5 Things You Can’t Forget When Remodeling a Basement

Many people buy a home with a basement, and it’s often because a basement can serve as a blank slate for design. Some great remodeling ideas for basements can include:

  • A second living room
  • A home gym
  • A studio
  • A playroom for the kids

Before you dive into your remodeling plans, five things about remodeling a basement are essential not to forget.

1. Code Compliance

So you’ve got plans for that basement that include adding to the home’s bedroom count? Don’t forget to make sure it’s legal. 

For example, all bedrooms must have a closet and legal (building code compliant) ingress/egress for firefighters in full dress. That is, even in a basement, your windows must be big enough for people to get in and out of in the event of an emergency. 

If your house’s basement windows aren’t big enough, you may accrue significant costs making them legal. There will be excavation outside, and installation of a large external retaining wall structure where the window is to be installed. Of course, a professional will have to cut a large hole in your home’s foundation walls. 

This means the structures above will need to be strengthened. You’ll want to consult a builder, engineer, and/or architect about these modifications.

2. Foundation Problems

When you walk through the basement of your home, do you find it difficult to close or open the doors or windows? It may not simply be the result of a sagging jamb or casement. It may mean the foundation has shifted.


If that’s the case, you’ll want to stand as close as you can to an outside wall and eyeball it to see if it’s leaning in or out. It should stand plumb (straight up and down). 

You’ll also want to inspect for cracks in the wall. Many basement walls are constructed of steel-reinforced concrete, but some older homes use alternative methods, such as stones or bricks. 

You’ll want to ensure your walls are sound before beginning your project. If they aren’t, get them fixed before beginning the build. 

3. Low Ceilings

Ceilings that are too low can greatly impact your remodel design. Older homes are especially likely to have low ceilings in their basements. A home’s mechanical elements (such as HVAC ducting and plumbing) may also hang exposed, underslung from the floor joists above. 

Building a chase around these elements and concealing them behind sheetrock is possible. But you may still have to look at an odd projection running the length of most of your basement room ceilings. 

Because of this, it’s a good idea to have a contractor advise you on how best to accomplish your design plans with low ceilings.

4. Insulation

One great benefit to having a basement with exposed foundation walls is that you can easily see if they have problems. But a drawback to that situation is that you’ll need to insulate them to enjoy a fully finished basement.

Typically, your builder will use a silicon-based product to seal any cracks and other prep. Then, they will build a “fir-out” wall adjacent to your basement’s exterior wall. 

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This will allow them to conceal electrical, networking, and mechanical lines behind sheetrock, but it will also allow insulation to be installed in the stud spaces. That will keep things nice and cozy for you.

5. Water

In a basement, it should be easy to tell if your house has had water infiltration problems in the past. One of the easiest signs to see is a clogged or non-functioning drain. Another sign is a visible water line around the perimeter of the space or even lumber that’s rotten on the bottom but perfectly fine on the top. 

If your basement has any of these problems, you’ll want to get to the bottom of the cause before proceeding with any remodeling plans. Leaking pipes, foundation issues, or an insufficient drainage system are common culprits for water damage. By consulting a professional company that’s experienced in water damage restoration and repair, they might even be able to make it “Like it never even happened.” 

It’s far better to take care of any water problems before you potentially spend thousands on a remodel, only to begin repairs later. Keeping these five tips in mind if you are looking into remodeling your basement can ensure your project proceeds as smoothly as possible.

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