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5 TIPS FOR BUILDING A BASEMENT APARTMENT : BASEMENT APARTMENTS 101



The truth is, there are dozens of considerations when planning a basement apartment renovation.

In this article, we’ll focus on a few of the most important considerations.

If you take the time to do it right, you’ll have solid rental income for many years to come… Get it wrong, and you’ll be creating an expensive, long-term nightmare for yourself.


The truth is, there are dozens of considerations when planning a basement apartment renovation, here are just a few:

  • Moisture & Drainage

  • Sump Pumps

  • Pests and Rot

  • Laundry & Bathrooms

  • Kitchens

  • Ventilation

  • Soundproofing

  • Basement apartment entrance & privacy

  • Flooring

  • Light, Windows and Egress

  • Local building regulations

  • Design and construction

  • Durable walls that will last

  • Protecting your foundations

  • Stairways and accessibility

  • Fixed or drop ceiling

  • Power and outlets

  • Maximising storage space

  • Walkouts and window wells

  • DIY Vs. Contractors

  • Selecting the right contractors

  • Architects

  • Costs & Budgets

  • Heating and cooling

  • Humidity Control

  • Financing

  • etc

In this article, we’ll focus on a few of the most important considerations.

If you take the time to do it right, you’ll have solid rental income for many years to come… Get it wrong, and you’ll be creating an expensive, long-term nightmare for yourself.

Perhaps you aren’t looking to make extra income, but instead need a basement apartment for in-laws or other family members. Whatever you need your basement apartment for, we hope this article helps you create the perfect space!

MOISTURE PROTECTION

The materials and design you choose are very important to prevent mold.

With the right levels of moisture and oxygen, mold can grow on virtually any organic material.

According to the EPA, indoor relative humidity (RH) in homes should be kept below 60 percent - ideally between 30 percent and 50 percent.

Maintaining the correct humidity levels will also have a bonus effect - discouraging pests such as cockroaches, silverfish and dust mites from populating your new basement.

Vapor barriers are also required to prevent moisture from spreading beyond the concrete walls, so consider that as you ponder basement living room ideas.

The best plan is to stop water from entering your basement in the first place!

Be sure to address exterior issues first. The ground next to your home should slope down away from the building by least 6 in. for the first 10 ft. Consider installing gutters, or make sure the existing gutters are working properly. Also, check that your irrigation system isn't making matters worse by spraying water up against the side of the house, because it will make its way down to your basement and put load on the drainage/pump.

Out advice for insulating basements is to take your time and do your research. If at all possible, completely eliminate fiberglass insulation from your plans.

And lastly take your time and do a good job. If you cut corners here, it will likely result in serious problems down the road including potentially dangerous mold growth.

The truth is, there are dozens of options for insulation. You can’t treat basements the same as your home, above the ground. Building below is a whole different matter.

If you are planning a DIY basement apartment renovation, here is our advice on a proper wall assembly to prevent mold (It will take a bit of extra work, but will stand the test of time):

1.       Install two inches of rigid insulation board hard against the concrete wall. You can use concrete nails or even adhesive while you frame your walls.

2.       Frame an interior 2x4 stud wall at 24 inch centres, pressed tightly against the foam panels.

3.       Install mineral wool batts in these cavities. Mineral wool is unharmed by moisture, and if it gets wet it will retain its shape and R value when it dries; fiberglass is not so resilient.

4.       Lastly, install drywall and paint it with a latex paint only.


INSTALL CORRECT EGRESS WINDOWS

This is one of the most important parts of basement building codes. An egress window is a basement window that both lets light in and allows people to escape in case of an emergency.

A live-in basement apartment definitely requires these windows, so be prepared to expand existing windows and renovate your foundation to make room for them.

It is important to note that not all basement windows are egress windows. For example, if you have an unfinished basement, it may have ventilation windows. These are unlikely to meet the code for egress windows.

If you are building or renovating your basement and intend on building a basement apartment, building codes require it to have egress windows, or other means of egress such as a door. It is also worth noting that every basement bedroom, whether existing or added, is required by code to have an egress window.

VENTILATION

Ventilation is important for air flow. Not only does this help keep the basement fresh, but it also ensures that any fumes from heaters, cooking, etc. are safely funneled away.

Proper ventilation is required to adequately control moisture vapor, be it generated internally or brought through from the structure.

Cross ventilation or passive stack ventilation are the most effective forms of natural ventilation although continuous mechanical ventilation may be required depending upon proposed use and internal arrangement of rooms.

For spaces with expected high levels of humidity, such as laundry, bathrooms or gyms, mechanical ventilation is critical.

During a renovation, there are some ways you can save money… ventilation isn’t one of them. Proper ventilation for your basement apartment renovation is crucial. We recommend you consult a specialist basement designer or builder like BCR.



INSPECT AND UPGRADE FLOORING

When someone asks what you would want for your flooring, the first thing that pops into your

mind is wood vs. carpet. But before you settle on the finishing, you have to consider what will be

under the finishing. This is an important consideration when building a basement apartment… it’s not the same as building above ground.

People living in basement apartments probably don’t want to walk on bare concrete. Wood flooring often doesn’t work in basements because of moisture and warping, but engineered wood, tiles, and properly installed carpet can be viable options.

Remember that even with a concrete floor, water can rise and damage flooring if the process is not done correctly.

Since many flooring experts usually recommend against installing traditional strip or plank hardwoods below grade, the six best options for basement flooring over concrete are:

1.       Wood

2.       Laminate

3.       Carpet

4.       Rubber Tile

5.       Vinyl Tile

6.       Ceramic Tile

When building a basement apartment, you should consider a layer (or number of layers) between the concrete floor and your chosen top floor finish. You can Prevent damp basement floors from ruining carpet and other finished flooring. Consider dimpled polyethylene to create an air space between the concrete and the finished floor, sealing off dampness and giving moisture a chance to dissipate


BCR specialize in basement apartments

DIY VS. PRO, THE AGE-OLD DEBATE WHEN RENOVATING A BASEMENT APARTMENT In the age of the internet, there is no shortage of information and resources to help you renovate your own basement. If you have the time, and consider yourself handy, you could certainly manage the process yourself and bring in the pros at certain points in the renovation. The trade off is generally time. It can take you many months longer to complete yourself, as opposed to having a builder manage your project to completion… A good basement builder can often save your relationship and your sanity. With a professional builder, you’ll also have access to great finance. This might mean that you can invest a little more and get the added extras you might otherwise hold off on. A professional Basement Apartment builder will also be able to add value during the design phase, helping you enhance your design with things you hadn’t otherwise thought of. Even as your build progresses, you’ll undoubtedly come across challenges… Your builder is experiences and will offer time saving and cost saving work-arounds to ensure the best outcomes. Of course, with the DIY approach, there will be monetary savings you can make if you manage the job yourself along with the satisfaction of doing it yourself… the question is what is more important to you? For many people who choose to renovate, it often works out to be more expensive in the end. Consider wasted materials, unexpected challenges and mistakes. Many DIY renovators will tell you, they wish they had hired a builder from the start. Here is our advice. Don’t be afraid to get a few professional basement apartment quotes, shop around, do your own homework. Then take some time to plan your own DIY renovation, map it out and cost it out. Then your decision will become clear. Don’t proceed blindly down one path. You might be surprised.   Want a no obligation quote? Let BCR Basements help.

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