How to Prepare a Basement for Finishing (10 Steps)


Finishing a basement can be beneficial to your home and your lifestyle. Adding a new floor as living space can add value to your house if you decide to sell it. By finishing your basement, you can now get the man cave or playroom that you have always wanted. As long as your partner allows you to do so, I would say go for it. If you have a wife, you can also give her time for recreation by helping her build a she shed, so both of you equally get the space you need.

Before finishing a basement, you will need to complete all the essential steps for preparation. By doing these steps, the execution of the actual basement remodel will smoothly flow as you go. If you ignore some of these steps, there will inevitably be delays and difficulties in the process of finishing your basement. Here are ten steps you will most likely need to do first:

  1. Identify all the issues in your basement structure
  2. Address all those issues
  3. Determine the weather conditions and how to battle them
  4. Plan your escape
  5. Strategically outline the project including the potential theme of the man cave
  6. Prepare a budget and the right mindset
  7. Get the required permits
  8. Decide on the materials you will use
  9. DIY or HIRE
  10. Clear out space

Once you have done all the essential planning and preparation, you may now proceed to execute the plan.

Even with doing all the necessary preparations, you might still run into unexpected difficulties. Prepare yourself and your mind for all the obstacles and hard work. Once everything is done, all the hard work will pay off. All the time you spent will be worth it once you get to enjoy your man cave.

REASONS FOR FINISHING A BASEMENT

  • Added Value

Adding extra living spaces that are permitted and accredited by the local zoning office can add significant value to your home. Even if you did not want to sell the house, it is nice to have your investment growing. Regularly maintaining the finishes of your house will decrease the depreciation in value and add to what you are worth.

Any upgrades in your house can add value, even if it is not expanding the square feet of the house itself. Upgrading a kitchen or adding a walk-in closet will increase the cost, as long as you get the inspections. Make sure you do the legal process, so all your work and money won’t go to waste.

  • Man Cave/ Game Room

Finishing an entire floor of habitable space in your house can be put to good use. You can turn that extra space into a man cave or game room. You can flex that space and show it off to your friend if they come over. Basements that are finished are no longer for just storage anymore. You do not have to complete the mechanical space where the HVAC systems are located. It is best to leave that space open so you can easily access it for repairs and maintenance.

  • Host Parties

Having more space in your home can be fantastic, especially if you like hosting parties. You can invite all of your friends and still have enough space to partake. Your guests will be wildly entertained with all the fun and games you have in store in your man cave. If you have a bathroom in your basement, it can be an extra bathroom for guests to use if the upstairs bathroom is occupied. Watch out, because your guests may never want to leave.

  • Rent Income

If you need extra income to pay for the expenses for the basement remodel, you can legally rent out the newly finished basement. You can get extra income for your children’s college fund. You can buy a new car, or save more money.

If you plan on renting it out, make sure there is an outside entry for your basement, so your tenant does not need to come through your home. Both of you should have privacy. However, you will surely need to build a bathroom and a place to cook with a gas or electric stove so your basement can have what apartments have. Having the living essentials gives you the right to increase your asking price for rent.

PREPARATION STEPS

  • Identify All the Issues in Your Basement Structure

There are numerous issues you can find in the basement construction, especially in older houses. Some basements experience water issues, mold issues, and overall structural issues that you need to deal with beforehand. It is better to deal with these issues first before finishing the entire basement and turning it into an additional living space.

If you skip this step, it will be more difficult for you to deal with it in the future, once you finish your basement. For example—if you don’t deal with any flooding issues at the beginning of the process, you will have to tear through wall and ceiling finishes to fix the problem. If you do not add trench drainage or sump pump before finishing, you will have to tear your flooring and concrete slab to redo all the processes.

This step will save you from a lot of hassles and money in the future. To identify the problems in your basement, you can visually inspect and find any cracks on the walls. To do this process, you can stick aluminum foils on a specific area, and find out where condensation originates.

If condensation is building up on the outside of the foil, the problem is within the room. If the moisture comes from the wall side of the foil, the problem is with the walls. There might be cracks on the foundation that allows water to seep through. If you have ancient pipes that need replacement, you can start on that first once you are ready to execute the remodel plan fully.

  • Address All Those Issues

Once you identify the issues, you can resolve some of the minor ones before starting the actual remodeling of your basement. If you have found cracks on the raw concrete walls, you can use waterproof cement to seal them off. You can also fix the downspouts and gutters and pint them away from the wall foundations so that water goes in a different direction away from the wall.

An effective way to fix the downspout issue is to buy extenders, so you can divert the water to go further away from the foundation walls. The landscape of the soil can affect the direction of the water as well. Try landscaping the course of the ground. You can divert the water in the soil by inclining the surface and make a slope going away from the walls. These little hacks can help in preventing any water from coming in the basement.

If condensation in the walls originates inside the basement, the usual culprit are the air ducts and tubes. If you have old piping, save that job for later in the process, if the pipes are relatively new, you can take care of it by wiping them with a rag and use pipe insulations to wrap them up. This process will not only help waterproof a basement, but it will also help in controlling the temperature in the basement.

Helpful tip: You can fix any minor issues at this point in the process. However, if you need a permanent fix for the problems, like installing new pipes and vent systems, you will need the required permits first. Save anything permanent for later in the execution process.

  • Determine the Weather Conditions and How to Battle Them

Before deciding on what kind of finish you want for the walls and floors, you will need to determine the weather conditions. In areas like Minnesota that experience a lot of cold and snow, you might want to plan on getting wall insulation or heating devices. The weather condition of your geographical location will be some sort of guide to decide what materials you need for finishing.

Most of these permanent fixes that deal with piping, electricity, and structural components, will require a permit before you can start working. That is why you need to plan ahead and know what you need. If you already have an existing Humidity Ventilation and Air Conditioning system, do not finish the room where it is stored.  You will need access to the HVAC later on for maintenance. It is best to leave that part of the basement open and accessible.

  • Plan Your Escape

Building codes require rooms to have fire escapes and egress. This process will also be the case for finishing a basement. If you want your basement to be classified as a legal living space, make sure you don’t forget to install a suitable fire escape in case of emergencies. For a basement, you can but a window well ladder and use it for a fire escape. You will need to indicate the location of the fire escape in your sketch later on.

  • Strategically Outline the Project Including the Potential Theme of the Man Cave

Once you have planned out all the electrical, piping, fire escape, etc., you will need to outline the plan on a white paper written with blank or blue ink. You will need to indicate a detailed plan for the city building department to see. An outline is a government requirement, but a personal requirement as well, especially if you plan to finish the project by yourself.

  • Prepare a budget and the right mindset

Now that you have mostly planned what you will do to address the issues and materials you want; it is time to prepare a budget. Make sure you prepare a little more than the estimated price of the renovation. In old houses, you might spend a lot more on discovering small problems later in the process. With hidden problems, you will need extra money for those issues. It is best to prepare the payment for emergencies on top of your first budget.

Having a sufficient amount of money to swat all the problems to come will give you more confidence to finish the project. It is always good to talk to a professional and ask for advice on what they think is the best solution for the problems at the beginning of the project.

  • Get the Required Permits

There will be multiple permits for different types of work. Here are the four types of licenses that might be applicable in your area:

  • Building Permit

You will need the building permit for working on the structure and architectural elements of your basement. A building permit will cover the flooring, walls, stairs, and windows of the project. Basically, the building permit allows you to work on the permanent fixes you will need to build in finishing a basement.

  • Electrical Permit

All electrical installations, including rewiring and addition of outlets and switches, will require an electrical permit. Having this permit will ensure the safety and legality of the procedure. Once you get the license, you can now start working on the project. Remember, do not finish the walls and flooring after doing all the wiring.  When it is time for inspection, all the wires and circuits are best to be visible.

  • Plumbing Permit

You will need a plumbing permit if you will be working on the plumbing. If you plan on building a bathroom in your man cave, a license like this is necessary. You might need this permit for installing a sump pump or better yet, an indoor hot tub. When you draw your outline for getting a plumbing permit, make sure you point out the locations of all fixtures. Write a specific sketch up to the final detail

  • Mechanical Permit

You will need a mechanical permit for installing any appliances associated with air conditioning and ductwork. When finishing a basement, you will need proper ventilation to prevent any mold build-up and to protect the integrity of the appliances you will store in the basement. In your draft, indicate the location of your existing furnace and air ducts. You will also need to mention any new tubes you are planning to add.

  • Decide on the Materials You Will Use

Now that you have the legal permits for the project, you can now decide and purchase the materials you will need. This list will include all the materials you will utilize for renovation such as the walls, the ceilings, the flooring, etc. You will also need to prepare the tools you need to work within constructing.  Make sure you also have everyday safety items such as gloves, eye protection, and face protection.

  • DIY or HIRE

You will need to decide if you are doing this project by yourself or if you will be hiring a professional contractor. If you plan on doing this whole project by yourself, you need to be confident in your ability to use power tools and work with dangerous things like electricity.

Hiring a professional will cost more but will save you a lot of time and work. Hiring a professional will get the job done faster because they will only focus on the project. Doing the project by yourself will take a long time considering you have a job and will only be able to work after hours and weekends.

  • Clear Out Space

Whether you decide to hire a professional or doing it yourself, it is better if you clear the entire area. Clean working space can optimize workflow. Make sure you remove all the unnecessary items away from the area to ensure a faster phase with no distractions. At this point, there should not be any floods, and the place is ready for execution.

EXECUTION

Now that you have done all the necessary preparation, you can start working. If you did all the items on the list, you should not encounter any problems further into the project. There will probably minimal issues along the way, but you will be ready for any obstacle that comes ahead.

RELATED QUESTIONS:

Which are the most manageable tasks a beginner can DIY?

FLOORING

Flooring is one of the more manageable tasks a beginner can do. Depending on the weather conditions in your area, there are suitable flooring that can make your basement feel comfortable. In cold areas, some people choose to use radiant heat flooring. Choosing floor heaters can be expensive, but the coziness is worth every penny. Here are some types of flooring you can choose from:

  • CARPET FLOORING

Carpet flooring is usually a suitable type of flooring for areas with cold weather. The warm fabric of the rug can be warm and comfy to lay down on when you feel like it. The prices of the carpet will depend on the style, the type of fibers used, and the overall quality.

  • CONCRETE FLOORING

Usually, your basement will have concrete floors when it is not yet finished. If you are a little short on the budget end for flooring, here are a couple of ways you can deal with the default concrete floor. You can consider buying a new carpet rug. With this method, you do not have to use power tools, and it will not take a lot of your time.

  • VINYL FLOORING

Besides the affordable price, vinyl flooring is a lot easier to install and easy to clean. It is also durable and can handle a lot of foot traffic. There are a lot of designs to choose from, so it has a lot of decorative possibilities in your man cave.

  • LAMINATE FLOORING

Laminate flooring is on the more affordable side. It is water-resistant, which makes it a good quality for basements since basements are prone to floods. Laminate flooring styles can mimic the visual aspects of other types of floors.

  • CORK FLOORING

This type of flooring is one of the sustainable options. It is warm and very suitable for areas that have cold weather. The texture of the surface makes it more slip-resistant. It might not be an excellent finish for basements that are prone to floods because it can be prone to moisture. The best way to clean cork flooring is by using a mop and polyurethane cleaner. Make sure the mop is dry.

  • HARDWOOD FLOORING

Hardwood floors are one of the best materials you can use for flooring because of its style. Hardwood floors can last forever because you can refinish them when the shine fades after time.

  • CERAMIC TILE

Ceramic tile flooring is an excellent choice for most designers because of the vast array of styles and colors. There are a lot of types of tiles to choose from, such as porcelain, glazed, and granite tiles. Larger tile pieces are more slippery than smaller pieces. They are a suitable choice for a bathroom in your man cave.

  • RUBBER FLOORING

Rubber flooring is another excellent choice for your basement playroom. It is effortless to install, and it is very reasonably priced. It does not look that fancy, so if you are going for a fancy basement look, you would not probably like the aesthetic of this type of flooring. However, for gaming, this is a comfortable material under your feet. Plus, it is prone to moisture that makes it perfect for basement man caves.

WATERPROOFING AND INSULATION

Rough waterproofing is an easy task. Installing a drainage system may be somewhat straightforward, but you can start on necessary waterproofing first. If you feel like you can do the next step, which is installing a drainage system, go for it!

Waterproofing and insulating the basement is crucial in making the space habitable. Untreated basements can be freezing, and you might not be able to enjoy hanging out in the area. There are several effective but inexpensive ways to fix water issues in a basement.

First, you will need to identify where the water is originating. Typically, basement flooding is caused by water seeping into the cracks. What you want to do is fix all the visible cracks. You may also insulate all the walls and pipes above the basement ceiling. By doing this, it will help stop condensation inside and outside the basement. In case of floods, you will need to install a drain system and a sump pump.

PAINTING

Painting is another fun task that is easy to do when finishing a basement. It is one of the last things you need to do after most of the initial inspections. All you need is some paint, rollers, and paintbrushes. You may. Need old newspapers for dripping, and a face mask so you won’t inhale the fumes from the paint. Make sure you also use paint tape, so you won’t accidentally paint over doorknobs and other objects.

DECORATING

Decorating your man cave is one of the fun parts. In this process, you will select the lighting, the flooring, and any designing aspect for the aesthetic of the man cave. At this point, most of the basement should already be finished according to the original floor plan. You must know the size of the basement spaces to determine the extent of the furniture and appliances you want to purchase.

Game and Activity Ideas

There are a couple of games you can choose from if you haven’t decided where to start. Commonly, man caves have a piano room, a cigar room, or a pool table. This list can give you some insights on where to start. Here are some of the most famous man cave game ideas you can put in your man cave:

  • HOME THEATER

The size of the TV should be fit for the distance of viewing. A TV that is too big will not give you the experience you are looking for. For 1080p TVs, the suggestedinterval for watching is the TV size multiplied by 2.5. If you have a 65-inch TV, the correct distance should be at 162.5 inches. (13 1/5 feet) 4K resolution TVs have a different formula. Instead of multiplying the TV size by 2.5, you multiply it by 1.5. The right distance for a 65-inch 4K UHD TV is 97.5 inches. (8 feet)

  • POOL TABLE

A pool table is a common addition for man caves. A poll table might fit a medium-sized man cave. The standard size of the pool table is 8 feet. The cue stick is about 60 inches long so that you will need about 14 feet by 18 feet of free space for a play pool comfortably.

  • DARTS

The official dart distance is 7 feet 9 ¼ inches. The standard size of the pool table is 8 feet. A medium man cave could fit a game of darts. You would have a safe distance to enjoy and play the game safely.

  • CIGAR ROOM

You can make a cigar room theme with a minibar even in a small man cave. However, it will depend if you will invite friends over. A little man cave could probably fit one or two of your friends. Make sure it is not too small, or you might suffocate.

  • BAR

A bar can either be in a small man cave or a big man cave. The size will depend on how many people will you accommodate. A bar area big enough for four people should be at least 112 by 105 inches. Don’t forget you will have to consider the other bar equipment and shelves.

  • CLASSIC ARCADE GAMES

One remarkable man cave feature is adding classic arcade games like Pac-man or Pong. You can add any of the games you used to enjoy. You can probably put about one of these arcade games in a small man cave considering there is not much equipment inside.

  • PING PONG

Table tennis is an excellent activity for you and your friends can enjoy. You can also use the table for playing other party games such as beer pong. You can easily fold it to save space when not in use.

  • ART STUDIO

A pure art studio can be small or big, depending on how big the pieces you plan on working on. If you paint on a canvass, you will need space for a stand and the canvass. Allow extra space for your finished pieces. You can also use a wall to hang some of them for display and save space.

  • GYM

Your man cave can be a place where you can set up a gym for physical fitness. The physical activity can benefit your health and wellness, which is very important for your body. Depending on the size of your space, you can put a punching bag, a treadmill, and some weights.

  • POKER

The ideal poker playing area for a full game with 6-8 people is 9 by 9 feet. You can also get one of those conversions tables I listed in the recommended products section. The table can be converted from a pool table to a ping-pong and dining table. This table can be used as a card game table. All you need to do is add felt for the casino vibe.

  • SLOT MACHINES

Slot machines are a perfect addition to your mini-casino. Nothing says gaming better than a casino-themed man cave. You and your friends can pretend you are in Las Vegas and enjoy the drinks and slots.

  • AUTOMOTIVE

For automotive purposes, your man cave will need space for your car or motorcycle and extra space for tools. You will also need a little bit of space to work on your project cars. A single garage space is 12’ by 22’. Multiplying that by ½ should be enough space to work with. 18 feet by 33 feet should be enough space to work on a single car or motorcycle.

Theme Ideas

If you cannot decide on the theme you want for your man cave, here are some ideas to start you off. The theme you choose should be something that means something to you. The theme of your man cave can also revolve around the games and activities that you decide to put in your man cave. For example—if you have a pool table, you can add a bar and darts to form a pub theme. You can add more than one themes depending on the size of your basement.

  • Vintage
  • Hollywood
  • Rock and Roll
  • Futuristic
  • Pub
  • Casino
  • Artsy
  • Game room
  • Sports
  • Yacht
  • Biker
  • Log cabin
  • Racer
  • Surfer
  • The 90s
  • Toys
  • Castle

CONCLUSION

Planning is essential in every project, not just in finishing a basement. Without proper planning, it is difficult to optimize the workflow. If you plan before starting a project, your mind and body will be set to focus on specific tasks that are logically in order. By following the steps, you planned, any problematic project can be broken down into stages that you can do without getting too overwhelmed by the process. Planning is mainly thinking of solutions before running into problems. In finishing a basement, always remember to plan ahead and do not get frustrated!

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