Show Me - Plans with Bedrooms in Daylight Basement

motherof3sonsNovember 26, 2010

We are empty nesters and building a home for US. For the fist time in our 32+ year marriage we will have a master suite with connected laundry. The question at hand is extra bedrooms - where to place them. Our kids come to visit often and spend the night (married with babies). We have been back and forth with extra bedrooms on the main floor or in the walkout/daylight lower level.

The lower level will have a family living area, 2-3 bedroom suites, kitchenette and laundry. So, if anyone has a house plan with walkout/daylight bedrooms, please share.

Thanks in advance!

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Hi motherof3sons,

In my opinion, if you already have a daylight basement scenario, that's the perfect area to put those guest bedrooms. The problem with adding them to the main floor is that it unecessarily expands the building footprint adding cost and then, what will you do with all that extra space downstairs? What is you finished sq. ft. target?

    Bookmark   November 26, 2010 at 11:23AM
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Hello Bethshan,

You are correct, it is the perfect scenario.

Our main floor target is no more than 1900 sq. ft. The lower level will be the same footprint and house mechanicals, storage, proposed bedroom suites, family living, kitchenette and 2nd laundry.

I am willing to sacrifice main floor square footage for better finishes. At my more mature age I have become quite accustomed to the finer things in life.

Have a great weekend.

    Bookmark   November 26, 2010 at 12:57PM
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We wanted to do this exact same thing for the same reasons, but have been basically vetoed by the lender/appraiser. They said BR's below grade were a functional deficiency (with a $$ deduction in the appraisal) and they had signficant concerns over marketability of the floor plan. We are talking to other lenders, but also revising to move the extra BR's to the main floor. How many more hoops do we have to jump through?

    Bookmark   November 28, 2010 at 7:37AM
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If the lower level is open on three sides, your appraiser can classify it as an upside down house - usually built where there are views and/or vacation homes. Rooms used during the day are placed for the best views, while bedrooms take secondary locations since most of the time spent there is sleeping.

Usually easier, better, faster to work with an architect on this type of plan.

    Bookmark   November 28, 2010 at 8:25PM
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I agree with Allison - look for an "upside down" plan with the main living area upstairs. Or even better IMHO, look for a 2 story plan where the upstairs can be closed off and not heated/cooled when you don't need that space.

The problem with most daylight basement plans is that one main exterior wall is buried in the earth (thus the "basement" concept) and usually at least one other wall or about half of two other walls is also buried. That makes it much more difficult to design bedroom spaces b/c codes require that they have windows that can be used as emergency egress.

There are a couple of reasons I'd suggest going with a conventional 2-story where the second story can be shut off when not in use over an upside down house.

First, even a few steps up to reach the main entry can be problematic as one gets older so, as empty nesters, you'll probably want your main living areas (including master bedroom) at or very near ground level. Most upside-down houses (even those where the front wall of the lower story is partially buried underground) usually have at least 5 or 6 steps to walk up...otherwise the downstair section really IS just a walkout basement and it doesn't matter what you call it, the appraiser will see a walk-out basement and appraise it accordingly.

Second, the second story helps reduce heating/cooling bills for the more often used first level by acting as additional insulation for the first level.

Third, fewer worries about flooded basements.

Fourth, unless you're building on a hillside that is already "perfectly" shaped for your home, excavating a basement can run into unexpected costs b/c one never what kinds of huge rocks may be buried underground. Thus it is easier to anticipate what it will cost to add a second story than to excavate a basement.

Fifth, two-story houses tend to have more "presence" than one-story homes with "finished basements" - so they're naturally valued more highly for the same amount of livable square footage.

Of course, if you build a 2 story home with the idea that you will only use the second floor when you have guests, you should insulate between the two floors and make sure that the HVAC unit for each section of the house is located within the heated/cooled envelope of that part of the house. Also make sure all water lines to the upstairs bathrooms/kitchenette run between the two floors rather than thru the attic so that they'll be kept warm from heat rising from the first level when the upstairs is closed off. That way you don't have to worry about frozen pipes.

Just my two cents...

    Bookmark   November 29, 2010 at 5:02PM
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I agree with several things bevangel said, but not all. ;)

We have no idea what your lot looks like or if you have views. If you are in a neighborhood w/o much acreage and no view, an upside down house is not for you. If you are on acreage and/or have a view, but you're not planning to be on a ridge, it's not for you either.

We have 4.5 acres on a lake with a mountain ridge view. Our home was place in the prime spot for views of both - on a point, so water is on three sides. It's also on a small ridge, so while the front of the home looks smaller than it is (+/-6K sf) I like element of surprise when guest come in and see a large home with such great views. Many comment we have "another house" downstairs. No second kitchen, but we do have laundry rooms on both levels.

Our lower level, and it is in no way a basement (I had one of those for 20+ years), is open on three sides. We poured 12 foot walls so we would have at least 10 foot ceilings, but they are almost 11ft. The ceilings are sheet rock (not drop in tiles). All trims, doors, windows and finishes are the same as our main level. No skimping on light or plumbing fixtures either. One plus size is the HVAC for that level doesn't cost much to run any time of the year. We have our MBR, one guest room and 2.5 baths on the main level. Another bedroom was made into a sunroom, pre construction. We deleted the room over the garage, bedroom and bath which allowed us to delete two dormers for a cleaner roof line.

I don't know how it is today (we built 5 years ago) but we didn't have a problem with the appraiser. Granted we didn't borrow much and what we did borrow was paid off by year 3.

I still say it's easier, faster, better to work with an architect or a decent designer than to try to find an existing plan.

    Bookmark   November 30, 2010 at 9:40AM
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"Fifth, two-story houses tend to have more "presence" than one-story homes with "finished basements" - so they're naturally valued more highly for the same amount of livable square footage. "

    Bookmark   November 30, 2010 at 9:58AM
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xracer - It depends on the market and in our market, it is definitely a factor. It is silly? Sure.

HVAC is far better on a basement. I'd venture to say that in most instances, it is cheaper to HVAC a basement then to keep an upstairs marginally conditioned most of the time. Of course it depends on climate but you need to a/c anyway for humidity.

Back to OP, a second story wasn't a mentioned option. You will not find predone walkout basement options that are ideal. Each lot is too different - some lend themselves to windows on the side and some don't. In my area, a walkout lot is one with a good slope from front to back. You really want a designer/architect. A designer is much less expensive.

Just to reiterate, a daylight basement is far cheaper than adding rooms to the main floor. The footprint drives a lot of cost.

    Bookmark   November 30, 2010 at 10:26AM
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Can you put 2-3 bedroom suites and laundry on a 2nd floor and a family room and kitchenette in the basement?

I agree with the others, if the basement is going to be above ground on 2-3 sides then it's feaseable. But resale would be a significant issue in our area.

    Bookmark   November 30, 2010 at 7:39PM
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I see nothing wrong with the walk-out plan. Because you are building it yourself you can plan for and address all the concerns mentioned. Personally I would design it as a two family home with the stair hall on an exterior wall so that it can function as an extension of your living space or be completely separated. It will cost bit more for a taller and most likely engineered foundation, soundproofing, fire blocking and the things of that nature but would be well worth the minimal investment.

If your home is going to be built in a desirable location like on a lake or a near some other vacation attractions you could even rent it out when your family's not there. Real estate investors are a dime a dozen so it would actually add to your resale value. Not everyone buys or builds homes because they want to live there and what you describe would be more desirable to someone like that than the other homes in the area.

Do you have a site plan? What are the zoning regs in your area?

    Bookmark   November 30, 2010 at 8:12PM
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Thank you for all the responses. We are building on a golf course with a natural fall toward a timber line (hence the walkout).

The acreage is rural and there are no zoning regulations, which is both good and evil.

We are in discussion with the bank concerning whether it would be considered a 1 or 3 bedroom home (MBR on the main floor / bedroom suites in lower level). The banker says we will not lose any value, but the appraiser indicated some value will be lost. The daylight will be on 2 sides and will not be a significant resale issue according to local realtors. Yeah, and who do we believe?

As far as a 2 story, DH is adamantly against. He has not fully articulated why, but I think it is may be because we currently live in a 3 story house. Bedrooms in the basement are much less expensive than adding to the footprint of the house. Our current home is a couple of years from payoff and we want a small/short term mortgage for the new house. Retirement is coming quickly!

Thanks again to all for responding.

    Bookmark   December 1, 2010 at 1:58PM
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We have a upside down house on a sloped lot (with view), but each situation is different. As long as the rooms have good-sized, above grade windows ("egress" by local code), you should have very nice livable spaces. I wouldn't put any rooms (except storage, mechanical, and laundry) where adequate windows weren't possible. Bathrooms can be o.k. with higher and smaller windows. The only potential problem is that a large upstairs deck could block the lower floor sunlight, so be sure to consider this.

Also, sound proof bedroom ceilings below high traffic areas. Finally, figure out the HVAC in advance since no crawl space typically.

If you are close to retirement, consider roughing in a space for small elevator. Having this option available later might be useful and it only adds a few sq. ft to floor plan now.

    Bookmark   December 1, 2010 at 4:24PM
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"The banker says we will not lose any value, but the appraiser indicated some value will be lost."

In my experience, the appraiser wins. Our banker was "shocked" by the appraisal and although he agreed on every point we made re: inappropriate comps, build quality, etc., that was the number they stood by. Unless you are covering their butts with cash, like the poster above, it is a tough time to build a custom house for the way you want to live.

    Bookmark   December 2, 2010 at 6:23AM
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Max - good point about soundproofing. The basement stairs will be 4' to accommodate a lift chair (I am claustrophobic!)

SPF - I agree the appraiser will win. When we bought our commercial building in 1995, the appraiser undervalued it. The bank agreed it was wrong, but the appraiser won the war.

    Bookmark   December 2, 2010 at 10:55PM
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We just broke ground this week for our home with just this setup. We have the master on the main floor and 2 bedrooms on the lower level. When they were doing the transom work it was decided that we can do a walk out on the one corner (under the master suite) and do daylight across the rest of the house. The plans don't reflect the walk out updates.

I just posted our plans on the following link. I'll try to embed the pics too.

Here is a link that might be useful: Our Plans and Pics

    Bookmark   December 5, 2010 at 3:38PM
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Yes, extra bedrooms downstairs won't have the same resale value as ones on the main or a second level, but they'll also be a lot less expensive to construct in the first place. Plus, if they were to put those mostly-unused bedrooms on the main floor, their main rooms would have to be significantly smaller, both lowering the home's resale appeal in that respect and costing them much, much better use of that space for their daily living.

OP, we're also empty nesters who put our "extra" bedrooms downstairs and our master in the attic. We have an approximately 1900 square foot footprint, so I'm sitting right now in a wonderfully spacious living room. (Anything there sound familiar to you? :)

At Thanksgiving, by opening up the drop-leaf table that normally stands against a wall in the central hall/library/dining room to its maximum 10-foot length and expanding our everyday table through the doorway in the living room to its maximum size, we sat 20 people without fuss and had room for more. Put back to usual, it's once again our nice cozy home for 2.

So, I'm guessing seldom-used bedrooms in a daylight basement would probably make very good sense for you too. I agree with checking out upside-down plans, but there aren't all that many comparatively speaking, and you may have to plan on extensive modifications to suit your needs anyway. A few bucks spent in customization is likely to pay off really big time anyway, though.

What might work even better, since tons of published floor plans have the master on the main, would be to find one of those you really like, discard the second level, and lay out your basement rooms, using supporting walls indicated by the main level as a starting point and working out from there.

Note that in some of these cases bearing walls on the main will have been placed where they are to support features of the elaborate roof structures that have been popular. In any case, getting rid of the upper half of the house on your favorite plan and simplifying the roof is likely to make a little wall moving very easy.

Our "basement" level is half underground, but it has 9' ceilings and the daylight rooms the same 36x72" double-hungs as the main floor, and when you descend the stairs in the middle you look right out a French door to the garden, so it's very pleasant.

Have fun designing your home!

    Bookmark   December 8, 2010 at 8:45AM
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Yes - the problem with these questions about basements is that they mean different things to different people. We have a daylight/walkout basement with 10 ft ceilings and 10 2'6x6'0 windows and a glass door in the main area you walk into. Roses, rhododendrons a japanese maple are out the windows when you walk down the stairs. This is not your parent's basement....

There also seems to be a strong personal and gender preference regarding basements. Everyone I have asked has been split on gender lines on the general question = do you want a basement?

And then there is the regional thing where everyone in the North has a basement but few are daylight. In the South (at least here), they are only built if they are daylight.

FWIW - my wife wanted no bedroom in the basement. Now that we are finishing it, she realizes the value. The crying baby on the second floor is not a positive for guests. Not to mention any other noises from bedrooms....

    Bookmark   December 9, 2010 at 5:21AM
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I agree with David Cary's comment - many of the posters seem to be imagining dark, low-ceilinged basements, like the ones of my childhood! The house we are building is our second time with a daylight basement and each has had the guest rooms on the lower level. The first house was on a gentle slope so we did significant excavation. This house is on a much steeper slope.

On the "dark" side, we've put the mechanical room, a large storage area and the home theater. The bedrooms, plus an exercise room with an egress window so that it can be considered a bedroom upon resale, are on the daylight side. Bathrooms are tucked in the middle. We learned from the first house:

- not to put a family room on the daylight side (too much glare on the t.v.)
- not to put French doors in the bedrooms if there aren't windows (no way to ventilate without leaving the door wide open).

It's just the two of us, but honestly if we had family living downstairs all the time, I think it would be fine for them. The rooms are large, bright and airy. It doesn't feel like those old basements. Walk-out basements with bedrooms are common here so I don't think it affects resale value.

Here is our lower level floor plan; I hope you can read it! I can't figure out how to rotate it.

    Bookmark   December 9, 2010 at 11:19AM
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I think it is a good and efficient use of space. However, daylight basements are not valued the same in the market as first or second floor space. You can have 10 foot ceilings, 3 piece crown molding, hardwood floors, french doors, fireplace with built ins, etc. and finish it with the same finishes you used in the rest of the house, and it will be worth less. Usually much less . . . and we are in the south so there are lots and lots of daylight basements.

We are dealing with the issue right now. An experienced real estate agent in town said you can gold plate your basement, and it is still valued as a basement. She mentioned someone in town with a multi million dollar house which has not sold. The basement is *extremely* high end, daylight walk out to infinity pool, amazing views, etc. and the house won't appraise, primarily because 1/3 of the square footage is in the basement. He wants to refinance and can't get it appraised so he can do it.

Not to discourage you from building a basement, but worth considering.

    Bookmark   December 10, 2010 at 1:13PM
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