide by these guidelines can cause electrocution, electrical fires and other problems. Contact the Department of Buildings in your town or city to find out the codes for installing your breaker box.
  • Route the wire. Following your wiring floor plan, drill a hole through each wall stud. Route the wiring through the studs by guiding it through the hole.
  • Mount the outlets. Using a hammer/nails or a screwdriver with screws, mount the outlet boxes onto the walls. Connect the wires to each outlet and attach the faceplate to the outlet box. Make sure that the remaining wire is covered and connect the ends to the breaker box.
  • Connect the breaker box to the main line. Verify that the wire is intact and there are no damages. Activate power to the breaker box.

Light Fixtures

  • Track lighting: Perfect for finished basements, track lighting is versatile, easy to install, and doesn't take up any floor or wall space.
  • Recessed lighting: Just as space-efficient as track lighting, recessed lighting is perfect for basements with especially low ceilings. Lighting options range from bright and focused for offices and game rooms, or soft and ambient for cozy relaxation.
  • Wall sconces: These create a soothing, glowy atmosphere by shining light up towards the ceiling rather than downward or horizontally. Uplighting often makes a space feel larger, especially vertically.
  • Combined light sources: Using a combination of light fixtures in your basement will make up for the lack of daylight and create depth and versatility. A mixture of floor lamps, table lamps, wall sconces and ceiling fixtures give your space a warm, layered feel.

Floors

If your basement floods easily and often, carpet may not be the best flooring option.

Some good flooring options for basements include:
  • Sealed concrete floors. Simply sand and seal the concrete for natural but elegant floors in your finished basement. The variations and tonal differences in the concrete give it a beautiful stone-like appearance, and it is sustainable, affordable and easy to clean. You can also stain the floor to achieve any color or style you seek. However, expect floors to get very cold and unpleasant for bare feet in the winter. You may choose to battle this problem with strategically placed decorative throw rugs.

  • Vinyl flooring. Made of plastic, vinyl flooring is inexpensive, easy to install, and 100 percent waterproof. Available in tiles, planks, or rolls, you can achieve almost any look with vinyl flooring. Planks are easiest to install--they simply click together like laminate, with no gluing required. They are available in a vast variety of wood designs, so you can create a realistic illusion of elegant hardwood floors in your basement!
  • Ceramic tile. While more expensive and difficult to install, ceramic tiles make a beautiful floor for your finished basement. They are water-resistant and can be individually replaced, making repair simple. However, installation is time-consuming and messy, your floor must be completely level, and you may experience moisture problems with the grout. You can prevent this by installing a sub-floor over your concrete, which will also reduce the coldness of your floor in the winter.

TIP: Add warmth with colorful area rugs. These accents will brighten up your room and add to the décor, as well as provide relief from the chilly basement floors. Unlike wall-to-wall carpeting, area rugs are easy to clean or replace if they suffer water damage.

Decorating

Color scheme

  • Avoid dark colors that will make your basement feel smaller or dreary--pale and bright shades work best to give the room a warm, airy feel.
  • Plain white can make your room feel cold or dull--instead opt for light shades of blue, green, peach, or yellow.
  • If you prefer to go neutral, beige is a warmer alternative to white.
  • You could also opt to go the bolder route and paint an accent wall in a rich, vivid color such as red, dark green, royal blue, or deep orange. This will create a focal point and make your space seem larger.

Furniture

  • Keep furniture simple and comfortable--armless sectional couches work well because they are versatile and streamlined.
  • Stick with fabrics that do well in dampness--avoid leather and wood furniture.
  • Several small end tables rather than one large coffee table will prevent the space from feeling too crowded.

Create the illusion of height and space

  • Floor to ceiling bookcases and shelving will increase the feel of vertical space.
  • Hang artwork and wall decorations at eye-level. Increased negative space above the pictures will give the appearance of height.
  • Room dividers and screens can create depth and increase your room's functionality by enabling you to designate certain areas for different purposes (such as separating your lounge area from your office). The verticality will also make your ceilings appear higher.

Nicole La Capria  Posted by Nicole La Capria on January 7, 2013

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