Time to up­grade your down­stairs? Here’s what to know be­fore you start

The Denver Post - - LIFE & CULTURE - By Me­gan Buerger

Feel­ing pressed for space? The so­lu­tion might be right un­der your feet.

Fin­ished base­ments are a low-cost way to add re­sale value to your home at a frac­tion of what it costs to build up or out. And while they cer­tainly come with risks, in­clud­ing leaks, most of these ob­sta­cles can be avoided with a lit­tle re­search and plan­ning.

Fin­ished base­ments have steadily be­come among the most pop­u­lar ren­o­va­tion projects dur­ing the past two decades, ac­cord­ing to sur­veys con­ducted by the Na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion of Home Builders (NAHB). About 30 per­cent of con­trac­tors re­port it as the top home­owner re­quest, fol­low­ing kitchen and bath re­mod­els (about 80 per­cent) and ad­di­tions (40 to 50 per­cent). Many home ex­perts at­tribute that to to­day’s volatile real es­tate mar­ket.

“For lots of peo­ple, mov­ing just isn’t an op­tion right now,” said Karen Vi­dal, a part­ner in the Los An­ge­les firm De­sign Vi­dal. “They want to squeeze as much out of their cur­rent homes as they can.”

Vince But­ler, a for­mer chair­man of the NAHB who works for But­ler Broth­ers in Clifton, Va., says that most home base­ment ren­o­va­tions take one to two months to com­plete and cost be­tween $50,000 and $75,000. Ad­di­tions of­ten cost twice that yet have lower re­turns on in­vest­ment be­cause they add less space. In 2017, Re­mod­el­ing mag­a­zine’s an­nual Cost vs. Value sur­vey re­ported that the av­er­age base­ment re­model cost $71,000, with the po­ten­tial added value es­ti­mated at $50,000.

to look at your plumb­ing and heat­ing sys­tems, iden­tify any red flags, and help you crunch the num­bers. That can get com­pli­cated, so here are some key things and a few tricks to mak­ing the most of a dark and dingy room.

First, it’s a good idea to fa­mil­iar­ize your­self with lo­cal build­ing codes, even if you plan on hir­ing a pro­fes­sional to carry out the project. Dif­fer­ent ren­o­va­tions re­quire dif­fer­ent per­mits and in­spec­tions, so hav­ing a sense of the rules will help you set­tle on a re­al­is­tic time­line. Check your county’s web­site for guide­lines. (A tip: Con­struc­tion per­mits can be ter­ri­bly dense, so when it’s time to file, many home­own­ers have their con­trac­tor, de­signer or ar­chi­tect sub­mit on their be­half.)

If you plan to turn your base­ment into a rental unit, be pre­pared to meet a sep­a­rate set of re­quire­ments that, at a min­i­mum, in­clude a sep­a­rate exit or “point of egress” and bath­room. Crisp called the cost dif­fer­ence “a big leap,” es­pe­cially when you con­sider how ten­ants af­fect your mort­gage rate and taxes, along with reg­u­lar main­te­nance.

Clients “of­ten don’t re­al­ize how in­volved it is” to make a unit le­gal, said Bruce Went­worth, owner of ar­chi­tec­tural firm Went­worth, of Chevy Chase, Md. “I tell folks it’s only worth it if they’re com­mit­ted to rent­ing long-term,” he said. “If not, keep it for your­self.”

Home of­fices are less of an un­der­tak­ing, de­pend­ing on how much traf­fic you’re ex­pect­ing. When her com­pany moved from an awk­ward of­fice to a 1,400square-foot open-plan home base­ment two years ago, Cath­leen Gru­ver spear­headed the horsec­oun­try-in­spired re­design.

“The old space didn’t have an area for us to come and work to­gether, so this was an op­por­tu­nity to solve that prob­lem,” she said. In fact, Gru­ver sug­gests that any­one tack­ling a ren­o­va­tion ask two ques­tions to stay on track: What isn’t work­ing, and how will this solve it?

In Gru­ver’s new of­fices, the walls are lined with cus­tom cab­i­netry that dou­bles as desks. There’s a large round ta­ble in the cen­ter of the room for meet­ings that, fit­tingly, makes for a fam­ily-aroundthe-din­ner-ta­ble feel. Gru­ver used light paint col­ors to make the space feel airy and added a $7,000 wet bar and full bath­room for re­sale flex­i­bil­ity ($18,000). All told, the re­design cost $73,000, or about $52 per square foot. She es­ti­mates it would have amounted to closer to $75 per square foot, but trade dis­counts and a long line of fam­ily con­trac­tors helped keep costs low.

Her fa­vorite trick: Splurge on state­ment pieces like a chan­de­lier or small ar­eas like the shower floor. “You need less of it, so you can opt for some­thing nicer,” she said.

For fam­i­lies that want an out-of-the-way space for kids to play, the base­ment can be a great rec room. Some de­sign­ers have found clever ways to up the ante. In 2010, Me­lanie Mor­ris, an in­te­rior de­signer in Brookville, N.Y., turned her base­ment into an in­door hockey rink for her three sons, ages 7, 11 and 13. The sur­round­ing walls are hid­den stor­age clos­ets, and the “rink” is made out of poured rub­ber, a cus­tom al­ter­na­tive to rub­ber mats.

“Base­ment floor­ing should never be an af­ter­thought,” she said. “Don’t make that mis­take. It should be able to weather leaks, floods, con­den­sa­tion. … And if you have kids, it should be able to take a beat­ing.”

Re­gard­less of what you plan to do with the room, Crisp agrees that it’s cru­cial to in­stall wa­ter-re­sis­tant floor­ing. He rec­om­mends in­stalling a moisthat ture bar­rier on top of the con­crete or us­ing wood grain ce­ramic tiles on the con­crete. Gru­ver used vinyl floor­ing, which is wa­ter-re­sis­tant, durable and cost-ef­fec­tive. “If it scratches, you just peel that plank up and put a new one down,” she said.

As cool and calm as de­sign­ers sound, it’s hard not to won­der whether base­ments test their pa­tience. Along with fickle floors and leaky pipes, most base­ments have low ceil­ings (the av­er­age height is 7 feet) and lit­tle to no nat­u­ral light. Thin-lined, low­pro­file fur­ni­ture will help the room feel more spacious, and if adding win­dows is too costly, layer light through­out the area with lamps, sconces and track light­ing.

Fi­nally, nearly all base­ments are in­ter­rupted by at least one bulky beam or in­te­rior col­umn that so of­ten sits in the mid­dle of the room. If that’s the case with your base­ment, what­ever you do, don’t re­move it. It’s sup­port­ing your house. In­stead, fol­low Went­worth’s lead and use strate­gic dec­o­rat­ing to trick the eye.

When he was hired to turn the base­ment of a 1920s row­house into a play space for a fam­ily in 2011, he had to de­sign around two awk­ward beams that flanked the planned seat­ing area. As a so­lu­tion, he cov­ered them — and a few sur­round­ing ducts, pipes and wires — with dry­wall to make them look like struc­tural col­umns. Then, he painted them char­coal gray and lined them with thin strips of birch ply­wood for a dose of ar­chi­tec­tural flair.

“Now it’s the most in­ter­est­ing part of the room,” he said.

Cour­tesy of Ge­off Hodgdon

Ar­chi­tect Bruce Went­worth used thin strips of birch ply­wood to turn two awk­ward beams in this base­ment into a TV con­sole.

Cour­tesy of Alex Kotlik

Me­lanie Mor­ris, an in­te­rior de­signer in Brookville, N.Y., turned her base­ment into an in­door hockey rink for her three sons.

Cour­tesy of Rob Karosis

A home base­ment pub in Dutchess County, New York, de­signed by James Crisp's Mill­brook, N.Y., ar­chi­tec­tural firm.

Cour­tesy of Rob Karosis

Crisp Ar­chi­tects trans­formed this Dutchess County, New York, base­ment into a home gym and sauna.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.