Different elements come into play when renovating a basement.

Some aspects of the existing construction must be considered and sometimes prioritized in order to do it right and get a clear understanding of the job at hand.

Our goal is to help our clients to determine the scope of the work needed according to their expectations.

In the best of cases, the basement would be relatively new and almost finished, meaning the concrete slab has been poured, the plumbing rough-ins planned and the electrical fully functional, thus basically only requiring minor division reconfiguration. However, this being rarely the case, here is an overview of certain problems regularly encountered during basement renovations.

Properly evaluating the current state of your basement

Before undergoing any type of renovation in your basement, it is of utmost importance to ensure that your foundation walls are in good condition.

If they are not, its repair and/or modification MUST be prioritized before investing any money in finishes, since the soundness of the home depends on it. You must therefore not only make sure there are no holes, cracks or deformations in the concrete, but also make sure the foundation walls are well drained, waterproofed and well ventilated.

It may also be the proper time to consider insulating the foundation walls.

Before doing so, we must confirm which type of foundation our client have as well as its construction date in order to choose the proper insulating method, as many different options are available. In any case, an expert should always be called in because the wrong choice could lead to costly foundation damages.

Once the foundation has been fully examined and repaired (as necessary), it will be important to determine if machinery or plumbing needs to be added or relocated.

In the majority of cases, these changes will require recalibration or excavation. For example, homes built before 1955, will probably need to have the main drain replaced as these used to be made of cast iron having a 60-year life expectancy.

Also, it is now highly advised to have a back-water valve installed in order to prevent any sewage water from coming back into the basement. This type of work usually requires some excavation work to be done.

Sometimes, even the simplest of jobs can turn out more expensive than expected, like the addition of a basement bedroom.

The building code requires that the bedroom have a window with an opening of at least 15” x 15” to be used as an emergency exit if needed.

If such a window is not already in place, adding one will entail cutting into the foundation wall, adding the proper support and refinishing the exterior wall. It is however possible to work around this rule by instead creating a basement office where a hide-a-bed or Murphy bed is installed if the purpose is only to create a guest bedroom.

Problematic situations

If the basement ceiling height is under 6’- 4”:

1.The area is not considered liveable space unless the floor is dug out or

2.The ceiling gypsum removed to reveal the floor beam structure above.

The latter being the least expensive solution, keep in mind you must still invest in some rough carpentry work, plumbing and electrical reorganization, paint and a decent lighting system that will avoid creating shadows from the now apparent floor joists. Also, be aware that by doing so, your sound and thermal insulation will be greatly affected.

The other solution, which consists of digging out the basement floor to achieve a proper ceiling height, can be executed in two ways.

1.The first option consists of excavating and pouring new footings and foundations around the inside perimeter of the existing foundation, whereas

2.The second option requires that the house be supported while new footing and foundations are added beneath the existing foundations.

In any case, all posts, beams and supporting footings will need to be replaced. It goes without saying that a structural engineer will be required to supervise this type of work.

Lastly, any change made to the items found in the mechanical room such as the electrical panel and meter, the hot water tank, and the heating and ventilation systems may require changes to be made to the floors above.

Before starting, it is best to consult a specialist, since the consequences of these changes can have a major impact on the work to be done and must be planned for as early as possible.

Our team of professionals and designers are trained to guide you through this planning process and help you through the execution of your basement renovation.