Think about all of that excess, empty square footage sitting under your house: your basement. You dream about transforming it into a game room, home theater, guest quarters or a playroom. Renovating your basement is actually more green than adding onto your house, and by virtue of being underground, it's highly insulated and naturally cooler than the rest of your home.
However, a room that is partially or completely submerged presents a plethora of challenges including indoor air quality issues, moisture control and access (or not) to natural light. Consider these sustainability issues as you plan your basement remodel.
Before you get lost in your fantasy of transforming your basement into the new neighborhood hot spot, first you must be sure that you are keeping moisture out. Moisture creates a breeding ground for mold, which is extremely dangerous to your health. If you suspect that your basement is already infested with mold, prior to completing your basement remodel, you must call a professional abatement company to remove this threat.
To prevent moisture from ruining your basement remodel, extend your gutters so water is directed away from your foundation wall. You may need to install a drainage system or extra dirt to create a sloped grade in order to properly divert the water. And don't forget the all important moisture barrier! However, if you seal your basement too well and don't allow it to breathe, you may increase energy efficiency but simultaneously create moisture problems, even if you never had them before.
You must allow your basement to breathe. It seems strange, talking about homes as if they were people, but your indoor air quality is dependent on your basement's ability to maintain some amount of air flow and proper ventilation. Select permeable materials for your basement remodel, such as cork floors or exposed concrete. Rigid insulation is the most permeable type and increases energy efficiency in your basement. Avoid materials that can absorb too much moisture, such as carpet or wallpaper. Not to mention, they often emit VOCs and compromise your basement's air quality.
Natural Lighting...or the Absence Thereof
Although some basement uses-such as home theaters or game rooms-don't require natural light, if you are converting your basement into living or office space, codes may require you to provide such access. Also, you may have to install some means of egress in case of fire or emergency, no matter what type of space your basement becomes.
One option is to install window wells, which are shallow trenches that accommodate small, high windows in your basement. Reflective surfaces, such as mirrors or light wall colors, can help to amplify low levels of light. If your basement has absolutely no access to natural light, recreate the effect with fiber optic lighting or solar tubes. These light sources are energy efficient and feel more like the sun than a lamp.
Are you ready to tackle that basement remodel and start enjoying your additional square footage? Remodeling your basement offers an opportunity to not only make your home more comfortable, but also healthier and more energy efficient.