8 Things to Consider When Renovating Your Basement

Posted on: Sep 02, 2021


8 Things To Consider When Renovating Your Basement - Pro Waterproofers

Gone are the days of basements being dark, wet, and neglected spaces. Now, many homeowners are converting their basements into stylish living areas that add value to their property and upgrade their family’s lifestyle.

However, as with any home improvement project, renovating your basement can get overwhelming. At PRO Waterproofers we take the time to understand your needs fully and address any underlying basement issues so that you can avoid any headaches further down the line.

In this article, we discuss several aspects you should think about in order to have a hassle-free basement renovation experience. Let’s get started!  

Are You Finishing, Renovating, or Remodelling Your Basement? 

From an interior design perspective, the terms finishing, remodelling, and renovating one’s basement mean slightly different things. 

  • Finishing pertains to setting up the basement from scratch so as to make the basement a livable space. 
  • Renovating the basement involves relatively minor repairs and upgrades such as the installation of new elements and fixtures. 
  • Finally, remodelling means making structural changes to the basement in terms of layout and design. 

However, in this article, we look at all the above processes and focus on their overarching goal – to be good investments for you as a homeowner. To achieve this goal, you would need to take these eight steps into consideration:

Two contractors discuss renovation plans

1. Determine Your Renovation Goals and Working Budget 

Before undertaking any home improvement project, it is important to be absolutely clear about what your goals are. Why do you need to make changes to your basement? What’s your vision? 

There are numerous benefits that you can achieve with a basement renovation, remodelling, or finishing project. Here are the main benefits that homeowners aim for: 

  1. Additional space for storage or hobbies. 
  2. More recreational space.
  3. An additional bedroom or guest room.
  4. A rentable space to generate added income.
  5. Added value to your home.

So now let’s look into the ideal budget allocation for the above goals:

If your main goal(s) are items 1 to 3, your budget for basement renovation may be the amount that you deem reasonable or the amount that you can spare at the time – whether it’s from your savings or from financing options. If you are living in a house that you consider to be your forever home, you may give yourself more allowance to spend on such a project.

However, items 4 and 5 are focused on return on investment. This means you need to do more research when it comes to setting your budget. It pays to learn more about how much rent fees are in your area and/or looking into the value of homes in your neighbourhood that have (1) sold recently and (2) have upgraded basements. In a nutshell, if you want to recoup most or all of your costs from this project, you may also need to watch out for “over-improving” your basement. 

2. Inspect Your Basement for Structural Issues 

You need to have a good start with a basement that’s, first and foremost, free of underlying issues. You need a good canvas for your masterpiece, so to speak. 

Here is the scenario you must avoid: doing extensive basement renovations only to be faced with issues later on that either (1) destroy the upgrades and/or (2) require you to tear everything down for deeper repairs. It’s a nightmare – but thankfully, a fully avoidable one

So to kickstart the process of making sure you have a good “canvas” for your basement renovation masterpiece, the first thing you need to look into is the structural integrity of your basement

This comes with an immense bonus. Because your basement is also the foundation of your home, addressing problems with structural integrity will also keep you and your family safe. Here are some of the common signs of structural problems in a basement. These can be because of foundation settling or from external pressure on the basement walls. 

  • Stair step-pattern cracks along the basement wall’s mortar joints 
  • Large horizontal cracks along the basement’s wall
  • Bowing or bulging basement walls
  • Stuck doors and windows even in other parts of the home
  • Sagging floors and roofs in any part of the home

Luckily, in all these cases, there’s always a solution. You just need to be in touch with the right professionals for the job. However, even if no red flags catch your eye and you’re unsure if you have structural issues, you can still consult with experts, just to be sure. 

External waterproofing project being done on the outside of a brick house

3. Address Moisture and Leak Issues  

Moisture infiltration is one of the biggest and most common problems for any kind of basement. Moisture infiltration leads to basement leaks, water damage, increased humidity, mould growth, and so on. Whatever your goals may be for basement renovation, moisture infiltration is sure to get in the way.

In addition, moisture infiltration disrupts the structural integrity of your home’s foundation over time. So it’s clear that this is a problem that must be promptly addressed, whether you are doing basement renovation or not. 

The solution is basement waterproofing. You may now wonder if this is something that can be done through DIY methods. 

Basement waterproofing is one of the many aspects of home improvement where it’s always better to hire a waterproofing expert than attempt a DIY. This is because DIY waterproofing is not long-lasting, is not as thorough, and doesn’t really get to the core of the problem. A common example is waterproof paint – which wears off in months. Waterproof paint will also not fix the problem of a high water table saturating your foundations – this is something only professional waterproofing can fix.  

Depending on your property’s unique needs, the scope of basement waterproofing may include:

  • Installing a sump pump
  • Installing a drain tile 
  • Installing weeping tiles
  • Reconfiguring the topography of your yard
  • Working on overall rainwater management

4. Assess The Vertical Space That You Have in Your Basement 

Another key consideration is making sure that your basement has enough space for your design goals. Though extending the basement’s area may be a more complicated project, there are a number of straightforward ways to make your basement ceiling higher if need be. 

Making your basement ceiling higher may be necessary if it aligns with your preferences such as turning it into a home office or art studio. Higher ceilings may also align with your aesthetic preference if you would like to install hanging lighting fixtures or higher shelves in the basement. 

Raising your basement’s ceiling may also be legally required, as we will discuss in the section about getting updated with building codes in your region. 

You can have more basement height via the following procedures:

  • Lowering the basement floor through underpinning or benching
  • Raising the floor above the basement
  • Lifting the house to build a higher basement beneath

5. Make Sure Plumbing and Electrical Wirings Are Safe 

When you’re doing extensive upgrades or renovations to your basement, it’s also the perfect time to have your electrical wirings and plumbing checked before undergoing the project. The best way to go about this is to talk to a professional plumber and electrician. 

Ticking this off your to-do list will give you the peace of mind that your money will not go down the drain because your basement is safe from potential water damage and electrical fires. 

More importantly, you can also rest assured that your loved ones (or tenant, if you’re going to rent out your basement) are free from harm whenever they’re spending time in your newly renovated basement.

6. Consider Letting in More Natural Light and Ventilation into Your Basement

Getting plenty of natural light and ventilation in your basement can only be accomplished by having the right type of basement windows. Your choices span well beyond the traditional hopper windows. Even if most of your basement wall is underground, you can have larger windows like awning windows, casement windows, and sliding windows as long as you also have a well-constructed window. 

A window well is a U-shaped or rectangle-shaped excavation around a basement window that is secured using a ribbed metal/plastic fixture that is purposefully designed to keep the soil from eroding into the window. Alternatively, window wells can be fixed in place using concrete or stones. 

Typically, window wells have a drainage system to prevent precipitation from accumulating. Some homeowners also opt to have a transparent removable covering over the window well to keep it free from rain and debris. 

Once you have an influx of sunlight coming in through larger basement windows with their window wells, you can use design tricks to amplify the light inside the basement. You can have all-white walls, strategically placed mirrors, plenty of reflective fixtures and decor, and most importantly, an open floor plan. 

Though having larger windows may seem like a nice-to-have item on this list, if you are going to use or rent out your basement as sleeping/living quarters in Ontario, Egress windows are required.

7. Stay Updated With Building Codes in Your Region 

Typically, there is a specific minimum ceiling height for finished spaces and this depends on the building codes of your area. According to the Ontario Building Code, the minimum ceiling height is 6’5” under the ducts and beams; and at least 75% of the floor area must be at least 6’11” in height. 

Moreover, if the basement is meant to be a sleeping space, having the right size and type of Egress windows may also be required because they are meant to be an alternative escape pathway in case of emergency. This window can also serve as an alternative entrance for firemen or emergency response personnel if the need arises. 

In Ontario, Egress windows must have a minimum unobstructed opening of around 0.35m² or 3.8ft² and no dimension of the window must fall below 380mm. This leaves traditional hopper windows out of the list. For your Egress windows, we suggest looking into casement windows or slider windows with a sturdy window well to match!

A finished basement

8. Set a Working Timeline and Deadline 

Keep in mind that there’s always some form of invasiveness involved in basement renovation projects that could affect your living conditions and make you or other members of your family uncomfortable. 

There’s the inevitable mess and dust, the noise of hammers pounding the wall, and so on. Because of this, you may feel pressured to get the job done quickly. There may also be other factors that make the project time sensitive – perhaps the basement bedroom is promised to a relative/friend/tenant who plans to move in at a set time or maybe you are starting a business that needs that extra space as soon as possible. 

So if your basement project is time-sensitive, make sure to speak to a contractor who will help you draw out a reasonable schedule. You may want to mention that you intend to have the inspections or some of the modifications mentioned in this article.  

Gain Reputable Insight from PRO Waterproofers Before Your Next Basement Renovation 

Of the items in this list, basement waterproofing or dealing with moisture infiltration is the most common but most tricky of all. In this case, we highly recommend speaking to one of PRO Waterproofers expert team members before your next project to avoid any costly repairs.

For over ten years we’ve been Southern Ontario’s most trusted resource for foundation waterproofing and are more than happy to assist you with your basement renovations. For more information feel free to give us a call today or request an in-home quote!

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