Group 6 3 minutes Read

the basement plan

Lauren Zerbey

Last week we shared with you the work we’ve already done to our basement over the last 5+ years. After completing the structural work in 2009, we began brainstorming different ways to layout the new space (you can see the “before” and “current” floor plans of our basement on the design page). The basement is still relatively small (just under 400 SF), so we’ve given careful thought to what we need now and what we might need in the future. (If you’ve been following our blog for a while, you’ll know that a main goal of ours is to make the most out of this small house while providing the greatest amount of flexibility as our needs change.)

1. Media/guest room: this space would double as a TV room (we’re using the word “media” because the goal is to have a dedicated surround sound system at some point) and a guest bedroom. Ideally, we’d have a sleeper sofa and dedicated storage space that could easily accommodate guests.

2. Guest bathroom: although 99% of the time we function just fine with one bathroom, it would be nice to have a second bath and we see this as something that would add substantial value to the home. (Many homes of this era in Seattle only have one bathroom.) We also like the idea of having a lower tub that Bailey could more easily jump in and out of.

3. Laundry/utility room: our washer and dryer (the same ones that came with the house!) are currently in the basement and will remain in the same general location. However, we’d like to create a more dedicated laundry room with better storage, a large work surface and a utility sink. (When it comes time to replace the appliances we’ll go with front-loading machines and install a counter on top.) The existing footing and column create a somewhat awkward divide in this space, but we’ll probably eventually wall that area off (where it says “storage”) and fill it with deep shelves. While the “short basement” is completely open to the basement right now, eventually we’ll have a single access door near the exterior basement door.

4. Hallway: we debated whether or not the stair should open directly into the media/guest room, but ultimately decided that it would be better to provide more acoustical privacy for movie-watching and sleeping guests. At the end of this small hallway there will be some type of storage cabinet that will likely house linens, extra towels, toilet paper, etc. At the back of the cabinet we’ll design some type of access to the under-the-porch storage area.

As you may have guessed, the portion shaded in yellow is what we’ll be tackling this year. (Click to enlarge image.) We don’t need that second bathroom yet, but we wanted to make sure we had a plan that would allow it to be added in the future. (In addition to spreading out costs, splitting the work into two phases also means we can use the unfinished space as a staging area during construction.)

One of the challenges with our basement is that the concrete slab slopes about 6″ from one end to the other. We could choose to level out the entire floor, but this would have negative head height impacts to a space that is already pretty short.¬†Therefore, to create a level floor while maximizing head height we’re going to level out the floors of each room instead. This means we’ll frame out the spaces first and then level the floors, creating a small step at each doorway.¬†

In lieu of this approach, we also considered tearing out the existing slab, digging down and pouring a new slab at a lower elevation to create a taller basement space. Our main concern with this approach was the amount of work that would be required to gain a modest amount of head height. Because our foundation footing is right below the slab, we’d also have to underpin the existing foundation to prevent unwanted settling or structural failure. Ultimately, we decided that working with what we had would be a smarter use of time and resources.

This project may seem straightforward on the surface, but finishing out a basement is a fairly technical process that requires careful attention to how you handle insulation, waterproofing, thermal breaks, etc. We’ve been doing our homework and discussing the best tactics and will share all the details with you as we go!¬†