So, you finally decided to remodel your basement. Not only that, but you’re going to do it yourself. You’re looking forward to all that extra space – perhaps you’re putting in a home office, your very own library or even a home theater. Seeing your dark, uninviting basement turned into usable living space is incredibly rewarding, particularly when you know it’s your own handiwork. However, before you start out, you need to make sure that you know exactly what you’re doing and what to avoid if you’re going to make a success of it.
The last thing you want to have happen is to finish your basement and then have to rip it all out again. This is exactly what can happen if you start your basement remodeling without checking if you need any building permits. Oftentimes you won’t, but you need to confirm this with your local municipal government before hammering in a single nail. Even if you don’t need any approval, you still need to avoid finishing your furnace room – otherwise you risk violating local building codes. Also, if any electrical work is needed, make sure that this is done to code – unless you have previous experience, it’s probably a good idea to hire a professional electrician.
Once you have any necessary permits in place, you need to check for damp. Because basements are underground, moisture can seep in very easily – and if it does, you’ll end up with mold, which is a potential health hazard. Check your exterior walls to see if there are any obvious moisture problems or cracks, and make sure that the ground outside your house slopes away from the foundation. If you find any issues, you will have to get these fixed first before you start working on your basement.
Even if there are no moisture problems, you still need to take steps to prevent moisture from getting in. Put down a raised floor and install a vapor barrier beneath it. The same principle applies to the walls – put up 1/2-inch furring strips on your outside walls to create a gap between these and the new inside wall that you are going to put up. Then, put up a vapor barrier across these strips – one good way of doing this is by putting insulation that is completely enclosed in a vapor barrier between the furring strips. However, even if you do all of these things, it is still a good idea to install a dehumidifier in your basement to keep the moisture levels down.
Image source: http://www.membersinterior.com/images/RES_Suspended-Ceiling.jpg
Another thing to pay attention to is what type of ceiling you put in. The problem with basements is that there are typically a lot of electrical wires, pipes and ducts that run between the ceiling joists. If you put up drywall, then if you need access to these at a later time, you will have to break through the ceiling. A better alternative is to put up a suspended ceiling with tiles that can be lifted in and out when necessary.