Basement Remodels Add More Living Space

Increase basement space using new specialty products to add value to your home.

Photo: Flickr

America’s home improvement frontier is going underground with basement remodeling. Basement design has gone way beyond the second-class spaces and finishes of old. These spaces bring increased value, lifestyle enhancement, and expanded living to today’s homes.

Basement Space Is Found Space
Basements today are emerging as valuable found space and are serving vital roles as guest bedrooms, master suites, and home offices in addition to the more traditional role of family rec room. In fact, basement remodels account for an ever-growing chunk of the more than $200 billion per year spent on remodeling nationwide. And this despite the fact that, according to the National Association of Home Builders, only about 68 percent of American homes even have basements! Many of these new spaces feature eye-popping, award-winning designs. This trend is being driven by housing values.

Builders and homeowners alike are finding that utilizing basement space as living space represents real value. When you build an addition, you expand the footprint of your home by attaching new construction to your existing house. Additions entail excavation, foundation work, exterior walls, sheathing , siding, and roofing just to enclose the new space. In addition, you will have to wire, plumb, add heating and cooling, and complete the interior of the new addition. With a basement remodel, the space is already there so a higher proportion of your remodeling dollar can go into “The Three Fs”—features, fixtures, and finishes. The three Fs are the touches that can make any new space more useful, beautiful, and enjoyable—in other words, valuable.

Equity and Payback
Another aspect of value is equity and payback, or how the project will affect the immediate value of your home and any long-term payback for the project when the house is sold. These questions may be difficult to answer, but they should be considered before tackling any home improvement project. There are a lot of variables that come into play including location, market, quality of the design, materials, and workmanship. Getting the best value and the best payback hinge on finding the right balance for your specific needs and location. According to the 2010-11   Cost vs. Value Report, an annual study conducted by Remodeling Magazine in cooperation with the National Association of Realtors, very few of the most popular home improvement projects yield 100 percent cost recovery, with basement remodeling at just over 70 percent cost recovery as a national average.

Converting Basement Space
Many of the products on the market are designed to make basements more appealing and useable, which is why mid-to -high- range basement remodels are so popular. Homeowners and building codes demand adequate light and ventilation in any living space. There are several window-well products that allow for full-sized windows and some that are code-approved for egress or escape in the event of a fire or other emergency.

Bathrooms and wet bars are also top features requested by homeowners in their basement remodels. Basement bathrooms and sinks present a challenge since wastewater lines exit the house above the basement floor. There is plumbing equipment available to pump waste from basement bathrooms up to the main waste system, but beware—these systems can be costly, require high maintenance, and may even be prohibited in some situations. It’s best to check with a licensed plumber and your local building code official before proceeding.

Every basement should be evaluated for moisture and flooding, structural concerns, and radon. Invest in professional advice and remember that not every house is a prime candidate for basement remodeling.