Mike Holmes: A finished basement can complete a home

Frances Lawson

Breadcrumb Trail Links Life Homes Author of the article: Mike Holmes Follow the right steps when finishing your basement, says Mike Holmes. Mike in a homeowners basement from Holmes Next Generation. Photo by Photo Anthony Anacleto, The Holmes Group Reviews and recommendations are unbiased and products are independently selected. Postmedia […]

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Finishing a basement is a good idea, but you need to follow the right steps. I always recommend waiting a couple of years to finish your basement if you are in a new build. You will want to observe how your basement is dealing with water first. When the house goes through a few freeze-thaw cycles, it is easier to spot problems before they get covered up by drywall.


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When I walk into a finished basement, I am looking for walls that are leaning or bulging. That to me is a red flag that it needs to be investigated.


A basement renovation is a specialized job that will require a few professionals. You will likely need to bring in a licensed electrical contractor and a plumber. You will most likely need a permit as well. Don’t skip this step and don’t hire a contractor who tells you that a permit is not needed. Building permits are always required when the work involves structural changes, such as taking down a load bearing wall.

If you hire a general contractor, they should be bringing in the proper trades to finish your basement. I don’t recommend acting as your own general contractor. A good GC has knowledge of the building code and will bring in an architect or engineer as needed. Managing a basement project is not easy, so find a good general contractor who is adept at scheduling, problem solving and will answer all of your questions.


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Keep in mind that if you are finishing a basement, you are increasing the amount of space that the furnace needs to heat. This means that you may have to bring in an HVAC specialist to balance your forced air system.


When renovating or finishing a basement, you have to make sure you are addressing the moisture coming in from the outside. A basement is naturally damper because of the surrounding groundwater. Builders are doing their best to ensure this is done in new homes, but some also get away with what minimum code dictates. In my opinion, that’s not enough.

Concrete is porous, so moisture will try to sneak in. Exterior waterproofing is what I recommend to make sure the basement stays dry long term. This involves wrapping your foundation in a waterproof membrane. Then a black tar or asphalt compound will be painted on your concrete foundation. This gets covered by a waterproof mastic coating, a mesh coating, and finally another layer of mastic coating. This is to keep water vapour from seeping through the concrete foundation.


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Adding a bathroom to your basement is a good idea and can increase the value of your property. We always talk about the importance of waterproofing your bathroom. A reliable waterproofing system (and I am not talking about your drywall) will ensure that moisture isn’t penetrating your walls or floors.

If your basement wasn’t roughed in for a bathroom, you will likely need to cut into concrete, drywall and other building materials to add the proper vents. Ventilation in bathrooms and kitchens is very important. There needs to be adequate ventilation so that moisture can properly be removed. Invest in a high-quality exhaust fan and run it for at least 20-30 minutes after a shower. I recently redid my bathroom at home and installed an exhaust fan with a much higher CFM rating fan with a humidity sensor. CFM stands for cubic feet per minute basically how much air a fan moves. The bigger your bathroom, the higher the CFM rating you’ll need.


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It’s also a good idea to keep the door or a window open a bit when the fan is running. This ensures there is sufficient air present to draw air and properly exchange it. If the airflow in your bathroom is restricted, your fan’s power will be reduced significantly.

If there is no drain for your sewage, one will have to be created in your basement floor that ties into the main waste pipe. If you are adding a shower in the basement bathroom, the most cost-effective location will be directly below an existing bathroom upstairs, where connecting to the home’s plumbing system is fairly straightforward.

If you are looking for more space in your home and are considering some basement renovations, keep these tips in mind and renovate it right.

Listen to Mike’s new Holmes on Homes Podcast on all major streaming platforms.

Mike Holmes/For Postmedia News



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