Do-it-Yourself Basement Remodeling: The Do’s and Don’ts

Basement Remodeling

A basement remodeling project can be a great way to increase the value of your home, as well as provide your family with additional usable living space. Many homeowners are adding a home gym or office, building a mini-apartment, an entertainment room, or even increase their storage space.  All of these are excellent home improvement projects for basement renovations.

If properly planned and with a clear understanding of your final project you can avoid the headaches and financial drains that these types of projects frequently become. The goal is to make your new addition the favorite room in the house​while staying within budget and on track.

​Many homeowners choose to do the work themselves as a DIY projects. Certainly a great deal of money can be saved by going this route. However, one major advantage of hiring a contractor is that they work on projects like this everyday. They are familiar with the county laws and ordinances and can help guide you thru the process. Since they know what's realistic, they can also keep you on track and not let you stray too far from your initial plan. 

Hiring a contractor may be the more expensive route, but their expertise is often well worth the added expense. Even DIY projects can become expensive, especially when it comes to basement renovations, and having someone who knows the ropes can often be a worthwhile investment. 

You're probably eager to get started, but take the time to carefully plan your project. Set a realistic and reasonable budget and don't allow yourself to become distracted.​

The Do's of Basement Remodeling

  • Research - Performing careful research prior to starting your project can help you have a clear idea on what to expect from your finished basement. It'll also help you set clear expectations and hopefully prevent you from changing directions mid-way thru. 
  •  Building Codes - Before starting any major home improvement project you should always check with your local building department. Building permits are often required, and if work needs to be done with the electrical and plumbing, it will most likely need to be inspected. 
  • Waterproofing - Always make sure your basement is waterproofed before starting your project. The time to realize your basement is leaking is not after the job has been completed! Check out these tips on waterproofing. 
  • Moisture - If your basement is damp there's a good chance mold will grow. Moisture can be an ongoing problem for some basement homeowners. One solution is to line the walls with a vapor barrier. This creates an offset space between the interior finished walls and the basement walls. A basement dehumidifier is another way to keep moisture to a minimum and prevent mold growth.
  • Ceiling Access - Frequently plumbing pipes and electrical wires are located in the ceiling. Consider installing a suspended ceiling to cover the wires and pipes. This type of ceiling is not only attractive, but it also allows for easy access to the electrical, plumbing and heating ducts.
  • Utility Room - Furnaces and water heaters are commonly installed in basements. There are specific codes for these types of appliances in most areas. If you plan on building a utility room, leave the area open (without walls) and unfinished. Doing so may not only be required in your area, but it will also allow you easy access to perform maintenance and other tasks. If these appliances are "boxed in" it becomes very difficult to work on them. In addition, at some point it may be necessary to purchase a new unit and it may not fit the same footprint as the old. New units also frequently require inspections to ensure that they pass code. 

The Don'ts of Basement Remodeling

  • Don't Hesitate to Hire a Contractor - Many homeowners think that if they plan to do the work themselves there's not a need to contact a contractor. But in truth, hiring a licensed plumber and/or electrician can not only save you money, it can also save you a major headache! These professionals can help you pass the necessary inspections from your local county. Working with electricity can be dangerous and if plumbing is done wrong, well it can be messy to say the least. In most cases, it's money well spent.
  • Don't Wait to Clean -  Clean as you go! This is hard, messing work but if you get rid of as much as possible when you are doing your tear down, you'll find you save a lot of time at the end of your project. If at all possible dispose of the debris as it accumulates, it will keep you from having a massive mess at the end. If this isn't possible, move the debris some away from the basement, such as in a garage. When you finish your project you can call a clean-up service to dispose of the mess. 
  • Don't Change Plans - The time for planning and changing plans is before you start your renovation. In fact, planning is one of the most important parts of any home improvement project. You'll not only waste time, but also money if you make changes when you are in the middle of your project. Be prepared for the unexpected, but don't let the unexpected change your plans. Or at least not too far off course. Set a reasonable budget and keep to it!
  • Don't Be Stubborn - Basement renovations can be challenging and you may find yourself at a point where you're not sure what you should do. Consulting with a professional can either give you a road map for a solution, or someone to finish the job for you. Know your limitations and know when you need help, being open to seeking guidance can save you frustration, money and ensure your project is completed safely.

A Do-it-Yourself basement remodeling project is entirely possible with the proper planning and a clear vision of your intended outcome. Remember, it's important to do things right to prevent problems in the future. By taking the time to plan and reaching out to professionals when you need help beyond your skill set, you'll be able to enjoy your new basement sooner rather than later!