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25 Tips for Turning a Basement into a Living Space

Homes that have extra, unused basement space have a readymade renovation project just waiting to be started. Finishing a basement to create an extra room can raise a home's value and provide a place for renters, relatives and friends who don't mind living in basement spaces. But finishing a basement requires careful planning and the right improvement choices. Don't rush in. Check out these tips for the ideal livable basement space.

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Measure EverythingAlberto Masnovo/Shutterstock

Measure Everything

Know how much space you are working with. This is particularly important regarding height: Many local regulations on turning a basement into a livable area require that the basement be at least 7 feet tall, sometimes higher. Always consult local building codes. Plus: Measuring Tips and Techniques for DIYers

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Inspect Plumbing and WiringDavid Papazian/Shutterstock

Inspect Plumbing and Wiring

You will probably need to add plumbing and wiring to your basement, including a separate bathroom. Check on existing sytsems to see what expansions and upgrades need to be done. Remember, you'll need a permit for this work. Plus: Plumbing Tricks of the Trade for Weekend Plumbers

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Add Insulation for Warmth and Sound

Add Insulation for Warmth and Sound

You will need to insulate the ground and walls of the basement to both protect against noise and low temperatures, using insulated panels, batting, and other common materials. This could involve important wall renovation choices, so consider all your options. Plus: How to insulate a house

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Add Moisture ProtectionFrancesco Scatena/Shutterstock

Add Moisture Protection

Living in basement conditions requires vapor barriers to prevent moisture from spreading beyond the concrete walls, so consider that as you ponder basement living room ideas. Here's how to waterproof a basement.

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Install Proper Egress WindowsFamily Handyman

Install Proper Egress Windows

One of the most important parts of those basement building codes we mentioned are egress windows, basement windows that both let in light and allow people to escape in case of an emergency. A live-in basement requires these windows, so be prepared to expand existing windows and renovate your foundation to make room for them. We can help you install egress windows yourself.

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Include Proper Ventilationjeafish Ping/Shutterstock

Include Proper Ventilation

Ventilation is important for air flow. Not only does this help keep the basement fresh, but it also ensures that any fumes from heaters, cooking, etc. are safely funneled away.

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Check for Radon

Check for Radon

Radon is a type of ground-based radiation. Its presence depends on local geography, and if radon is an issue in your area you may want to get a radon test kit and check levels in your basement. Plus: Test Granite Countertops for Radon Gas and Radioactivity

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Check for Pests and RotFamily Handyman

Check for Pests and Rot

Check wood, stone and concrete for any signs of pests or moisture damage. Pest access must be blocked and rotted materials replaced before you begin your basement remodel. Plus: How to get rid of pests

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Install Durable WallsER_09/Shutterstock

Install Durable Walls

Instead of drywall, use more durable materials with great resistance to moisture and extra insulation, such as wall panels and foam boards that can be easily installed in basement spaces. You will probably need to add framing for both insulation and your walls. Plus: How to finish basement walls

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Inspect and Upgrade Flooring

Inspect and Upgrade Flooring

If people will be living in basement spaces, they probably don't want to walk on bare concrete. Wood flooring often doesn't work in basements because of moisture and warping, but engineered wood, tiles, and properly installed carpet are viable options.

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Have a Plan for Laundryalexandre zveiger/Shutterstock

Have a Plan for Laundry

If you are creating a separate apartment in the basement, consider adding a mini washer/dryer set. A communal laundry room may seem like a good idea, but carefully consider convenience and privacy issues when coming up with basement bedroom ideas. Plus: Ways to save money on new appliances

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Protect Already-Present AppliancesIgorsky/Shutterstock

Protect Already-Present Appliances

Does your basement house a radiator, water heater, freezer, furnace and other large appliance? Build a framework around them and keep them clear of renovations, if possible. These appliances need space to perform their jobs and prevent overheating. Don't cover them up! Plus: Build an attractive, movable room partition

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Install a Sump PumpFamily Handyman

Install a Sump Pump

A sump pump is a necessary installation in wetter areas where ground water can threaten basements. Now that your basement is becoming more valuable, you need to protect it the right way, which could require a sump pump as part of the renovation.

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Protect the Outside FoundationRadovan1/Shutterstock

Protect the Outside Foundation

Don't let moisture or standing water attack the outer foundation, either. Install gravel beds, sloping soil beds, rain diverters, and other important defenses against foundation damage around your house. Plus: Rain barrel diverters

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Expand and Upgrade the StairwayPodsolnukh/Shutterstock

Expand and Upgrade the Stairway

Basement stairs tend to be narrow and dark. Be sure there is as sturdy handrail and good lighting. Plus: Install a new stair rail

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Choose the Right Kind of Lightingpics721/Shutterstock

Choose the Right Kind of Lighting

Include as much natural light as possible in the basement living space by enlarging windows, if possible, when considering basement living room ideas. When picking out artificial lighting, go for warm lights that cover a lots of space to remove any of that leftover basement gloom. With enough ceiling fixtures and lamps, you should be able to create a cozy atmosphere. Plus: How to add a ceiling light fixture

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Plan a Ceiling with RoomFamily Handyman

Plan a Ceiling with Room

If you want a proper ceiling in the basement, you probably need to install a drop ceiling. These paneled ceilings come in many styles, so look for a residential option that doesn't invoke the feeling of a commercial setting.

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Install a Wall-Bed-Bookcase ComboFamily Handyman

Install a Wall-Bed-Bookcase Combo

A wall-bed combination or drop-down bed helps save a lot of room in a tight basement, so consider installing this DIY Murphy bed and bookcase. It's one of many great basement bedroom ideas. Further, a Murphy bed can be super simple: Some are just an upright box that contains a folddown bed. But this is a deluxe version because it includes ample storage. Get the full project instructions here.

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Don't Think About Adding New WallsArtazum/Shutterstock

Don't Think About Adding New Walls

Modern basement living quarters rarely have extra walls, and for good reason: They usually turn an already-small space into cramped, uncomfortable rooms. Instead, plan an open floor plan, and use tasteful partitions for separating areas. Plus: How to install a load-bearing beam

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Expand Window Wells

Expand Window Wells

Window wells provide an excellent opportunity to make living in basement spaces feel more comfortable: Think about expanding any current window wells to let in more light and allow for planting or even sitting outside.

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Don't Be Afraid to Let Some Areas MultitaskArtazum/Shutterstock

Don't Be Afraid to Let Some Areas Multitask

Review small apartment designs around the world, and you'll see a whole lot of ideas about how to make spaces pull double or triple duty when it comes to eating, working and relaxing. The right appliances, mobile furniture, pull-out features and other components can allow for a lot of flexibility, even in smaller spaces.

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Plan a Kitchen Area CarefullyArtazum/Shutterstock

Plan a Kitchen Area Carefully

What do you want in a basement kitchen area? Do you want a separate sink and oven? Do you want to downgrade to a microwave? Do you have the space for a dishwasher? These are important questions to ask when making the basement space as livable as possible. Remember that gas appliances require extra installation steps. Plus: Small kitchen space-saving tips

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Place Outlets and Connections ThoughtfullyJohn Arehart/Shutterstock

Place Outlets and Connections Thoughtfully

Whoever is living in your basement will probably have a computer, phone charger and a variety of electronic devices. Additionally, you may want to set up a TV or other type of entertainment system. Carefully think about where to put in outlets and make them plentiful!

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Build Versatile Storage SpaceFamily Handyman

Build Versatile Storage Space

Focus on storage that's easy to slide under other furniture or that can close up easily to create extra room when necessary. If you want one multipurpose closet, this one uses space very wisely. Plus: Clutter-busting strategies for every room

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Build a Walkout, if You Have RoomArtazum/Shutterstock

Build a Walkout, if You Have Room

A "walkout" is an independent exit from the basement into the outdoors. This works well for houses that are built on hills or have basements that can otherwise access enough outside space for a door and walkway. It's a great way to make the basement more independent and renter- or guest-friendly. Plus: Man cave ideas