Basement Remodeling and Repair 101: The Must-Haves and The Must-Do’s
Basements are not only for safety and storage, therefore they should also possess style and spunk with the right concept, design, materials and furniture. With this in mind, a finished basement becomes a double-purpose space in the house: a perfect relaxing place for your family and friends and an important factor in creating more value to your home.
Makeover for your basement
Remodeling or repairing your basement will be the best decision you’ve ever made considering these common reasons:
- Its all about value. You pay more for additional space or upgrades because this requires more walls, another roof and ceiling, and foundation. But since you already have the basement ready for anything anytime, you get to pay less as you beautify while adding more home value and protecting your investment at the same time. Basement remodeling and repair projects are actually charged cheaper by contractors than other space-increasing jobs.
- It’s like a blank canvas to a painter. Your imagination becomes limitless with such as huge space to work on, unlike when you’re adding/renovating your bathroom or bedroom that the design has to be consistent with the remaining spaces in the house. The basement can stand alone, thus you are given the opportunity to maximize your creative side and let the ideas flow freely. All the “what-ifs” in your head that didn’t make it to the upstairs part of your home due to limited floor plan? Make them happen this time in the basement.
- More space is ideal. Adding space to an existing room won’t really provide the space that you’d find luxuriously comfortable. This is what a basement is best for, as your living space increases and that equates to more comfort and value.
- Reselling your home or having it rented gets easier. A remodeled basement attracts clients who belong to large families or prefer to hang out at home with their best buddies and colleagues. The better the design, the higher return of investment you’ll be entitled to.
- It becomes a sanctuary. Make sure proper materials and technology were used for remodeling or repairing your basement to be well-insulated, cost-efficient, environment-friendly and pleasant to stay in. Fun basement design ideas good for families and friends include a theater, a playroom, an arts and crafts room a game room, an indoor pool and lounge, a gym with sauna and steam and an area for spa treatments at home, a living room, and an entertainment area.
- A finished basement promotes order. If your finished basement is your storage room, shelves and spaces are available to organize your stuff like files and boxes.
It is important, however, to do a basement remodeling/repair job as soon as possible, as this kind of project entails cost that goes up over time due to limited resources on high demand. Consider the wide range of benefits you can get for giving your basement the makeover it needs, if it’s currently the space in your home that is dark, dull, dirty and uninviting. This will lead you to the next step: finding the best contractor to work with.
The contractor guide
You may definitely not be a stranger to complaints made by clients due to bad experiences with contractors. A client has ideas in mind for his basement remodeling requirements and he needs someone to make his dream concepts come to life. Unfortunately, he made the wrong choice of contractor and there goes the unhappy ending.
A lot of contractors possess the right attitude and skills to complete any project, but of course, there are also some who’d rather run away with your money than complete his tasks well and on time. Luck is definitely on your side when you have established a working relationship with a contractor that is honest, efficient, and shows concern for the project. You have to keep your eyes and mind open and be careful with the kind that are only after the payment and don’t have that much work experience. Otherwise, your home becomes a “guinea pig” for a “contractor-turned-intern”. Spending enough time to do your own research and asking around, especially getting pieces of advice from trusted sources and people you know, would be a great help.
Save yourself from stress with nine questions to screen your contractor of choice prior to actually hiring them. The right answers to these questions will lead you to the right contractor for your needs in basement remodeling or repair. Chances are, that contractor will be able to complete the project with the assurance that quality materials were used and everything was done as expected.
QUESTION # 1
How long have you been working as a contractor?
Avoid those contractors who appear to be evasive in their answers to this subjective question.
QUESTION # 2
Are you bonded and licensed?
License means legit, and this factor separates the good from the bad. But these days, being licensed is not enough. A contractor who is bonded and licensed would be easier to deal with especially if something goes wrong during the remodeling process or repair.
QUESTION # 3
Are you insured?
Contractors must be able to present to you their proof of insurance (policy inclusive of their compensation coverage) prior to sealing the deal, or else you pay for any injury or damage that can occur by accident.
How many employees work for you?
You’ve got a very good one if the contractor has a large team, but if not, this contractor works with subcontractors. It is recommended that you inquire about the subcontractors if that’s the case. Do an advanced research on the best subcontractors in your area.
Can you give me a quote in writing, including how much I need to pay, scope-of-work and the target date of completion?
Never choose a contractor who only does verbal transactions. Documentation is an absolute must.
May I see the actual projects you’ve done in the past?
A well-completed project equates to a contractor’s talent and professionalism. Here, you can apply the “to see is to believe” principle.
Will you be the one in charge of securing the needed permits?
Do not forget to ask the contractor if the cost to be charged to you already includes getting the permits or not. If you’re being told that permits are not necessary for the project, this serves as a clear go-signal to disregard this one and keep your options open for other contractors.
Does your work experience include or focus on basement remodeling and repair?
Basement remodeling is one special project that is more complicated than a simple repair or another home improvement job. Skills and knowledge specifically for this are highly crucial. An impressive track record when it comes to experience and customer satisfaction is more than enough, but if there’s no basement remodeling included in the portfolio, consider the contractor for your requirements some other time. Opt for someone who can deliver exactly what you need and want.
QUESTION # 9
Can you provide references?
Just like a typical employer searching for the right candidate for his team, you will need to determine if the contractor is really dependable and fit for the job by getting in touch with past clients. If they were happy with the completed projects, it’s not impossible that you will be the next happy customer in the contractor’s list.
You are fortunate to have picked one of the best contractors (or maybe even the most favored and qualified in the industry) for your project if he or she is able to provide appropriate yet sincere answers to questions mentioned above. However, it is advisable to consult with the Better Business Bureau (BBB) about your chosen contractor prior to formally hiring him.
Don’t fret if complaints about the contractor are only based on hearsay. Some may be true, and some may have come from clients who are actually hard to deal with and putting the blame on the contractor to save face. The BBB keeps records of contractor complaints and disputes that will serve as your strong basis to decide on who to trust and to avoid. This process of checking with the BBB every time you hire a contractor may eat up a lot of your precious time, but it’s all worth it than facing major failure and its consequences at the end of it all.
Ideas to share with your contractor
A finished basement may or may be in the same theme as the other parts of the house upstairs, but imagine the satisfaction you and the people you live with and bring into your home would feel if you are able to create a warm and inviting atmosphere for your basement. Your home gets an increase in value with a well-designed basement for its huge space and impressive interiors.
Don’t be scared to tell your contractor what you want to see in your basement, but also be open to his or her suggestions. Below are concepts and must-haves that you have to discuss with each other for your basement remodeling.
- Emergency exit – It’s a must as stated in building codes — this emergency exit should be built, making use of a window or a door to get out of the house.
- Make it a great hangout – finishing and decors can be in the same theme as any or all of the rooms upstairs, furniture can be stylish but should be comfortable, there should be proper lighting, and install sound systems and a reliable internet connection (preferably Wi-Fi)
- Bed and bath – You can transform your basement into a suite for the comfort of your family or your guests with just the right number and size of beds (at least 125 square feet for a room with double bed, and 150 square feet for twin beds), and at least one bathroom (easy plumbing if it’s close to where your house’s underground main drain is located, while you’ll be needing equipment like a pump and a grinder for hassle-free flushing if main drain runs above ground).
- Space for kitchen or laundry – Other basement ideas include a mini kitchen, a wet bar, and a laundry room. For the mini kitchen or wet bar, you will need outlets to plug in the fridge, microwave oven, dishwasher and countertop appliances. On the other hand, a laundry room in the basement requires a floor drain and outside wall access to vent your dryer.
- Improved staircase – Make sure it’s attractive and safe to use, if not, ask the building inspector and an architect where exactly you can relocate it for convenience sake or how it can be redesigned.
- Adding doors and windows – Doors can be added and windows can be added or enlarged for more natural light to come in, as well as added ventilation.
- Finished walls – Ask help from a professional on which material is best to use from paint, plywood, paneling or drywall as concrete wall covering for the basement to be as good as upstairs.
- Finished ceilings – Hide discreetly pipes, wires and other unsightly objects and avoid frequent flooding from upstairs with the use of drywall instead of boxing and ordinary ceiling tiles (the sculptural type of ceiling tiles is a much better version though).
- Flooring should provide comfort yet be a practical choice - Normally, a basement would be made of concrete, hence it would go well with paint, tile, vinyl, laminate and carpet flooring. Below-grade installations require engineered wood than solid wood flooring for minimized shrinking and expanding leading to warping or gaps. Check with your contractor as well what to choose for a waterproof flooring in cases of floods.
- Lighting - Take advantage of natural lighting through basement windows (ask about the importance of the egress window and the window well for this purpose), or use LEDs and other energy-saving lighting products. Discussing these with a lighting designer together with your contractor also gives you an added advantage, especially when it comes to understanding more about recessed, task and accent lighting, and the connection between having a tray ceiling and proper lighting.
- Remodeling for storage – Choose the right closets for your items to be stored.
- Take note of your basement’s hazmat - Examples are lead paint and asbestos, especially if you bought your house as pre-owned (you and your contractor should talk on how to keep safe from these)
- Retrofitting – to make your basement less earthquake-prone
- Soundproofing – Consider sound insulation into the ceiling of your basement, using RC channel, and choosing surface-mount lighting (for high ceilings) than the noise-carrying can lights.
- Increasing basement height – solutions depend on both upstairs and downstairs space and location