Finishing your basement by yourself seems simple enough. However, there is more to worry about than simply throwing up some sheet rock and laying some carpet. In fact both those simple actions may lead to serious problems like mold and rot if you don’t properly waterproof the basement first.
People see the basement as an easy way to expand a home’s livable space. And it is. A basement remodel is less expensive and invasive than an addition and can be a quick turnaround to get more livable square footage out of your house. However, the average homeowner doesn’t properly prep the basement to make it a safe livable space.
Danger #1: Water Problems
Before you finish the basement you need to deal with any water or moisture problems that could result in mold growth or rot. Make sure the basement is properly waterproofed and completely dry before you start any construction. Remember, waterproofing the basement is about prevention and water diversion. Keep water away from the foundation walls from the outside and make sure any water that comes in has a way to get out through proper drainage. If you can keep water or moisture from coming into the basement you can prevent mold, rot and other serious water problems. There is nothing worse than ripping out a finished basement because of water damage that could have been prevented. When you are finishing your basement, consider a mold-resistant, water-resistant wall board for the basement walls. Typical sheetrock is actually an organic material for mold and will ruin if there ever is a basement leak or flood.
Danger #2: Radon
If you are turning the basement into a family room or bedrooms it is important to test the space for radon. Radon is a harmful soil gas that can enter the home through concrete cracks or gaps in the foundation. Because you can’t see, taste or smell radon, the only way to know if radon is there is it to test for it. You can buy a DIY radon test at your local home improvement store or online. If you find you have a radon problem the best time to install a mitigation system is on the bare foundation walls before you remodel the basement.
Danger #3: Small Windows
Building codes say you cannot have a basement bedroom with an egress window. Specifically, the International Residential Code says that each basement bedroom must have a window with a lower ledge no more than 44 inches from the floor and at least 5.7 square feet of clear opening space. Window wells must be 3 feet clear (measured perpendicular from the wall of the house) to allow proper egress from the room as well as to accommodate rescue personnel with oxygen tanks on their backs being able to get in and out.
Danger #4: Indoor Air
The Environmental Protection Agency also says another danger to consider is any combustible appliances in the basement. The EPA suggests making sure any existing or new combustible appliances are not back drafting bad air into the new basement living space.
Overall if you are finishing your basement yourself make sure you take care of any water problems first, use water-resistant wall board and flooring, install egress windows and ensure there is clean safe air in the basement. Involve a professional contractor to make sure you and your family is safe in the new basement rooms.