Subterranean living has its advantages. But finishing basements comes with extra challenges, specifically because they are living spaces below grade. Make sure you — or at least your builders — know what they are before embarking on your project.
Basements are not common everywhere. In Oklahoma, for instance, a location in which you would think basements would be standard as refuges from tornadoes, they are fairly rare, due partly to the clay soil there and the high water table. In parts of Tennessee, basements are uncommon due to the pervasive rocky soil.
Many homes in warmer climates, including Texas and Southern California, are built on cement slabs — a shiver-inducing prospect for any denizens of the north. However, an anti-mansionization building code in Los Angeles that outlaws dwelling sprawl has affluent residents digging basements like crazy in search of extra space, some reaching well beyond the footprint of the original home.
Up to Code
Building codes also come into play. In some parts of the country, including Utah, building footings must reach below the frost line in frost-prone areas. The excavation necessary to achieve this makes the construction of a basement level a no-brainer.
So you have your basement, and you want to turn it into a living space. It’s the most economical way to expand, as all the structural components of your rooms are already in place.
But if you’ve ever had water in your basement, this absolutely needs to be taken care of before any construction begins, lest your hard-earned money be washed away in the next downpour.
Common causes for water problems include poorly designed gutter and downspout systems, cracks in the foundation or between the walls and slab, improperly fitted windows and/or window wells, rotting window frames and more. Some fixes are easy while others are not. Improperly directed downspouts can be corrected in minutes — seeping slabs, not so much.
It’s critical to use a longstanding, proven waterproofing company to thoroughly inspect your basement, diagnose leakage problems and fix whatever’s causing them. Waterproofing is a difficult and exact science. It’s expensive, and if it’s not done correctly — the first time — your dream project could turn into a nightmare.
Once you’re sure your basement is dry, finishing work can begin. Even if you have no leaks, basements still are inherently moist and should be constructed with dampness-inhibiting materials, including moisture-resistant drywall (green), waterproof wallboard, PVC molding and water-resistant flooring, to name a few.
Proper insulation, heating and the use of dehumidifiers can further reduce any risk of water damage to your new living space.
If you are considering turning your basement into much-needed living space but are hesitant because of concerns about water damage, call the experts at Falk Construction, Inc. We have remodeled hundreds of basements, successfully arming them against any invading trickle of water. For ideas and a free estimate on finishing your basement, call us today.