Basements with a Purpose

I live in Portland, Oregon, where vintage homes are a premium, in part because of their basements.  In many cases, basements provide the simplest and most affordable way to increase livable space without building an addition to your home.

If you have a basement, this article is for you.  But before you spring headlong into a basement conversion project, here are some important questions to consider:

Is your basement dry? 

It’s important to carefully inspect the basement and surrounding yard or landscaping for dampness and proper drainage.  Are the rain drains doing their job and does the foundation of the house include exterior perimeter drainage tile?  If there has ever been a leak or moisture problem in the basement, this may prove to be an obstacle to a successful basement remodel.  In almost every case, we recommend installing an internal perimeter drainage system inside the basement and below floor level, along with a sump pump to collect any water that may accumulate at the basement level. 

What kind of basement access is available from inside and outside?

Building codes require an entrance to your basement via a proper stairway from the inside or outside of the house.  A basement living space must also include a secondary exit directly to the outside, in the event of a fire or other emergency.  An egress window or outside door qualifies as a secondary exit.  Additionally, each basement bedroom must have its own egress window or door exit.

How much headroom do you have down there?

The minimum headroom required for the space to be up to code (here in Portland) is 6’8”, but we recommend at least 7’0”  for the comfort of those using the space. If your basement lacks adequate headroom, we can often dig down to create more useable space.  

How much light flows into the basement?

If your basement is dark, it may still be usable if the right lighting is installed.  Much can be done with windows and light tunnels, and window wells can often be turned into small atriums or gardens.

How old is the plumbing? 

If you have an older home, and you probably do if you are reading this article, we encourage you to update the plumbing drains and supply lines prior to your basement conversation project.  It can be costly and disruptive to repair sewer lines under a concrete basement floor later on. 

You can see more about how a basement remodel can transform your space by viewing this Basement Remodel Slideshow.

The very best way to assess the possibility of a successful basement conversion is to meet with an experienced contractor. The possibilities are exciting! 

It’s what we do best, so let’s talk.

~Jim Bruce