Basement Remodeling - Setting Up

Besides remodeling your basement, other options for the homeowner seeking more living space inside the home includes: go up; go out, or take over the garage. You can also build above the garage if you have either a separate or adjoining garage with its own roof.

Going Up: In most cases going up requires taking the roof joists and roof deck off the home to accommodate the space. In older homes they used dormers to get the extra space for bedrooms and this was easily done because of the pitch of the roofs and the roofing system which was not made from trusses. Today the triangular maze of roofing trusses makes it difficult to have anything but storage space without taking the roof completely off and going up a story. This requires the expertise of a structural engineer because the walls and foundation may have to be strengthened. And this means a very expensive endeavor.

Going Out: Like taking off the roof and going up this can be a major building project which could cost as much or more as moving to a bigger home. The one advantage is that you don't have the mess inside the home because the dirty and dangerous work in additions is usually finished before the wall between the new and the old is taken out. The expense goes up if you decide on a basement foundation instead of a pad or post support. As well, there is the issue of joining a new roof to an old one. There is no way a contractor can match either the shingles or the metal so this will have to be redone as well.

Garage: A standard 2-bay garage can provide as much as 800 square feet of space complete with electrical wiring and, in some cases heat. Most are insulated and garage floors are usually meticulously level so flooring would be no problem. As well, homes built in the past 20 years have easy access to plumbing if it is not already included in the space.

The downside to a using garage for living is that you will lose a great storage and work environment as well as a shelter for your vehicles. But the biggest problem with using a garage for a living space is the resale value. National real estate studies have shown that home without garage space sit longer and sell for less than comparable homes in the same area even if the living space is larger. In other words, people want to put their cars in a garage. The other factor is that some covenants do not allow cars to sit out on a driveway.

Going Down

In the past basements were dank spaces where you stored your recreational gear, tools and old furniture. Some people used them for workshops and kids rode their bikes there in the winter. It was not considered a serious space. In the 1960's the “rumpus room” became popular, especially in dry areas of the country. But this trend led to both contractors and homeowners to take another look at this forgotten space. First, however, the issue of moisture had to be considered and then solved.

Drainage: To make the places drier they used better drainage on the outside to steer water away from the foundation.

Pumps: For wet areas sump pumps below the floor level in self-contained rooms could transfer this water to a storm drain on the street.

Foundation Repair: Cracks in the foundation could now be fixed by new methods of filling the fissure from within and, in many cases, sealing it permanently.

Windows: Vinyl and aluminum windows replaced the old wooden frames that could rot when snow and rain settled against them for too long. In addition new designs in window wells prevent water from get onto the sub-ground-level windows.


Just as you would do with any remodel a design for the basement layout has to be decided. Unless you plan to keep the layout just the way it is you will need help.

Structure: Certain walls and beams may be the support structures for the building. If they get in the way of your new design then you will have to consult an engineer to redesign the load bearing structures.

Plumbing: If your basement is below street level then you will have an extra expense putting in a bathroom because the sewage has to be pumped up to the main sewer line. However, new strides in plumbing mean that you can have a shower and a below grade toilet in this situation without a major cost.

Sewage Ejector Toilet: This is basically a 6” polyethylene pedestal that can be mounted down at floor level and provides the base for the toilet. Inside the pedestal unit there are impellors as well as a sewage pump. These process the toilet waste whereby it is pumped up into the main sewer line.

Composting Toilet: The composting toilet is another below-grade fixture but this one eliminates the need for a pump to get rid of the waste because it really doesn't. This toilet does not require a water inlet and is not connected to a sewer line. The only connection is the electrical supply. Here's how it works: Like a septic tank, approximately 90 percent of toilet effluent. The composting toilet uses a small electric heater and fan to evaporate the liquids through an attached vent pipe. What remains is the solid material that breaks down with bacteria and microbes leaving a soil-like compost. This residue drops through into a tray in the bottom of the toilet. The great things is that this only needs to be emptied once a year - and it is great garden compost.

Posted by: TrustedPros
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