Big family, small house dilemma -- kid bedrooms in basement?

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WaffleCone
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Big family, small house dilemma -- kid bedrooms in basement?

Post by WaffleCone » Fri Aug 11, 2017 6:32 pm

Anyone have real-life experience with putting the kid bedrooms in the lower level (daylight basement)?

We are a family of 6 with 4 kids (under 8yrs) living in a 1600sqft 3bd/1.5ba ranch. The main issue is bedrooms, which are all situated on one side of the house. When one person wakes up, everyone does. Noise travels mercilessly. No one has any personal space. Because everything is connected on the main floor, it bascially feels like living in one big room.

Moving or doing a second story will hit us for a $300k additional cost, which would leave us house poor. We've serached for houses for 2 years so we know well what's out there.

The saving grace (in my mind) is that we have an 1100 sqft daylight basement, albeit only semi-finished and a second class space. BUT-- it's 1100 sqft, has lots of windows, is heated, has a full bath, rec room with gas fireplace, and laundry. PLUS a 500 sqft 2 car garage. That's 3200 sqft under our roof now.

Am I crazy for wanting to convert it all to a living level for the kids? Open the stairs and finish the space to the same quality as the main level. I'd like to put in 4 bedrooms from the get-go, converting the garage space (legally with permits, egress, etc). But I could start with one and see how it goes without touching the garage. Main floor bedrooms would stay the same for now since the kids are young, but could eventually be reconfigured into more kitchen space, office, etc.

The wife is not convinced. The basement windows are low to the ground and lack privacy, which is also a safety issue in her mind. She doesn't like the idea that the kids could sneak in and out when they get older. This level is also our day-to-day entry area (we don't use our front door often) so we'd be going through a "bedroom level" to get to the main floor. She'd prefer to put the money into a second story addition, which I agree is the smarter money but you need more of it.

I'm thinking the basement reno can be achieved around $100k including a proper garage conversion. It would be an unusual setup but not unheard of in our area. I don't like the idea of spending that if it really is odball and will hurt if we sell. But if it works and gets us by 10 years (time is FLYING with kids), then it's worth it to me.

Boglehead advice?

livesoft
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Re: Big family, small house dilemma -- kid bedrooms in basement?

Post by livesoft » Fri Aug 11, 2017 6:42 pm

I lived w/sibling in a basement br as a teenager while parents and other siblings lived 2 floors up. No one had their own bedroom.

So I don't understand the issue.
Last edited by livesoft on Fri Aug 11, 2017 7:16 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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finite_difference
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Re: Big family, small house dilemma -- kid bedrooms in basement?

Post by finite_difference » Fri Aug 11, 2017 7:15 pm

If the air quality is good, I don't see an issue with having a bedrooms in the basement. Check for Radon. And mold. And fire safety -- so being able to climb out of the windows, fire detectors in each bedroom, etc.

$100k seems expensive but if it makes it really nice then would be worth it. If you can't get both good air quality and fire safety then the 2nd floor sounds like a better idea.

bayview
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Re: Big family, small house dilemma -- kid bedrooms in basement?

Post by bayview » Fri Aug 11, 2017 7:29 pm

FDH (former dear husband, not all that dear, actually) and I lived in the basement for several years. We eventually moved back upstairs, and our teenaged son took over the basement.

None of us seemed particularly bothered.

One consideration might be that if your kids are old enough to consider themselves free-range, it can be hard to control their movements when they're on a separate floor with its own door to freedom.

eta: if you're thinking about safety, as in fire, I think it would be safer to be on the lower level with easy escape to the backyard than up on the second floor, having to rely on the stairs or a fire escape ladder. Sometimes I think that the debate over this depends on whether you think your dangers are from the inside (e.g. fire) or the outside (e.g. stranger invasion.)
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ReadyOrNot
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Re: Big family, small house dilemma -- kid bedrooms in basement?

Post by ReadyOrNot » Fri Aug 11, 2017 7:33 pm

I don't see much of an issue either. Habitability must depend on what part of the country you are in. We used to live in a house with a daylight basement (buried on one side, regular door and sliding door on the other side). It originally was an unfinished basement, we sort of amateurishly finished it to some degree. That kind of thing was pretty common back then, as housing tracts were built post-war to accommodate the baby boom. People bought houses with unfinished basements and attics, and made them living spaces as needed. I thought everybody did it.

mhalley
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Re: Big family, small house dilemma -- kid bedrooms in basement?

Post by mhalley » Fri Aug 11, 2017 8:08 pm

Privacy can be fixed with curtains, blinds, frosted windows etc. you could always alarm the windows if the kids become delinquents. Or put in security cameras outside that are movement activated and send you notifications.

Pigeon
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Re: Big family, small house dilemma -- kid bedrooms in basement?

Post by Pigeon » Fri Aug 11, 2017 8:25 pm

Do you have any realtor friends you could discuss this with? I would be concerned about resale. I wouldn't buy a house like that for $100K more than a 3 bedroom ranch as it's not space I'd want to live in, but I'm sure it all depends on what's normal for your area.

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Watty
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Re: Big family, small house dilemma -- kid bedrooms in basement?

Post by Watty » Fri Aug 11, 2017 8:53 pm

I would highly recommend not converting the garage into a room. In my suburban area I would guess that maybe 95% of potential buyers will not even look at a house without a garage or at least a carport.

In my area there are also county zoning limits on how many cars you can park in the driveway or street. I think it is three and as the kids start driving you may have problems with having too many cars for your local zoning laws or HOA rules if you have one.

Putting on a second story addition would likely require you to move out for the better part of a year so that is likely not feasible.
WaffleCone wrote:We are a family of 6 with 4 kids (under 8yrs) living in a 1600sqft 3bd/1.5ba ranch.
You are way over planning this.

For each kid to have their own bedroom you only need two more bedrooms in the basement.

Assuming that to legally put a bedroom in the basement does not require any major changes you are basically talking about putting up a few walls, a ceiling, flooring and upgrading the electric and HCAV system as needed. A 10x10 bedroom would be a bit on the small size but still acceptable. 12x12 would be a fine size for a bedroom. You should be able to do that for a fraction of the $100K that you mentioned.

I would be concerned about having 6 people with only 1.5 bathrooms as the kids get older. so you might want to budget for another full bathroom if you remodel.

In the upstairs you can add soundproofing to the walls and get better doors to cut down on the noise problems.

One thing to remember too is that you only have about ten years until your oldest kid will likely head off to college. If you spend a year doing a big remodel that means that you will only have about 9 years to get the full use of it until the kids start leaving and then you may have too much space.

WaffleCone
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Re: Big family, small house dilemma -- kid bedrooms in basement?

Post by WaffleCone » Fri Aug 11, 2017 10:38 pm

We have a real estate agent friend who said that not having a garage is a negative for resale, mainly becuase no matter how nice the house is the auto-searches filter it out before people even see it. On the flip side, no one around here actually uses their garage for parking and the extra bedrooms would be very appealing to some buyers. Our driveway can park 4+ cars without having to jockey them around to get out. And we have a large outbuilding if someone wanted a workshop. If it meets our needs for 10 years then resale isn't a factor in my mind.

Without touching the garage we could fit two 8.5 x 12 bedrooms. Using the garage space gives us more flexibility with room size. I was planning for 4 bedrooms in the basement to keep all the kids on one level. They are back and forth from their rooms 1000x times a day and it seems like the flow would be much better that way. Once the kids start going to college the rooms could be used for anything: fitness, home office, etc.

To do a proper garage conversion bumps up the cost a lot though. We'd demo and replace the concrete floor, and match brick work and landscaping on the outside so it doesn't look like a converted garage. Plus the extra HVAC costs.

Regarding the bathrooms, we already have a full bath in the basement and have plans to add a shower to the master powder room. That will give us 3 full baths total which should be OK. Ideally I'd squeeze an ensuite onto a basement bedroom for my little girl but space is tight.

Moving is $300k plus an extra $5k/year in taxes. An addition is a tax bump as well, a big inconvenience, and seems like we're adding space without making use of the space we already have.

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celia
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Re: Big family, small house dilemma -- kid bedrooms in basement?

Post by celia » Fri Aug 11, 2017 11:09 pm

I will dare to say that this can be a gender issue. As a mom, I insisted being within range of sleeping/studying kids, in case of fire or earthquake or whatever your local environmental hazards are (tornadoes, hurricanes). I also wanted to minimize the chance of any teenage hanky-panky in my house and inappropriate internet usage.

The windows seem like they could be a problem. Have you slept down there during each season? We have windows on the east side where the sun shines on some of the beds, even though there are curtains and window shade film on the windows. The occupants wake up roasting when that happens (for 2 or 3 weeks twice a year as the sun moves from north to south and back through the seasons).

WaffleCone wrote:I was planning for 4 bedrooms in the basement to keep all the kids on one level. They are back and forth from their rooms 1000x times a day and it seems like the flow would be much better that way.
Why don't you change the flow of people by reserving the bedrooms for sleeping and studying? Have them play games in the basement and move the sports equipment there. Actually, anything beside clothes and school stuff could go in the basement. Maybe you need carpeting in the existing bedrooms so people can sleep without being woken up so easily. Are the bedroom walls insulated?

If you are going to do any additions, you will need a second full bathroom. One and a half baths isn't going to be easy for 6 people getting dressed at the same time when they are older. Make it 2 1/2.

malabargold
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Re: Big family, small house dilemma -- kid bedrooms in basement?

Post by malabargold » Sat Aug 12, 2017 12:40 am

Radon check

IowaFarmBoy
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Re: Big family, small house dilemma -- kid bedrooms in basement?

Post by IowaFarmBoy » Sat Aug 12, 2017 7:36 am

This may have been mentioned already but I didn't see it.

In most localities, you will need to have egress windows in each basement bedroom to comply with code so that they can escape without having to go up the (potentially burning) stairs and to allow access for firefighters. There are requirements how big they need to be and how far up they can be from the basement floor so check with your local building inspection department. The window well on the outside will probably need to have a ladder. Even if not required by local code, this seems like a basic safety issue that I would want to pursue if our kids were sleeping down there.

They are not terribly expensive. A friend had one installed here in central Illinois for something like $2200 but our costs here are much lower than in some other parts of the country.

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Tamarind
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Re: Big family, small house dilemma -- kid bedrooms in basement?

Post by Tamarind » Sat Aug 12, 2017 7:42 am

Were it me I'd definitely move the kids downstairs but see if I could reduce the cost by leaving the garage alone. Any alterations for the kids are unlikely to add to resale nor to livability as they move out, at least not for me since I don't care about a garage but would hate a space chopped into tiny rooms. So do what's needed to keep the living situation tolerable, including the garage conversion if you feel there's no other choice. You could keep younger kids closer in the main floor bedrooms.

You don't tell us what the age spread is...but you seem to know your real estate market. 6 bedroom homes are so rare. Any chance of finding a 4-5 br within $100k-200k of your current house? If the kids are spread out enough the youngest two could share until the oldest goes off to school.

As a mostly joking final alternative, how much boarding school would your reno budget cover? :D

ETA: I don't think wanting to have kids close/safe is especially a gendered thing. From my POV it's important through about toddler age when they can be susceptible to hurting themselves with no outside influence, plus are unable to help themselves in an emergency. After that I'd trade a little worry for a lot of sleep. I'd make sure the house had good alarms and test the alarm ability to wake the kids, but a 6-year old can and should understand and be able to practice emergency egress. Anyway, within 5 years you'll have at least one tween and that really changes the balance of needs.

sesq
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Re: Big family, small house dilemma -- kid bedrooms in basement?

Post by sesq » Tue Aug 15, 2017 6:58 am

Perhaps you move a couple kids down and then soundproof the bedrooms a bit. Could be as easy as adding a second layer of drywall to the walls and ceilings. Adding insulation to the voids could help too. AVSforum (home theater) has a lot of resources on this topic in their dedicated theater forum. I don't think you will want to do the full treatment that is needed to contain subwoofers and massive speakers but I don't know your kids.

I would not want to lose the garage.

SimonJester
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Re: Big family, small house dilemma -- kid bedrooms in basement?

Post by SimonJester » Tue Aug 15, 2017 9:11 am

I would not convert the garage as other have said.

Another thing to consider once the kids become teenagers they either disappear into their rooms and you dont see or hear from them again until supper time, or they go off with friends and again you dont see / hear from them again.

I would either put two bedrooms downstairs, or a single bedroom downstairs with a "play" area downstairs.

Look in a blink of an eye your kids will be off college, save some of that money and take several memorable vacations now while you kids still want to interact with you. When they are older teenagers they do not want to hang out with Mom and Dad any more and family vacations are forced at best...
"They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety." - Benjamin Franklin

Atilla
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Re: Big family, small house dilemma -- kid bedrooms in basement?

Post by Atilla » Tue Aug 15, 2017 9:33 am

We use our finished basement as a master bedroom suite. There is a wall of half windows, so emergency escape is not a problem.

It's cool, dark and extremely quiet. We have a bar, a large sectional sofa and big screen TV along with our bedroom set.

Consider moving your bedroom to the basement and leaving the kids upstairs. :D
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Juliajones54
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Re: Big family, small house dilemma -- kid bedrooms in basement?

Post by Juliajones54 » Tue Aug 15, 2017 9:57 am

Atilla wrote:
Tue Aug 15, 2017 9:33 am
We use our finished basement as a master bedroom suite. There is a wall of half windows, so emergency escape is not a problem.

It's cool, dark and extremely quiet. We have a bar, a large sectional sofa and big screen TV along with our bedroom set.

Consider moving your bedroom to the basement and leaving the kids upstairs. :D
That is exactly what we did. We had a master bedroom, bath, family room and laundry in the daylight basement with entrance from the garage or up the stairs to the front. It was all beautifully finished. We had room darkening blinds and it was quiet and cool. The wood floors squeaked upstairs so kids couldn't sneak in or out, but we thankfully didn't have that problem.

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Re: Big family, small house dilemma -- kid bedrooms in basement?

Post by barnaclebob » Tue Aug 15, 2017 10:09 am

WaffleCone wrote:
Fri Aug 11, 2017 6:32 pm
The wife is not convinced. The basement windows are low to the ground and lack privacy, which is also a safety issue in her mind. She doesn't like the idea that the kids could sneak in and out when they get older. This level is also our day-to-day entry area (we don't use our front door often) so we'd be going through a "bedroom level" to get to the main floor. She'd prefer to put the money into a second story addition, which I agree is the smarter money but you need more of it.

I'm thinking the basement reno can be achieved around $100k including a proper garage conversion. It would be an unusual setup but not unheard of in our area. I don't like the idea of spending that if it really is odball and will hurt if we sell. But if it works and gets us by 10 years (time is FLYING with kids), then it's worth it to me.

Boglehead advice?
Put shades on the windows, its not a safety issue at all. kids live in 1st floor bedrooms all over the world. Kids sneaking in and out also happens all over the world, you can't control them forever and they will find ways to get around you if they want to. Or you will have to be mercilessly controlling which would be worse.

Why can't you finish it into proper bedrooms where a hallway leads from your main entry to the stairs?

$100k seems ridiculously expensive if the bathroom and utilities are already there. It should just be framing some walls right? Don't convert the garage unless you have to.

soupcxan
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Re: Big family, small house dilemma -- kid bedrooms in basement?

Post by soupcxan » Tue Aug 15, 2017 10:28 am

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rkhusky
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Re: Big family, small house dilemma -- kid bedrooms in basement?

Post by rkhusky » Tue Aug 15, 2017 10:48 am

Check with the kids. They may not want separate bedrooms, especially now when they are young. And perhaps they would rather have the downstairs be turned into a game room. The main problem is the number of bathrooms, not the number of bedrooms.
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lthenderson
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Re: Big family, small house dilemma -- kid bedrooms in basement?

Post by lthenderson » Tue Aug 15, 2017 10:50 am

Where I live, every house has a basement and probably 75% or more are finished basements with bedrooms. Like others said, there is no more privacy or teenage escape issues than typical first floor bedrooms. In our basement I built a mother-in-law suite, a family room and an office with another portion dedicated to laundry and storage.

In your case where you want to use a garage for bedrooms, I have seen others in similar situations fix up the garage space as bedrooms but don't completely disguise the fact that it was once a former garage. When the time comes to move out, all they do is knock down a couple walls, install garage doors and it is back to being a garage.

Nowizard
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Re: Big family, small house dilemma -- kid bedrooms in basement?

Post by Nowizard » Tue Aug 15, 2017 11:11 am

Our son has redone their basement for much the same reason and has children ages six and four. They do not always sleep there, but they do so frequently, and they love playing there since more toys and craft items can be left out regularly. This makes the rest of the house appear larger and less cluttered, and has worked out well for everyone in addition to adding to the value of the home. As for the windows, blinds and curtains are an obvious answer along with window locks. As far as sneaking out when older is concerned, as someone who was once young, experience states that will occur based on desire more than bedroom location.

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pshonore
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Re: Big family, small house dilemma -- kid bedrooms in basement?

Post by pshonore » Tue Aug 15, 2017 11:33 am

Depending on your lot size, do you have room for a 500-600 sq ft addition? That would probably run $100K+, but plenty of room for two more bedrooms and a full bath or a master suite, etc. I'll doubt you'll ever get your money back if you put 100K into redoing the basement.

jdb
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Re: Big family, small house dilemma -- kid bedrooms in basement?

Post by jdb » Wed Aug 16, 2017 10:24 am

livesoft wrote:
Fri Aug 11, 2017 6:42 pm
I lived w/sibling in a basement br as a teenager while parents and other siblings lived 2 floors up. No one had their own bedroom.

So I don't understand the issue.
+1. With five siblings in family I ended up having bedroom in basement most of my 18 years living at home, part of the time with younger brothers and when was teenager got my own room. I always enjoyed having bedroom in quiet and cool basement, do not understand the reluctance. Good luck.

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