Basement Refinishing

Danny Lipford with Matt Cook in remodeled basement.

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In this episode we go underground to the basement, and look at ways to add more living area to your home. After all, in newer homes a basement can account for one-third of the home’s total square footage.

We found a contractor who specializes in basement refinishing from The Finished Basement Company, who showed us several great basement remodels and shared his insights into the design process as well as common problems encountered when finishing a basement. From playrooms and home theater rooms to bedrooms and entertainment areas with granite countertops and stainless steel appliances – we see a little bit of everything.

Topics of discussion included issues with ceiling height, structural posts as eye sores versus becoming an architectural feature of the home, basement bathrooms and plumbing issues, dealing with egress and more.

Producer's Notes from Allen Lyle

Even though I am southern born and bred, I have lived in various parts of the country, including a few short months in Granville, Ohio. Our townhouse had a basement, but I remember it as being a dark, cramped space that I rarely visited. It was home solely to the washer/dryer and water heater. One small well window was in it and, as I recall, a single pull-string light bulb. Not very inviting.

Keep in mind this was 1969 and a lot of improvements have been made in the building industry since then. While the projects we looked at in the Minneapolis area were some amazing renovations, you may have one of those older basements; and I just wanted to dwell on a couple of concerns before you tackle any kind of basement remodeling job.

Without a doubt, the first and foremost concern when remodeling a basement is moisture. I forget where I read this, but a basement lets in an average of 18 gallons of moisture every single day! Moisture, as you are probably aware, encourages mold and mildew, unwelcome guests in any home. So, how do you know for certain if moisture is a problem in your basement? Look for these telltale signs:

  1. The obvious growth of mold and mildew
  2. A white, powdery substance on the walls
  3. Paint that keeps peeling
  4. Discolorations on the walls or ceiling
  5. Cracks in walls
  6. Musty odors
  7. Rust on metal surfaces, such as appliances

Typically, there will be a combination of the above mentioned items, not just one. If you do spot these signs, contact your local Home Builder’s Association for a recommendation of contractors who specialize in waterproofing methods.

Once the waterproofing has taken place, don’t relax. You need to incorporate some moisture control problems. Since the slab is the greatest source of moisture, consider installing radiant flooring. The heat will keep the slab dry, which virtually eliminates moisture from rising condensation. An extra benefit is that by getting rid of the moisture, you can also control the added nuisance of dust mites!

Finally, make sure you provide adequate insulation. The ground surrounding your basement walls is always going to be cooler than the inside living space. If the air inside is warmer, when those two temperatures meet, condensation forms. Proper insulation will help keep those cooler temperatures from seeping into the walls, which, in turn, keeps condensation away.

Once the moisture problem is properly addressed and solved, the rest of the job is much easier.

Other Tips From This Episode

Simple Solutions with Joe Truini:
Open Stud Bay Storage

Open Stud Bay Storage

Finding new storage space in a garage or work shop is always a challenge. If you have an exposed stud wall there are several ways you can create storage. To store small things such as paint cans, create a shelf by simply nailing a 1×4 in between the studs. For larger items such as brooms, pipes, etc., create a swing gate between two studs. To do so, cut a 1×4 so it’s slightly longer than the distance between two studs. Hold it in place with drywall screws. On one end attach two 1×2 cleats, screw them in place to create a space for the horizontal 1×4 to rest. This way you can swing the 1×4 out of the way when you need to move items in and out of storage. At the very bottom, close to the floor, attach a piece of ¼” lathe so items can’t slip out. (Watch This Video)

Best New Products with Danny Lipford:
Bali Blinds with Remote Control

Bali Blinds with Remote Control

When you’re in a hurry, you’re hands are full or even if you’ve got a hard-to-reach window – tilting your window blinds open or closed can be a hassle. With a remote, controlling your blinds is convenient whether you’ve got your hands full or are relaxing with a book. The ControlMate option from Bali is easy to use. You just press the button like any other remote and the slats tilt open or closed from up to 50-feet away. The motor is pre-installed in the head rail so it operates as soon as you hang the blinds. Bali remote control blinds are available at The Home Depot.

Around the Yard with Tricia Craven Worley:
Leaf Blower Tips

Leaf Blower Tips

When using a leaf blower there are several to keep in mind. First, remember to keep the wind at your back so you’re not fighting against the wind or stuck with flying debris coming at you. Secondly, use safety glasses and ear protection. The frequency at which a leaf blower operates can cause damage to the ears over time. Clothing also needs to be appropriate to cover your skin from flying debris. – closed toe shoes, long pants, etc. (Watch This Video)


  1. i wanted info on basement refinishing and i see where there were 626 different options but where do I go to access these? All I see is the one article and other leads to contractors? thank you

    • Gerald,

      This article is a description of episode 626: Basement Refinishing of Today’s Homeowner with Danny Lipford®. 626 is the episode number, not unfortunately the number of tips. The episode will be reairing the week of 7/16 – 7/22/07. Check out our local listing guide to find our where Today’s Homeowner® airs in your area.

  2. Hi,
    We have a pretty nice basement in our house that our family uses a lot as a game and tv room. Well we had an extremely big rain this week and the carpets are now at the dump. The water shot in in streams from holes that opened up in the mortar of the below ground fireplace. Entering also through a wall/floor join along the same back wall as the fireplace. So what to do first? Should I have a mason come look at the fireplace? Can they also repair the wall/floor join? And can fireplaces be fixed (re-tucked) from the inside as the outside is quite deep. Also I am looking in to acid etched cement floors with area rugs as an alternative to wall to wall again. Would there be a problem with radiant in floor heat if water entered the room again. And what if I had a cement fireplace surround put over the existing one would that help stop future leaking too or is the re-tucking more important. Finally is it possible to stop a problem like this or is the water just going to find another weak spot somewhere?
    Thanks a ton,

  3. Hi,
    I wrote the comment/question above and haven’t gotten a response from you yet. I wonder if it went out to the wrong address or something. Can you resend it please?
    Thank You,

  4. Laura’s problem is all to common. My guess is her house has a basement problem due to one of several situations frequently ignored by builders prior to the 1990’s. It could be as simple as a gutter gone bad, or as complicated as a water table problem and a range of issues in between. Her immediate symptoms came from the fireplace so that is where the investigation should begin. Rather than accepting the water problem as inevitable she needs to hire a foundation specialist and get a good verdict on what condition her house is in. From there she can decide to pursue a variety of remedy repairs from simple to extrodinary. When all is understood a bit better she can make her decision about area rugs and concrete etching. These should be the last considerations and not the first.

  5. My basement joists and subfloors have visible embedded mold on them.However, no sign of current water stains. Looks like might have leaked before. I have done several things to get this under control. I have had several professionals tell me what was wrong and what I needed. I have been working on this project for 4 years.

    1st – A home inspection – Tested mold – Said just needed to vent dryer properly and slope ground next to basement outside away for house. Which I did – Did not work

    2nd – Heating and Cooling Service – Just needed to add a humidifer for winter – New air unit installed. Still did not control the moldy smell or stop the growth.

    3rd – Hired a company that installed a hugh insta dry system in my basement at the tune of $3000 to control the humidity level. Still smells like mold and floors have mold on them.

    4rd – Hired a mold remediation company to take care of the mold and smell of. They did mold remediation. Was suppose to remove the visable mold then seal. They sprayed the wood with a sealer and fungi removal product but did not remove the visable mold. This cost me $3500. This made it smell worse. Plus, my digital camer came up missing. The company agreed to replace it. That was 45 days ago. Still do not have it. That’s another $300.00 loss

    5th – Had a company come and clean out all vents throughout the house – $500.00. House still smells like mold.

    6th – Had association redirect downspouts away from my home – Still smells like mold –
    Had basement consultant come in – Said I have Honeycomb on basement walls.

    Subfloor still have visible stains of embedded mold and stinks.

    I think, after this process of elimination, what one of these professionals should of said was that the subfloors needed to be replaced. But in each and everyone’s quest to make a sale, no one did.

    Now I am out over $8000, have headaches because of the smell, & still have mold and do not know what direction to turn.

    And PS – Just in case you a wondering – I am not nieve, just want this mold problem to go away.

    Any advice.

  6. Sorry to hear about this mess. You might want to look at a Radon Sealer. I believe the site is Not that you have a radon problem, but I think it can help your other issues. Check it out. Good Luck.

  7. Hi, This maybe a crazy question but would it be unsafe to use a leaf blower in a confined space like a garage or an unfinished basement?

    ..I’m mainly concerned about the exhaust fumes.


    • Hi David,
      Good question. Gas powered leaf blowers put out a lot of emissions, none of which are good for your health. In addition, they are big producers of carbon monoxide (CO) which can be very dangerous, and even cause death. Bottom line do not use a gas powered leaf blower in a garage or other confined space (this applies to lawn mowers, generators, and other gas powered equipment as well).


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