13 Ways to a Better Basement

Consider your needs and the design challenges before embarking on a basement renovation

By Gillian Lazanik / Courtesy of Houzz.com

One of the main reasons people renovate their basements is because they’re looking for more usable space. Whether you’re interested in adding a new game room, wine cellar or bar, a newly renovated basement can offer you ample space for many of your needs. But before you tackle such a project, bear in mind the challenges inherent in basement renovations. Here are some things to consider before you go underground.

1. Inviting elements. It’s difficult to draw people downstairs to a basement, especially when it doesn’t get a lot of natural light. It’s great if you can use its dimness and coziness to your advantage. Putting in elements that create atmosphere, like fireplaces or large flat-screen televisions, works well.

2. Digging deeper. Digging out your basement to give you higher ceilings is an expensive endeavor. You’ll need to make structural changes to your house to gain ceiling height. Depending on the size of your basement, the cost of digging it out and underpinning it could cost $50,000 to $90,000. But you’ll gain an entire floor. For many people, it’s worth the investment.

3. Ceiling joists. If it’s not in the budget to dig out your basement, but you’d really like to create the illusion of higher ceilings, then you may want to consider leaving the joists exposed and painting them instead of dry walling the ceilings. You can slot track lights between the joists to get the light you need.

4. Pot lights. Because ceiling height is often an issue in the basement, pot lights(aka recessed downlights) are a good option to get uniform lighting that doesn’t lower the sight line.

5. Ducts. The other thing that’s tricky to hide in a basement are ducts. When designing your basement, plan to incorporate them in your interior architecture. Whether it’s working them into the millwork design or creating a cool lighting cove, don’t forget to get your ducts in order.

6. Electrical panel and other services. Your basement will likely be home to such features as your electrical panel, hot water heater and furnace. Sometimes it’s difficult to lump these items together into one soundproof, properly ventilated utility room, which is the ideal. If you can’t, then ensure that you come up with creative ways to conceal your electrical panel, whether it’s in millwork, behind artwork or hidden in a bookshelf.

7. Storage. Most people tend to hide their stuff in their basement. Plan ahead and build adequate storage down there so that your stuff doesn’t take over and render the space unusable. Allow for different kinds of storage small and large.

8. Waterproofing. It’s important that you waterproof when you renovate your basement. The space needs to remain dry (not damp) to provide a healthy environment. It’s common for basements to be damp, so check yours thoroughly for signs of moisture before starting any renovation.

  1. 9. Bathroom. If you’re intending to use your basement on a regular basis, then plan for a nice washroom. Often people leave this out of their renovating budget, but having a beautiful bathroom on the same level can make a difference in comfort and convenience.

10. Game room. Basements often serve as recreation rooms, with pingpong and pool tables. But bear in mind that columns can affect your layout and consider the circulation space needed around your game tables.

11. Wine cellar. Another terrific addition to the basement is a wine cellar. It provides interest while giving your wine a good, stable storage temperature.

12. Kitchenette. Want to create a space that’ll keep your kids in the basement for hours on end? Plan for a kitchenette, ensuring that the bar counter is large enough to accommodate several hungry teenagers at a time.

13. Walk-out. The best way to make your basement feel as though it’s not a basement is by making it a walk-out. Having full-size windows and sliding doors increases natural light, and allows the space to be used like the rest of your house.