5 Things to Think About When Doing a Basement Renovation

The hardest part of anything is usually just getting started.  A new job, going back to school or cleaning up after the guests have gone home is never quite as painful as you imagine it will be once you get into it.  Basement renovations are no different.

As with most things, a basement renovation takes careful planning to avoid going over budget or becoming a decade long ”weekend warrior” project.

Earl & Faith Stairs II

Here are the 5 main factors to plan for:


A lot of home renovation shows pretend that price is no object or pay for their projects themselves and fail to inform viewers of the most important factor in almost all home renovations.  You can have great basement ideas fit for any house and home magazine cover, but with a calculator and some common sense most of us realize that we need to practice some restraint.

Planning is vital to using limited funds effectively and creatively.  Regardless of whether you’re taking out a mortgage, using savings, getting a loan or line of credit to renovate, planning your budget is the very first step.

Figure out how much you would like to spend. Then figure out how much you actually can spend.  This probably won’t be the same number, unless money is no object!

However, almost every renovation project changes part way through and you need to be flexible financially.


Contracting Services

Find a contractor you can trust. Ask your friends and family who they recommend and check out the contractor’s website, past work and references.

As a contractor, my main goal is customer satisfaction.   I try to be honest at all times with my clients and it works best for them to be honest with me about their renovation ideas and their budget.  A good contractor will be able to get you the most bang for your buck and will likely have many ideas about how to save time and money while still delivering a high quality end product.



When planning this stage, ask yourself: “What is the purpose of renovating this space?”  Reasons abound and you need have this clearly in mind as you plan.

During the planning process, get some graph paper and draw out your space to scale.  Once you start drawing some walls, furniture, doors and appliances it will become apparent what will work and what won’t.  This is a great stage in which to include your contractor.  He should be experienced in basement design and bathroom design which is paramount in most basement renovations.

Special consideration should be given to access to natural light, stair restrictions, sub-floor construction, and bathroom placement and bearing walls.  There are so many things to consider in making your basement functional, but careful planning beforehand will decrease your stress and the duration of the project.


Moisture Prevention

The number one problem in basements is moisture, which can lead to harmful mold growth.  Special consideration needs to be given to any point where moisture can enter, get trapped and encourage mold growth.  These points are usually the sub-floor, walls, windows, window wells and bathrooms.

You need to think about how you will stop moisture and how you will deal with moisture if it does get in.  Again, this is an important point to talk about with your contractor of choice. It is possible to have a warm dry basement provided you plan accordingly.



Are you on a time crunch? Do you need your basement completed in time for your relatives’ annual visit? Talk to your contractor about it. Contractors often have two or more jobs on the go so that they can be working on another project while one of the other trades is working on your project. If however, he knows that your project has the tighter deadline, he will ensure that his other jobs don’t jeopardize that timeframe.

The biggest delays to basement renovations are usually the result of changing plans when construction is already underway.  Changing labour methods or materials can result in longer wait times for deliveries or doing one job more than once.  Time is money and time (therefore money) can be saved by planning in advance.  I can’t stress it enough: it’s easier to plan what you want and how to make it happen before walls are up or sub-floor is being laid.

An average of 6-8 different trades will most likely be on site during a basement renovation. It’s important to know when each trade needs to come and when they will finish so the next trade can begin.  Having and adhering to a trades schedule can cut the project time down by 30-40%. It’s your contractor’s job to ensure the trades move in and out of your home seamlessly and efficiently.