Top 5 Finishing a Basement Ideas

As of this writing, there are 6,326 active listings for Single-Family Homes in Louisville, according to our MLS. Of those, 3,717 (58%) have basements. If your home currently has an unfinished basement, I’m sure you’ve thought about the prospect of finishing it and adding to your home’s usable space, right?

Photo of a gorgeous finished basement in Louisville
The idea of finishing a basement is great, right Louisville? It’s a less expensive way to add additional living space. Just make sure you make the right choices.

Before you do, please consider these Top 5 Finishing a Basement Ideas.

1) Will The Basement Be a Rental Unit?

Unlike many larger, more urban cities, Louisville doesn’t have as many rental properties. Even more rare are the houses where the owner lives in one portion and rents out another.

If that is the plan for your current property, finishing the basement includes some extra steps that are required by law to make it a legal rental unit. Each principality is different but most include a separate entrance and fire separation between the units. There are codes specced for each.

When planning an income property project, you will also want improved sound barriers between the units so that you don’t hear the renters and they don’t hear you. This will take the form of enhanced insulation between the floor joists and other locations.

In most cases, working with a professional is a very smart move.

2) Making the Basement Safe

The most important factor in most home improvement projects is safety. Will the finished space be a safe place to live?

Finishing a large family room in the basement is a very popular choice for many families. Some, however, need additional bedrooms. In order for it to be a legal (and safe!) bedroom, it must have its own closet, door, and an egress window.

The definition of what constitutes an egress window changes by principality, but essentially it’s a window large enough that a rescue person, usually a fireman in full gear, can enter the premises and remove a person in the event of an emergency.

According to the International Residential Code (IRC), to be a legal egress window it must include:

  • Minimum width of opening: 20 in.
  • Minimum height of opening: 24 in.
  • Minimum net clear opening: 5.7 sq. ft. (5.0 sq. ft. for ground floor).
  • Maximum sill height above floor: 44 in

Other safety concerns may include structural supports, proper headspace, and access to stairs/exits.

Not all basements lend themselves to having a legal, safe bedroom so consult with a professional before finalizing your plans.

3) Designing the Space for Maximum Efficiency

I’ve been through enough basements to see the value of a well-defined space. Some poorly designed basements are a maze of hallways, doors and closet-sized rooms. Others make the most of the space by devoting the best areas to those rooms that will be most often used by the homeowners.

All homes need storage but not all storage rooms need to be gigantic 30’x 18′ rooms.

Work with an architect, or at least a seasoned designer, such as a home builder, remodeler or expert Louisville Realtor®. These pros can help design a space that you and your family can use for years to come!

4) To Waterproof or Not To Waterproof, That Is the Question

Few scenarios could be worse than putting time and money into finishing a fabulous Louisville basement only to have a water leak ruin the space. In Louisville, having a sump pump in your basement is generally a given. A sump pump’s job is to keep the water table that is under your home from sending water up through the basement floor. But what about water coming in through the basement walls?

There are systems that can fully guarantee that water will not enter your finished basement but they are not cheap. Interview some of the following Louisville companies to learn more about the solution and pricing to determine if making that kind of investment makes sense for your home.

5) Ingredients to Finish Your Basement

So many finishing a basement ideas will be influenced by your budget. There are many grades of insulation, special sound-proofing drywall and flooring choices—not to mention all the choices that come with putting a bathroom or kitchenette in your Louisville basement.

Consider the level of finish that is consistent to your neighborhood before making any final choices. I’ve seen properties where the homeowners have over-spent on their basements and thereby made it difficult to recoup those dollars when the time came to sell.

At the end of the day, you want your finished space to fit you, enhance your quality of life, and add to the value of your home. If you follow the guidance I’ve outlined here, you’ll certainly achieve those results after finishing your Louisville basement.

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