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Basement Remodeling – What Happens When?

DEAR TIM: My children have overtaken our first floor with their toys. I would like to create a recreation room for them in our basement. The floor is concrete. How do I go about starting this project? Is there a wall material which will withstand abuse? Do you have any other suggestions? R.O.

DEAR R. O.: Been there, doing that ... My wife and I are in the same situation. Toys litter the first floor of our house. Kathy, my wife, has instructed me to start a recreation room project to minimize the debris field in our family room.

Finishing an unfinished space is really no different than building a house. The only difference is that the project is smaller in scope. If you plan to add or expand a bathroom or a wet bar as a part of this job, complete all of the plumbing below the concrete floor first. It is important to know wall locations for this work. Drain lines and plumbing vent lines must turn up in the center of certain walls that will surround your bathroom or wet bar.

Once the plumbing has been inspected, patch the concrete floor. Be sure the patch is smooth and in the same plane as the existing floor. Humps or depressions can be telegraphed through resilient flooring or some thinner carpets. If your basement is not waterproofed, you may wish to apply a brush-on cementitious waterproofing compound. Two thin coats applied to a clean, dampened masonry wall can often work wonders.

Wall construction is the next priority. Some people like to use furring strips on concrete block or concrete walls. I prefer to build a 2x4 wall that stands off the masonry wall by one half inch. Masonry walls are not always straight. This space allows you to create a smooth wall in most instances. Install all necessary wood blocking for shelves, wainscoting, crown or other specialty moldings, etc.

The mechanical systems now must be installed. The heating and cooling contractor and the plumber need to meet and coordinate what goes where. The heating contractor's ductwork is often large and cumbersome. The plumber has a little more flexibility with his piping. The electrician should not start until the plumber and heating contractor are complete. Electrical wires can be run just about anywhere. Don't forget to install plenty of telephone outlets for future computer modems. Cable TV and alarm wiring need to be installed at this time as well.

After the electrical work has passed inspection, the exterior walls should be insulated. Try to seal all holes that lead to other rooms or floors at the same time. These are conduits for noise. Don't rely entirely on the ceiling material for sound control. It can be a mistake.

I suggest that you drywall the walls. Then install, using nails only, a decorative paneling wainscoting. Extend the paneling up the wall 32 inches. It will take tons of abuse from dump truck crashes, hockey pucks, and runaway baby carriages. Dings and scratches can be repaired with shoe polish. Should you grow tired of the wainscoting, it can be removed without causing significant damage to the drywall substrate. Consider a suspended acoustical tile ceiling. Drywall ceilings can often make it tough to access utilities that may service other portions of your house.

Your floor covering choice can make or break the room. Think long and hard about wall to wall carpeting or hardwood floors in rooms that are subject to moisture. Vinyl tiles may offer the most flexibility. Using different colors and styles you can create miniature athletic fields, game boards, or other interesting features on the floor. Area rugs or carpet remnants that have bound edges can add warmth and padding in critical areas.

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Remodeling a basement involves lots of tasks. You need to frame walls, install drywall or paneling, build shelves, install doors and trim, suspended ceilings, etc. It helps to have a set of instructions with abundant illustrations. Graphic Guide to Interior Details has it all. This spiral bound book opens easily to the sections that allow you to complete each task. If you follow this book, your basement remodeling job will be heads above the rest!


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