4 Things to Know Before Renovating Your Basement

Turning your dark (and possibly damp) basement into an actual living space can add a lot of square footage—not to mention value—to your home. But before beginning a project like this, it pays to do your homework. We spoke to Jean Brownhill, founder/CEO of Sweeten, a free service that matches homeowners with vetted general contractors, who described some of the issues facing homeowners considering basement renovations. Here are our takeaways.

Know What You’re Working With

To make the most of the space you have and to get the most from your money, take measurements of the livable square footage you’ll be adding by renovating the basement. Keep in mind that a boiler or mechanical room can take up hundreds of square feet of space.

(Left: Before; Right: After) Blackstone oak flooring, COREtec; wall color, “Dolphin Fin,” Behr; trim color, “White Dove,” Benjamin Moore. All photos courtesy of Sweeten.

Know The Codes In Your Area

If you envision more of a living space than a laundry or storage area, you may need to create a second form of egress in order to pass inspection. A second exit, such as a window or door, will likely be necessary. That usually means digging to make an open passageway on one side of the building to create a means of entry and exit.

Know How To Avoid Construction Complications

If you want to add a bathroom, laundry room or kitchen, it’s best to run the plumbing under the concrete flooring to avoid any flooding.

(Left: Before; Right: After) Wall color, “Dolphin Fin,” Behr; cabinets and countertops, Ikea

Know How To Keep The Space Healthy

“If you’re converting the space into a bedroom, it’s important to keep toxic mold at bay. Mold feeds off moisture. Remove humidity using exhaust fans. They can be turned on automatically when the lights are switched on, or be equipped with sensors that switch the fans on once humidity gets above a certain level. In addition, research in-wall insulation that prevents moisture from entering in the first place.

When it comes to turning your basement into a living space, there are no deal breakers. Any problem—bad plumbing, lack of natural light, high humidity—can be sorted out to transform your basement.

Sweeten, a free service matching homeowners with vetted general contractors, checks in on renovations from start to project completion. The company’s New Jersey service areas include Bergen, Essex and Hudson Counties.