What Does it Take to Remodel a Basement?

Housing in Seattle is tough: some homes are small and cramped with very little space to expand. If you have a growing family and moving is not an option, remodeling is often the go-to solution.

If budget and the City allows, some ambitious homeowners will opt to tackle addition projects, but for those who want to start a bit smaller, a basement remodel project may be just the ticket.

​What is the current main concern?

Lack of play area for the kids? Limited living space for entertainment? No quiet place for an office? Assign that need to a finished, remodeled basement.

Yes, your basement can become your new living room, your gaming room, dedicated playroom or an office!

So, you are sold on the idea of remodeling your basement. Great!

Is your basement a solid candidate for finishing? For example, there’s enough ceiling height; the foundation is completely intact and doesn’t leak; there aren’t any egregious code violations.

There are fixes for each of the issues mentioned above and more. For example if the ceiling isn’t high enough, you can lower the floor by removing the existing concrete slab, digging down and then pouring a new slab. If there isn’t an egress window, you can cut through the foundation wall and install one.

If you are already a professional, great. If not, you’ll definitely want to talk about it with someone you trust and feel comfortable communicating with sooner than later.

Now, what does a remodel look like?

Let’s walk through a current project as an illustration with Lead Carpenter Jeremiah Kossow.

By Bud Dietrich, AIA New Port Richey – See more Home Design Photos

Speaking of ceiling height

The family wanted to convert their garage into living space which in most cases requires the ceiling height to be adjusted higher. In this instance, there was ample headroom, but the foundation needed to be upgraded, so the project began with the demolition of the exterior wall and excavation i.e. removal of existing concrete slab and digging down.

Basement Remodel Preparation
Preparing the Construction Site – click the link to watch the video

Now, for many below-grade structures, vertical soil excavations are required due to space limitation surrounding the home. This means that temporary excavation shoring must be installed to prevent the soil from caving (it provides a means to safely accomplish the site excavation and improve the use of the site).

Basement Remodel Excavation Phase
Basement Remodel Excavation Phase – click the snapshot to watch the full video

Insulate while you’re down there

The slab needs to be insulated before pouring the concrete (to create a thermal break between the ground and concrete). This helps keep the ground from sucking up all the heat in your newly remodeled space.

An insulated basement will not only save you money on your energy bill but since 2012, the International Residential Code requires new houses to have insulated basements in cold zones (zone 3 or lower). Seattle fits the zone 5 category, but it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t insulate – since Seattle is plentiful of older homes, insulating a basement is always a sensible idea.

For this project, Jeremiah used rigid foam (fiberglass batts) to insulate the floors and walls, then air sealing it either by caulking or spray foaming any gaps.

When selecting efficient methods of insulation make sure you select those with high r-values that are also capable keeping your home warm in the winter and cool in the summer.

What other feature do you think would be desirable in a basement remodel….think floors……watch the video to find out!

Basement Remodel Foundation Poured
Concrete Floor Poured – click the snapshot to watch the full video

We’ll continue our journey of completing a basement remodel and update you with more videos from Jeremiah’s project.

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See you there!

Intrigued about Insulation? Check out one of our recent blogs on Insulation Essentials and # 1 Material Worth the Investment


About Olga Lockhart

Olga Lockhart, Marketing Manager for Pathway Design & Construction, researches, analyzes, and writes about these key topics: Universal Design, Aging in Place, Northwest building & Seattle remodeling trends, air quality issues, and solutions, during construction. She's also willing to chat about travel and culture out of the office.