|Alpine Log Homes photo
Perhaps your child left the nest years ago but has recently boomeranged back home with children in tow. Or maybe there is a teenage rock star wannabe in residence who is making teeth-grinding attempts at melodies. Or possibly you’ve started a new home-based business that needs some legroom to get up and running.
Whatever the reason, you need more space to keep your sanity and you’ve decided to finish out your basement. This is a smart choice, since this project will not only increase the resale value of your home, it also will prove far less expensive than building an addition on your log home. Unlike new construction, the walls and infrastructure are already in place. Now it’s up to you to figure out how you’ll fill it in. Here are some points to consider when taking this blank slate and turning it into a much-needed room in your home.
“Every segment of a household has different activities, interests and needs. These differ between male and female and at different ages,” says Rick Kyle, owner of Basement Builders of Colorado, which designs and remodels more than 50 basements annually in the Denver market. “Women, for instance, are far more interested in interactive areas. So conversation areas are the focus of the design. Men, on the other hand, prefer segmented areas, almost like workstations.” A male-focused design may feature separate areas for games, study or relaxing. The challenge, of course, is to blend these diverse needs into the design.
Realize that unlike new construction, you are limited to a finite space. “When you start dividing up the basement with walls, the space gets small in a hurry,” says Tony Gianella, owner of Basements Unlimited in Boston, Massachusetts. So you and your spouse should thoroughly discuss the intent of the space before any walls go up and all the space you thought you had slowly closes in.
Also, consider how you’ll hide existing plumbing and HVAC. Since you have the constraints of building around them, they may affect the ceiling height or create odd configurations by boxing them in. The smaller your basement is, the more crucial your decisions are because you don’t want to have a ceiling height that makes moving around uncomfortable.
Check local building codes. Bedrooms in a finished basement may need larger-sized window wells to allow egress by firemen. You may want to consider a new stepped, plastic window well that lets in light, creates space for flowers and serves as emergency steps out of a finished basement. Review local regulations before you begin designing to ensure that your basement will be finished up to code.
Many log homes feature a kitchen open to the great room on the main floor. While this open space is ideal for socializing, it’s a poor environment for focusing on televised entertainment. Designating a space in the basement for this activity often makes the great room more peaceful.
Adding a full bathroom is common. Additional bedrooms for teens or an in-law suite are also popular, as are recreation rooms, a home office or gym.
Regardless of the function of the rooms, it may be wise to add a small kitchenette or wet bar. “Try to make this living area self supporting. If it isn’t user friendly then there will be constant traffic back upstairs to the kitchen,” Rick says.
To make sure the flow works, the professionals recommend you sit down with an interior designer or architect who can show you some options. Some companies who specialize in basement remodeling provide this service as part of their fee.
Consider the Cost
If, for instance, you are just creating one large utilitarian space with one bathroom and a small kitchenette, professionally built, will start at $30 to $40 per square foot. This price would then start to climb with more upscale choices in cabinetry, plumbing fixtures, flooring and ceiling finishings.
However, if you’re opting for a home theater system with acoustic paneling and sound proofing insulation along with other upscale amenities, your budget will likely jump into the $50 to $80 per square foot range in most regions.
Some of the cost will also be affected by the configuration of your basement. If the location of your bathroom requires long runs of plumbing and venting, then it will cost more than the standard $2,500 to $5,000 for a bathroom.
Get the Job Done
“In a lot of situations, I walk into a job that has already been started by the client,” says Rick. “If they haven’t performed the work correctly to code, then I have to tear it down and start over. This can actually end up costing more.”
Regardless of how you proceed, with some thought and creativity you’ll end up with a new space downstairs that’s as warm and inviting as your log home above.
Story by Charles Bevier