Tips and Ideas from a Toronto Building Pro

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Basements are an opportunity to add something great to your home.

Rosario Ungaro - Sunday, November 29, 2015

Whether your current basement is finished or not, if you are not currently using it you have an opportunity to add living space, utility, enjoyment, and possibly even additional income, to your home. 

Home cinemas are a popular additions to basments.Basements are a great place to expand your living space because the "brick and mortar" is already in place—unlike adding a main-floor family room addition, which is also a great idea, but which will likely cost you a lot more. 

What you can build in your basement is only limited by your imagination but common uses include,

  • recreation room
  • second kitchen
  • downstairs lounge or bar area
  • music room
  • additional bedroom(s)
  • cinema room
  • home gym
  • home office
  • nanny or teenager bedroom
  • storage room
  • wine room
  • hobby room
  • basement apartment, nanny, or Inlaw suite
  • Etc.

But, to get the most out of your basement there are a number of things you should consider to ensure that your space is inviting and comfortable. (In no particular order.)

  1. Incorporate a fireplace in your basement design. A fireplace creates a focal point to a room and provides an excuse to go downstairs—especially if you don't have one up stairs. (It can also be romantic :) ) It makes a room cozy and helps to offset the winter chills.
  2. Pay attention to your flooring. One consideration is to make sure that your flooring material will not absorb water. Consider adding radiant floor heating to keep the floors warm and the space comfortable during the winter. 
  3. Consider being a little extravagant in the basement by using quality hardwood flooring. This can help make the space seem less basement-like.
  4. Choose colors wisely. As a general rule keeping things light and cheery will make the space have a better feel.
  5. Make it bright. The basement probably needs to be even brighter than upstairs to compensate for being underground. For lower ceiling heights pot lights in wall scones are great choices.
  6. Lower the basement. Nothing says basement like a low ceiling height. If budget allows giving additional ceiling height to your basement will make it more comfortable and avoid that closed in claustrophobic low-ceiling feel.
  7. Consider air quality and airflow.Proper ventilation and air flow are important to avoid dampness and prevent stuffiness.
  8. Don’t forget about the people upstairs. Incorporating soundproofing into your construction will let your teenagers use the space long after you’ve gone to bed without disturbing the rest of the house.
  9. Built-ins like built-in shelves are space saving. Floor-to-ceiling bulk and storage shelves take minimal space and add character to a room. When painted in light colours or complemented with mirrors they can help make the space seem larger.
  10. Consider materials. To keep your basement from looking and feeling like a basement — the reason many people don't use their basements now — don't build with traditional "basement" materials. Use drywall, hardwood floors, quality carpets, or throw rugs, etc.
  11. Pay attention to the details. Crown molding and other trim work can make all the difference. Go the extra mile and make your space special.
  12. Dig window wells and install large windows when possible. Instead of small windows near the ceiling of your basement, can you enlarge the windows by adding a properly designed window well. This will give the windows an aboveground feel from the inside. Failing that, window treatments can also give the same effect.
  13. Consider safety. There are building code requirements that need to be met, but you may want to exceed these and build in an escape route that has been specifically designed to be fast and easy to use. One picture I saw recently incorporated steps into their window well so once you were out the window, even a small child could easily ascend out of the window well.
  14. Be a little opulent. When I grew up, basements were the second-class citizen of the home. (I hope that's not politically incorrect.) Today, they don't have to be. By making the right choices and paying attention to detail your basement can be made into a space that is an integral part of your family's lifestyle. Paying a little extra attention to design, construction details, colours, built-ins, and furnishingscan ensure you create a space in which you and your family will use and enjoy.

If you're not using your basement now, for whatever reason, embrace the opportunity to create that dream man cave, cinema room, or whatever would improve your family's enjoyment of your home.

Here at Benchmark Building Services Inc. we team up with an interior designer to help make sure that we can create a basement space that meets your vision and your budget.

Here are some great ideas we found on HOUZZ—with my added comments.

That's all for now. Until next time, we'll keep Building It Right.™

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A word from Rosario…

Our Blog is about sharing some of what we have learned along the way. (Many contractors even call us for ideas or advice.) We hope it is informative and shows our commitment to continuous learning—something we do so we can bring the very latest and best to our customers. 

You've probably heard the phrase: 

"Some people have twenty-five years of experience. Others have one year of experience, twenty-five times over." 

If a contractor doesn't stay up-to-date on the latest building codes, trends, styles, tools, materials, and products, they'll soon find themselves in the latter category. We work hard to make sure that we are not. We regularly talk with our suppliers, go to industry trade shows, and share information and ideas with our peers to make sure that we stay on top of our game and can continue to bring you the very best in building craftsmanship and knowledge.

I welcome the opportunity to chat with you about your next building project.


Rosario Ungaro
Benchmark Building Services Inc.


Relax… we'll build it right!