Reigning in Your Basement Renovation Budget

Basement renovation Once you’ve planned out your dream finished basement, the price tag can be staggering.  Although cutting corners in construction to save money is a sure bet for problems down the road, reassessing your priorities can keep your basement renovation budget reasonable while still maintaining a high-quality basement remodel that you’ll enjoy for years to come.

In the end, the most important amenities will depend upon your intended use for your basement.  However, because some features are more costly than others, it’s advisable to think long and hard about which amenities you’ll get the most use from.

Basement Bars

If you’re a hardcore entertainer and regularly throw large get-togethers, a fabulous full basement bar may be just what you need.  However, if you only have guests occasionally, consider toning down your bar a bit.

The sink is the most costly component of a full bar, so if you don’t anticipate frequent use, you can cut costs by simply installing cabinets and a fridge.  This setup still allows you to serve drinks, but doesn’t require plumbing work.

Guest Bedrooms

A guest bedroom is frequently something you’ll only use a few times a year, such as for holidays or other special occasions.  If you don’t plan on having overnight guests all that often, a basement guest bedroom may not be for you.  However, if you frequently have guests or plan to expand your family, an additional bedroom may be just what you need.

Separate Rooms

The expense of doors, studs and drywall needed to create separate rooms quickly adds up.  Having one large space is much cheaper, so unless you have a specific need to close certain areas off, this is a feature you might be able to do without.

Downsizing

Many basements span the entire floor plan of the home, and are thus very large spaces.  It’s therefore entirely possible that you won’t need all of the space in your finished basement; just because it’s there doesn’t mean you have to use it.  Downsizing your plan will cut your budget, and you won’t enjoy your new space any less.

Purchasing Standard Sizes

Buying prefabricated, standard-sized cabinets and countertops avoids the extra cost of custom work.  If it’s possible to use standard sizes for these features, be sure to do so.

Are you currently undertaking your own basement finishing project?  If so, what factors influenced your final budget, and what are your own suggestions about reigning in your basement renovation budget?  Leave us your thoughts in the comment section.

Winterizing Finished Basements

winterWinter is now upon us, and brings with it increased energy usage and potential damages to your home.  Many homeowners overlook the basement when they winterize their homes, but this is an important aspect for many reasons, particularly in finished basements used as living space.  These tips for winterizing finished basements will help you increase your energy efficiency and avoid damages to your home.

Why Your Basement is Cold

Although your cooler basement may be a good thing in the summer months, it becomes a nuisance in the winter.   Basements are surrounded by the ground on at least three sides, meaning that the cold from the frozen ground is transmitted to the basement itself.  Hot air also rises, so your basement, as the lowest point in your home is naturally colder.  Further, most basements aren’t insulated, only compounding these problems.

A cold basement increases your energy bills and risks damages resulting from frozen pipes that burst.  Winterizing finished basements is particularly important, both because the basement is used is a living space and because water damage resulting from a burst pipe is more costly to repair.

How a Cold Basement Increases Your Energy Bill

The basement frequently houses some or all of a home’s utilities including the furnace, HVAC system, water heater, hot water pops, ducts and others.  These utilities use energy to make heat, and if they’re in a cold environment, they need more energy to do so.  This means that every utility housed in your basement is more costly to operate in a cold basement.

A cold basement also results in a cold floor and chilly conditions upstairs, meaning that you will raise the temperature in your home and subsequently increase your energy expenditures even further.

Addressing Energy Loss

Windows are a key source of heat loss in basements.  Replacing windows, especially if they’re north-facing, with energy-efficient windows can make a world of difference.  It’s an up-front investment, but it will save a substantial amount of money on your energy bills and increase your enjoyment of your finished basement in the long run.

Insulating your basement walls is also very helpful, although improper insulation can accumulate moisture and do more harm than good.  Check out our article on basement insulation for more information.

Winterizing Your Pipes

Freezing pipes are particularly problematic in Toronto finished basements due to our cold climate.  It’s thus very important to winterize your pipes to prevent the catastrophic water damage resulting from a burst pipe.

Simply increasing the ambient temperature in your basement through improved insulation and windows will go a long way towards preventing pipe breakage.  You can also insulate pipes with polyetheyleine or fiberbglass tubes to protect them.  On particularly cold nights, it’s also advisable to keep faucets adjacent to external walls dripping.

Taking some extra time for winterizing finished basements can cut your energy bill back dramatically and even prevent damages resulting from frozen pipes.  If you feel out of your element, your basement finishing contractor can also help to make your basement more energy efficient.

Over to You

We’d love to hear your own insights on winterizing basements.  Please leave us your thoughts in the comments section.

Is a Finished Basement for You?

services_basementsFinished basements dramatically increase your home’s usable square footage, and provide an excellent recreation space that you will enjoy with your family for years to come.  A finished basement is also a major selling point, and will increase your home’s value and appeal to potential buyers.

However, basement finishing is a big job, and isn’t a decision to be taken lightly.  Prior to moving forward, consider the benefits, and identify whether they are worth the time, effort and expense.

Benefits of Basement Finishing

 If you’re working with limited square footage, as many Toronto homeowners are, a finished basement is an excellent way to increase your livable space, and is also cheaper than moving or adding on to your house.  Basement finishing runs from about $30 to $55 per square foot, while moving or additions can cost $150 to $200 per square foot.

A fully finished basement provides an excellent recreational space, and is also great for entertaining.  Further, a finished basement increases your home’s value, and makes your home markedly easier to sell when the time comes.

Basement Finishing Cost

Any reputable contractor will tell you that basement finishing is costly.  You can generally expect a finished basement to cost from 10-20% of your home’s total value depending upon the basement size and extent of the remodel.  Any contractor that quotes much less than this amount is likely cutting corners and using subpar materials, so be leery of the lowest bidder.

Consider your personal finances, and also how long you anticipate staying in your current residence.  If you’re not in a great place financially or are planning to move in the near future, it may be best to hold off for a while.  You want to make sure that you’ll be able to enjoy your finished basement for a good long while, and to do so without going bankrupt.

Marketing Matters

Chances are that you will move eventually, and you should always consider the effects that any major renovation will have upon your home’s value and appeal to buyers.  The two main points to consider here are quality and usability.

A well-finished basement makes your home stand out from the rest, and is a huge selling point.  However, visibly shoddy work may be unappealing, as the buyer will be concerned about potential repair costs.  Additionally, be aware that specialty finished basements, such as a photography dark room or microbrewery, for example, may not have a broad appeal to potential buyers.

Over to You

If you’re the proud owner of a finished basement or are currently considering a basement renovation, we’d love to hear your own thoughts on the subject.  Tell us what pros and cons influenced your decision and offer up your own advice by leaving a comment.

Basement Lighting

basement remodelingBasement lighting is an important aspect of any basement remodel.  You’ll want to install adequate, even lighting that lights the entire basement effectively.  There are some special considerations for basement lighting, so you’ll want to choose your lighting carefully.

Special Considerations for Basement Lighting

Your basement is unique from most other rooms in your house in that it has no windows, but is also a fairy large space.  Therefore, you’ll want lighting that is bright and also distributed throughout the space. Additionally, most basements have a relatively low ceiling, so you’ll want to install lighting that doesn’t take up too much vertical space.  For example, pendant lighting may not be the best option for basement lighting.

Can Lighting

Can lighting consists of a round fixture, or can, that is installed above the drywall of the ceiling, meaning that the trim of the fixture is flush with the ceiling.  The bulb is then placed within the can. There are many trim options for can lighting, meaning that it can be customized to your finished basement’s décor.  Can lighting can be installed on both sides of the basement spanning the length of the wall such that the entire basement is evenly lit.

Track Lighting

For the track lighting method, light fixtures are attached on a continuous track that contains electoral conductors.  This is unique from other forms of lighting, which rout to individual light fixtures. Track lighting has several benefits in that it is easy to install, effective and versatile.  Light fixtures can be evenly dispersed throughout the track, or instead focused in particular areas.  Track lighting is an excellent choice for larger spaces that require ample lighting, so it is an ideal choice for finished basements.

Safety First

Any kind of electrical work, including lighting installation, can be very hazardous if done improperly.  Serious or even fatal injury can occur during installation, and an improper install poses a fire hazard.  Don’t be afraid to seek the help of a professional if you’re inexperienced in electrical work and always make sure that contractor’s work get inspected by ESA inspector. This little step that most contractors try to skip will save a lot of trouble down the road.  Fortunately for basement finishing Toronto homeowners have many excellent contractors available. Are you currently undertaking your own basement finishing project?  If so, we’d love to hear about which type of lighting you selected.  Give us your own thoughts on basement lighting in the comments section.

Basement Heating

basementUnfinished basements are used infrequently, and ambient heating coming from above typically keeps the temperature above freezing.  However, finished basements used as living areas need to be kept much warmer.  Due to our cold climate, many Toronto finished basements require some additional basement heating.

In some cases your main HVAC system may be modified to also heat your basement.  This requires additional duct work, and is probably best left to a professional basement finishing contractor or HVAC contractor.  However, if expanding your existing heating and cooling system is impractical, there are other additional basement heating options.

Electric Heaters

Electric heaters are typically the easiest and cheapest to install of all basement heating options, although they cost more to operate than many other options.  However, if you only require occasional heat or are heating a small area, electric heaters can provide comfortable and cost-effective heating.

Direct-Vent Gas Heaters

Because of our cold climate, for finished basements Toronto homeowners may require more efficient, even heating.  Direct-vent gas heaters are energy efficient, and provide constant, thermostatically controlled heat.  Direct-vent gas heaters use natural gas as an energy source, and distribute heated air throughout the room with a fan.  A pipe exits the rear of the heater, and penetrates an exterior wall to vent exhaust gases and intake combustion air.

Fireplaces

Fireplaces can provide both a cozy atmosphere and cozy warmth, although it’s important to select the right kind of fireplace for your basement heating needs.

Wood-Burning Fireplaces

Most standard wood-burning fireplaces suck lots of hot air out of the room, so aren’t necessarily efficient.  Airtight wood-burning fireplaces can provide a reliable heat source, but must be regularly tended and can be a bit messy, so they’re not for everyone.

Direct-Vent Gas Fireplaces

Direct-vent gas fireplaces provide a view of the flames, and produce radiant heat.  Some direct-vent gas fireplaces also have a fan to circulate warmed air, producing a more consistent heat source.

Ventless Gas Fireplaces

Ventless gas fireplaces release combustion products directly into the room.  This makes them more efficient and easier to install, but they can deplete the room’s oxygen supply and produce hazardous fumes.  This is particularly hazardous in basements, which are smaller and have less airflow than your ground floor.  We recommend avoiding ventless gas fireplaces in basements for these reasons.

Radiant Heating

If you will use stone or tile for your finished basement’s floor, you can install a radiant heating system.  A radiant heating system will not only warm the floor, but can also increase the overall temperature of the room, which can eliminate the need for an additional heat source.

When evaluating your basement heating needs and installing some of the more advanced heating options, it may be best to seek the help of a qualified professional.  Fortunately for basement finishing contractors Toronto homeowners have many reputable home renovation professionals available.

Was basement heating a factor in your recent or upcoming basement renovation?  If so, we’d love to hear your viewpoints on the best basement heating options.  Please give us your input in the comments section.

Three Things You Should Know About Basement Finishing

services_basementsBasement finishing adds to your home’s usable square footage and resale value, allowing you and your family to enjoy your home more and making it easier to sell when the time comes.  However, basement finishing is a big job and shouldn’t be undertaken lightly.  Take these considerations into account before beginning.

Is Your Basement Dry?

Moisture and water damage is a major issue for finished basements, and even a small leak can cause thousands of dollars worth of damage.  One of the major issues with basement renovation Toronto homeowners in particular face is moisture because of our considerable annual snowfall.

Before beginning your basement renovation project, make sure that you’re ruled out water issues.  Outside of your home, make sure that the ground is sloped away from the foundation walls, and that the downspouts are functioning properly.  Inside, check the floor, ceiling, walls and drywall for any sign of water damage or mold.

Are You Up to Code?

Check your local building codes, and find out whether you need a permit for your basement remodeling project.  Also make sure that all electrical work is up to code.  Finally, if you plan to use your finished basement as an apartment, be sure that it meets all local regulations.  It may be advisable to consult with a professional basement finishing contractor at this stage of your project planning.  A well-qualified professional will be familiar with all local regulations, and will be able to check over any plans for electrical work.  Fortunately for basement finishing Toronto homeowners have many excellent contractors available.

Are You Within Your Budget?

Basement finishing can be quite costly.  Make sure that all aspects of your project are within your budget so that you don’t overspend or end up with an incomplete remodel that you can’t afford to finish for years on end.  Also be sure to leave a little “wiggle room” so that if things go wrong you’re not over your head financially.

A basement finishing project can be very rewarding if it’s well planned.  If you keep these considerations in mind and carefully plan your project, you’ll be well on your way to a finished basement you can enjoy for years to come.

If you’re currently involved in your own basement renovation project, we’d love to hear your input.  What would you recommend homeowners take into account before starting this project?  Tell us all about it in the comments section.

Preventing Basement Moisture and Mold

basement moldMany homeowners make a substantial investment in basement finishing only to have their new finished basements damaged or destroyed by water damage or mold.  Luckily, this misfortune is largely preventable with good planning and proper construction.  These tips on preventing basement moisture and mold will help you to enjoy your finished basement for years to come without worrying about potential water or mold damage.

Drainage

Your basement is unique from any other room in the sense that it’s underground.  Think of it as a concrete box surrounded by wet soil on all sides, and you’ll get the picture.  When rainwater from even a small storm isn’t diverted properly away from the house, water can easily accumulate.  Ensure that your gutters are clean and in good repair, and that downspouts are diverting water away from your foundation.

One issue with basement finishing Toronto homeowners face is a substantial amount of annual snowfall and subsequent runoff water that saturates the soil.  If groundwater is problematic, a French drain could be a good option.  Talk to your basement finishing contractor about whether this could be a problem in your area, and to discuss potential solutions.

Insulation

Basement insulation has a tendency to accumulate condensation and develop mold growth, so proper insulation is critical to preventing basement mold damage.

Rigid foam board is made of polystyrene, polyisocyanurate (polyiso) and polyurethane.  It is not only highly efficient, but also keeps water vapor in its gaseous state, preventing moisture accumulation.  A vapor barrier may also be helpful.

Minimizing the Potential for Water Damage

Even proper construction cannot prevent the occasional accidental basement flooding.  For this reason, it’s still important to minimize the damage of a potential flood by selecting appropriate flooring.  Stained concrete, tile, laminate flooring and engineered wood are also potential options for finished basement flooring, as they don’t absorb moisture can withstand a certain amount of water damage.

If you’re currently finishing your basement or have had basement moisture issues in the past, we’d love to hear your own ideas and experiences.  Tell us all about it in the comments section.

DIY Basement Finishing

basement-finishing-contractorIf you’re looking to make better use of your basement without breaking the bank, a partial basement renovation may be the best option.  You can also save money by doing part or all of your basement renovation on your own.

 Here we discuss some potential basement renovation options that will make your basement more inviting, but are also inexpensive and easy to install.  For a cheap basement renovation, you may also opt to only install some of the options and leave other features unchanged.

 DIY Basement Flooring

 The most important aspect for any basement floor option is that it be waterproof in the event of a flood.  This protects your investment and helps to prevent costly water damage.

Stained concrete is among the cheapest and easiest basement flooring options.  This involves prepping the surface such that it is smooth and doesn’t show seams using a sander and perhaps a thin layer of special finisher concrete, and then applying a specialized concrete stain and sealant.

If you’re looking for a more advanced but inexpensive option, laminate flooring is another potential basement flooring option.  Advanced amateurs can typically install laminate flooring, but if you’re inexperienced in home repair it may be best left to professionals.  For basement renovation Toronto homeowners have many excellent basement remodeling contractors available.

 DIY Basement Walls

 Simply painting bare walls can significantly improve you basement’s appearance, and the color scheme can be customized to your personal preference.  This is an easy job even if you’re fairly inexperienced in home renovation, and can usually be completed within a day or two.

For a more polished but inexpensive look, you can also use wooden side panels or house siding.  These options are typically a few hundred dollars, and are easily installed by intermediate amateurs.

 DIY Basement Ceilings

 Exposed ceiling are actually quite stylish at the moment, so a simple coat of paint could be an excellent finished basement ceiling option.  We recommend opting for darker colors that minimize contrast.  A paint sprayer might make this job easier.  Most local hardware stores offer fairly inexpensive paint sprayer rental.

If you’re after a more polished look, you can also install a drop ceiling, similar to those seen in office buildings and schools.  This is easily installed by most amateurs, but if you don’t have much home renovation and repair experience, it may be best to consult a professional.

We’d love to hear about your own DIY basement finishing experiences and ideas as a homeowner.  Tell us all about it in the comments section.

Basement Wall Options

basement wallMost new homes are sold with unfinished basements, which are used for storage and as storm shelters.  Basement finishing turns this untapped resource into livable space, increasing your home’s value and your enjoyment of your home. Most unfinished basements have cinder block or poured concrete walls.  In order to finish your basement, the walls must be covered in some way.  There are many potential basement wall options, and the right option will depend upon your budget, decor and intended usage for your finished basement.

Drywall

Drywall is very versatile, as it can be textured, painted, or covered in wallpaper.  For basements, it is best to use mold-resistant drywall to protect against any potential plumbing mishaps.

Wood Paneling

Wood paneling can be used to create a cozy, homey look.  It can also be painted over or covered in paintable wallpaper if you wish to change your look down the road.

Plywood

Plywood is fairly economical, and is also easy to cut in your desired size and install over wall studs.  Additionally, plywood does not absorb as much moisture after painting as drywall, and may be more resistant to any water damage.

Paint

If you are looking for a simple, low-cost option, you can opt to simply paint over concrete or brick walls.  While this may not be as well-finished as other options, it is certainly the most economical basement wall option and is water resistant.  This could be a good option for play rooms or rec rooms.

There are many wall options for finished basements.  Your budget, home decor, basement design and intended purpose for your finished basement will determine the best option for you.  A qualified design professional can help you to select the best option for your needs.  For basement finishing Toronto area residents have many well-qualified basement remodeling contractors available.

Potential Uses for a Finished Basement

services_basementsMost new homes are sold with unfinished basements, which are used for extra storage space, laundry rooms and storm shelters.  However, your basement is an untapped source of square footage, and a good basement finishing job can turn it into a space just as inviting as the rest of your home.  Because basements are “bonus square footage” homeowners often use finished basements as recreation space or to support a specific interest or purpose.

A finished basement is a great investment, as you will be able to enjoy your home more, and your home will be more valuable and easier to sell when the time comes to put it on the market.  Finished basements are often used for the following purposes, and allow homeowners to get the most out of their home.

Man Cave

Guys like to retreat to an space that’s exclusively theirs after a long day to relax and generally decompress.  A finished basement is a great refuge for most men, as it’s somewhat separate from the rest of the house, and can be customized to their interests and hobbies.

Recreation or Hobby Room

A finished basement can be a great place to enjoy hobbies or games that require more square footage than you’d otherwise have available.

Entertaining Space

Basements typically span all or most of a home’s floor plan, so usually consist of a continuous large room before they’re finished.  A finished basement can thus be an ideal entertaining space for hosting large gatherings of friends and family.

Home Theater or Media Room

Basements are separate from the rest of the house and are fairly soundproof even in their unfinished state, so make excellent home theaters for movie lovers and electronics enthusiasts.

Basement Apartment

A finished basement can be converted to an apartment, which can be rented out to tenants in order to supplement mortgage payments or build savings.  A basement apartment is also ideal for elderly parents or adult children, as it allows more privacy for the occupants.

There are many possible uses for a finished basement that can make your home more enjoyable, and allow more flexibility in your living space.  Basement finishing is an extensive undertaking, and some aspects of the project may be best left to professionals.  Fortunately for basement remodeling Toronto residents have access to many qualified basement finishing contractors, and a beautiful finished basement is easily attainable.