Reno of the Month: 5 planning tips for your basement remodel

By Nicola Caul Shelley, Synergy Design & Construction

By now, it’s not new news that the COVID-19 pandemic unexpectedly resulted in an increased demand for home remodeling services.

Summer may be here, but even as we start to enjoy a little more “normalcy,” demand remains high. The pandemic sharply refocused minds on the importance of “home” and the desire to get what we want in our houses for our own enjoyment — and to put every square foot to good use. And there is one place in the home that is especially true: the basement!

It’s not always easy to know where to start, so here are five tips to help you plan for your basement remodel.

1. Make a list

What is it you want out of your basement remodel? Throwing up drywall and a coat of paint is much easier and less expensive than a design-thoughtful basement transformation. Make a list of your “must-haves,” “like-to-haves” and “pinch me” items. Here’s what this might look like.

  • Must-haves:
    • Refinish/finish rec room
    • Create guest bedroom
    • Add guest bathroom
  • Like-to-haves:
    • Custom bar and beverage center
    • Add walk-out
    • Add space for separate home gym
  • Pinch Me List:
    • Sauna
    • Temperature-controlled wine cellar

This will help you get your priorities right and give you a starting point for discussion with any contractors. As you begin to define the scope of your project and understand costs, it will also help you to focus on the things you can live without and can compromise on — or to make an informed decision to splurge on the things on your “pinch me” list!

2. Think about the best way to create “zones” in your space

One of the biggest mistakes we see homeowners make is not thinking through how they’ll actually use the space once it’s finished. If you entertain a lot, you need lots of places for guests to sit and convenient places to rest drinks and food. Separate zones mean guests can relax at the bar, watch the latest movie in a comfy chair or just find a quiet corner.

If your teens are going to be hanging out down in the basement the most, plan for the additional space you need for a pool or billiards table (and make sure there is room to take a shot without the cue banging into a wall!), that much coveted foosball table or anything else on their wishlist. A full-service design-build home remodeling company like Synergy can help with all of the above, but if you use a general contractor, help with furniture placement and layout may be outside of their scope of services.

3. It’s all about lighting!

Occasionally, folks comment on professional home remodeling photos: “It only looks much better because of the lighting in the ‘afters’ the professional photographers take.” While there is some truth to this, the camera, in this case, doesn’t lie! We put a lot of focus and attention on how to maximize lighting in the home remodels we work on. Nowhere is this more important than in a basement, which tends to be darker than the rest of the home.

Make a lighting plan and add recessed as well as pendant lighting if you can afford to. We also love under-cabinet lights if you have upper cabinets in the bar or integrated lighting under floating shelves. This helps provide functionality and/or ambiance while the rest of the room is in darkness for movie watching. Even better? Put dimmers on all your lights so you can easily create the mood you’re looking for.

4. Be realistic about cost

There are many factors that impact how much a basement remodel costs. Is your basement unfinished? Do you dream of a guest bathroom, but there are no rough-ins? You can read more about the things you need to think about as well as guidance on how much a basement remodel costs here.

Don’t forget — the last year has seen sky-rocketing lumber prices, which has impacted everything from framing to flooring, so you need to factor that into your expectations when discussing cost with contractors.

5. Get a sense check on timelines

We know what you’re thinking: It’s summer — why would I be thinking about my basement right now? Broken record here, but if you want to see your basement transformed anytime soon, you need to start the design process sooner rather than later. Most home remodelers and general contractors are now booked out throughout the end of the year for any new construction start dates.

A word of caution: any contractor who tells you they can start construction on your project in the next few weeks should cause you to pause. Dig a little deeper and find out why.

This month’s featured project is a basement remodel in McLean. The basement was finished, but although the home was only built in 2016, our client was ready to take things up a notch and turn it into a magazine-worthy entertainment space.

Thinking of a basement remodel in Reston or surrounding areas and not sure where to start? If you are ready to start your remodeling journey, find out more about us and how we can help you.

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