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Useful Tips for Basement Renovations

Containing soil consumption and exploiting all available spaces: here are some useful tips for designing basement renovations

Renovating a basement represents a fascinating challenge for designers, as it offers the opportunity to transform a space that is often neglected and underutilized into a functional and welcoming environment. In this article, we will provide useful tips for designers who want to successfully tackle the design of a basement renovation, taking into account essential aspects such as lighting, insulation, and ventilation.

To plan basement renovations, you can use BIM architectural design software that allows you to optimize space distribution, verify the result obtained, delve into the details of design choices (including the definition of materials and furnishings), and automatically obtain project drawings, 3D views, works time schedules and tables for checking the hygienic-sanitary project requirements (minimum internal height, aeroilluminating ratio, room surfaces, etc.).

Basement Renovation Project

Having a property with a basement is a significant advantage for owners because it is a factor with high potential that, if properly exploited, can add value to the property; especially when deciding to change its intended use, transforming it from a cellar/storage or garage to an independent apartment, playroom, or even a SPA.

Here are some ideas for changing a basement intended use.

Basement as a home cinema

The partially underground location makes the basement an ideal environment for creating a home cinema. Thanks to the limited presence of openings and the natural acoustic insulation of the underground walls, the designer can focus on installing a high-quality audio-video system without having to worry excessively about lighting and soundproofing issues. Using a comfortable sofa of adequate size and an all-inclusive Home Theatre system allows you to create a high-level cinematic experience right at home.

Basement as a children’s playroom

Transforming the basement into a playroom dedicated to children is an effective solution to separate play areas from the main living space. Through targeted renovation, you can create a safe, welcoming, and stimulating environment for children, equipped with furniture and lighting solutions suitable for their needs. Acoustic insulation and the ability to contain the mess of toys in a separate environment make the basement an ideal choice for this intended use.

Basement as an adult game room

Not only children can benefit from a play space in the basement: adults can also find the ideal environment in the basement to set up a real “game room.” By incorporating elements such as a pool table, ping-pong table, or video game stations, you can transform the basement into a leisure and entertainment oasis for the owners. In this case, the lighting must be carefully designed to ensure maximum functionality and comfort during activities.

Basement as a relaxation area

The basement can also be converted into a relaxation area, a space dedicated to well-being and relaxation, separate from the rest of the house. Light walls, wooden floors, and soft carpets create a cozy and relaxing atmosphere, while LED lighting and designer lamps help define a unique setting. You can consider adding a bathtub, sauna, or whirlpool bath, or even a small SPA, to offer owners a complete relaxation experience.

Basement as a home gym

Finally, the basement is an excellent solution for creating a home gym. Thanks to the possibility of customizing spaces according to specific needs, you can create an efficient and comfortable training environment, equipped with the necessary equipment to meet the owners’ demands.

How to Renovate a Basement

As we have seen, there are many ideas for a basement makeover. But what needs to be evaluated before starting works?

By definition, the basement is the floor of a building located at a lower level (even only partially) than the ground adjacent to the building and whose ceiling is at a higher level than the ground adjacent to the building. It differs from the underground floor where the ceiling is at a lower level than the ground adjacent to the building.

To make a basement livable, it is necessary to evaluate and respect the following parameters:

  • aeroillumination;
  • hygienic-sanitary requirements;
  • seismic and fire prevention regulations;
  • energy efficiency and accessibility requirements.

This implies that the project must aim to create a livable and healthy space, free of moisture, thermally insulated, properly ventilated and illuminated according to its size and use, safe and efficient. If the environment does not meet these parameters before the design phase, the project must include interventions for waterproofing and insulating the underground walls, opening new windows to meet aeroillumination parameters, and implementing suitable technological systems.

Project | View from the living room towards the bathroom

Project | View from the living room towards the bathroom

Waterproofing Interventions

In the context of basement renovations, managing moisture is of fundamental importance to counteract rising damp, water infiltrations, and the presence of Radon gas. The walls of these structures, being below ground level, require an effective technological approach to keep the environment dry and healthy.

The most effective approach, when possible, involves external intervention, creating an aerated cavity along the perimeter of the structure. This aerated cavity is then waterproofed to ensure complete protection, filled with a drainage layer, and equipped with suitable piping to drain water away from the building walls.

If external intervention is not feasible, an aerated crawl space can be used as an alternative for internal intervention. This can be accompanied by direct treatments on the walls, such as removing existing deteriorated plaster and applying dehumidifying plasters and chemical barriers, depending on specific needs. The issue of moisture can also be mitigated by using air handling units (AHUs) or constructing counter-walls with an aerated cavity and ventilation holes.

Radon Gas Management

Radon gas poses another significant challenge. Its concentration in spaces directly in contact with the ground can be harmful to health, exceeding the reference levels of average annual concentration defined by regulations for existing dwellings.

Radon is a radioactive gas naturally found in the soil and, consequently, can be easily detected in basements and underground spaces that have not been properly isolated from the ground.

If inhaled in excessive quantities and for prolonged periods, it can cause serious health damage, particularly to the lungs.

To address this issue, it is essential to ensure proper ventilation and seal any cracks or fissures in floors and walls. If natural ventilation is insufficient, Mechanical Ventilation with Heat Recovery (MVHR) can be considered. Additionally, during renovation works, barriers and waterproofing membranes can be used to prevent the gas from entering.

Thermal Insulation Interventions

To contain heat loss and prevent condensation and mold formation, thermal insulation plays a crucial role. This can be achieved by installing external thermal insulation or an internal insulation system. Moreover, insulating the ceiling and ensuring proper ventilation contribute to thermal comfort and prevent moisture-related issues. Creating an aerated crawl space and replacing fixtures with more suitable and efficient elements also help meet thermal comfort requirements.

Air and Light Ratio and Hygiene-Sanitary Requirements

Hygiene-sanitary requirements include the minimum size of habitable spaces, minimum height, natural lighting, and the presence of a heating system.

According to local regulations, a minimum height, typically around 2.40 meters, is required. To meet this requirement, it may be necessary to remove any existing false ceilings or, in the case of more extensive renovation works, lower the floor level (e.g., during the creation of an aerated crawl space) or increase the height of the upper floor slab.

Regarding the ratio between floor area and window area, this can be addressed by creating new openings, although this is not always a simple or feasible operation. In some cases, the use of light wells may be necessary to allow air and light to enter.

To verify that the designed spaces comply with the prescribed air and light ratios, you can use a BIM architectural design software, which automatically calculates from the 3D model of the basement. Obtain all tables with the floor areas of each room, the window areas for each room, and the ratio between them.

The use of entirely artificial lighting and fully active and mechanized ventilation is only permitted for commercial or tertiary purposes, not for residential use.

Technological Systems

Regarding technological systems such as heating, hot water, gas, plumbing, and electrical systems, they must comply with current regulations. This includes the correct disposal of fumes and emissions, which should be directed outside, preferably through the roof. If it is not possible to install gas systems, electrically powered systems like heat pumps or electric water heaters can be used.