Basement remodeling projects often offer the easiest way to gain the best new living space for the least cost. Add a bedroom and bath for guests, an aging parent or an older child who needs more privacy. Create a special entertainment destination, home theater or play room where you can get to know your children’s’ friends and host your own parties. Or relocate a cramped laundry and gain all of the features it lacks upstairs.
Before you convert or redo your lower level into bonus living space, make sure it will be livable.
According to the EPA, radon is the leading cause of lung cancer among nonsmokers and the second leading cause among smokers. Effective January 2014 radon test results must be disclosed in real estate transactions. So test for airborne radon now and do mitigation if the level is over .04 pCi/L. You can pick up a test kit at the home center or online. Mitigation usually involves sealing cracks and surfaces and installing a quiet, continuously operating fan that sucks harmful ground gases from the drain tile under the perimeter of your basement floor and exhausts outdoors. Once surfaces are finished it is much harder to address dangerous radon levels.
Next address water and moisture issues. Regrade landscaping and install gutters if needed to direct rainwater away from the foundation. Replace your old sump pump and install a battery backup and an alarm for your pump if you don’t already have one. And seal cracks and surfaces if you haven’t already done it for radon mitigation. Let us know of past water problems, even if it has been awhile. Often water enters a home on only the wettest of years.
Finally, have a pest control contractor plug every opening that could allow mice to get into the basement. Prime entry points include open cavities at the top of block foundations, gaps behind the bottom course of siding, voids under front stoops and around pipes or cables that penetrate the foundation or the siding. Insulating the rim joists with spray foam can help.
Natural Light and heat are two of the most important considerations when finishing a basement. Plan the layout to make the best use of natural light where people will spend the most time. Reserve windowless rooms for mechanical systems, workshops, storage, laundries and bathrooms.
For comfort and efficiency basement heat should be on its own zone. If that’s not possible with your main furnace, in-floor radiant heat can be an ideal alternative. For both ambience and even heat, consider a high-efficiency, direct-vent gas fireplace with a quiet blower that’s ducted to distant rooms. Individual electric baseboard heaters on thermostats are inexpensive to install and provide great control, but they are more costly to operate.
When creating finished living space in a basement, this space requires a second way to escape (other than the stairway). This "egress" can be a door or window, but it must be appropriately sized. If you create a bedroom in the basement, the room must have its own egress. This will allow you to escape in a fire (and for a firefighter with an air pack to get in). A terraced window well will admit more light, improve the view and improve access.
Main level laundry rooms are convenient. But with a premium on space they often are paired with an incompatible partner such as a mudroom or even worse relegated to a closet. Instead, create a basement laundry with everything you need. Imagine a sink for pretreating, a large folding counter for things fresh from the dryer, hanging racks for air drying delicates and an a well-lit ironing station. Incorporate a laundry chute for incoming dirty laundry and include personalized baskets and cubbies for each family member to retrieve his own clean folded clothes for the return trip upstairs.
Think multi-functional. You will appreciate resilient flooring, good lighting and a large project table when toddlers discover finger painting or older kids build giant volcanoes for their science projects. Then when mom takes the kids to grandma's house for the weekend, Dad can have his friends over for root beer floats and Monopoly. With a kitchenette nearby with a small fridge, maybe a microwave and some storage for wine and glasses, the space will work for all ages.
Let Tomco resolve pre-project obstacles, design a custom space to meet your style and needs and complete the work before the next season.Basements FAQ
We expect a lot of our bathrooms. Efficiency when we are rushing to get ready for work. Escape at the end of a stressful day. Accessibility when our mobility is limited. Privacy when we are taking care of business. And above all safety and comfort throughout the year.
Adding a bathroom will relieve pressure on overburdened facilities. But upgrading existing bathrooms is just as important to get the most from what you have.
Begin your bathroom remodeling planning by considering what bothers you about your current facilities. If you share a bathroom, dual sinks and separate storage will double efficiency and ease space squabbles. But don’t stop there. Consider heated mirrors and better ventilation so the other person’s shower doesn’t cloud your view. Perhaps even build a heated mirror into your shower tile for shaving or removing makeup there.
Sinks and toilets have gotten taller over the years for added convenience and ergonomic functionality. Try a 17- to 19-in.-tall comfort-height toilet and 34 or 36-in.-tall vanity and see for yourself what difference a couple of inches can make. For true comfort you can feel, consider a heated towel rack, tile floor or bidet seat. All put warmth right where you need it during the long Minnesota winters.
Although the whirlpool tub was the rage in the 80s and 90s and still has therapeutic value, research suggests they are seldom are used. Instead, many homeowners now are opting for quiet soaking tubs and larger, upscale showers with nice tile, heavy glass (frameless) shower enclosures and adjustable hand showers. Free-standing tubs are stylish if you have the room. And curbless showers with integral seats and coordinated grab bars offer the ultimate in accessibility.
It’s hard to overstate the benefits of a well-designed bathroom that balances natural and adjustable light with privacy needs and functionality with beauty. It’s the first room you see in the morning and the last one you experience at night. It’s where you and guests can gather your thoughts. Make it special.
For all their aesthetic considerations, bathroom also must meet stringent building codes to protect you and your family from electrical shocks, scalding water, mold and falls. Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) outlets, pressure-balanced shower controls, proper ventilation, slip-resistant flooring, well-positioned safety bars and effective lighting will make any bathroom safer.
Tomco’s Tom Schiebout is certified as a Kitchen and Bath Remodel Specialist and as a Certified Aging In Place Specialist by the National Association of the Remodeling Industry. Trust Tom to design and build a bathroom that fits your lifestyle, makes the most of your budget and serves you for life.Bathrooms FAQ
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