[HELP] Basement Finishing - Where to start?

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nyboogie
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[HELP] Basement Finishing - Where to start?

Post by nyboogie »

Hi all,

We are now considering finishing our basement. We'd like to hire out, but this is our first major project so we need some help on how/where to get started to make sure we're setting ourselves up for success.  We have a general idea of what we'd like to do with the space, but are not sure of the layout or if there are other things we should be keeping in mind when we're designing the space (or e.g. how to take advantage of nooks & crannies).
 
Note that we've been in the house for 5 years now, there is no water, radon mitigation is in place, and bathroom is already plumbed. The goal would be to create an open space for entertaining/hanging out with family & friends. I feel like I need someone to design the floor plan, GC the build, and then help with interior designing.

1) I know there are Design + Build firms, but would it be better to get an architect, interior decorator, or someone else to help us finalize the design/layout first? 
2) And then once I have that, I presume I can shop that design around with different contractors to find a reasonable price?
3) Any recommendations on how to find reputable/quality builders? We don't have any friends that have done something like this and the local facebook page usually only recommends the people in town (nothing wrong with them, but I'm sure there are great people outside of town as well)
4) I've been keeping a running list of things to keep in mind or plan for (e.g. 240V line to garage for future EVs), but do you guys have any other advice on what to plan for or do? Maybe some things you would have done differently if you could do it again? 

Thanks in advance!!
chipperd
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Re: [HELP] Basement Finishing - Where to start?

Post by chipperd »

I finished off our basement myself with my family members as major assistants and learned a ton, so I'll share what I can that seems applicable.
But first, some questions:

What is the square footage you are looking to finish off?
How old is the house?
Are there any obstructions or issues like: columns or supports in the area to be finished, sump pumps or french drain accesses that need to be left accessible, mechanical items like furnace, h.w. heater, well pump, etc...?
Is there any mold?
What are you looking to accomplish with the space (playroom for kids, workout room, arts and crafts area etc)?

First thing we did that you could do yourself, assuming there are no water issues as you mentioned, is apply Drylock to the walls and floor. This is a thick "paint" almost like very liquid cement material that will ensure your basement will avoid that damp smell/feeling. If you don't feel comfortable doing that work, make sure anyone you interview is willing to do this type of application as part of the process.

I may be getting into the weeds a bit, but let me know your reaction :happy
"A portfolio is like a bar of soap, the more it's handled, the less there is." Dr. William Bernstein
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Re: [HELP] Basement Finishing - Where to start?

Post by Jack FFR1846 »

Know where the water table is. A friend of mine had a very well built foundation with lots of water proofing done really well. What my friend didn't know was that in the spring, the water table rose a lot. He found out when drilling a hole in the floor to put in anchors for something big that needed to be held down well. He pulled out the drill and water spouted as if he turned on a faucet. You really don't want that to happen! He had been there for ten years and had never had a single water issue.
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MrBobcat
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Re: [HELP] Basement Finishing - Where to start?

Post by MrBobcat »

Consider adding egress windows even if you don't put any bedrooms down there. We added one to our family room and the additional daylight is nice. IMO they're a must if you have a bedroom.

I don't know your climate, but if cold insulate it well. When we remodeled all the old outside walls came off, added spray insulation, made a huge difference. Not sure why it wasn't insulated before, but the last remodel was done in the 70s so I guess they weren't concerned about it.

Think about flooring. We used to have carpets, went with tile, because it's not a matter of if, but when you're going to have the drain back up.
LittleMaggieMae
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Re: [HELP] Basement Finishing - Where to start?

Post by LittleMaggieMae »

Take how the areas will be ventilated (cooled or heated) into consideration - especially if you are creating different areas with walls and doors - versus one big open area. Also consider one of those bathroom vents in the basement bathroom even if it's just a 1/2 bath and not a full bath.



Just on the odd chance that your house is older and your community is older and has community wide combined sewer/storm drains... I'd check with neighbors who have added basement bathrooms to see if they have done anything special to prevent sewer back up in their basements during heavy rain falls.
You might not be experiencing any issues because your "plumbed" in bathroom has all the drains blocked/sealed. But, once you add a working toilet and a shower stall/bathtub drain (and drain for a sink) you may open yourself up to back up water issues. If your sewer system is separate from your storm drains - it's not an issue.

My 100 yo plus community has combined sewers/storm drains. All the old houses came with "stand pipes" for the basement floor drains. adding a basement bathroom - was a challenge as you'd need a "stand pipe" for the toilet and the tub/shower. Stand pipes only work if they are in place and unless you are home 100% of the time and watch the weather - it was common to just leave them in 100% of the time (unless you were using the area - you'd have to put them back in when you were done. ) That's the olden days - there are other solutions for this... I installed a gravity driven "check valve" on my sewer line... if the water comes up in the city sewer - the valve closes and my house is protected from sewer back up during storms. :) I paid a lot of money for this many many many years ago. worth.every.penny.


This isn't to dissuade you from refinishing your basement - I totally think it's an awesome project! It's rather to be aware that "water" in one's basement comes from a variety of places. There are usually solutions for most issues - and it's a heck of a lot easier/less expensive to cope with them BEFORE you remodel or as part of the remodel than it will be to deal with them when you are done (and deal with them over and over again.)

one other thing... if you already have a sump pump/pit in your basement - I would highly recommend getting some sort of battery backup that you maintain/check on a regular schedule. You don't want your sump pump to stop working during a power outage.
Last edited by LittleMaggieMae on Wed Aug 03, 2022 2:52 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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nyboogie
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Re: [HELP] Basement Finishing - Where to start?

Post by nyboogie »

chipperd wrote: Wed Aug 03, 2022 2:09 pm I finished off our basement myself with my family members as major assistants and learned a ton, so I'll share what I can that seems applicable.
But first, some questions:

What is the square footage you are looking to finish off?
How old is the house?
Are there any obstructions or issues like: columns or supports in the area to be finished, sump pumps or french drain accesses that need to be left accessible, mechanical items like furnace, h.w. heater, well pump, etc...?
Is there any mold?
What are you looking to accomplish with the space (playroom for kids, workout room, arts and crafts area etc)?

First thing we did that you could do yourself, assuming there are no water issues as you mentioned, is apply Drylock to the walls and floor. This is a thick "paint" almost like very liquid cement material that will ensure your basement will avoid that damp smell/feeling. If you don't feel comfortable doing that work, make sure anyone you interview is willing to do this type of application as part of the process.

I may be getting into the weeds a bit, but let me know your reaction :happy
Haha, I like the weeds so don't stress it! The house is roughly 5 years old, we bought it as new construction home. Fortunately, no mold. The basement is roughly around 1500 sq ft and we'd like to finish it as much as possible outside of the mechanical area and electrical panel area so probably around 1000-1200 sq ft. There are a few columns that would need to be finished off and a maybe 2 drain areas that would need to be accessible. Will need to also add HVAC throughout (additional 'line' off existing system).

Ideally, we'd like to put a kitchen minus the stove/ovens down there (so fridge, dishwasher, sink), a space for a pantry since the one in the main kitchen is small, an area to use as a media space (thinking large TV instead of theatre to keep the space open), some additional storage space, and a bathroom. The rest of it we'd like to keep as open space for multifunction use (get togethers, kids play area, maybe put a desk or even the bike down there).

Interesting you mention the damp smell, I've noticed that in other basements and didn't realize it could have been solved with a coat of paint.


@Jack - I'll have to look up the water table. I don't think it should be an issue, but better safe than sorry!
MrBobcat wrote: Wed Aug 03, 2022 2:19 pm Consider adding egress windows even if you don't put any bedrooms down there. We added one to our family room and the additional daylight is nice. IMO they're a must if you have a bedroom.

I don't know your climate, but if cold insulate it well. When we remodeled all the old outside walls came off, added spray insulation, made a huge difference. Not sure why it wasn't insulated before, but the last remodel was done in the 70s so I guess they weren't concerned about it.

Think about flooring. We used to have carpets, went with tile, because it's not a matter of if, but when you're going to have the drain back up.
Yes, live in a cold climate so insulation will be critical. The egress windows would be great, but unfortunately the existing windows aren't in the ideal places to make bigger. One would be in the mechanical area, the other where the existing plumbing for bathroom is, and then on the opposite side it's open to the street, which I assume we'd have to trade off privacy for daylight.
chipperd
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Re: [HELP] Basement Finishing - Where to start?

Post by chipperd »

You're way out of my league on this one.

Yeah it sounds like you need a basement systems type of company. They will let you know what your basement is capable of delivering on your list of wants, how to get there and costs. Not sure what part of the world you are in, but they are fairly common in our neck of the woods.

Probably want to start there, with a "Basement Systems" type google search.
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DN28
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Re: [HELP] Basement Finishing - Where to start?

Post by DN28 »

A few recommendations for a comfortable basement based on my experience:
  • Consider framing at least 1" off your foundation wall. This will allow you to use regular dimensional lumber instead of pressure-treated wood (all wood in contact with concrete must be chemical-treated).
  • If you frame 1" off your foundation wall, consider spraying a "flash" of closed-cell foam to fill the gap between the framing and foundation wall. Besides making your basement warmer in the winter, the foam will serve as a vapor barrier.
  • If you want a comfortable basement, you absolutely must insulate your rim joist. This area is often a major source of air/energy loss in homes. You can use rigid foam (such as XPS) cut to size (cheaper/harder), or spray foam (more expensive/easier).
  • If you have enough ceiling height and you don't already have rigid foam under your slab, consider insulating your floor. 1" (or even just 1/2") of XPS foam on the floor with plywood or AdvanTech subfloor over it makes for a very comfortable and rigid floor.
  • For sound absorption, mineral wool insulation (such as Rockwool Safe n' Sound) is far superior to fiberglass batts. If you want a quiet basement, put as much of this in your walls and ceilings as you can.
  • If you are going to put drywall on the ceiling, first consider running ethernet wiring to all the rooms above. Designate a corner of your newly finished basement as a "network closet" and put your router/NAS/media server there.
  • Consider having an electrician install an electrical sub-panel dedicated to your basement. In addition to being convenient, it will save the work and aggravation of every basement circuit having to be a "home run" to the primary panel.
  • Even if there is existing ventilation, you may find that the basement is never the "right" climate if the HVAC thermostat is on another floor. Determine whether this will be a problem, and if it is, consider installing a ductless mini-split dedicated to the basement.
  • Every building code I've encountered requires egress windows (or walkout doors) in a finished basement. If you don't have them, you will almost certainly need to add them.
bob60014
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Re: [HELP] Basement Finishing - Where to start?

Post by bob60014 »

Ceiling height (ensure the local building code will allow) and egress windows.
Topic Author
nyboogie
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Re: [HELP] Basement Finishing - Where to start?

Post by nyboogie »

LittleMaggieMae wrote: Wed Aug 03, 2022 2:38 pm Take how the areas will be ventilated (cooled or heated) into consideration - especially if you are creating different areas with walls and doors - versus one big open area. Also consider one of those bathroom vents in the basement bathroom even if it's just a 1/2 bath and not a full bath.

I installed a gravity driven "check valve" on my sewer line... if the water comes up in the city sewer - the valve closes and my house is protected from sewer back up during storms. :) I paid a lot of money for this many many many years ago. worth.every.penny.

one other thing... if you already have a sump pump/pit in your basement - I would highly recommend getting some sort of battery backup that you maintain/check on a regular schedule. You don't want your sump pump to stop working during a power outage.
Great points. I will definitely check in on the sewer/storm drain situation and no sump pump here. Thanks.

DN28 wrote: Wed Aug 03, 2022 3:15 pm A few recommendations for a comfortable basement based on my experience:
Definitely some good stuff here, thank you!
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Bogle7
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Re: [HELP] Basement Finishing - Where to start?

Post by Bogle7 »

Step 1.
Talk with an architect.
Their vision and knowledge is way better than yours.
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HereToLearn
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Re: [HELP] Basement Finishing - Where to start?

Post by HereToLearn »

nyboogie wrote: Wed Aug 03, 2022 2:45 pm
chipperd wrote: Wed Aug 03, 2022 2:09 pm I finished off our basement myself with my family members as major assistants and learned a ton, so I'll share what I can that seems applicable.
But first, some questions:

What is the square footage you are looking to finish off?
How old is the house?
Are there any obstructions or issues like: columns or supports in the area to be finished, sump pumps or french drain accesses that need to be left accessible, mechanical items like furnace, h.w. heater, well pump, etc...?
Is there any mold?
What are you looking to accomplish with the space (playroom for kids, workout room, arts and crafts area etc)?

First thing we did that you could do yourself, assuming there are no water issues as you mentioned, is apply Drylock to the walls and floor. This is a thick "paint" almost like very liquid cement material that will ensure your basement will avoid that damp smell/feeling. If you don't feel comfortable doing that work, make sure anyone you interview is willing to do this type of application as part of the process.

I may be getting into the weeds a bit, but let me know your reaction :happy
Haha, I like the weeds so don't stress it! The house is roughly 5 years old, we bought it as new construction home. Fortunately, no mold. The basement is roughly around 1500 sq ft and we'd like to finish it as much as possible outside of the mechanical area and electrical panel area so probably around 1000-1200 sq ft. There are a few columns that would need to be finished off and a maybe 2 drain areas that would need to be accessible. Will need to also add HVAC throughout (additional 'line' off existing system).

Ideally, we'd like to put a kitchen minus the stove/ovens down there (so fridge, dishwasher, sink), a space for a pantry since the one in the main kitchen is small, an area to use as a media space (thinking large TV instead of theatre to keep the space open), some additional storage space, and a bathroom. The rest of it we'd like to keep as open space for multifunction use (get togethers, kids play area, maybe put a desk or even the bike down there).

Interesting you mention the damp smell, I've noticed that in other basements and didn't realize it could have been solved with a coat of paint.


@Jack - I'll have to look up the water table. I don't think it should be an issue, but better safe than sorry!
MrBobcat wrote: Wed Aug 03, 2022 2:19 pm Consider adding egress windows even if you don't put any bedrooms down there. We added one to our family room and the additional daylight is nice. IMO they're a must if you have a bedroom.

I don't know your climate, but if cold insulate it well. When we remodeled all the old outside walls came off, added spray insulation, made a huge difference. Not sure why it wasn't insulated before, but the last remodel was done in the 70s so I guess they weren't concerned about it.

Think about flooring. We used to have carpets, went with tile, because it's not a matter of if, but when you're going to have the drain back up.
Yes, live in a cold climate so insulation will be critical. The egress windows would be great, but unfortunately the existing windows aren't in the ideal places to make bigger. One would be in the mechanical area, the other where the existing plumbing for bathroom is, and then on the opposite side it's open to the street, which I assume we'd have to trade off privacy for daylight.
Do you know if your town will allow you to finish that much of the space? My town limited us to finishing 50% of the square footage of the floor above the basement. I think my basement was 1400 sq feet but the ground floor was 1600 so I could finish 800 sq ft. I have no idea why my town has this rule, and they expect homeowners to finish off the unfinished space after inspection, but we never did.

The baseboard heat must not have been insulated properly so when we have a run of days where the temp remains below freezing, I have to make sure the heat cycles on periodically. Otherwise, the pipes freeze. I have managed to allow this to happen a few times but fortunately they never ruptured. The finished part of the basement is above ground, so the baseboards run along an outside wall at ground level.

We never needed A/C but had a couple of vents cut into the ductwork. We end up closing those vents as the basement remains cool.

We had to have an ejector pump installed in order to reach the waste pipe for the sewer. That was a bit of an undertaking that required cutting up the concrete floor. The ejector pump failed more than once--fortunately always washing machine water--but it hasn't in years. Perhaps the original pump was faulty and the replacement better? If you do choose carpet, make sure it is not wool and do not use padding. Since the ejector pump is on the unfinished side of the basement, very little of the water touched the carpeting. If there had been padding, the carpet would have had to have been pulled up.

If you are installing laundry downstairs (a second machine is great to have), install a utility sink with a shelf above it so that a dehumidifier can drain directly into the utility sink.

I have a full wall of closets with long pine shelves for storage. It is two sets of double doors that open out with lights inside. The shelves held toys for years but could be configured as needed for clothing.

I didn't see mention of the type of heat you have, but we had to have a new oil burner installed to manage the additional demand.

Good luck!
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Watty
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Re: [HELP] Basement Finishing - Where to start?

Post by Watty »

There are lots of old threads about finishing a basement that you can read through.

https://www.google.com/search?sitesearc ... h+basement

One thing to research is how finishing a basement will impact the value of your house. I am not sure of the current rules but since it is below grade it may not be counted as being worth a lot on any future appraisals. If you used a real estate agent five years ago when you bought the house you might call them and ask home much value it might add. You may be disappointed.

With my basement I just semi-finished it by putting up a few walls and an acoustical tile ceiling and painting the floor with special epoxy concrete paint then putting down some large rugs. I did all the work myself except for the electrical work. It was not that hard to do and I just learned what I needed to know as I went along.

I only semi-finished part of it so that we could use the rest of it unfinished for things like a laundry room, shop, craft area, and storage. I really like having unfinished basement space.

I was really glad that it was not fully finished since we have had two significant water leaks in the basement. A washing machine overflowed when it got stuck on the fill cycle, and a water filter canister broke when we were out of town for the weekend. Both of these were a mess to clean up and we threw out some wet stuff but did not cause any real damage. TIP: if you have a leak like this you can rent an industrial dehumidifier at a big box hardware store. You can also get water sensors that tie into your alarm system.
nyboogie wrote: Wed Aug 03, 2022 2:00 pm but do you guys have any other advice on what to plan for or do? Maybe some things you would have done differently if you could do it again?
A few points;

1) Consider what is above the area you are finishing and how you will work on it. If the kitchen or bathroom is above it then those will be much harder to work on if you put a ceiling up in the basement. If you expect to remodel these in the near future it might be best to do that before you finish the basement.

2) Sound will carry up from the finished basement. For example if you have a TV in the basement and the living room is above it then you will likely be able to hear it in the living room.

3) A utility sink could be real nice to have if you are doing to be putting a bathroom in the basement anyway.

4) Be sure that you have a path with clearance to get things like water heaters and furnaces, washing machines, etc to where they need to be when you replace them. Consider how the builders will get materials into the basement. With some basements it can be very difficult to get a 4x8 sheet of drywall down the stairs.

5) Pay a lot of attention to how you will get heating and cooling to the basement along with circulating in fresh air. Your current furnace and AC will not be big enough to handle the extra space.

6) Be sure to have smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors in the basement even while the construction is being done.

7) Before you spend $100K to finish a basement be sure to look at other houses that cost $100K more to see if they would be better to move to.
flyfishers83
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Re: [HELP] Basement Finishing - Where to start?

Post by flyfishers83 »

Agree that you should look at available houses to make sure there isn't something better before spending the money.

Regarding the plan, consider whether you want to keep significant unfinished space that is enclosed. I really value unfinished space for both storage and some of my hobbies.
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Re: [HELP] Basement Finishing - Where to start?

Post by lthenderson »

nyboogie wrote: Wed Aug 03, 2022 2:00 pm 1) I know there are Design + Build firms, but would it be better to get an architect, interior decorator, or someone else to help us finalize the design/layout first? 
2) And then once I have that, I presume I can shop that design around with different contractors to find a reasonable price?
3) Any recommendations on how to find reputable/quality builders? We don't have any friends that have done something like this and the local facebook page usually only recommends the people in town (nothing wrong with them, but I'm sure there are great people outside of town as well)
4) I've been keeping a running list of things to keep in mind or plan for (e.g. 240V line to garage for future EVs), but do you guys have any other advice on what to plan for or do? Maybe some things you would have done differently if you could do it again? 
1. I don't know if it was the best way but when we added an addition to our home, we hired an architect. It cost us about 5% of our total project cost but I think it was worth every penny. Because the architect was removed from the actual build process, they were more than willing to do several redesigns until we got all the details just where we wanted and then as part of the package, would answer any questions brought up by the GC during the actual construction phase. Because by that point I was well versed in the prints and design, I never had to go that far and just answered them myself.

By far the biggest advantage of the architect was having a full set of prints for all the trades, including construction, plumbing, electrical, in our case kitchen layout, etc. When a new trade showed up, I would pull out the relevant print, review things with them and then leave it for them to reference while they did their thing. If something was forgot after the initial discussion, it provided a concrete reference point to refer too so there was no change orders because things didn't get done correctly.

2. We used our prints, (part of our deal from the architectural place was that we were given digital copies of all the prints) to shop around. Unfortunately in our area, that really didn't help much. The GC's we contacted were keen to accept the digital copies but getting responses after that was hard to come by. I suspect part of the reason was that detailed prints are harder to fudge in bigger budgeted quotes. We ended up contacting well over a dozen GC's, sent prints to seven of them, and received exactly one quote. Oddly enough, the quote was way cheaper than was reasonable so we contacted that GC and went over the specifics of what we expected finish level wise and ended up signing a contract for about 120% of the price of the original cheap quote.

3. Do you have friends that have had any type of contracting work done? Personal knowledge of friends is the absolute best route to getting a good GC. As I have stated on here before, it is always my first step. Inevitably, the GC that is highly recommended is completely booked out for years so my second step is to call them anyway and when they say they can't because they are booked out, I either get my name on their list and patiently wait, make it attractive to them by telling them I'm willing to let them use the project as a filler project when the weather is bad at their other outside projects or offer a financial incentive to work me in, or as a last resort, ask who they recommend. This latter part is really hit or miss. If you were polite and reasonable, they might give you a name of a good GC competitor of theirs. If not, they might toss you to the wolves.

4. Depending on your budget, this is a great question for an architect or GC whom you are working with. They are plugged into the community and know what things are "hot" right now. Despite you saying you've never had water in the basement, I would always design it with the assumption that it will get wet at some point. I.e. don't put expensive wood flooring down and instead put tile, vinyl flooring or easily removable and replaced carpet tiles, etc.
HereToLearn
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Re: [HELP] Basement Finishing - Where to start?

Post by HereToLearn »

lthenderson wrote: Thu Aug 04, 2022 8:26 am
nyboogie wrote: Wed Aug 03, 2022 2:00 pm 1) I know there are Design + Build firms, but would it be better to get an architect, interior decorator, or someone else to help us finalize the design/layout first? 
2) And then once I have that, I presume I can shop that design around with different contractors to find a reasonable price?
3) Any recommendations on how to find reputable/quality builders? We don't have any friends that have done something like this and the local facebook page usually only recommends the people in town (nothing wrong with them, but I'm sure there are great people outside of town as well)
4) I've been keeping a running list of things to keep in mind or plan for (e.g. 240V line to garage for future EVs), but do you guys have any other advice on what to plan for or do? Maybe some things you would have done differently if you could do it again? 
1. I don't know if it was the best way but when we added an addition to our home, we hired an architect. It cost us about 5% of our total project cost but I think it was worth every penny. Because the architect was removed from the actual build process, they were more than willing to do several redesigns until we got all the details just where we wanted and then as part of the package, would answer any questions brought up by the GC during the actual construction phase. Because by that point I was well versed in the prints and design, I never had to go that far and just answered them myself.

By far the biggest advantage of the architect was having a full set of prints for all the trades, including construction, plumbing, electrical, in our case kitchen layout, etc. When a new trade showed up, I would pull out the relevant print, review things with them and then leave it for them to reference while they did their thing. If something was forgot after the initial discussion, it provided a concrete reference point to refer too so there was no change orders because things didn't get done correctly.

2. We used our prints, (part of our deal from the architectural place was that we were given digital copies of all the prints) to shop around. Unfortunately in our area, that really didn't help much. The GC's we contacted were keen to accept the digital copies but getting responses after that was hard to come by. I suspect part of the reason was that detailed prints are harder to fudge in bigger budgeted quotes. We ended up contacting well over a dozen GC's, sent prints to seven of them, and received exactly one quote. Oddly enough, the quote was way cheaper than was reasonable so we contacted that GC and went over the specifics of what we expected finish level wise and ended up signing a contract for about 120% of the price of the original cheap quote.

3. Do you have friends that have had any type of contracting work done? Personal knowledge of friends is the absolute best route to getting a good GC. As I have stated on here before, it is always my first step. Inevitably, the GC that is highly recommended is completely booked out for years so my second step is to call them anyway and when they say they can't because they are booked out, I either get my name on their list and patiently wait, make it attractive to them by telling them I'm willing to let them use the project as a filler project when the weather is bad at their other outside projects or offer a financial incentive to work me in, or as a last resort, ask who they recommend. This latter part is really hit or miss. If you were polite and reasonable, they might give you a name of a good GC competitor of theirs. If not, they might toss you to the wolves.

4. Depending on your budget, this is a great question for an architect or GC whom you are working with. They are plugged into the community and know what things are "hot" right now. Despite you saying you've never had water in the basement, I would always design it with the assumption that it will get wet at some point. I.e. don't put expensive wood flooring down and instead put tile, vinyl flooring or easily removable and replaced carpet tiles, etc.
I forgot to mention that we hired an architect also. The GC ended up being disreputable, so the drawings were very useful, especially when the GC tried to overlook the required combustion air source.
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Sandtrap
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Re: [HELP] Basement Finishing - Where to start?

Post by Sandtrap »

nyboogie wrote: Wed Aug 03, 2022 2:00 pm Hi all,

We are now considering finishing our basement. We'd like to hire out, but this is our first major project so we need some help on how/where to get started to make sure we're setting ourselves up for success.  We have a general idea of what we'd like to do with the space, but are not sure of the layout or if there are other things we should be keeping in mind when we're designing the space (or e.g. how to take advantage of nooks & crannies).
 
Note that we've been in the house for 5 years now, there is no water, radon mitigation is in place, and bathroom is already plumbed. The goal would be to create an open space for entertaining/hanging out with family & friends. I feel like I need someone to design the floor plan, GC the build, and then help with interior designing.

1) I know there are Design + Build firms, but would it be better to get an architect, interior decorator, or someone else to help us finalize the design/layout first? 
2) And then once I have that, I presume I can shop that design around with different contractors to find a reasonable price?
3) Any recommendations on how to find reputable/quality builders? We don't have any friends that have done something like this and the local facebook page usually only recommends the people in town (nothing wrong with them, but I'm sure there are great people outside of town as well)
4) I've been keeping a running list of things to keep in mind or plan for (e.g. 240V line to garage for future EVs), but do you guys have any other advice on what to plan for or do? Maybe some things you would have done differently if you could do it again? 

Thanks in advance!!
path:

input from various architects because......
you need a “vision” of what you want that fits your needs and budget....and tastes

not contractors or design build etc

architects have long schooling and experience etc to help present options to you....and..
are not sales or commission driven (huge)...

and will help you with a broad long range comprehensive plan...much like a long term big and broad financial plan.

meet with several reputable licensed legitimate certified engineering degree architects for an initial consultation
work with them on a fee only basis for a “concept” plan

so

you make the most of every dollar you have.

then, armed with a cincrete actionable plan with drawings, etc to scale... you can go from there from a “what” to a how and who and get estimates bids etc for that.

hopefully armed with plans
specs
contract requirements
etc

even if some of it is diy.

j🌴
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Greentree
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Re: [HELP] Basement Finishing - Where to start?

Post by Greentree »

The option for lower cost renovation, if you like the look, is a loft like look. Most hip restaurants look like this. Leave the ceiling exposed and paint all the beams and plumbing either black or white (black is nicer IMO if you have plenty of head height), flooring is finished concrete (stained or epoxied) with nice area rugs. Then you add in some nice can lighting with exposed conduit, trim, etc, to dress it up.

You can google "exposed basement ceiling black (or white)" and "stained concrete floors" for ideas. For this look to look nice, you have to mix rough unfinished along with nice finished details (like quality electrical work and trim). It's a fine line between looking cool and looking cheap. But I think once you add in furniture, a tv, rugs, it can look pretty great, as well as be easy to maintain if needed (if you do get water).
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nyboogie
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Re: [HELP] Basement Finishing - Where to start?

Post by nyboogie »

Thanks for all of the replies!

Yes, finishing off that size space should not be an issue. Many of the homes in the area are now sold with finished basements (basics drywall, bathroom, wood floors, kitchen sink & beverage refrigerator) and given the appreciation of the real estate market right now, homes like those are selling for 500k-600k more than what we spent (it's insane!). Honestly, I'm not too concerned about recouping the money invested as I'd like to take advantage of the space and that's what important to us. That being said, we're ballparking about an $100k prior to any furnishing.

Sounds like the overwhelming answer here is to use an architect as the first step to help create a layout. Outside of the degrees, any recommendations on what I should be looking for when selecting an architect?
CoastLawyer2030
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Re: [HELP] Basement Finishing - Where to start?

Post by CoastLawyer2030 »

Greentree wrote: Thu Aug 04, 2022 10:20 am The option for lower cost renovation, if you like the look, is a loft like look. Most hip restaurants look like this. Leave the ceiling exposed and paint all the beams and plumbing either black or white (black is nicer IMO if you have plenty of head height), flooring is finished concrete (stained or epoxied) with nice area rugs. Then you add in some nice can lighting with exposed conduit, trim, etc, to dress it up.

You can google "exposed basement ceiling black (or white)" and "stained concrete floors" for ideas. For this look to look nice, you have to mix rough unfinished along with nice finished details (like quality electrical work and trim). It's a fine line between looking cool and looking cheap. But I think once you add in furniture, a tv, rugs, it can look pretty great, as well as be easy to maintain if needed (if you do get water).
OP, this is the style I went with. Below is a picture of the basement in our house that we just sold --

Image
Image

The ceiling is completely unfinished and painted a light gray. I did this instead of black because the basement only had two windows and I needed to brighten it up.

The wall with the huge "OHIO STATE" flag is completely unfinished, as is the wall behind the steps. I used drywall and then put beadboard over top of it because it was easier to DIY, and I liked the different wall texture as compared to upstairs.

In front of the furniture was three TVs (32" -- 55" -- 32") for sports viewing.

All in all we finished about 750 square feet for $9,000. We are doing the same in our new house. This time I will be doing carpet and black ceiling.

One thing nobody else mentioned -- make sure you get your lighting right. I cannot stand basements where all the lighting is down-facing (recessed lighting for example). In the basement above I used six wall sconces for lighting and just four overhead lights. It makes a huge difference in the "feel" of the basement.

Obviously my sports heavy taste probably is not for everyone (the rest of the 3,200 square feet of the house was all my wife's much better and more palatable taste), but the point of sharing was to show that there is a lot of cool things you do when you eliminate the assumption to drywall everything.
Zeno
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Re: [HELP] Basement Finishing - Where to start?

Post by Zeno »

Great design
Last edited by Zeno on Sun Aug 07, 2022 8:09 pm, edited 2 times in total.
CoastLawyer2030
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Re: [HELP] Basement Finishing - Where to start?

Post by CoastLawyer2030 »

Zeno wrote: Sat Aug 06, 2022 5:12 pmCoastLawyer2030: #TBDBITL. Ohio native, Purdue grad, yet a Buckeye fan here from birth. So while I appreciate your former shrine to "The Shoe," DW would have clubbed me to death with a large foam #1 finger had I implemented that design in any of our prior basements. (I also spied your Steelers flag but won't go there. At least I was unable to discern any obvious Penguins' paraphernalia.)
Third generation OSU grad here.

You make some good points about "man cave" versus just finished. Part of the reason we did "man cave" for mine was that our house (in my opinion) had all the social and entertainment space it needed upstairs.

Just yesterday we had my daughter's first birthday party with about 25 people over. There were people in the living room (24x14), dining room (12x14), and family room (18x14). The basement thus became the sports/movie night type of hangout place.

Our new house is smaller so we are doing more of a "cozy" look in the basement so we can entertain more down there.
Zeno
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Re: [HELP] Basement Finishing - Where to start?

Post by Zeno »

Great design
psteinx
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Re: [HELP] Basement Finishing - Where to start?

Post by psteinx »

We finished our basement around 2000, ~4 years after moving in.

Wife basically designed it in conjunction with the GC, etc. Spent more maybe than I'd been expecting (around $60K back then, for ~1000 s.f.), but we have used the space a LOT. Money well spent.

A few notes.

We had a walkout with 1 large window near it, and 4 smaller, high "basement windows" elsewhere. Had a large new window (~matching the other) cut from the cement. Turned out nice.

We went with fairly premium carpeting in most of the space. I like it.

We have a "craft area", with a utility sink, linoleum flooring, etc. More "messy" space. Works well.

We have a bathroom with shower (no tub). The shower doesn't get used a lot (5-10x/year?) but having toilet/sink is key.

We probably could/should have left just a touch more unfinished. Have ~200 s.f. unfinished - a bit thin on storage. I later added a pulldown ladder and some storage above the garage to compensate, but it's suboptimal.

We had straight steps down into the basement, but I'm a believer in landings on steps, and in any case, the straight steps would have interfered with the openness of the main space. So we had the steps turned (involved an architect, IIRC) - 90 degree bend, with landing, ~halfway down. Works well.

We did a normal drywall ceiling, with a few access panels left at key points. Once in a while, it would be nice to have better/easier access to the ceiling, but not enough to invalidate the drywall decision - it's fine.

Wife had an electric baseboard heater installed. THAT has proven ~worthless (almost never used, and just kind of gets in the way.) Part of the problem is that it's electric heat, and our house has gas, and the miser in me doesn't like using an inefficient heater. We have registers in the ceiling of the basement, and shut them down in summer (the basement is cool enough), but reopen them for fall/winter. Works ok.

Noise transmission between the basement and the upstairs hasn't been bad, and mainly goes through the air ducts.

I was concerned that the ~7' ceilings would be problematic, but they don't really bother me.
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