Thinking About Finishing Your Basement? Here are 5 tips to help you avoid hassles:
1. Hire a home inspector to examine your basement. This is the first prep step you should take, and yet most people skip it. A home inspector can inspect your basement for the following issues:
- Presence of mold
- Troublesome cracks in the foundation
- Plumbing repairs that need to be corrected
- Problems with the heating system that need attention
- Electrical wiring that may pose a fire hazard or be outdated
If problems are found, the inspector can recommend the type of pro who can best do the repair for you. It is much easier to fix these issues before you install walls and ceilings.
Plus, when you go to sell the house, you will have an inspection report to show prospective buyers the state of your basement prior to the finishing work.
2. Perform a radon test. Again, very few people take this step. Radon is a colorless, odorless gas that exists indoors as well as outdoors. In high doses, radon is believed to be a health hazard that can cause cancer. If you plan to spend a lot of time enjoying your finished basement, check first to see that the radon levels are within EPA recommended ranges.
If your radon test comes back high, contact a radon mitigation company. They can install a system to ventilate the air in the basement and monitor radon levels.
3. Seal the foundation and floor. Most basements are made of concrete. Concrete is a porous material, which means it absorbs moisture. Even if you have a "dry" basement, be assured there is moisture present, and excessive moisture can of course grow mold and destroy finished surfaces in the basement.
Before you finish your basement, be sure to seal the walls and floor. This will help reduce (but not eliminate) the amount of moisture that comes in through the foundation.
4. Eliminate any sources of water, even if it is "just" seepage. If you have a problem with water coming into the basement, even very light puddling, eliminate the source before you finish the basement. Many causes of water in the basement can be easily cured. Check for these sources of water:
- Improper gutter function (or missing gutters altogether). Gutters help direct water away from your home. If water is overflowing out of the gutters, they may need to be cleaned of leaves and debris. Or they may simply be installed improperly. Take care of this and clean them out on a regular basis.
- Poor grading of the soil around the foundation. If the soil near your foundation slopes toward the house, rather than away from the house, you may get water in the basement. Contact a landscape professional to help you deal with this problem.
- Dripping outdoor spigot. If you have a small area of your basement that gets wet, check to be sure that a spigot is not leaking. This can cause the ground to become saturated, and guess what? The water comes into the basement.
5. Submit a permit application to your town building inspector. This is another step that people often skip, probably because they do not want the town inspector telling them what they can and can not do. But if you go through the proper channels, you'll have the building inspector on your side to inspect and approve your workmanship. This is especially important when dealing with electrical and plumbing changes. You'll know your work is up to building code.
Call the town inspector, get a permit and get it done right!
If you take these 5 steps before your start to finish your basement, you will reduce the chances of having to deal with do-overs and costly missteps. You'll also have some peace of mind knowing you did everything you could to create a sound "foundation" for your finished basement. Good luck!
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Text and photos copyright Kathryn J. Acciari unless otherwise noted.
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Kathryn Acciari, Brand Ambassador
Century 21 Real Estate LLC
175 Park Avenue
Madison NJ 07940
Serving Brokers, Owners, and Agents Throughout New England
Cell: (508) 982-0686
Blog: Real Estate Blog