Finishing basement in older home - need information

gardenwebberDecember 7, 2008

Hello everyone! We are considering finishing our basement in our older home. It is a 1928 farmhouse that was added on to in 1950. I have a TON of questions, so anyone that can answer any or all of them, please jump in. If anyone can recommend some resources for reading, I'd also appreciate that.

My first question is just this:

The basement currently is under our kitching/dining room and is about a 20' X 25' space. There is crawlspace (dirt) on the addition part (about a 15 X 20 space) The original basement has already been dug out once by a previous owner. It was done by hand. It had/has rock/rubble walls and I assume about 4 feet of depth. Then, there is a cement "bench" that goes around the perimeter to serve a retaining wall for this older rock/rubble foundation. That is where the PO dug it out a few more feet (within a couple feet from the original perimeter). Then, a cement floor was poured. It measure about 6.5 ' high from floor to bottom of joist. (Why, oh why, didn't he just dig down 1.5 more feet???) We are wondering if it would be worth it to attempt to dig another 1.5 ' out ourselves, by hand? We would have to chop out the cement floor, and would we have to pour yet another retaining wall around the first retaining wall?

Now, if we decide not to bother going down any deeper, we probably will opt out of a finished ceiling and just paint everything from the joists up white or black. Then, my question is, what would we do from there to build finished walls and to finish the floor? There are a few support jacks downstairs that we'd have to figure into the plan - maybe build walls around them and create two separate areas - one for exercise, one for the kids to play.

Or, could the jacks be replaced by a support beam at the ceiling?

The basement is slightly damp at times (not wet) and that will be our priority right now before anything else takes place. In the meantime, I just want to have some idea of what we're looking at.

Our kids are growing and we are feeling the need for an extra room. I thought about consolidating bedrooms to free one up for use as a rec room, but I think I'll just be facing the same problem when the kids get too old to share and I end up moving them back into separate rooms again, anyways! Buying a bigger house doesn't appear to be an option, so we thought - why not try to finish the basement?

We could also build onto the home and build an additional "rec room" onto the side of our house, but the expense just doesn't appeal to us right now.

So any thoughts on any of this babble of mine would be much apprecitaed. Thank you,

GW

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(Why, oh why, didn't he just dig down 1.5 more feet???)

Likely because he didn't want to undermine the retaining wall. And he might well have done that anyway.

We are wondering if it would be worth it to attempt to dig another 1.5 ' out ourselves, by hand? We would have to chop out the cement floor, and would we have to pour yet another retaining wall around the first retaining wall?

Before you dig any further or pull out basement posts, have a structural engineer analyze what can or can't be done and how.

The dampness may be high humidity that can be handled by a dehumidifier.

The rest is pretty straightforward: insulate the walls to at least the minimum recommended R Value for your region. Since the ceilings will be open, I think painting the concrete floors and using low pile non-rubber backed rugs would be an appropriate and economical way of finishing the floor. With a 77" clear height, I wouldn't want to lose any headroom.

Beware that finishing basements for living space in many parts of the US requires the installation of an egress window.

    Bookmark   December 7, 2008 at 2:50PM
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gardenwebber

I just want to clarify that the retaining wall (cement "bench" I spoke of) was put in by PO when he dug it out, it was not part of original basement. It was added to support the rubble walls when he dug them out. We'll definitely consult a pro on the structural issues before we start.

    Bookmark   December 8, 2008 at 7:58AM
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