How To Finish a Basement

Photo of basement furniture
If you've got unused space available in your basement, currently lying unused or packed with junk you can't bear to throw away, its time you considered putting the space to some good use. For example, you can convert the basement into a home office or an entertainment centre or a study or play area. Finishing a basement can be a long and tough project to undertake, especially if you are new to DIY activities. In such a case, it might be preferable to leave the technical and complicated tasks to competent professionals, while you watch and learn and you can take up peripheral and finishing activities such as décor, painting and furnishing the finished basement. If you already have a rough idea about how you can do the entire task yourself, a detailed set of instructions is listed below, to help you finish the basement area in your home. Read on...

Step 1

Preparing a detailed plan. Before you even think of getting the necessary materials and equipment, it is important to have a detailed plan covering all aspects of remodeling and finishing the basement. This should include all measurements and dimensions of the area you want to convert, a detailed to-scale drawing of the finished work, taking into account doors, windows, ceiling supports and beams, flooring area, etc. Next, list down all requirements with regard to plumbing, electricity, temperature control and ventilation, building supplies such as wood, paint, concrete, tools and equipment, wiring and insulation material, etc. Check with a professional or an experienced DIY specialist, if your plan covers all the necessary material, equipment and accurate drawings and measurements. You may also need to check with local building laws and get the necessary permits, if required, to get started with your project.

Step 2

Creating uncluttered space. Clear out all the junk and other material stored in the basement area, since it is important to have lots of space to carry out the project. Make sure you have taken into account any fixed obstructions such as pillars and ceiling supports, staircases leading to the upper level, etc, into your calculations and overall plans.

Step 3

Checking for damp and moisture. Since basements are usually enclosed spaces below ground level, it is possible that the walls, floor and ceiling are damp or moist on account of incorrect drainage and/or pipe work, incorrect grading of soil or absence of gutters which allow water to seep in and collect in and around the basement. To find out if your basement is subject to damp and moisture, place plastic all over the basement floor and seal tightly around the edges and the points where the floor meets walls. Check after one or two days on the status, if there is moisture over the plastic sheet, no issues but, if there is moisture or water collected under the plastic sheet, then you have a problem. You can get rid of this problem by applying concrete sealer which is waterproof, along the walls, floor and ceiling, repair cracks in the walls, ceiling or floor by scooping out the cracked material and cover it with concrete patching and treat all the cracks with a standard bonding agent.

Step 4

Laying out the sub-floor, walls, corners and ceiling. If you feel that the concrete flooring is too cold for comfort and you want to have a drier and warmer floor, you will need to install a sub-floor over the concrete. Skip this step if you're okay with just carpeting the floor area. For the sub-floor, you can use materials such as plywood boards with polystyrene insulation, tiles, wood laminates or special sub-floor products which are easily available in the market and are not only durable but also easy to install.

To frame the walls, you can use two-by-fours or construction lumber, construct the wall frame on the floor first and then raise it up to frame the wall. The different wooden sections can be fixed to the concrete wall using nails or studs. You can repeat this process to frame corners where two walls meet, make provisions for doors and frame the ceiling if you want to install drywall.

Step 5

Electrical, heating and plumbing. It is preferable to get a qualified electrician to do the wiring for your basement, since there is usually a strict protocol and codes to be followed for electrical wiring and these differ from area to area or state to state. The same is true of heating and plumbing requirements as well, since you need special permits and a final inspection by relevant authorities before you continue further.

Step 6

Insulation and finishing walls and ceilings. Fiberglass insulation or polystyrene are good insulating material which should be installed in the wall cavities to keep the basement warm, along with a vapor barrier to prevent the flow of warm and moist air into the wall cavities. To finish the ceiling, you can choose from drywall or suspended tiles fixed on a metal framework. For walls, the options available are drywall and wooden boards in different patterns. Lastly, use bright and airy colors to paint the basement, using your imagination to think up various bright color combinations.

Finishing a basement in your home is a project which requires some specific expertise, lots of time, patience and hard work. If you choose to do the entire job yourself, with only weekends and holidays being the available time, this project could take as long as six months or even up to a year. However, if you do not mind putting in the time effort required, a finished and usable basement area can be an interesting and satisfying project to take up.


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