Basement Remodeling Challenges in Westchester
When you first look at an unfinished basement it can be difficult to see the many possibilities for creating wonderful living space for your family. At first glance, a basement offers a huge amount of undefined space that is rough and bare and empty. On the one hand, it has unlimited possibilities, and it offers enough space for everything you can imagine. On the other hand, however, all that unfinished space can make it hard to imagine what your basement can look like when you finish remodeling it.
There are many ways to approach a Westchester basement remodel. The entire area can be left open, or it can be divided into rooms. It can be elegantly finished or it can be given a rustic design. The only limits are the boundaries of your imagination.
The major challenges of most Westchester basement refinishing projects and plans are:
- Ceiling height. You will probably encounter visible duct work and/or a low ceiling level. You can decide to either live with a lower ceiling or you can frame boxes around the duct work and have the rest of the ceiling higher. You can also move the duct work, but that is an expensive job.
- Dampness. A dampness problem in a finished basement can open the door to all kinds of problems. The dampness will make the area feel cooler or warmer. But more important, the dampness will breed mold and mildew. So the first step in finishing a basement is to correct any dampness problems and then seal the floor and walls carefully. If your budget allows, one way to deal with this is to install radiant floor heating with a waterproofing membrane. If your budget doesn’t support this, a de-humidifier will be a wise investment.
- Support beams or posts. You may discover two or more support posts or beams in the basement. You will need expert assistance if you decide to try to remove them, and doing so will be costly. The better solution might be to lay out your floor plan so that the support beams are in walls or closets. If you can’t work with them in this way and you want something more attractive, then either put a fiberglass column around them or build a square box around them with drywall.
- Concrete floors. Concrete floors may be hard on your back, legs or feet if you plan activities that require prolonged standing. Choosing floor covering can take a little more time and effort than for other rooms. First, attend to potential dampness. If your basement does not have a drain to prevent water build-up under the basement, you might want to start with a layer of plastic. Then you will probably want an extra layer of padding under carpet, and even under hardwood floors.
- Access to plumbing. Access to plumbing, wiring, and some appliances may begin in your basement. Before you decide how to finish your ceiling, you will need to consider how you will achieve the look you want and still have access to these areas. You might find that a drop ceiling is the best option. But it is also possible to place small doors in the ceiling to make these areas accessible.
- Lighting. If you have a “sunlight basement” (meaning that at least one wall is above ground and has windows to let in sunlight), providing light for part of the area will be much easier. In areas without windows, you will need to really pay attention to lighting. Choosing energy-efficient fixtures and light bulbs will help to protect the environment and save you money.
- Heat and Air Conditioning. You will probably want to check with a professional to decide whether your current heat and air conditioning system is adequate for the entire house once you finish the basement. You might need a separate heating and air conditioning system to control the temperature in the whole house. If you stay with a single system, you might do well to consider zoned heating and cooling.
- Plumbing and Hot Water Supply. If you add a kitchen or a bathroom in the basement, you might want to think about hot water supply and the size of your hot water heater. You might find it more economical and easier to install an in-line or instant water heater in a bathroom or kitchen.
- Access. The decisions you make about how you will use the new living space in your basement might mean you will need to create a second access to the basement from the first floor. If you divide the space into family areas and a teen suite, for example, you might find that a second access allows more privacy. A spiral staircase might be the perfect answer because it uses less space. You will also want to have some kind of immediate exterior access in case of emergency.
- Alternatives to Walls. You can, of course install (or have installed) drywall or paneling in your remodeled basement. You can also do other, more creative things to divide spaces and invest less money in the project. For example, you can use permanent shoji screens or other types of room dividers. You can also define spaces without walls in the way you install different types of floor coverings.
By thinking creatively about how you will use the space and being flexible enough to work around existing challenges (such as support columns), you can create almost anything you want in a basement remodel. Your new living space can be as formal or as relaxed as you choose. So turn your imagination loose and enjoy finding solutions to the challenges of basement remodeling.
Copyright 2007 by ABCD Publishing
About the Author:
Dan Fritschen, the author of this article, is the founder of the websites http://www.remodelormove.com – http://www.remodelestimates.com and http://www.remodelingorganizer.com He is the author of three books on home remodeling.