Finishing a basement often is the most cost-effective way to increase a home’s living space – one of several reasons that the appeal of a finished basement has been on the rise in recent years. Expenses tend to be around 30% to 50% lower than the cost of putting a similarly sized addition on the home. And you can expect to recoup more than 70% of the cost when you sell, according to Remodeling Magazine, a better payback rate than most home-renovation projects. The best way to make use of this space is to finish the basement into a new, comfortable living space. But like all home improvements, a little preparation beforehand can go a long way to protecting your investment.
An unfinished basement is a prime candidate for creating new living space in your home. Before any construction begins, it already comes with outer walls constructed, and many pipes and utility lines already in place. Additionally, the earth around the basement makes it cooler than the outside air in the summer and warmer in the winter. Making this space comfortable requires insulation and a little extra work from your HVAC system.
The Challenge of Basement Finishing
Homeowners who have a wet basement are often reluctant to invest in finishing, worrying that water damage will ruin their new space. However, with a little preparation (including a warrantied basement waterproofing system), your basement can be permanently protected from any moisture damage to drywall, insulation, or property.
Few things can destroy a newly finished basement like groundwater flooding or a plumbing failure. Taking a few precautions before a flood occurs can prevent this issue and protect your home. This includes eliminating all existing and potential sources of flooding and addressing any issues with humidity in the space. Once the basement is finished, repairing and waterproofing the space can be much more expensive. If you’re planning to finish the basement, here’s some proactive steps to get started. If your basement is already finished, many of these precautions may still be made.
Install an Effective Drainage System – If your basement floods after it’s been finished, the flooding groundwater will damage drywall, fiberglass insulation, and many other wall finishing products. To repair a finished basement that’s flooded, you will need to cut away the damaged wall, fiberglass, and studs so that a drainage system can be installed. However, the better choice is to install that drainage system before the basement is finished. Many homeowners choose this option as a precaution even if their basement has never flooded before.
Install A Complete Sump Pump System – Installing a sump pump system ensures that you can discharge large volumes of water from your home in the case of heavy rains of a plumbing failure. If you’ve installed a drainage system, you should definitely install a sump system as well. The best sump pumps are ready for anything — including power outages and sump pump failure. This means that your system should include both a battery backup sump pump and a secondary sump system that can kick on if your primary pump fails. Some systems include an alarm system that sounds off in the unlikely event of a pump failure — so you can respond right away.
Seal The Basement Walls – Because concrete basement walls are porous, they sponge moisture from the earth outside. This moisture enters your basement in the form of water vapor. This moisture will then build up behind walls, leading to mold, mildew, and moisture issues. Address this issue by covering your basement walls with a vapor barrier system, which creates a barrier for water vapor, protecting your finishing products and directing any water into your perimeter drain.
Install A Warm, Dry Floor – Like the basement walls, moisture can also make its way upwards through a concrete floor. If you’re planning on installing anything on your floor that can be damaged by mold or moisture (carpeting, wood, chipboard, glue, etc.), then it’s vital that you install a vapor barrier beneath it to protect your floor finishing. The conventional approach to keep water vapor at bay is to raise your floor off the slab. The air gap between the installed flooring and foundation slab encourages moisture to dissipate. Various companies sell waterproofing membranes that work on this principle; dimpled plastic matting is a popular design. Also available are basement flooring tiles with a built-in vapor barrier. Topped by decorative vinyl squares or carpeting, these tiles feature molded plastic bases that enable the concrete slab to breathe. Plus, because the tiles are modular and interlocking, they can be removed, washed, and reinstalled after a flood.
Upgrade Basement Windows – Your basement windows are vital to the beauty and appeal of a finished basement. If they’re dingy, rusty, and providing a front-row view of a rusted window well, then they’re not doing their job. Upgrade the windows with energy-efficient glass and a vinyl frame. Also, protect the windows from rain, snow, and cold winter winds by installing covered basement window wells at each window location. Along with keeping back the cold, the cover will also hold back dirt, leaves, and other debris that would otherwise fill the window well, grow weeds and look ugly.
Perform Basic Exterior Maintenance – For a typical home, a 1″ rainfall adds up to about 500 gallons of water on your roof. Unless your exterior is properly designed to handle this water volume, this can mean a lot of water in the soils around your basement. Extending your downspouts and keeping your gutters clean of leaves and debris is an important part of properly maintaining your home (and will help prevent damaging ice dams in the winter). Your basement window wells should also be carefully cleaned of leaves, debris, and weeds about twice a year. To make sure that water is running away from your home, it’s also vital to check the grading. If necessary, regrade this soil so it’s pitched away from the foundation.
Install Plumbing Leak Safeguards – If you’ve invested a lot of time and money to protect your basement from flooding from the outside, it’s certainly worth it to spend a little on protecting your basement from plumbing leaks from the inside. Water heaters can begin to leak significantly as they age. If you already have a perimeter drain system installed, it’s a simple thing to install a ring around the water heater that connects to that drainage system.
Protecting your basement from moisture will ensure that your renovation work stays valuable and looking great for many decades to come.
Do It Yourself (DIY) or Hire a Contractor
You may wish to do basement finishing by yourself or hire a professional contractor. Just because you can do it yourself doesn’t necessarily mean you should. Doing it yourself may seem cost effective but may be costly in the run long. There’s potential for homeowners to make some serious mistakes if they try to go it alone. Complicated jobs, such as plumbing, electrical work, and tile setting, should be left to skilled professionals. And consider the length of time it will take to finish the project. The average timeframe for a DIY job is two years but a professional can complete the job in six to eight weeks depending on the amount of custom work. The choice between DIY and hiring a contractor is more than just a matter of dollars and cents. It’s a careful balancing act between money and a long list of other factors: less hassle, faster results, safety, and professional-quality work. All these advantages explain why so many homeowners come down on the side of hiring a professional, despite the higher cost.
If renovating your basement is the next item on your home improvement list, make sure you choose the right contractor for the job. When you hire an experienced company like Xtreme Home Improvement, you can be assured of quality, time of completion, and value. Our experts have the design and construction knowledge, training and skills to complete the most challenging basement renovation projects in Central Pennsylvania. Contact us today! We’re always happy to chat.