When you bought your home, you imagined you'd raise your family in it. But, with each child, and all their toys, it seems the walls in your house have moved closer together. You dream of buying a larger home to accommodate your growing family and all their needs, but you just can't afford it. If your family has outgrown the living spaces in your home and you cannot afford to buy something bigger, consider finishing your basement. Before you do, there are a few important things to take care of. Here are 3 questions to ask.
Is It Dry?
Most basements are damp. Fortunately, dampness can be controlled with waterproofing. But, just how damp is your basement? Inspect your basement walls and flooring to see if there are any cracks that can be letting water come in. It's important to know, however, that water can seep through concrete since it is a porous material. For this reason, you'll need to conduct this simple test: tape a thick sheet of plastic on the basement floor and another sheet to one of the walls. Let the plastic remain there undisturbed for several days. Then, check underneath the plastic to see if it has moisture condensation on it. If so, you'll need to waterproof your basement before you finish it. This may simply involve coating your foundation walls with a waterproofing sealant. However, for the best results consider installing a waterproofing membrane around the perimeter of your foundation, as well as a French drainage system.
Also, you'll need to make sure your sump pump is up to the task of keeping your basement dry. Consider installing a more powerful sump pump and redirecting the outward piping further away from your foundation. Make sure your gutters and downspouts are also dispelling water far enough away from the foundation to not cause problems with dampness or flooding.
Is there Radon?
Radon is a dangerous gas that naturally occurs in the ground. It is the second leading cause of lung cancer because it is radioactive. Just like with moisture, radon can seep in through your foundation walls and flooring. You'll need to test your home for radon, especially in your basement, because it cannot be seen, tasted or smelled. If radon is found, you'll need to have it removed by a professional. You'll also need to install a protective barrier, a radon stack, or a sub slab depressurization system. Hire a radon specialist who can determine which type of remedy will work best for your home.
Additionally, you may need to make sure your home is properly ventilated. If your home has negative air pressure, this may cause radon to be sucked into your home. Good ventilation in your attic and basement can help you mitigate the risks of radon exposure in addition to a radon removal system.
Is there a Fire Escape?
Is there a way for your family to escape the basement if a fire keeps them from using the stairway? Unless you already have a window in the basement that is large enough for your biggest family member to escape through, your family may become trapped in the basement in case of a fire. Fortunately, you can install an egress window in one of the basement walls. An egress window is designed to be opened to allow for a fire escape. To install one, you'll need to excavate part of your foundation and have a hole cut into the concrete wall. As an added benefit, you'll have some daylight in your basement which can make it feel less like a dungeon.
A finished basement can provide your family with additional living space. But, finishing a basement without taking the necessary precautions may cause your basement to be a huge problem with moisture, radon and entrapment in case of a fire. Prepare your basement first before you finish it so your family can be dry and safe.