Finishing your basement is a great way to add living space to your home with a lot less disruption and expense than building an addition. Though choosing materials and finishes to make the space reflect your taste will be a significant part of the process, there are a few important aspect to address in every basement remodel, whether modest or extravagant.
Planning Your Basement Finishing Project
Be sure to follow the steps below so you can properly finish your basement.
1. Waterproofing the Concrete
Even without leaks, basements are typically more humid than above-grade living levels, so it is important to manage water and humidity to prevent mustiness, mildew, and water infiltration that will damage your building materials, furniture, and belongings. If water penetrates your home’s foundation, install an appropriate drainage system, such as a sump pump or buried drain tile to remove water. To reduce natural dampness from the basement’s location below grade, paint concrete walls and floors with a waterproofing sealer.
2. Installing Plumbing
If your basement renovation includes a kitchen or bathroom, water supply, waste, and vent lines are necessary to make these areas functional. Supply lines can be run overhead since the water is under pressure, but since drains require gravity installing them is a little more involved.
Note: If your basement was not roughed in for drain lines when concrete was poured, sections of the floor will need to be broken up in order to install the waste pipes. If this is not practical, or if your basement floor is below the level of your septic system or sewer connection, you will need to install a lift pump or sewage ejector to overcome the lack of gravity and possibly elevate some floors or fixtures in order to allow space for drains below bathtubs, showers, and toilets.
3. Framing Walls: Interior
In order to break your basement up into separate rooms, walls can be built in the same manner as on upper levels with two-by-four framing. For extra protection against moisture, use pressure treated lumber anywhere the framing will be in contact with concrete, such as the bottom plates and any studs or top plates that touch concrete walls.
4. Framing Walls: Exterior
Exterior walls can be prepared for drywall in the same way by framing a traditional wall alongside the concrete. This method simplifies installing wiring and insulation since the exterior wall cavity will be the same as the interior walls, rather than a narrower cavity that is created when simply installing furring strips on the concrete to provide a mounting surface for drywall.
5. Installing Wiring and HVAC Systems
Wiring and HVAC systems are installed in a basement in much the same manner as the rest of a home, although ducts and wiring generally run overhead, rather than up from below the floor. The electrical circuits in your basement should be GFCI protected since the area is considered a damp environment, even after conversion into a finished space.
6. Installing Light Fixtures
Give plenty of consideration to overhead lighting. Since basements typically have fewer and smaller windows than upper levels, natural light is limited so adequate lighting is essential. If your basement ceilings will be lower than the standard eight feet when finished, recessed lights are a great option to provide plenty of light without compromising head room or making the space feel cramped.
7. Insulating the Space
Even in warm climates, basements are typically cooler than upper levels of a home, simply because they are underground. Properly insulating your basement will make it more comfortable and cost-effective to heat during cold seasons.
Fiberglass Batts Insulation: Fiberglass batts or rigid foam insulation can be installed between the studs on exterior walls just as in typical construction. If you plan to install fiberglass batts over sealed concrete walls, use faced insulation rather than unfaced fiberglass with a plastic vapor barrier, which is typically installed over unsealed concrete.
Rigid Foam Insulation: Rigid foam is excellent for use in this application, since it is not compromised by moisture and does not require a vapor barrier. To simplify the installation of insulation, wiring, and plumbing, secure rigid foam sheets to the walls with foam insulation adhesive and tape the joints between sheets with an appropriate tape. Then frame the walls as usual over the foam and move on to wiring and plumbing.
8. Prepping for a Ceiling
Finishing a basement ceiling requires more planning than most ceilings, since the space between floor joists is typically used for running plumbing, ductwork, and wiring. Covering pipes, valves, and wires with a ceiling can limit access for repairs and changes down the road, so be sure to consider your options, future needs, and ability to make repairs when making your choice.
9. Finishing a Ceiling
By adding strapping to the bottom of the floor joists, a basement ceiling can be finished with drywall as in a typical room. If you go this route, consider leaving removable access panels under drain traps and cleanouts and at valve locations to simplify repairs in the future. An economical alternative that simplifies access is a suspended or “drop” ceiling made up of removable panels installed in a metal grid that is attached to the floor joists.
10. Installing Drywall
Drywall can be installed in basements in the same manner as other areas, though using a moisture and mold resistant drywall, or “greenboard” is recommended. Standard finishing practices are appropriate for a basement, though mold- and mildew-resistant paint can provide some added protection.
11. Installing Trim
Also, priming and painting all sides of wood trim before installation is recommended in basement applications. Alternative trim materials, such as PVC, are a low-maintenance option, though they come at a higher price. Laminate and MDF trim boards are not recommended for basements, as they can swell and warp more easily when exposed to moisture.
12. Choosing Flooring
Several flooring options are practical for a basement application, but some are better suited than others, so be sure to weigh your options.
Tile: Tile is a durable and lasting option, though more expensive than carpet, and wood and laminate floors are generally stable, but can be subject to warping in damp conditions.
Vinyl Click or Plank Flooring: Vinyl click or plank flooring is durable and economical, simple to install, and is not generally affected by humidity and typical moisture, so is a great choice for basements.
Level of Difficulty
Finishing or remodeling a basement involves work in several trades at various skill levels, so is a project of advanced difficulty. Some aspects of the work should be completed by licensed pros in order to make sure to work complies with local codes, such as electrical, plumbing, and structural carpentry. Several areas of the remodel are very DIY-friendly though, such as drywall, painting, and flooring, so there is plenty of opportunity to save on the cost of labor for your renovation.
Find a Basement Finishing Pro
Don’t have the time or the experience to finish your own basement? Let our qualified Pros help you out! Each Pro is background-checked, licensed, insured, and fully bonded so you can hire with confidence. Once you've connected with Pros who match your criteria and budget, always be sure to read their exclusive customer reviews, verify Pro credentials, and compare business profiles before selecting the right Pro for the job. Ready to kick-start your project? Contact a Basement Remodeling Pro to get started on your project.