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Charlie Glahe WIN Broomfield

Finishing a basement: Expert advice, including safety tips

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A homeowner can get many benefits out of a finished basement. In addition to the immediate boost in a house's equity, a revitalized basement becomes extra rooms, increased livable square footage and a new area for different uses.

Before any of this is achievable, though, a basement must be inspected using qualified home inspection services, so any future construction can be done safely and correctly.

Areas to look at before starting
A basement has a number of nooks and crannies, and most can provide potentially dangerous situations.

Prior to starting, a home inspection can determine if the basement has any moisture concerns. Even with an inspection completed, though, homeowners will want to double-check all state and building codes to ensure that everything will be legal. Some renovations might require permits to complete, and it is safer to check before getting underway to avoid any delays or fines.

According to the DIY Network, interior and exterior walls have to be looked at to check for structural problems. If the ground outside the foundation walls isn't sloped away from the home, the chance for water problems is increased. Any downspouts or other gutters that aren't functioning properly may bring water into a basement. It is safe to begin construction once a homeowner is confident that the basement will remain dry.

Additionally, take a look at any crawlspaces and other corners of a basement. Popular Mechanics magazine reports that nearly 1 million homes a year could be sold without a property inspection, and this has led homeowners into some interesting finds.

Tim Hockenberry, of the HGTV television show House Detective and DIY Network's Finders Fixers, believes that many owners will discover some unfortunate truths about their homes, both after a purchase and prior to selling. More frequent home inspections will prevent bad, and costly, surprises.

In the basement, keep an eye out for rotted woods and bad joints. Any weak areas could be an indication of water damage, dry rot, or insects. Termites leave pencil-sized holes along basement joists. Call an exterminator if any termites are found, since a prolonged infestation will lead to a much larger bill.

Moreover, any electrical problems need to be addressed before finishing a basement. Spliced wiring is a red flag, and if found the rest of the home should be checked. The foundation should be looked over for any growing horizontal and vertical cracks, and fixing any of these issues early is more cost-effective.

Tips to finish a basement successfully
Once the basement is safe to renovate, take the time to prepare so any problems don't appear in the future. A property inspection can help answer any construction concerns. 

It can save money for the homeowner to do steps of a project themselves, according to the DIY Network. Professional contractors use something called a "shotgun," which is a fast method for shooting studs. Perhaps consider renting one so the bones of a basement can be installed without hiring any help. 

Don't forget the insulation, the Family Handyman reports. Gluing 3/4 inch foam insulation to joists and foundation walls will make a basement feel like it is livable during every season of the year. Without it, heating and cooling can escape and the final product will suffer.

It helps to plan ahead in order to conceal any ductwork along the ceiling or wall. A great way to hide them is to box them in, then cover the wood with drywall. This process is called a soffit, and there construction depends on the distance of the lowest ceiling duct to the floor.

If any components of the electrical and plumbing systems need to be accessed, it may be better to install suspended ceiling tiles instead of drywall, so routine maintenance and home inspections can be performed.