Renovating the basement this fall? Start planning now!

Need more living space?

As your life needs chance often you may find that your home becomes smaller.  Thinking of a quiet retreat?  Maybe your new baby is going to make their appearance soon, or those teenagers need their own space.   Perhaps your laundry room is inefficient.   Often the answer is to make use of that basement space.

So now what?  Well, like any project you may do in your home, a basement development should be planned out in advance.  Do your homework, contact a contractor who will meet with you, help you design your space and answer your questions.  At South Calgary Dreambuilders, we will sit down with you, measure your space and look for potential issues, help design the space and price it out for you – all before we swing a hammer!

Before you even call, there are things you should think of …

Is your basement worthy of development?
Your basement has some room for that bedroom, your entertainment area, or a proper laundry area, but is it a good candidate for a renovation?

If you are planning some basement developments, you should begin by inspecting the basement for potential issues.  Some typical issues that might accompany a basement, especially in an older area, might include:

  • Lack of headroom.  Do you have enough ceiling height to avoid bumping your head on a heating duct, pipe or beam?
  • Moisture.  Do the basement walls feel moist at times, or do you see mold on the floor or walls?  Does it smell musty down there?
  • Cracks in the walls.  Do you have cracks in the floor or walls as wide as a pencil, or cracks that widen and shrink from time to time?

Any of the above issues warrant some investigation, and are issues that should be addressed before any development commences.  All can be fixed, but the cost to repair these issues after you develop your basement will be much higher.

Once you have ascertained that you do or do not have any of the above issues, and you know you want to do some development in your basement, then it is time for the next steps prior to getting the development started.  Any of the issues mentioned above need top be dealt with, a contractor should be selected if you have no already began working with one, and your basement should be prepared for the development that shall soon follow.

Headroom Requirements
A basement ceiling should be high enough to permit ceiling fixtures or fans with space beneath for a 6 foot tall person to stand. Most municipalities require a height of 6’8″ from finished floor to the ceiling in order to issue a building permit, although some places will allow permits where there are limited obstructions such as beams or bulkheads.

Surface Dampness
Dampness (or leaks) in the walls or floor must be corrected, because a damp or wet basement can ruin even the most expensive renovations and make your basement unlivable.

While small cracks in the floor or walls are patchable from the inside of the basement, cracks large enough to stick a pencil in are usually best repaired from the outside of the house.

Other Causes of Moisture
Sometimes moisture problems can be caused by other issues, such as exterior grading, incorrectly installed window wells, eavestrough and downspout issues or even sewer backups.  With proper assessment by a professional, the source of moisture in the basement can be found and the issue resolved.

Getting Started
You have any potential trouble spots addressed, and a contractor chosen, so what is next?  The first step is to sit down with your contractor or a designer to put a set of blueprints in place for your Building Permit. 

A Building Permit is required any time you plan on altering the structure of your home, increasing the size of your windows or exterior doors (for example, if you are developing a bedroom in the basement, the bedroom window may have to be made larger), or apply for an occupancy change, such as installing a rental unit.  A Building Permit application is made to The City of Calgary, or the local municipality.  It will assure that the changes satisfy minimum health and safety requirements. 

Windows are an important part of a basement development, and in many cases upgrades on the basement windows may be required during your project.  Windows play key roles within the building code: ventilation, natural light and emergency escape.

Any finished room in a basement, be it a bedroom, kitchen, den, combined room, or anything other than a bathroom or laundry room, will require a window opening of at least three square feet to provide proper ventilation, although it is recommended that the unobstructed area of glass in a window be at least five per cent of the floor area of each room or combination of rooms to provide natural lighting.  More importantly, where a window is required as a means of egress (escape), it must be 3.77 square feet minimum, be easily reached from the living space, and provide safe access to grade level.  No window required for escape may be less than 15″ in any direction.

Finishing Up
Even the best-designed basement has the potential to experience some kind of serious leak, whether it is a pipe, a spill or something more serious.  It is always in the best interest to use water-resistant or impermeable flooring and wall finishes, such as vinyl flooring and ceramic tile, to lessen the likelihood of damage and make clean-up easier.   In areas that carpet and underpad are used, they should contain no organic materials that may promote mold.

Developing your basement can provide you with  additional value not only in your home, but in your quality of life.  It is important that the groundwork be completed in the early planning stages to ensure that your finished product provides the safety and comfort that you are looking for.  This means planning your project out, making certain that issues such as low headroom or moisture do not rear their heads later in the project, using a contractor who is experienced in the development of spaces like this and using materials that are going to last as long as you require.  

If you are planning some basement development this winter, now is the time to begin that planning process.   Have your contractor come see your home, and the space you want to develop, while any issues can be spotted, and make sure that all of the details are dealt with.

At South Calgary Dreambuilders we will work with you every step of the way, from your initial project planning to the completion of your project.  Over 20 years of renovation projects will benefit you at a price that you can afford.

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