Friday, June 24, 2005
Redo that dark, scary basement: Basement Remodeling
By Ann Robinson and Annie Vernon
"We need more space!" is one of the main things we hear from clients who come to us for help with basement remodeling design.
The good news is that most Utah houses have basements that can provide additional livable space. With a good architectural design, even shelf basements with low ceilings and small windows, or basements that have already been poorly "finished," can be remodeled into wonderful, usable space.
Finishing a basement can be a less-expensive alternative to a home addition, and it doesn't require changing the exterior of your home or encroaching into your yard. A remodeled basement is also preferable if you desire to create a room in which you want to block out natural light, such as a TV room or a home theater.
In next week's column we'll tell you how to remedy low-ceilings, partial or shelf basements. Today we'll focus on remodeling the usable basement space you already have.
If your basement has never been finished or was not remodeled properly, the first thing you'll need is a good floor plan. Consider the architectural principle of "flow" or "circulation." How will people get from one space to another? Open floor plans are good, but don't be afraid to include an attractive hallway to allow people to easily move from one space to another.
In older homes, furnaces and water heaters are often in the center of the basement, which obstructs circulation. Rather than trying to work around these utilities, it may be possible to move them to a more remote location in your basement.
Moving the stairs may be necessary to achieve an ideal floor plan. If you alter the stairs in any way, you will be required to bring them up to current building code standards. Remember that you'll need approximately 3 feet by 16 feet of floor space for a safe, usable staircase.
The next principle to consider for your basement is natural light. You can bring more light into your basement — and make your basement safer — by adding or enlarging windows.
Safety codes require that each basement bedroom have a window whose lower ledge is not more than 44 inches from the floor and has at least 5.7 square-feet of clear opening space.
In some cases, large window wells can be terraced away from the window to give the room even more light and a feeling of connection with the outside. An architect can help you understand further possibilities and safety requirements for basement windows and window wells.
Finally, if you want a bathroom in your basement, the easiest place to install one is under an existing bathroom on the main floor. If this location does not work for your basement floor plan, however, drains can be relocated by trenching into the basement's concrete floor.
With all of today's basement remodeling options, basements that were once dark and scary are being remodeled into highly desirable living spaces. As always, we welcome your home architect design questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.