Are you planning a lower level renovation with an eye on using the space as a living area or maybe even an apartment? It's a great idea! But it also requires the proper planning, especially when it comes to the most important changes you have to make — changes that are often required by law to make your lower level a livable space. To officially finished your lower level as a living space, local building codes have to be met. Each jurisdiction will have different rules, so make sure you reference your city's current building codes. Check out the six necessities you need for a solid remodel (and a safe conversion project).
Plumbing and Wiring
Plumbing is important for using the lower level as a living area, installing a bathroom, or just including a wet bar. Wiring is, of course, needed for all lighting and electronics. These need to be some of the first components you think about because they are typically installed first.
Lower level insulation is very important to avoid wasting energy. Heat can easily escape a lower level without adequate insulation on all sides, including the floor and ceiling. There are many types of paneling insulation that you can look into, but traditional batting is also an option, especially in larger lower levels.
Moisture barriers help prevent water vapor from seeping into the lower level. These barriers are a requirement for the floor and walls of the lower level and should be one of the first things installed (especially if you are considering a new subfloor as part of your project). Consult with an expert to find the right moisture barriers to use!
An egress window, as the name implies, is a window that you can exit from. It typically opens outward, swinging far enough so that an adult can use it to escape. Egress windows are usually required in finished lower levels used as living spaces for the safety factor, as they provide a vital route outside in case of a fire. Plan on installing an egress window, or another means of escape. Some homeowners prefer to install a full, separate door and exit area for the lower level leading up to a garden or sidewalk.
You can't forget about ventilation in a finished lower level! First, it can get stuffy in lower levels, and airflow is welcome. Second, lower levels can often grow cold in winter, and a source of heating is important. However, a fuel-based heating option produces fumes and requires ventilation (some homeowners prefer to connect the lower level to their house furnace, which is another option). Third, ventilation is another common building code for finished lower levels. Windows and vents are both ventilation options with their own pluses and minuses.
Durable Wall Materials
With the right moisture protection and insulation in place, you have a number of choices for lower level wall materials. Thicker, stronger materials are typically the best choice here. Look for modern paneling options that have fire resistance ratings, or stick with reliable drywall. It's important to make this choice while you are thinking about insulation because it will absolutely affect your insulation decision!
Want to learn more about lower level projects or plan a specific remodel of your own? We can help! Schedule your consultation with us at Owens Construction today and stay tuned for the rest of our lower level remodeling blog series.