Important things to consider when finishing your basement

If you want to add some additional living space to your existing home, finishing your basement is a great way to do so. If you recently purchased a newly-built home, some of the work may have already been started. Studded walls may be up, and your basement may even include plumbing for a future bathroom. 

If fixing up a basement isn’t an option for you, some of the tips will still apply to adding extra space to your home.

1. Create a plan. Because your home is the biggest purchase you’ll make, you don’t want to rush through the project. A carefully planned basement can bring you years of enjoyment and add value to your home. Determining ahead of time what its main purpose will be will help guide you through the project and help eliminate regrets when it’s finished. Be sure to share your ideas with family and friends. They may have been through the process and can share their ideas or experiences.

2. Pull the permits. Building and electrical code requirements can be complicated and do change over time. Because a basement can experience water intrusions, it’s best to know what materials and safety devices need to be installed. Plus, having a trained professional to look at the work is another way to protect your family and your investment.

3. Test for radon. If you have a newly-constructed home, it’s likely your home was tested, and a radon mitigation system was installed. If you live in an older home, it’s important to test prior to starting your project.

4. Address water problems now. If water finds a way into your basement from time to time, find the root cause and fix it. Ignoring it now, can lead to problems in the future. While most people worry about fire damage, water damage is more common and can be costly.

5. Research flooring options carefully. Selecting the right flooring option is important. Again, determining its purpose ahead of time can help. I’ve used these options in my basements over the years:

  • Carpet. Creates a warm and inviting atmosphere and takes the echo out of a room. It’s also warm and soft on your feet. However, pulling carpet out of a flooded basement is a tough job.
  • Luxury vinyl plank. It’s extremely durable and waterproof so it’s a great choice for basements. It also holds up well if you have pets and small children. There are also plenty of options to give you the right look. However, I found it a bit cold and lacking some cushion.
  • Laminate flooring. I used laminate flooring in my current basement. Laminate flooring is extremely durable and offers a variety of styles. I found that it’s a bit thicker and adds a bit more cushion than vinyl plank. Lastly, it can be less expensive than other floor types. A nice pair of slippers or some rugs can help with coldness.

6. Research heating options. There’s no way around it; basements are cold. So selecting the right heat source is important. Here are a few options:

  • HVAC zoning system. This is a heating and cooling system that uses dampers in the ductwork to regulate and redirect air to specific areas of the home. Instead of heating or cooling your entire home, you can select different rooms or zones. This may be an option if your existing HVAC system is set up this way or has the capacity for expansion. Be sure to have your local HVAC contractor stop by to see what options you have.
  • Existing ductwork. I chose this option in my last two basements. While it’s not the best option, it was extremely affordable and always keeps my basement temperature around 63 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Wall heaters. I’ve installed wall heaters in my basement to provide supplemental heat. They work great and can be installed between your wall studs.
  • Fireplace. A fireplace creates a nice ambiance and does a great job heating a large room. Who doesn’t like a cup of coffee or reading a book next to the fireplace? Just keep in mind that there may be specific building codes that need to be followed for safety.

7. Consider using insulation. Insulation is a great way to keep the heat in and the cold air out. It’s also a great noise barrier between floors. I regret not using insulation between floors in my current basement. When kitchen utensils are dropped, it can be quite startling. 

8. Determine if an egress window is needed. Local building ordinances may require one. Additionally, there are many benefits to an egress window, including:

  • Serves as an emergency exit.
  • Allows natural daylight.
  • Improves ventilation.
  • Adds value to your home.

9. Think about how to finish the ceiling. There are several options to consider, including:

  • Leaving it as is.
  • Painting it.
  • Installing tiles.
  • Installing drywall.

When considering how much coverage you need for a home improvement project, the current value of your home is key. Regardless of whether you’re building an addition to your home or simply upgrading your kitchen cabinets, it makes sense to increase the value of your home on your insurance policy based on the improvement(s) you’re making. That also means increasing the amount of coverage on your policy. If there’s a loss during construction or after the work is complete, you don’t want to be underinsured. Remember, the most simple projects often turn into much bigger projects.

This article is intended for general educational and illustrative purposes only and should not be construed to communicate legal or professional advice.  Further, this article is not an offer to sell insurance.  Please consult with your licensed insurance agent for specific coverage details and your insurance eligibility.  All policies are subject to the terms, conditions, limitations, definitions, and exclusions contained therein. 

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