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Basement DIY Remodeling; Preparing for Basement Renovations

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Basement DIY Remodeling; Preparing for Basement Renovations

Have a basement DIY remodeling project in mind? Before you begin basement renovations you will need to evaluate the present condition of the basement construction. But first, a word to the wise. Before you begin any project such as basement remodeling, check your local building code.

Each vicinity has its own guidelines as requirements for living spaces; the Texas building code will differ from the Chicago building code. And what was true several years ago might have changed since then. You can access the building code online for your city and state by performing an Internet search.

Remodeling Plan #1; Evaluate your Basement Beforehand

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Although basement finishing is possible in most cases, it is nevertheless important to evaluate basement design beforehand. Besides condition and type of wall (wood basement framing wall, masonry, etc.) and basement flooring, take into account other factors, as well.

Two basement negatives that can put a quick stop to basement renovations are headroom and moisture.

Adequate Headspace

Evaluate whether or not your basement has the headspace required before beginning your basement DIY remodeling project. First, measure from the basement floor to the bottom of the floor joists above.

Most renovation codes require the following as minimum ceiling heights:

  • Habitable rooms — 7 ft.
  • Bathrooms and Hallways — 7 ft.
  • Obstructions (spaced no less than 4 ft. apart) — 7 ft.

Measurements are from the finished floor to the lowest part of the finished ceiling. Obstructions such as beams, soffits, and pipes can usually hang down 6 below the usual obstruction limit.

While it is impractical to try and add extra headroom in basements, there are some ways to work around requirements. Ducts and pipes might be able to be moved; beams and other obstructions incorporated into walls. In addition, some codes permit lower ceiling heights in rooms with specific purposes; for example, recreation rooms.

Check with the local building department as to what special considerations can be made.

Check for Moisture

Checking for moisture before beginning any basement DIY remodeling plan is critical. Problem moisture can appear in two forms: condensation and seepage. Condensation is airborne water vapor that turns to water after contacting a cold surface. Seepage is water that enters the basement through cracks in the foundation or leeching through the masonry.

A basement remodeling contractor can help you determine whether or not moisture problems in your basement exist, and if so — their source. Before beginning a basement finishing project, basement waterproofing is required in order to avoid costly problems.

Other Considerations

Aside from adequate headroom and moisture, there are other important considerations to take into account before beginning your do it yourself basement remodeling project:

  • Masonry — check for large cracks which could signify shifting of the soil around foundation; bowed or out-of-plumb walls that could be structurally unsound. Basement remodeling tip: small cracks in masonry usually cause moisture, not structural, problems. These should be sealed to prevent further cracking.
  • Location of water heaters, pipes, circuit boxes, wiring, duct work, and furnaces can significantly affect remodeling cost as well as the complexity of your basement remodeling project. Can you plan around these type components? If not, can they be moved? Is the ceiling high enough to install a suspended ceiling to conceal the components, yet keep them easily accessible for repair purposes.
  • Condition of floor joists, wood posts, and beams; damaged, weakened framing will have to be reinforced or replaced.
  • Possible toxic elements — the most common of which is radon, a naturally occurring odorless, colorless radioactive gas. The Environmental Protection Agency offers free materials to assist in testing for radon, and how to reduce levels. Visit www.epa.gov/iedweb00/pubs/insidest.html. Look for the phrase Meets ERA requirements when obtaining a kit to be sure it works accurately.
  • Insulation — many older homes used insulation containing asbestos for ductwork and heating pipes. In many cases this type insulation can be left alone if in good condition. If you are concerned the insulation poses a health threat, contact an asbestos removal contractor to evaluate or safely remove it.
  • Exits — your local building code will most likely require two. A stairway is generally considered as one, the other can be an exit door to the outside; or an egress window that can be opened from the inside without the use of a key or tool.
  • Stairways — check your local building code online to determine what requirements must be met. Typical requirements might include stairs with at least a 36-inch width with a minimum of 6 ft. 8-inches headroom, and a maximum riser height of 7 -inches. Handrails are also required.

A home remodeling contractor can make sturdy stairs that meet or exceed local building code requirements. Or help you with any or all of your basement evaluation or basement remodeling plan. After all, even a basement DIY remodeling handyman needs remodeling help now and then. Especially when planning a complicated project.

TrustedPros.com members can post their basement remodeling idea online for free. Start receiving competitive bids from building contractor members in a matter of days. Each experienced in basement remodeling, and waiting to lend a helping hand.

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