A basement remodel is a surefire way to increase your home’s value while giving yourself and your family a beautiful additional living space. So far, planning for your upcoming remodel has probably revolved around the end product—how you ultimately want to use your newly finished basement and the changes you’ll need to make to the existing space to achieve it. But when it comes to a space like a basement, there’s a lot of prep work you’ll need to complete before the actual remodeling can begin. Prepping for a basement remodel requires more than preparing for the remodeling itself. These tasks can get lost in the shuffle as you plan for the main event, but if you ignore them, you’ll make the main event much harder to accomplish. So, don’t forget–to prep for your basement remodel you’ll need to:

Forget About Finishing Your Utility Area

It’s natural to want to finish your entire basement. After all, why would you leave an unfinished corner after you’ve gone to all the trouble of turning your basement into an inviting room. But the space that houses your HVAC unit and water heater should really be kept open and unfinished. There are several reasons. For one, you’ll need to have easy access to these areas for inspections and repairs. For another, the area around these units is subject to special building codes in terms of spacing and framing. Don’t worry though. Just plan a half-wall, pretty curtain or other element to hid your utility area from the rest of your new and improved basement.


Identify Any Water Issues

Whether or not your basement has ever flooded or suffered from leaks in the past, you’ll want to identify and address any existing or potential water issues before you begin your basement remodel. You really don’t want to go to all the expense and work of finishing your basement only to have it ruined because you didn’t take the necessary steps to protect your home from water damage. Examine your foundation walls closely for cracks and fix any that you find. If water often pools in your yard when it rains, take the time now to grade your lawn away from your foundation to ensure that water can’t pool there and threaten your basement. Finally, make plans to install a vapor barrier for your walls and floor if you haven’t already planned to do so.

Take Drop Ceilings Into Account

You’re likely planning to install a drop ceiling as part of your basement remodel. They offer the best way to conceal duct work while still providing easy access to pipes and electrical lines when maintenance is needed. If you flinch at the thought of drop ceilings because you associate them with bland office buildings or warehouses, rest assured that today there are plenty of very modern and attractive styles to choose from. While installing drop ceilings is a great idea, keep in mind that suspended ceilings like this reduce the vertical space in your basement. When measuring for the remodel and selecting furniture/decorative elements for the space, remember to use the area’s post-drop ceiling height. If you use the current height, your measurements will be off.

Identify Where You will Need Additional Outlets

Precisely because they weren’t originally designed to be spaces people would hang out in, most basements have few outlets beyond those needed for washers and dryers. Depending on how you plan to use your newly finished basement when the remodel is complete, you’ll likely need to install additional outlets. Before you begin the actual remodeling work, determine where you’re going to want those additional outlets positioned, then decide whether to hire an electrician or install the new outlets yourself.

Get Your Permits

Whether you’re doing the work yourself or hiring a contractor, you’ll need a permit to remodel your basement. The type of permit you’ll need will depend on the scale of your basement remodel and the building codes and zoning laws in your area. Once you’ve drawn up your plans, contact your city office about the permitting process in your city.

Decide How You’ll Deal with Waste Removal

Like most home improvement projects, a basement remodel will generate a significant amount of waste. In all likelihood, there will be too much of it to put out at the curb for city trash pickup. It’s also very likely that you’ll have debris to get rid of that can’t be left at the curb. In addition, because your unfinished basement was probably used as storage for all the junk you no longer needed but couldn’t convince yourself to throw out, you’ll have a major cleanup to undertake before you even begin the remodel itself. For both situations, a dumpster rental will almost certainly be the easiest and most affordable way to dispose of such a large quantity of items and debris.

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Remove the Junk

Of course, you already know that you’ll need to clean out your basement before you begin the remodeling work, but it’s easy to gloss over this task as you plan the rest of the job because it seems so straightforward. But the quickest way to turn your basement remodel into the job that never ends is to underestimate the amount of work it will take to clear the junk out. You need a concrete plan and timeline for how you’re going to sort through all the stuff stored in your basement, how you’re going to dispose of the stuff you no longer want/need, and where you’re going to store the stuff you are keeping now that you’ll no longer be using your basement as storage space.

Figuring out how to declutter your home, especially a clutter-heavy area like a basement, can be difficult, but there are many systems you can use to make the task easier. Our favorite: divide your basement into zones, and work on cleaning out one zone at a time. Don’t move onto another zone until the current one is complete. These zones can be divided however you choose: by physical areas of the basement, by types of items, by season, or whatever else makes sense to you. For each zone, make a “to keep” and a “get rid of” pile. And then get real with yourself about what really needs to stay. Remember, once your basement is finished you’ll have much less storage space in your home, so you’ll need to be much more selective about what you keep.

We already mentioned it, but it bears repeating: a dumpster rental can be a godsend here. Not only will it make the cleanup easier, but it gives you a way to put your “get rid of” pile out of sight and out of mind right away. When there’s no pile of junk hanging around in your garage or yard waiting for you to figure out how to get rid of it, there’s no chance for you to second guess yourself and start “rescuing” things you no longer have any room for.

Gather Specialized Tools

If you’ll be handling some or all of the work on your basement remodel yourself, the everyday contents of your toolbox might not be enough to get the job done. Basements present unique challenges that may require special tools. For example, regular nails and screws won’t cut it in a basement, where the walls and floors are usually composed of cement or cinder block. Your best bet to streamline the process might be to rent a powder actuated tool (also called stud guns or stud drivers).

These are tools that use gunpowder cartridges to propel specially made nails into concrete or block. If you’re not familiar with the concept, that may sound dangerous, but they’re easy to use and perfectly safe with some basic, common sense precautions. Note that some municipalities have rules about where and for what type of projects stud guns can be used. Check with your city office before renting one to help with your remodel.

Other tools to consider if you don’t already own them:

• Sledgehammer
• Power saw
• Framing square
• Framing nailer
• Table saw

Whether you buy or rent the tools you’ll need, always take the time to learn how to use them properly—and of course safely.

A finished basement is a great addition to any home. Not only does it give you an extra, inviting living space, but it will increase the value of your home and make it more attractive to potential buyers if you ever decide to move. A basement remodel is a big job, but if you take the time to do the right prep work before you get started, you can get the job done right the first time and move on to enjoying your new space.