Basement Problems Turned Around

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Remodeling your basement presents several challenges, which can all be turned into advantages. Here’s how…

Basements can be cold. Easily solved by turning the latest rage – radiant floor heating – on its side. The grids used underneath tile or wood floors can, with very little adaptation, be hung rather than laid.

The proper glue or nailing around the edges (avoiding the wire mesh, of course!), can make these systems easy to use as radiant wall heaters. Placed behind wood wall panels they operate essentially the same as floor systems, if there’s air movement in the room. Naturally, any water leakage or moisture problems will need to be dealt with first.

Basements can be dark. But that makes them perfect for a darkroom or home entertainment center.

If used for a darkroom, you’ll need to plan for proper ventilation and cold/hot water plumbing. You’ll also need to plan for partitioning, unless you can guarantee no one will open the basement entrance during those critical moments.

A home entertainment center provides a number of opportunities for creativity. Inexpensive kits today offer a half dozen speakers which can be placed at acoustically advantageous spots for that true theater experience.

You’ll want to investigate materials for sound control. Acoustic ceiling and wall tile or wall hangings, non-shag carpet and so forth will all be necessary. Wood floors and walls are attractive, but provide too ‘live’ an environment for home music or theater systems.

You’ll also want to plan the proper lighting system. Track lighting is popular, but difficult to place to keep glare off the screen. Think about building some reflective shelves or sconces, with bounced light off of light wood or metal, make for good alternatives. Not everyone prefers watching movies in complete darkness.

Basements can be wet. Too much seepage can present a hazard and no amount of creativity can turn that to advantage. But, within limits, a moist environment can be a good thing for certain uses – saunas or greenhouses for example.

To plan a sauna, you’ll need to investigate current options for hot-water plumbing and steam generation. Several modular systems are available in a variety of price ranges. Drainage is key, since water build up has to be dealt with.

Fortunately, though basements can be cool, since they’re enclosed they’re generally easy to keep hot once warmed up. Good insulation is key. Cork works well, but can accumulate mold. There are dozens of modern materials with low heat conductivity available.

Proper partitioning can keep the actual sauna area small, while a tiled area can be used for cooling down or toweling off. Paint in warm colors, but allow plenty of time for complete drying.

Greenhouses are easy to make in most basements. Though care has to be taken to control mold and mildew, inexpensive heating lamps can provide both warmth and light for growing orchids and other ‘hot-house’ flowers.

Extra care has to be observed in planning electrical systems to control water contact. Luckily, modern materials for wrapping under-floor pipes and running wiring through conduit are light-weight and inexpensive.

Whatever you plan to design, be sure to get one of the low-cost devices for measuring radon gas (very seldom a problem, despite hype in the media) and carbon monoxide levels. Proper ventilation is critical for comfort and health.

Take advantage of antique stores, old school remodeling projects and other sources to obtain interesting floors, wall coverings and decorative items. You’d be surprised by what can be picked up for little or no money.

With the average cost of basement remodeling running around $35,000, what better way to turn that problem around?


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