Common myths about remodeling your basement

Remodeling or finishing your basement can add valuable living space to your home. However, it’s a big project that requires careful planning and budgeting. There are some common misconceptions about basement remodeling that you should be aware of before starting the project. This article will debunk five myths about basement remodeling so you can make informed decisions.

Basements require a lot of work to make them livable spaces. Between framing walls, running electricity and plumbing, installing ventilation, adding insulation, and finishing the floors and walls, it’s a major undertaking. Working with a design build firm can help streamline the process. However, a finished basement adds useful space to your home that can be used as a spare bedroom, home office, playroom, or living area. The key is going into the project with clear expectations and an understanding of what’s involved, both in terms of cost and construction. By understanding the realities behind five common remodeling myths, you’ll be better prepared to take on a basement project with confidence.

Myth 1: Finishing your basement is easy and inexpensive

Many homeowners assume that finishing a basement will be a simple, low-cost project. However, basement remodels often involve complicated structural work, plumbing, electrical, HVAC, and meeting building codes. Unforeseen issues like moisture, drainage, and insulation challenges can significantly increase the cost.

Professional contractors estimate that the average basement remodel costs $25,000 to $50,000 or more. Between demolishing existing walls, underpinning the foundation, installing egress windows, framing, running electric and plumbing lines, hanging drywall, and finishing trims, it quickly adds up. Don’t underestimate the investment required to waterproof walls, improve ventilation, add necessary beams, and bring things up to code. Work with a design-build firm early on to develop accurate estimates. Finishing your basement is far from easy, and rarely inexpensive. Going in with realistic expectations will prevent sticker shock down the road.

Myth 2: Any room in the basement can become a bedroom

Building codes have strict requirements for legally converting a basement into finished bedrooms and bathrooms. Simply framing some walls and adding carpet is not enough. Bedrooms need emergency exit windows, smoke detectors, and a direct route to the upstairs. Bathrooms require proper ventilation, waterproofing, and plumbing. There are also minimum ceiling height and lighting requirements.

Meeting all of these code stipulations can add significant costs to a basement remodel. If your basement doesn’t meet these requirements, you may be limited to finishing it as a rec room, office, gym, or workshop instead of legal bedrooms and baths. A design build firm can assess your basement and drawings to determine if a true bedroom or bathroom conversion is feasible. Don’t assume any room in your basement can become a bedroom without consulting the building codes first. Doing this work improperly could cause issues when you go to sell your home.

Myth 3: Musty odors and dampness can easily be remedied

The belief that musty basement odors and dampness can be easily fixed with some air freshener and a dehumidifier is a myth. These issues often indicate larger moisture problems that require more than a quick cover-up. Sources of dampness like leaks, inadequate drainage, lack of vapor barriers, or high humidity can allow mold growth and cause lasting damage if left unaddressed. Covering damp walls with new drywall or carpet will likely lead to continued mold issues.

To truly remedy musty smells and persistent dampness, the root causes of moisture need to be fully diagnosed and repaired. This may involve excavating for drainage improvements, installing vapor barriers, sealing cracks, improving ventilation, and other substantial work. While air purifiers and dehumidifiers can help temporarily, they don’t fix the underlying moisture sources. Don’t look for quick fixes – solving moisture issues requires a thorough approach.

Myth 4: Any contractor can handle a basement remodel

Basement remodeling requires specialized expertise that many general contractors lack. Look for a contractor who specializes in basement finishing and has a proven track record of successful basement projects. They should understand critical elements like moisture management, adding structural supports, proper drainage and ventilation, mold-resistant materials, and meeting code requirements.

Basements are prone to moisture issues, so the contractor should install vapor barriers and waterproofing correctly. They also need knowledge of load-bearing walls and how to reinforce the structure. Drainage, fans, and dehumidifiers are needed to prevent mold growth. There are building codes related to basement living spaces too. Finishing a basement is very different from building an addition or renovating a kitchen. Make sure you hire a contractor with the right specialty experience for your basement remodel.

Myth 5: A remodel will increase home value by the amount invested

Many homeowners assume that the money they invest in a basement remodel will directly translate to added resale value for their home. However, this is often not the case. While finishing a basement can certainly increase the value of your home, you will likely not recoup 100% of the remodel costs.

The return on investment depends on factors like the home’s location, the housing market demand, how well the new space flows with the rest of the home, and the quality of the remodel work. Higher-end finishes and legal bedrooms and bathrooms tend to add more value than basic unfinished spaces. Typically, a basement remodel will only increase the home’s resale value by 50-80% of the total cost of the project. So while a remodel is worthwhile for the extra living space, do not expect it to completely pay for itself in added home value if you sell.

Finishing a basement is an appealing project, but also requires realistic expectations. It’s important to dispel myths about low costs, easy DIY, moisture control, contractor capabilities, and resale value. Careful planning and sufficient budgets are needed for proper moisture barriers, drainage, ventilation, permits, and specialized contractors.

While added living space is invaluable, homeowners should not expect to fully recoup the remodel investment if selling. Setting realistic expectations about the commitment, costs, and value can help homeowners decide if a basement remodel is right for their needs and budget. With proper precautions and an experienced contractor, a finished basement can become a wonderful asset.