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The Globe and Mail

Basements: The treasure found below grade

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Many of my clients itching for more space think first of building an addition. But it’s not always necessary to add on space when usable space already exists underfoot. Basement space is essentially free, since you already own it, and if you have a high and dry basement, it’s worth investing in. Getting past seeing your basement as a subterranean zone worthy only of storage and laundry is key to maximizing your square footage and living large.

Stacey Brandford

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Establishing the scope and square footage of any project is an important starting point. Since the rest of your house sits on the foundation of your basement, you could require some structural modifications to create the open areas you desire.

Stacey Brandford

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Finishing your basement will take away some storage, so be sure to leave as much room for the ugly realities of life that you actually need in order to avoid having your new living area become a dumping zone.

Stacey Brandford

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Instead of putting drywall all the way to the floor, you might want to consider a more durable option. The panelling on these walls cost less than $20 per 4-by-8-foot sheet and is a composite fibreboard with a rustic, rough-sawn wood texture. I’m generally not a fan of anything “faux” but once installed and painted, it looks great (and is more resistant to mini hockey pucks than standard issue drywall … especially since the paint has a scrubbable finish).

Stacey Brandford

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If you think your basement is the last place you’d ever choose to spend time hanging out as a family, watching movies and chilling out, it likely has a lot to do with your insulation and flooring. Just because your basement is below grade should not mean you feel as if you’re six feet under. Thanks to a thermal imaging camera, we found out the existing insulation in this basement was not up to par, so we installed spray foam insulation to raise the R-value.

Stacey Brandford

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To make the floors extra durable and toasty, we installed heated floor mats beneath inexpensive honed Brazilian slate floors. Wall-to-wall carpeting is a cheaper alternative, but it will be prone to stains and will show the wear and tear over time. If you are taking a long view at your renovation, you may decide that it’s worth springing for heated tile or stone.

photos by Stacey Brandford

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Basements aren’t generally overwhelmingly bright, so the natural reaction is to paint the room a light, bright colour to make it appear more cheery and happy. But before you order up a few gallons of sunny pale yellow paint, I’d encourage you to think about how and when you will really use your basement room. What are your living patterns? If it’s a nighttime room, why not dress in a cool, nightshade palette that creates a moody evening atmosphere?

Stacey Brandford

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If you don’t want to put your movie on hold while you dash upstairs for refreshments and snacks, consider installing a little servery in your basement. A bar fridge and microwave are inexpensive indulgences that can be integrated with a couple of cabinets to hold barware and dishes.

Stacey Brandford

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Not every basement has room to spare, but if the layout allows, I love to add a table and chairs to the mix. The reality is many of us enjoy “dinner and a movie” and might have the occasional meal while we are tuned in. Instead of trying to balance a plate on your lap, why not plan for a table so you can eat while watching the feature bill?

Stacey Brandford

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Stacey Brandford

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