How to remodel a basement: Things to consider

One of the fastest ways to increase the useable square footage in your home is to turn your unfinished...

One of the fastest ways to increase the useable square footage in your home is to turn your unfinished basement space into something livable. But knowing how to remodel a basement means you'll need to know the ins and outs of the construction industry. Instead of going it alone, make sure you hire the right contractors who can help walk you through the process and give you the best construction experience possible. It can be a long road, but the square footage you'll gain in both living space and resale value will be completely worth all the hard work. Here are some of the things you'll need to consider before you start the work.

General contracting. Learning how to remodel a basement definitely isn't for the beginner DIYer. Anytime you're installing electrical and plumbing, framing walls, doing demolition or otherwise changing the layout and structure of your basement, it's best to call in the pros. A general contractor can help walk you through the process and help you make decisions and choose subcontractors who are right for the job. One of the benefits of a general contractor is that you can choose from a pool of vetted, experienced workers who you know will do a great job in giving you the basement space you want.

Who to contact: Interview several general contractors to find one who you feel good about. Checking up on references, asking to see pictures of past projects and talking about your own basement can help you get a better feel for a contractor's work and work ethic.

Planning. Before you start framing up rooms, you need to actually know where those rooms should go. A planner, architect or licensed interior designer can help you turn your dreams for a remodeled basement into a reality. It's especially important to find a planner from the Atlanta area, since the building code can vary from area to area. A good planner will compare your home plans against the space and what you'd like to do with the remodel to come up with a plan that utilizes the space properly. You can then use the new plans for other contractors, so everyone is on the same page and completely organized during the remodel.

Who to contact: Look for a designer who specializes in residential homes and remodels to get the most bang for your design buck. You could also contact a general contractor to see if he has any recommendations for a designer.

Scope. Once you've got a plan in place, you can get a better idea of the scope of the job. How much work will need to be done will rely heavily on whether or not the structural facets are already in place. For instance, your basement might be unfinished, but it might already have the electrical and plumbing in place, meaning you can skip that portion of the job. However, a truly unfinished basement will need all of the structural and technical components put in place before you can start thinking about the paint colors and furniture. Take stock with your general contractor to see what needs to be done so you can gain greater perspective on timeline and budget.

Who to contact: When you're ready to hire subcontractors, go through the process with your general contractor. You can ask him which plumber he prefers to work with and so on, making sure you have the benefit of trustworthy, hard-working subs, all while collecting and comparing bids for the best price.

Budget. Your general contractor should be able to give you a rough idea of the budget necessary for the type of work you need to have done. While you might need to front some of the money at the beginning of the project, once you have plans and a main contractor in place, you can get a better idea of how much you'll spend on the remodel and how you'll finance the project.

Who to contact: If you'll need outside financing to help finish your renovations, choose a lender who specializes in new construction and home loans. Construction loans have a much different setup than regular personal or mortgage loans, so it's important that you understand how they're issued.

Options. Once you've nailed down the budget, the technical stuff and the plans, its time to get into the fun stuff: the options. Obviously your stated budget will have a large bearing on the finish options that you choose, but once you have one in place, you can start doing your shopping for paint colors, flooring options, light fixtures and furniture. It's these components that will turn your basement into a livable space.

Who to contact: An interior design professional can help you decide on the right decor for your basement. Armed with plans, a budget and a general idea for how you'd like to use the space, a designer will help you get excited about the remodel before anyone even picks up a hammer.

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