Basements are a common target for the supposedly easy and fast addition of livable space. After all, the space is there; it can’t be that hard to finish and heat, right? And if your goal is casual living space for a playroom, hobby room, bar or media center, basic improvements can probably deliver the functionality you want.
Maybe, maybe not. Here are three considerations to weigh before you dig into a basement remodel:
Rise above a flood. By definition, basements are more likely to flood than above-grade floors. Even if you are not in a flood zone, it’s smart to take out Federal flood insurance. (Just ask Vermonters whose high-ground homes were inundated by flash floods when Hurricane Irene swelled mountain streams in 2011.)
The cost of premiums can cover simple but costly recovery tasks (such as replacing ruined flooring and carpet), but flood insurance will be one more must-pay annual bill, boosting the fixed cost of owning your house.
Build basic value. Do finished basements attract buyers and support home values in your neighborhood? This depends less on the quality of the finish than on neighborhood preferences. If most basements in your area are usable space, finishing yours simply meets the expectations for home buyers looking in your neighborhood, thus supporting the market value of the house.
Safety first. Does the basement have a walk-out feature? Emergency egress is a key factor often overlooked in the excitement of getting a game room. Especially if you are tackling the project yourself, review local ordinances thoroughly and count in the cost of easy-access exits. Inspectors take a dim view of do-it-yourselfers who skip basic life/safety functions.
Check also with your home insurance provider to see what standards are upheld for livable basement space. Nothing is worse than having to rip out shiny new improvements to retrofit the space for basic safety.