Think Home Safety with Your Basement Remodel
Basements are like your strange cousin. Because we are not quite certain what to do with them or what they should be, we end up treating them a little differently than the rest of the family. Basements have a strange way of becoming part storage, part workout room, part teen hangout, and part workshop. This is especially true if your basement is unfinished, and since most new homes come standard with a large basement, there are many homeowners who are scared of that odd child below the ground floor.
Not to worry, basements are also the easiest room to remodel in the home. But there are some safety concerns that need to be considered even if you aren’t going to remodel.
To begin, you need to install a light (if one is not already there) at the top of the stairs. It might sound too simple to consider, but many old homes don’t have this necessary feature, and it is a quick fix for any electrician. It is also a good idea to have a connected switch at the base of the stairs in case you are watching a movie in the basement and you want the lights out. This way you can turn the lights back on just before you walk up the stairs. Again, pretty simple, but is a safety measure people don’t often consider.
If your home is not built on a raised foundation, your basement most likely has very shallow windows, which results in a limited amount of natural light. For some, this fact alone can create a space that is not particularly easy to be in, but the safety implications could be serious in some cases.
Basement Windows, Window Wells, & Window Well Covers
Basement windows need to be a certain height so that people can escape if there is a fire. As a result, if windows are not at or above this height, they cannot be considered full basements or part of a home’s square footage, whether finished or unfinished. To make sure that people in your home can always get out easily, a smart and safe basement remodel is to have contractors dig out the area around your basement windows so that larger windows can be placed in the basement. These are called “window wells” and come standard on most new homes built today. Typically, removable window well covers are fastened to the tops of window wells to keep debris or pets from falling. Window wells are not only a good safety feature, but also help create natural light in an otherwise dreary, crazy cousin room.
Basement Waterproofing and Black Mold
Although water seepage and mold growth are generally thought to be under the category of health concerns, which it is, but health is basically a type of personal safety, so it seemed right to mention it here.
Many basements leak, flood, and produce condensation which can lead to a buildup of mold and other allergens that can not only affect those who are in the basement, but can spread to the rest of the people in the house. Mold can really spawn once it is allowed a place to inhabit, and it can take off in a basement if you’re not monitoring it.
Avoiding childhood asthma is greatly dependant on your home air quality. Regularly cleaning air ducts and changing your HVAC filters are requisite steps, but if your basement is wet and dank, then the black mold and general house mold will be impossible to combat if you don’t waterproof and remove the mold.
8 Basement Remodeling Essentials
One of the easiest ways to “add a new room or rooms” to your home is to better utilize the space you already have. Most basements are dark areas where we store seasonal decorations, old toys, sporting equipment and anything else not used on a regular basis.
But, perhaps it is time you reconsider how you use your basement? Finishing the basement is a cost-effective way to greatly expand your home’s living space. Suddenly you could have a guest room, a children’s play room, a home office, a recreation roomâ€”the possibilities are only limited by your imagination.
Below are eight easy steps to basement finishing.
1. Solve Basement Water Problems First
Even if your basement rarely has problems with dampness or flooding, it’s best to solve the problem completely before beginning any remodeling work. A finished basement is only as good as the thoughts behind it and the quality of work that made it.
Permanent solutions can take time to implement. A good place to start is to talk to an independent home inspector who specializes in basement or foundation waterproofing problems.
2. Decide on the Best Use of Your Basement
Consider using the space for activities for which typical basement characteristics offer natural advantages.
The lack of light is useful when setting up a home theater or a dark room. The isolation helps create a sound break for a play area, a teenager’s hangout or a place to practice a musical instrument.
Also, in basements, there is usually ready access to things like water lines and heating and cooling ducts. This makes adding a bath easier than it would be elsewhere in the house.
3. Get Help with Your Basement Design
While your basement may not be much to look at now, you’ll want to end up with quality living space when the project is complete. An architect or interior designer can help you get the most out of the space. A little forethought and careful planning now can help you create a space that is attractive, comfortable and useful.
4. Pay Attention to Air Circulation
When your home was first built, the odds are that there were few if any registers or vents installed in the basement. When you remodel your basement, you need to think about the need for good air circulation, adding openings where necessary.
You’ll also have to include a return air duct, but it’s important that it be located far from the furnace. Otherwise, it may suck dangerous furnace exhaust fumes back into the house.
To be on the safe side, install a carbon monoxide detector in your basement so that you’ll have an early warning of any problems with the venting of the furnace or any other major appliances.
5. Maximize Your Basement’s Natural Light
For many reasons, you’ll probably want to add more light in your basement. If parts of the basement extend above the ground, you can add new windows or enlarge existing ones. If that isn’t possible, another option is to dig window wells. Window wells can increase the odds of water problems, so it’s a good idea to build ones with waterproof covers.
Another advantage of enlarged windows is that they provide alternative escape routes in case of fire. One concern that some people have about basement windows is that they provide thieves with ideal access to the home. One way to mitigate that risk is to install glass bricks (rather than conventional windows) at high-risk locations.
Maximize the effect of regular windows by mounting some windows in the interior walls between rooms that open pathways for natural light to reach interior rooms.
6. Make Creative Use of Artificial Light
Typically, basement ceilings are low, creating the feeling that you’re in a cave. To offset this, use indirect lighting that splashes large pools of light on the ceiling. This will open up the space and make rooms appear higher than they are.
A mix of this up-lighting and traditional recessed lighting will give you the flexibility you need to create a variety of lighting moods.
Mirrors, mounted on the walls or even ceilings, can also amplify and reinforce lighting effects.
7. Insulate Your Basement Well
Proper insulation is critical to creating a comfortable, dry basement.
Besides keeping out the cold, basement insulation prevents condensation. The ground stays cool year round. It in turn keeps basement walls cool. When the warmer air in the room comes in contact with all those cool walls, it has to give up some of its moisture in the form of condensation.
Condensation is, in fact, the primary source of the moisture that causes mold and mildew problems in basements. Effective insulation separates the warm air of the room from the cool walls, thereby preventing the moisture problems that stem from condensation.
8. Select Practical Furnishings
Use plush carpets and drapes sparingly, if at all. Surfaces that don’t absorb moisture are best. Also, be careful about storing clothes, linens and books in a basement.
For floors, area rugs are ideal because they can be removed, cleaned and dried. If you must have wall-to-wall carpeting, consider a low pile commercial or indoor/outdoor type.
If you pay attention to details, there is no reason why you can’t create high value, high comfort living space in a basement. Properly finishing a basement only costs a fraction of what it costs to build an addition. That means you’ll have more money in your pocket for the next big home improvement project on your list!
1. Create divisions in wide open spaces
You may use your basement for a variety of different reasons: exercise room, media room, play area. Section these spaces off by erecting half walls-full walls may block out the natural light, making the area feel dingy. You could also paint the areas different colors to create division and make the spaces feel cozier.
2. Add a bathroom
If you use the space regularly for entertaining, as a guest room, or a children’s play room, consider adding a bathroom. This will keep you and your guests from running up the stairs every time they need to use the facilities
3. Close off storage spaces
You don’t have to sacrifice your storage area, but if you wall off a section and add a door, you can keep that clutter out of sight. Consider having shelves installed while your at it, as this will keep that space as organized as possible.
4. Let THERE BE LIGHT
Proper lighting is very important in a basement where natural light is little or nonexistent. Consider replacing the windows if they don’t allow much light or adding smart lighting that will make the room feel open and less dark.
5. Open up the staircase
If you have a door at the top of the staircase consider removing this to further allow natural light to filter into the area.
If these ideas don’t mesh with the style, size, or shape of your basement, consider consulting with a designer to help you figure out the best idea for your space.