Planning Your Basement Space #3: Dry Up

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Not A Good Start: Water marks, stains, efflorescence all need to be addressed.

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This is a good start to a Basement finish project. Dry floor, structurally sound walls, etc.

 

Utilities (check); structural elements (check); before we go any further, we need to address a big concern…

Is your Basement dry?

If your answer to this question is anything but “yes”, not “most of the time”, not “we only get water in winter”, not “we haven’t had water lately”, only a solid “yes, we never get water leakage,” will do. Anything other than “yes” will need to be addressed prior to starting the process of finishing of your Basement.

These are a few, non-exhaustive, tell tale signs of water problems:

1.      Water marks or stains on floor and/or walls

2.      Efflorescence on walls or floors

3.      Musty/moldy smell

4.      Mold growth on items stored in Basement space

5.      Rotten wood framing members; especially those that are in contact with masonry surfaces

6.      Cracks in walls or floors

If any of these signs are present, you need to be very diligent in remediating the presenting issue prior to moving forward. There is never a more cost efficient or effective time to address water problems than before you start the finishing of your Basement. Trying to have water problems fixed after the fact only adds exponentially to the cost of the project. Do not delay!

We recommend getting professional help in addressing water problems in your Basement. Now, whether that means you hire a competent professional waterproofing company or you choose your cousin Vinny who “has done this before”, is totally up to you. But just remember, ask for references and if at all possible, talk to their clients and ask to come see their work. Check to see how long the job has been installed and how it is performing. You need to do your “homework” in this phase, because just to warn you, there are many subpar Basement waterproofing systems out there on the market that do not perform up to their billing. BE CAREFUL. You only get one chance to do it right the first time! After that, the redo’s get awfully expensive.

Happy Remodeling!

Next Time… Planning Your Basement Space #4: Developing a Floor Plan

Q&A&CQuestions and Answers and Comments are expected and welcomed.

YOUR STORY – Tell us about your remodeling experiences, good or bad. We all have had them and perhaps you can help someone else have a great remodeling experience or avoid the issues that you encountered. Remember…keep it clean and civil or we can’t publish it.

 

Planning Your Basement Space #2: Beams and Columns

What needs to be done in planning your Basement living space is identify the fixed items, things that can’t be moved and deciding what to do with them. Previously, we looked at and tried to group the utilities together to free up as much space as possible. Now we need to look at the structural members and see what we can do to incorporate them into the floor plan.

Again, it seems, consideration is not taken for the possibility of finishing off a Basement for living space when placing beams and columns in the Basement. Now you have to deal with these items. Here are a few options that we have found that work well.

Support Columns

These are generally unmovable. They are supporting weight from above.

Solution #1: Box them in and making them look decorative with trim and mouldings. If they fall in the middle of open space, this option helps to make them look like they were a planned part of the design.

Solution #2: Wall them in. Plan your walls to incorporate the column inside of the wall. This option make the column disappear all together.

Solution #3: Design them into the environment of the room. Using columns to frame an entry way into an entertainment area creates a dramatic visual effect. Or placing a Kitchenette or Bar in the area of a column will help to ease the visual impact of the structural member.

Beams

These usually must stay. They are spanning openings and they are weight bearing as well.

Solution #1: Use the bottom height of beams to establish soffit heights. These soffits can be used to create visually pleasing coved/coffered ceilings. Coved and coffered ceilings can be great places for lighting fixtures to enhance the lighting scheme of the space.

Solution #2: If ceiling height and design style permits, you can establish a dropped beam pattern across the ceiling of certain spaces to hide the beams.

Solution #3: Again, use the bottom height of the beam to establish your ceiling height, effectively making the beam disappear all together. Just remember, you don’t have to keep the entire ceiling down at the lower height. In fact, varying the ceiling heights is aesthetically pleasing.

Solution #4: Just like columns…wall them in. Plan your walls to line up with the beam. Not always possible, but something to consider.

On a related note, all of the above can be applied to HVAC ductwork as well as plumbing piping, taking into consideration that ducts and piping can be easier to move to a more convenient location.

Happy Remodeling!

Next Time… Planning Your Basement Space #3: Dry Up!

Q&A&CQuestions and Answers and Comments are expected and welcomed.

YOUR STORY – Tell us about your remodeling experiences, good or bad. We all have had them and perhaps you can help someone else have a great remodeling experience or avoid the issues that you encountered. Remember…keep it clean and civil or we can’t publish it.

Planning Your Basement Space #1: Utilities

Well before you can even think about the placement of furniture or the colors of the paint or carpet in your Basement, you need to go through a space evaluation process.

Stand at the bottom of your Basement steps and, assuming you can see over and around all the stuff, take a look at the space available to you. Try to get a preliminary visual picture of how you want to use the space. Imagine what it might look like and store that image away in your mind. You may need that visual later to get you through some of the tough times during construction.

During your inventory, you have to take into account a few necessary evils. Identify the items that will have to stay no matter what. These items include the heater/AC unit and associated ductwork, water heater, well pump, sump pump and pit, electrical panel and wiring, pipes, support columns, and beams. While most of these things are necessary to the function of the home, their location can be changed to better serve your new floor plan. In the majority of cases, the original builder/owner of the home did not take into account the future use of the Basement as living space as they were placing the utilities. They went in the most convenient spot for installation, which hardly ever translates into the best place for a finished Basement.

This inventory, while somewhat easy to initiate on your own, should include the expertise of a professional and maybe even more than one. The HVAC, plumbing and electrical professionals will be best equipped to address your concerns as well as provide you with the estimates to complete the relocation process in a way that will serve you and your family the best.

After locating the utilities, determine which ones can stay in place (most likely the structural members like beams and columns), and which ones can be relocated to a newly created central or confined Utility Room. This relocation, while very helpful in opening up the usable space, can also prove to be one of the most costly in terms of the budget. Just remember, now is the time to do it if you are at all able to, because after the Basement is done it becomes exponentially more expensive to relocate utilities.

In placing the utilities in one room or area, you need to account for minimum space requirements and perhaps for fresh air intake for heaters. Please check with your local code officials and establish these requirements for all your specific units before starting your floor plan. It is easier to give space back than it is to find more space once you have the floor plan established.

Once the core utilities are located within your Basement floor plan, you can look at the structural members next.

Happy Remodeling!

Next Time… Planning Your Basement Space #2: Beams and Columns

Q&A&CQuestions and Answers and Comments are expected and welcomed.

YOUR STORY – Tell us about your remodeling experiences, good or bad. We all have had them and perhaps you can help someone else have a great remodeling experience or avoid the issues that you encountered. Remember…keep it clean and civil or we can’t publish it.

Reclaiming the Basement

Looking for more living space in your house? Tired of tripping over the kid’s toys in the Family Room? Want to be able to entertain more guests with your new flat screen T.V. and billiard table? Open the door and take a stroll down into the abyss that is your Basement.

No longer does “the Basement” have to conjure up thoughts of punishment or banishment. It is possible to be excited when someone says, “let’s go down to the Basement.” Whether you live in a brand new home or a centuries old farmhouse, your Basement can be turned into the entertainment centerpiece of your family life.

We will be looking at “the Basement as living space” over the next few entries, but even then, we will not be able to cover all the options and topics that need to be considered when finishing off the lower level of your home.

One of the topics that we will not dwell on is the one dealing with permits and codes that address the use of the Basement spaces of your home. Suffice to say that you need to be in contact with your local municipality to make sure that you are in compliance with all of the requirements of their current building codes. One of the biggest ticket items that may come up in your conversations with your code official may be the whole egress issue. This is not a topic to be taken lightly. Just think, you do not want your guests to be trapped in the Basement should there be a fire on the first floor of your home. Don’t skimp or try to get around this. It is for your safety and the safety of your family and friends.

The newly finished space can run the gamut of simplicity to extravagance. Cleaning out some of your unwanted junk and throwing down a remnant carpet can make a great new play space for the kids. Or creating a Home Theater complete with a snack bar and Theater seating along with a Billiard Room and full Bathroom can facilitate a full blown adult entertainment area. Only you can determine your needs and wants as well as your budget!

Let’s get started!

Happy Remodeling!

Next Time…Planning Your Finished Basement Space

Q&A&CQuestions and Answers and Comments are expected and welcomed.

YOUR STORY – Tell us about your remodeling experiences, good or bad. We all have had them and perhaps you can help someone else have a great remodeling experience or avoid the issues that you encountered. Remember…keep it clean and civil or we can’t publish it.

Recreating Outdoor Spaces: #3 More Accessorizing Your Space

Accessorizing doesn’t always mean things that sit on your Deck. Think about the space that you have and what you want your guests to experience while they are spending time at your home. Creating spaces that are interesting and inviting often means incorporating landscaping into the picture. Green spaces should always include living things, whether it is plants, shrubs, trees or the like. What you do with these components is really up to you and can go a long way in putting the finishing touches to your outdoor space. 

Plants

    1. Shrubbery – Using shrubbery as accent or focal points depends on your layout. There are literally thousands of types of shrubbery that can be incorporated into your design. What you are trying to accomplish will dictate the type of shrub you use. Here are a few usages:
        1. Privacy – Tall, well filled in shrubs provide a great barrier from the neighborhood
        2. Framing – Use various types and shapes of shrubs to frame your planting beds
        3. Accenting – A well placed shrub can be just the right thing to catch your eye
    2. Trees – Most of the time you will not be able to afford to purchase full grown trees to incorporate into your design. You can, however, take into consideration the existing mature trees that you have, as well as plant young trees in anticipation of what they will provide in the future. Trees can provide the following:
        1. Privacy – Different types of trees allow you to buffer your outdoor space from roads, driveways and neighboring properties
        2. Shade – Always look for ways to provide a place to escape the heat of the day. Remember, not all entertaining happens in the cool of the evening. Your guests will appreciate a well placed shade tree
        3. Height – If you are looking to build in different levels to your landscape, trees afford you the perfect tool to accomplish this. Low lying Japanese maples to the giant oaks and everything in between, are available as tools for you to use to create interesting and visually pleasing spaces
    3. Flowers – We hear about annuals and perennials and such, but what you need to know is that flowers can bring that special flare to your outdoor space. There are so many options in this category that you will just have to experiment and find what compliments your design the best. Don’t forget flowers can and should change with the seasons, and in doing so can drastically change the look of your design.
    4. Other – Don’t forget about vegetables and herbs. These plants not only can help create a beautiful and interesting design, they also can provide you with useful foodstuffs to serve to your family and friends.

Take the time in the design phase of your outdoor space to take inventory of your canvas. Filling the canvas of your landscape with items of diverse textures, colors and heights will engage your guest’s senses, allowing them to enjoy the environment that you created right in your own back yard.

Happy Remodeling!

Next Time…Moving into the Basement

Q&A&CQuestions and Answers and Comments are expected and welcomed.

YOUR STORY – Tell us about your remodeling experiences, good or bad. We all have had them and perhaps you can help someone else have a great remodeling experience or avoid the issues that you encountered. Remember…keep it clean and civil or we can’t publish it.