Getting a builder to do anything in your home is no minor endeavor. It's a good idea to check with friends, neighbors, relatives, and colleagues who may recommend a builder/renovator, based on actual experience with the builder, so that they can vouch for the builder's reliability, ability to adhere to schedules, being sensitive to the home owner's property and their need to keep some semblance of order in the home while the building activity is ongoing, especially important when young children are present.

Local lumber supply stores are another excellent source of recommendations. If you are considering anyone recommended by a store, be sure to ask about the builder's credit worthiness: does builder pay on time, use both cash and credit cards or company credit to purchase goods, how long has builder been buying from the supply store, how long has the builder been in business?

Remember this: it is the hiring person's responsibility to do a thorough check of the builder's credentials.

Our advice is to go beyond references in your search for a suitable builder. (See accompanying article on our web site.) At the very least, obtain current references, types of projects a builder has managed, and do talk to those on a reference list. Try to visit the builder and his/her team at a current project site, so that you can meet and talk to those who would be working on your project. Get a sense of the number of current projects the builder is working on. Will the builder be at your site every day? One day a week? Three days a week? This commitment must be written into your contract with the builder.

In planning your basement project, the most important consideration is to determine how the space will be used. Envision current and future needs as your children grow and your own needs may change. If your basement area is large, you may want to break it up by creating several spaces, i.e., for storage or housing machinery, pumps, boilers, etc. Consider enclosing pillars or other structural elements that are unsightly or may pose a danger if children are playing or running through the area. Will you want space for indoor recreational games, i.e., billiards, ping pong, train sets, or will you want a sound proof, padded teen center/media room, a yoga/exercise room, a pet room, a music room if your children need to practice playing an instrument that may be particularly loud?

Another nice extra to plan for is a “summer kitchen” which consists of a spare stove, sink and refrigerator – something that comes in handy if your teens are entertaining or an upstairs kitchen is being remodeled. You may also want to make room for a spare freezer, a wine cellar, some file cabinets for storing older household records, etc.

Depending on how many spaces you plan for, try to gage current and future storage requirements, which invariably turn out to be greater than you can imagine, even if you are ruthless about discarding old magazines and all the administrative records related to running a household for years. Some people find they need a moderately sized room just for storing toys. You may want a spare work or hobby room, an extra office or an extra guest room. If you set aside some space for a hobby room or a workroom, now is the time to devote space for tool cabinets, work tables and equipment.

If an exercise room is created, and especially if a sauna is installed, consider creating an extra bathroom, complete with a shower and/or a whirlpool tub for a soothing soak and overall body massage -- a great way to stay fit and relax in the convenience of your home.

Be sure to test the basement area for radon before putting up sheetrock. Strongly recommended is a built in dehumidifying system, as opposed to having several dehumidifying units that constantly need to be emptied during more humid months. This will make the environment comfortable and will prevent mold from forming on pipes, ceilings, walls, in carpets, etc. Mold is not only unsightly, it is quite unhealthy.

Since basements have limited natural light, another consideration is the type of lighting, e.g., recessed flood lights or the more economical fluorescent lighting, which can be installed with dropped ceilings (also economical). Also, try not to waste windows on storage spaces, if windows are at a premium.

As to flooring, there are some good, reasonably priced new products on the market. One consists of self adhesive felt like tiles that can be laid over a concrete floor. The tiles come in different patterns and colors. This eliminates the need for linoleum, carpet padding or a wall-to-wall carpet. Area rugs over the tiles can be used and individual tiles can be replaced if some get soiled or ruined.

Adding any new space to your home or reconfiguring existing space requires lots of thought, planning, thinking ahead to future needs and functions, and then designing the new space and selecting all the interior materials, e.g., sizes and/or types of flooring, lighting, window styles and openings, doorways; bathroom, kitchen and other room layouts; furniture, fixtures, fabrics and wall color. This can be an overwhelming and daunting task, but it is one that a qualified Interior Designer relishes! A good designer can help you to think through the myriad of considerations that need to be addressed at the start of a project, and a good designer can introduce you to current materials, green design, and cost effective ways to execute on the vision and plans for new space.

Please contact The Artful Eye – Interior Design Resources to discuss your project -- a new or existing space or a redecorated room. Our extensive experience in design and decoration qualifies us to address your needs in a cost effective manner, without sacrificing form, function or aesthetic values.

We welcome your inquiries!

Jan Middleton, Principal