A blank canvas for homebuyers

An unfinished basement can be the perfect blank canvas for any homebuyers work or entertainment space. 

Whether a home is lacking a play area for the children, a man cave, an office, an in-home business such as a day-care, a family room, guest room, theater room, home-gym, or a mother-in-law apartment, the unfinished basement is the prefect blank canvas.

While the average basement remodel cost is around $6,500 to $18,500, the current national return on investment can be as much as 75 cents on the dollar. There are however, some considerations before starting a basement remodel project.

Basements should not be included in square footage, according to Fannie Mae and ANSI guidelines. In short, if the area is below ground level, it doesn't count as living space. This does not mean a basement cannot contribute to the value of a home. Most homebuyers are looking for finished basements and consider the extra cost tacked onto the sale price.

Local building codes may demand egress windows in order for a basement room to be considered a bedroom, Egress windows must be large enough for a firefighter in full gear to get into a burning house and for occupants to safely escape if stairways are blocked by fire. Minimum width of opening: 20 in. Minimum height of opening: 24 in. Minimum net clear opening: 5.7 sq. ft. (5.0 sq. ft. for ground floor) Maximum sill height above floor: 44 in. Another egress option is to add hinged outside access doors.

Moisture must be addressed in basements. Merely installing a dehumidifier can actually create problems by drawing water through foundation walls. Make sure there is good drainage off the roof and away from the foundation, provide good ventilation of bathrooms and kitchens to the outside, and don't open windows during humid months. Along with breathable insulation, a vapor retardant should be installed between interior stud walls and floors, and between foundation walls and floor slabs.

Any basement plans that include electrical or plumbing will have to undergo inspection, so check with local municipality for any permits needed. Call the city or county clerk and they’ll be able to explain the permitting and inspection process.

There are three key rules to keep in mind whenever drawing up plans for the basement remodel.

• Walling off any areas that need privacy.

• Leave the area around the water heater unfinished in case of leaks.

• Keep the plumbing in place whenever possible to cut down on cost.

— Marla Ballard’s Master of Disguise

appears in the weekday editions of the Times-Journal.

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