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8 ways to unlock the potential in your basement!

With property prices sky high, renovating, rather than moving, is often the smartest financial choice to make if you’re looking to create more space for your family.

Conventional wisdom says bathroom and kitchen renovations provide the best ROI of about 75 to 100 per cent. But, if done right, I believe that you can match or beat those numbers with a smart and creative basement reno.

Think about it. In a standard two-storey house, 1/3 of the total square footage is found in the basement. You already own the space, pay taxes, heat it and have a roof overhead with plumbing and electrical installed. It just makes sense to utilize this floor and make it earn its keep.


Incorporate a bathroom. If you can’t do this, you eliminate the possibility for this area to be used as a guest suite or an income suite. It doesn’t have to be fancy. A simple three piece is perfect.


Check the city by-laws and consider roughing in a kitchen so it can be added later. This opens up the possibility of having this space pay you. An income suite is one of the best ways for families to help manage the high price of real estate and also live in the area they desire most.


Heat sounds basic but, in my experience, it’s the biggest reason people don’t use the basement. It’s chilly down there! For a few extra hundred dollars, you can invest in electric baseboard heaters for extra warmth.


A fireplace is the perfect addition to draw people in and make the basement inviting. Put it on a thermostat so that it’s not freezing when you or the kids decide to run downstairs. (Using the ducting from the ceiling to ‘push’ warm air down never works as well as you would like it to.)


Make sure your layout maximizes any natural light and be generous with multiple lighting sources. Recessed lights are great because of the height restrictions in so many basements. Remember, the lack of natural light kills a space, so take care not to add too many walls or hallways or you’ll kill what little light there might be.


Make sure to invest in waterproofing and fix any water ingress. As much as it hurts to pour money into areas you can’t see, make sure your repairs are done right or you will be throwing the rest of your money away. If you’re fixing any water damage, consider using soundproof materials to minimize the noise transference in both directions.


Before you start your reno, review and understand the rules and regulations. You have to make the space safe for yourself and for future buyers. The first question a buyer asks is “did they get a permit?” If you answer ‘no’, people think that it wasn’t done right.


There is a tendency these days to put high-end movie rooms, fancy bars and spa-like bathrooms in the basement. While these can be luxurious upgrades, understand that you are unlikely to get your money back. Quality and workmanship are the areas to focus on. Save the luxury for upstairs. -H