What’s It For?
As you prepare for this major undertaking, you first should find a focus for your basement remodel. Do you want more bedrooms and bathrooms for your family and for visitors, do the kids need room to play, are you hoping to add craft, workshop, and office space? Prioritizing your needs will lend clarity to your plan.
As your basement ideas take shape in your mind, write them down. Keep a list, tear out pages of magazines, bookmark websites, and stash examples in a Houzz Ideabook online. It’s OK to dream now; when you start counting the costs, you can decide which ideas you can afford and which ones you’ll have to let go.
Think about basement-specific issues that will affect how you proceed. Battling moisture in a basement is a given: Think sealants, insulation, and sump pumps. Ceiling heights can be tricky, and the city of Portland has rules requiring a height of 6 feet, 8 inches in most places. If your ceiling is too low, you might have to dig out the floor to gain more height. Tricks such as recessed light fixtures into the ceiling can help make up for the lack of height. Speaking of light, basements need it, and your plan must maximize natural light sources, incorporate sufficient fixtures to avoid the cave feeling, and use color to enhance the light. Finally, know that you’ll need to provide egress windows or doors for safety.
Follow the Rules
Most remodel projects require permits from the city of Portland and inspections of the work. Demolition, electrical, plumbing, mechanical, and structural work all require permits. Your contractor or design-build professional will be familiar with those requirements.
Count the Cost
Even before you talk to a builder and get price estimates, do some soul-searching and decide how much you want to dip into savings, how much equity you can borrow against, what kind of loan payments you can handle, and whether you’ll be able to recover the cost of the remodel when you sell your home. If you’re making the improvements primarily for your own use, you might not be as concerned about the payback. But if you’re thinking about selling your home in the near future, you should do some research on what kinds of projects will increase the resale value of the house.
Who Will Do the Work?
Here’s another important bit of homework to do. The selection of the designer and contractor (who will turn your remodel dreams into reality) will be your most important decision. Talk to people who are happy with the companies that did major renovations at their homes and read online reviews. Call your top prospects; ask if they can take on a project such as yours, if they can provide references, and if they will allow you to visit a work site. Make sure they have the right licenses and insurance. Call the references they provide and visit the Better Business Bureau website to check for complaints. Then select a few and set up in-person meetings. By now, you should be armed with enough information to make your choice.
Then it will be time to share your vision with your architect, designer, contractor, or design-build company. Be honest from the start about your budget. Talk about how you envision using your “new” basement and how you want to feel when you’re in it. When you sit down with your designer, have at the ready the examples of what you’re talking about — the clippings, photographs, and Houzz Ideabook images. Pull out a pencil and paper and sketch what you have in mind, if necessary. Your contractor will give you cost estimates, and it will be time to make those hard choices about what you can and can’t afford. A contract will follow, and then the work can begin.