Let’s take a look at three reasons why renovating your basement may not always be the best plan for the homeowner.
1. Flooding Problems
If you have a wet basement you may be able to keep it dry by making use of a dehumidifier, installing a sump pump and by applying a sealant to the walls and floor. You should also explore how and why water gathers around the outside of your home and look for ways to drain it away. Solutions include installing rain water leader extensions, splash blocks and sloping the ground by at least 2 percent away from the foundation wall.
Even these solutions may not remedy what some homeowners experience: a high water table. Waterproofing with bitumen saturated membranes may help, but it is an expensive task. Finish your basement and you may someday face throwing out carpeting, wood flooring and furnishings if the remedies fail.
2. Required Modifications
Some municipalities require homeowners to have at least seven foot ceilings for habitable spaces. “Habitable” might include a bedroom and a bathroom, but it could also extend to a basement used for any living purposes. Your community’s building department may require that beams, duct work and piping come in at a height of no less than six feet, six inches. Contact your local planning board for requirements.
Modifications can be many and may include installing fire blocking, protecting wiring and piping from physical damage, installing wall framing, and making other practical changes. Rare is the basement where modifications are few and the project is a simple one.
3. The Cost Factor
Perhaps what should give homeowners the greatest pause before embarking on any basement renovation project is the costs involved. You may need to hire an architect to draw up plans, a general contractor to oversee the project, and pay for related permits, fees and an application. Your town may also require that you file your construction plans for planning board review.
We’ve already hinted at the cost of undertaking a basement renovation, a cost that will include contractor and architect fees, materials, furnishings, and more. Those costs will come in higher if special modifications need to be made including replacing the basement steps, installing a hand rail or a guard rail, adding insulation, installing an emergency egress or updating windows.
Will the modifications, flooding problems and costs scuttle your plans? Well, they do not have to. At least not completely.
If you want to make use of your basement, you can still use it for storage. Consider enclosing the space underneath the stairs, installing sheet rock and waterproof carpeting along with the shelving. The bottom shelf should be at least a foot from the floor and you can use bins to keep everything dry and organized.
See Also — Is Your Basement Apartment Legal?