Originally posted 5/15/2018; updated 12/29/21
Do you feel like you’re running out of room in your home? Wishing you could add another bedroom, home office, or a private gym? Do you have a basement that could provide the space for such an item?
Before you start planning your expansion, we recommend that you have your basement – and the entire foundation- assessed first. This may seem self-serving, given that Acculevel is an expert in foundation repairs and basement waterproofing. But we’re trying to save you time, money, and maybe even some heartbreak and anger!
A Little Prevention Can Have a Large Impact
We don’t want you to embark on a great new home improvement project, and then discover you have a wall that is starting to bow inward. Or even worse, you get the room framed and drywalled- and then it rains and water soaks through everything. It’s always best to make sure you’re building on a solid foundation (pun not intended!).
Acculevel has been helping homeowners preserve and protect their homes since our start in 1996. Our goal is to provide you with a whole-home solution that will resolve both the symptoms and the underlying cause. This is the best way to ensure your home stays strong and healthy for years to come.
In this article, we’re going to do three things: first, we’ll outline the most common warning signs that you find in a basement. Second, we’ll suggest some ways you can add safety and value to your home. And third, we’ll suggest seven ways you can make the most of your basement renovations.
Three Major Warning Signs You Need Basement Repairs
We’re going to give an overview of the three major problems that homeowners commonly experience with their basements. If any of these sound familiar, we will provide you with additional resources to explore.
1. Do You See Signs of a Settling Foundation?
Humans are a persistent and resilient species. We often take our adaptability for granted, when we overcome obstacles without much thought or concern. If you have a door that doesn’t want to stay closed, you lock it. Have a window that slams shut? You find a candlestick or bookend that you can use to prop it open.
But these contrary doors and windows can be a sign your foundation is settling. This is particularly true if you also see cracks in the drywall around the door or window frames. When your foundation settles unevenly- usually due to erosion or ground compaction- it causes strain on the structural framing of your house.
2. Are There Cracks or Leans in Your Basement Wall?
This may seem obvious to you, but if there are cracks forming in your foundation, these should be assessed by a professional. While we are resilient and adaptable, humans are also sometimes procrastinators. There’s a reason “out of sight, out of mind,” is a common saying. If there’s a crack in your basement wall that’s been there for months or years, you may be inclined to ignore it. But that would be a really bad idea.
It only takes one severe rainstorm to change that crack from a minor inconvenience to a massive problem. And that’s not just because you have a flooded basement (more on that in a bit). When a large amount of water pushes against your foundation, it forms hydrostatic pressure. This is what causes foundations to crack, cracks to expand, and walls to move. Bowing walls are a cause for major concern; if you have a wall that is beginning to lean inward- even a little- you need to contact a foundation repair company at once.
3. Ever Had Water or Moisture in Your Basement?
Have you ever had to clean a basement after it flooded? If so, you know you don’t want to deal with that again! But even if you’ve never had water in your basement, it doesn’t mean it can’t happen. As we mentioned earlier, one rainstorm can be enough to upset your apple cart and leave you with soggy belongings.
Generally speaking, we recommend that you encapsulate your basement before going to the expense of finishing your basement. There is no better way to protect your lovely new game room, man cave, or home office.
Has there been condensation on the walls or mold or mildew forming on a surface in your basement? Humidity is a frequent visitor in basements, and it can produce enough moisture to be a problem. A whole-home dehumidifier is a great way to manage the humidity level, and to significantly improve the air quality in your home.
If you don’t have a drainage system in your basement, or if you need more information about one, please check out our guide to basement waterproofing. This is *free* resource we offer to all homeowners; it’s a thorough review of how water gets into your home, the different types of drainage systems available, pros and cons of each, as well as information about pricing, mold treatment, and potential installation problems.
How Else Can You Protect Your Home and Its Value?
1. Install Spray Foam Insulation
Insulating your basement with spray foam is an ideal investment. It costs more than fiberglass insulation, but it’s also more efficient. As soon as the insulation is sprayed onto a surface, it adheres firmly and swells up to block every gap. Spray foam is also waterproof and inorganic, so it can’t be used by insects or other pests as bedding, and it won’t support any biological growth either.
The costs of installation will be offset by lower utility costs. It will reduce the wear and tear on your HVAC systems, because they will be able to perform more efficiently. And because spray foam blocks every gap, you’ll have fewer allergens or pollens getting in your home- making you and your family healthier and happier, too!
2. Your Basement Drain Needs a Backwater Valve
We discussed waterproofing your basement, as well as encapsulation and a dehumidifier. But there is another way that a heavy storm can destroy your beautiful new basement.
If there is a floor drain installed in your basement, have this checked by a plumber. If there is no backwater valve installed in this drain, we strongly urge you to correct this and a plumber is the best person for the job. This valve means that the drain only works one way: out of your home. A backwater valve is the best way to protect your home against sewage intrusion, which can occur if your town’s system is overwhelmed by a rainstorm.
3. An Egress Window Adds Safety and Value to Your Home
An egress window is an essential safety feature for any finished basement. This is a secondary exit that can be used as an escape route. If your home catches fire and the main stairwell is blocked, anyone in the basement would be trapped.
If you have an egress window, you can include that finished space as added square footage. You also have to have an egress window installed in any below-ground bedroom, in order for it to be counted as a bedroom. (In Indiana, it also has to include a closet.)
There are a variety of regulations and restrictions for egress windows, but it can add substantial weight to your home’s resale value. Depending on how many bedrooms are on the main or second floor, that basement bedroom could add as much as $20,000.
If you want to know more about egress windows, we have an exhaustive guide for homeowners that reviews all the ins and outs. When we developed this resource, we collaborated with some of the area’s top realtors to make sure we provided you with accurate information.
Once you’ve had your basement evaluated and protected from damage, it’s time to decide what you want to do with the space! Below are seven suggestions we have, for how you can make the most of your new finished basement.
Seven Inspiring Ideas for the Basement of Your Dreams
1. Game Room
This is an awesome investment if you and your family are hard-core gamers. It can also be a clever way to get your tv back from your teenagers! If you’re going to host gaming parties, make sure you have a wifi network or plan that won’t cause speed or connection issues. Add shelving to hold your consoles, games, accessories- and snacks!
2. Fitness Room
The Covid pandemic forced a number of gyms out of business. Not happy about the travel time to your “closest” gym? Don’t want to worry about exposure or mask requirements? Create your own gym in-house! Consider adding rubber flooring, foam flooring, a similarly cushioned surface to help reduce noise and add some comfort to your workout.
3. Mother-In-Law Suite or Rental Unit
Do you have a relative that needs care, but still wants some privacy and independence? Is the basement a walkout-style, or can you provide a separate entrance? You could create a small apartment in your basement! You can easily create a wonderful single bedroom unit or studio in your basement. This could earn you some peace of mind for a family member, extra money towards the mortgage if you have a renter- and it should also increase your home’s value.
4. Cozy Family Room or Activity Room
Do you want a bigger living room, but don’t want to build onto your main floor? Are you a diehard crafter or have a hobby that takes up physical room? You could create a nice hangout area for watching movies, play family board games, create masterpieces, or host quilting bees. If you’re planning to let children (or adults!) paint in this area, consider using floor rugs that can be moved during art time.
5. Movie Theater
Love going to the movie theater? This is another industry that was negatively impacted by the Covid pandemic. Build your own private movie theater right below your feet in your basement. Make it state of the art with a good surround sound and a tv projector, add some comfy seating, maybe even install a popcorn machine!
6. Wine Cellar
If wine is one of your passions, create a deluxe wine cellar in your basement. Rooms below ground are usually a cooler temperature, which is ideal for storing your favorite vintages. Install wine racks to store your dry varietals horizontally, add a wine refrigerator for your sweets and bubbly, and start hosting your own tasting parties with friends and family.
7. Sports Bar or Man Cave
If beer is more your thing, consider building a bar instead! Start with a nice counter, install some keg taps, and of course- beverage coolers are a must-have. Add an indoor grill and a big screen tv, and you’ll be the ideal host for this year’s big games.
Do You Need Your Basement Assessed for Potential Problems?
Let Acculevel help you get your basement ready for finishing! We have been helping homeowners preserve and protect their homes since our start in 1996. We are proud to service the state of Indiana or the surrounding areas. We’re a family-owned and operated business still based out of our hometown of Rossville, Indiana.
Give us a call or complete our online form, and we’ll schedule an appointment for you with one of our expert project advisors. They will meet with you to discuss any concerns you may have, signs of potential problems, as well as what your goals are for the basement. After that, they’ll thoroughly assess your entire home and foundation. Once the assessment is complete, you and your project advisor will review the options and formulate the ideal plan for your home.
Our goal is to provide you with a whole-home solution. If we only address the symptoms of the problem and not the root cause, we are only offering a short-term option that will end up costing you more money later.
If you don’t live in our service area, please make sure that the company you hire is properly insured and accredited by the Better Business Bureau. This article provides a checklist of questions we encourage you to ask before signing a contract with any home repair business.