The Inside Outside Guys: Completing your basement, part two

Ken Calverley and Chuck Breidenstein
Special to The Detroit News

In our last article, we performed our preliminary basement room and wall layout. We then determined where mechanical work needed to be done and where egress needed to be provided. We also got a sense of what our budget might look like, though many specifications were yet to be determined.

If you are going to be utilizing the services of a professional, now is a good time to interview a couple.

You want to talk with people like Basements Plus in Commerce that have a unique expertise and an in-house design staff.

A plan should be drawn indicating the layout with dimensions and specifications.

Choices are best made early in the process for finishes, fixtures and materials. This allows you to order with good lead time and to price the project to avoid surprises down the road.

This  basement is an entertainment hub housing a pool table, shuffleboard, a large flat-screen TV, a gym, and a workshop room.

Custom builders learned years ago to “force” the issue of early choices with buyers. They found that the more time a buyer has to make choices the more time they will take – even at the risk of delaying the job – and the less happy they were likely to be with their final choices.

A third dynamic comes in to play when specifications are delayed; pricing. Until you know what you are buying, you cannot know the cost. Delayed choices most often lead to budget overruns and a less satisfied customer.

This is so important many contractors will not begin a job until all specifications have been determined and pricing assigned.

Making early choices will allow you, the homeowner, to enjoy the process with reduced stress and fewer surprises.

The modifications to mechanicals will be step one, along with construction of walls and egress work.

A plumber may need to come in and cut the floor to install bathroom drains. It is also suggested you consider installation of a check valve in the sewer lead to prevent future sewer backups.

Your HVAC professional should install additional supply and return ducts and registers.

Water pipes should be insulated using closed cell foam insulation. This can minimize the potential for condensate staining a finished ceiling and it will help quiet the pipes. Some owners in older homes will opt to have the horizontal pipes replaced with a PEX product before finishing the basement.

A PEX-type product will not only quiet water flow, but will reduce any potential for condensate.

A decision will be made early whether to use wood framing or metal. Various professionals will express opinions based on experience. From a cost perspective they will be comparable. Avoiding the use of “organics” like wood can eliminate concerns regarding mold issues if there are any future floods. You might even consider the use of a high-quality treated wood product

There are panelized basement finishing systems in the market that are entirely non-organic. Some use plastics and compressed fiberglass panels while others use cement-based panels.

As part of this consideration, we suggest the framing not come into direct contact with exterior basement walls and floors. Basement walls are inherently less then “true” in terms of running straight and plumb, so you can actually achieve higher quality finish by making the walls “independent” of the foundation.

When wood or steel needs to be placed directly on or against concrete, we suggest use of a continuous bead of construction adhesive to serve as a thermal and capillary break — keeping any moisture in the concrete from moving into the wall frame.

Consider thermal and sound insulation now as well. Spray foam is a great product that can also provide reduced sound transmission through ceilings. Styrofoam sheets applied directly to exterior foundation walls can also provide excellent heat loss reduction. Fiberglass batt does little to reduce sound transmission.

Between adjoining rooms, consider installation of sound-deadening board, such as  Homasote, between the frame and drywall.

Drywall is still the best wall finish value available. Even if you have a flood at some point, it is an easy tear out and replacement when compared to other product. When installed, avoid direct contact with the floor.

Trim options include solid soft or hardwood, PVC, finger-jointed softwoods, and MDF. The choice for many today is MDF, Medium Density Fiberboard. It has many advantages, from consistent density to acceptance of glue and fasteners to dimensional stability. We suggest all trims avoid direct contact with a concrete floor.

Flooring options abound, from the monolithic custom finishes offered by Motor City Floors and Coatings in Novi to full synthetic carpets to vinyl plank product. Commercial carpet squares are a great decorative option for the DIYer wanting to have something truly unique, warm, affordable and easily modified.

Ceiling finish can also be a point of contention from aesthetics to budgeting. Drywall is the first choice of many and is a great value. There are many options available for suspended ceiling systems, some quite pricey. The benefit here is both a beautiful ceiling design, sound transmission reduction and future access to pipes and mechanicals.

Hopefully you now feel armed to pursue a home expansion into the below grade space so that when the holidays are again upon us, you can look forward to the entire family enjoying the festivities in one home – yours.

For housing advice and more, listen to the Inside Outside Guys every Saturday and Sunday on News/Talk 760, WJR-AM, from 10 a.m. to noon or contact us at