Planning to finish or remodel your basement may seem like a large and complicated task. This checklist will simplify the process and get you going in the right direction.
I will split the process up into 3 different stages:
Water and mold inspection Designing your basement Bids and Construction
Water and Mold
It is important that you verify ANY water or mold presence BEFORE you do any finishing. This is a very common mistake that homeowners make. Once the basement is finished it is not possible to fix any water or mold problems without great expense. I have written another Ezine article titled Inspecting Basements For Leaks, Water Damage and Mold (Pt 1 Unfinished Basements) that will help you to discover any water or mold issues. Be aware, anywhere there is water and building products (wood, drywall, paint, furniture .. anything organic) there will be mold.
If you are unsure if you have a water problem and would rather have a professional look at the problem contact a professional waterproofing company.
Designing Your Basement
Homeowners often have the goal of finishing their basement to add an extra office, playroom for their kids or entertainment area. These are nice ideas, but it is a good idea to consider that kids will not want to play in a 8'x10 'room and no one will want to work long in a similar sized room with no windows. It is a good idea to lay out on the floor where the rooms are going to go and actually viewing their size. Remember that the wall with framing and drywall will be 4 "thick. My point here is that it is better to have large open rooms than to have a lot of smaller rooms. This always looks and feels better than a basement bisected into many smaller rooms . Often times it is a good idea to simply place a 3 ft. Partition wall to 'hide' office equipment behind and thus divide a larger room and allow for an office 'area'. In my designs I always prefer for the office to look out through a window or be situated as near as possible to a window.
Plumbing is another important factor if you are installing a bath. Here it is common to have a professional remodeler to help you with where it is cost efficient to place things. It is often a good idea to try to place bathrooms in smaller areas that would not be beneficial for a larger room. Often the placement of the furnace and water heater may dictate the bathroom location. If these utilities are placed in the center of the room it may be a good idea to pick a side of these utilities to place the bath on, sandwiching the bath between the utilities and an exterior wall. Of course water supply is a factor but not as much as sewer location.
Low ceilings are a very common occurrence in older homes. The problem is when you add drywall to an already low ceiling it will now be not only lower but the room will appear much shorter than you will expect. Here you have the option of not finishing the ceiling with drywall and instead simply painting the joists a flat white. This will actually make the room appear much taller (being white) and will improve acoustics dramatically. The only downside is that sound will travel to and from upstairs much more easily. If you have carpet upstairs there will be much less sound transmission, if you have hardwood floors sound would naturally pass through the floor much easier.
Extra bedrooms are often a reason people finish a basement. The catch is that bedrooms must have proper egress to the outside. What is 'proper' varies between localities (check with your local building officials to see what is proper code) but is most commonly 9 sq. ft. That is a 3 ft. by 3 ft. window opening directly outside. This 3 ft. by 3 ft. measurement must be the actual opening of the window when opened so a double hung 36 "by 36" window would not qualify.
Bids and Construction
Once you have a floor plan that you are comfortable with and have a thorough understanding of what the outcome will be it is time to get your actual bids on the project. Homeowners often err on this side of the project because their plans are not solid and so when they get bids it is hard to compare them because each basement remodeling contractor will change the homeowners plans to accommodate the contractors ideas. This makes the bids vary and can be confusing when trying to choose whom to go with.
It is very convenient to go with an all in one contractor for all the framing, electrical, and plumbing, but this is not always the cheapest way to go. It is very important that all the people that you contract with write down everything they will be doing and give you very clear time frames with start and end dates. In writing!
Once you have decided on the contractors and have scheduled for the building to start you should plan on about 4-8 weeks until everything is completed.