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Feeling like you need more room... a place where family members can "get away?" The solution may lie just under your feet.

With the trend toward main floor family rooms in the 1980s and 1990s, many homeowners have overlooked the multifaceted potential of their basements. When there is no extra outdoor space for an addition, or you want to save money, your basement may be the answer to all your space problems.

With the variety of new materials and innovative building techniques available today- and some imagination on your part- the sky's the limit for the lowest level of your home. Light-toned floorings and wall coverings and specialty lighting can turn even a dark, cramped space into cozy, pleasant room.

Converting a basement into a comfortable living space also has several advantages: It usually costs less to renovate a basement than to build an addition. Basements are also removed from the main household traffic areas, making them the perfect place to watch a movie, work from home, or give the kids their own space.

Before deciding what to include in a basement renovation, determine what your family will benefit from most in years to come. If you plan to knock down walls install creature comforts such as a home spa, wine cellar, big screen television, pool or shuffleboard tables, be sure to measure the cost against the long term use of these features. Also take measurements. You want to be sure you can fit big-size items in your new space.

Most basements present two problems: too much moisture and lack of natural light. Any renovation plans should try to compensate for both.

Moisture

If the air in your basement feels damp occasionally, the solution may be as simple as adding a number of dehumidifiers to the new rooms. Most basement wetness/moisture is caused by inadequate drainage away from the house and foundation. Landscaping improvements around the exterior of your home can often resolve this problem. You may want to consult with a basement specialist before deciding what to do.

Light

Most basements, even ones with walkouts, lack natural light. A wide array of lighting fixtures and features are available today to help you solve that problem. Task lighting, dimmers, accent and other forms of lighting can be used to provide the brightness and atmosphere you want for different rooms or activities.

Other Problems

Turning a basement into a high-quality living space can present problems in some homes, especially older ones. A variety of posts, ducts and other natural challenges can turn a simple project into a complex renovation exercise. Some older homes, for example, have low basement ceilings. To get more headroom or meet building standards the basement floor may have to be lowered. This is an expensive and difficult undertaking. Most people will benefit from hiring a reputable basement renovation company to do this kind of major work.

Hiring a Contractor

If you plan to hire a contractor to do the renovation, interview and get quotes from several before selecting one. A good contractor will be able to advise you on everything that's needed to create the kind of space you want for the amount of money you have in mind.

When you select a company, be sure to get a signed contract that outlines in detail, but concisely, the scope of the work and payment schedule. Remember that in Ontario a holdback fee of 10 per cent of the total cost may be withheld for up to 45 days from completion of the work to ensure that you are satisfied and all the "little details" have been worked out.

The data included on this website is deemed to be reliable, but is not guaranteed to be accurate by the Toronto Real Estate Board. The trademarks REALTOR®, REALTORS® and the REALTOR® logo are controlled by The Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) and identify real estate professionals who are members of CREA. Used under license.