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Essential Finished Basement Checklist

By Elizabeth R. Elstien

A basement can be so much more than storage. Expand the livable space in your home by finishing your basement. The extra square footage will add value to the home, too. Follow this essential checklist and turn your basement from messy storage space to a family room or man-cave getaway. You choose. It's all in the finishing and decorating.

1. Clean up and take out.

Before starting work on the basement, clean it out. Have a yard sale, donate items or just throw stuff out. Then, sweep and do a rough cleaning of the floors, corners, nooks and crannies. Take a few photographs of all areas to show to contractors or designers.

2. Inspect for damages.

As the lowest spot in the home, the basement exterior is in contact with the earth. In Massachusetts, the earth is often moist and cold. Temperature differences between the seasons, land movement and other natural events cause structural shifting. Now that the basement is cleaned out, inspect for moisture on both inside and outside foundation walls. Check for floor or wall cracks, too. Problems? Contact an expert to determine what the issue, is and if it should be fixed. Ignoring foundation or structural issues prior to finishing the basement may lead to more expensive repairs in the long run.

3. Draw the plan.

Whether you hire a contractor to design the remodel or do it yourself, research the project and get a scaled architectural plan of what you want the room to look like (e.g., add bathroom, kitchen). Chances are you will need a permit to legally do the remodel. Call the city or county and find out what you need to do before you start and the fees incurred.

4. Deal with an electric contractor.

It's best to hire an electric contractor to install wiring if not using a contractor that can do it all. Electric wiring must be done right and according to local codes. Consider wiring needs now and in the future. Leave drywall off until city or county inspectors give the wiring the official okay. Think about recessed lighting if the ceiling is low.

5. Plumb water and sewer.

Plan ahead for all future needs. Depending on space and budget, it is wise to add a basement bathroom with at least sink and toilet. Make sure to abide by local plumbing codes and get proper inspection done.

6. Finish walls and ceiling.

Before installing drywall, use insulation that keeps moisture out and heat in. Consider furring strips that provide space between the original foundation and new interior wall to keep the dampness out. Try a suspended panel ceiling to give easy access to wiring or pipes when future repairs are needed.

7. Add new flooring.

Basement floors tend to be damp and cold. Provide an insulation barrier here, too, to keep moisture and cold out. Built up the floor so there is space between the foundation and the new flooring. Wood flooring gives a warm look to the room and can be used with or without throw rugs. It is also more giving on your feet than tile and often less expensive, too. Avoid basement wall-to-wall carpeting.

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About The Author

Elizabeth R. Elstien has worked in real estate for over 15 years as a real estate...

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