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