Basement master suite: advice? regrets? inspiration?

cruffFebruary 19, 2013

Has anybody created a basement master suite as part of a remodel? I'd be curious about your experience with choice of flooring, hvac choices, window styles, layout in relation to the outside, etc. -- anything you love about your new space or don't like and would do differently if you had it to do over.

Here are the basics of my situation: I have a 90-year-old, 1100-sf, one-storey bungalow with two bedrooms on the main (only) floor. My planned addition is ~325 sf to contain a new dining/sitting area overlooking the back yard and back entrance with mudroom, with the current back bedroom in the original house becoming a new kitchen adjoining the addition.

Since I'm losing a bedroom to the kitchen reconfiguration, I'd like to create a second bedroom. The choices are to go up or go down. Since there will be a basement under the addition anyway, the obvious thing would be to finish that space. My lot slopes to the rear, so the basement under the addition will be about 5' above ground on the south and east walls, with room for windows along the entire east wall and about a 13' run of the south wall. (The attached picture shows the existing addition, which will be demolished, but you can see in the pic how much frontage is exposed above the ground and below the level of the addition's floor. That would almost all be available for bringing light into the new basement space.) The new back entrance would be a half flight up from the basement level and a half flight down from the main floor, so we can plan appropriate egress from the basement.

(I know a lot of people don't like basement bedrooms, but for my money, I *really* appreciate how much cooler a basement room is in our super-hot summers. This is my forever home, so the room would be for me and resale is not my top concern.)

Any thoughts, experiences, pros, cons, or cautions?


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If you can get a lot of natural light into the basement, and make the area open and spacious, then it will be much more appealing and won't appear like a dungeon. But, with windows at that level you may also have a security issue, depending on the area you are in. Given your current layout and the close proximity of the neighbors you may have more privacy in a basement.

That said, I personally, prefer an above ground bedroom for the view and less humidity issues. I grew up having a 2nd story bedroom. On the other hand, my husband grew up having a basement bedroom and he prefers a basement room for the solitude.

    Bookmark   February 19, 2013 at 10:05PM
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Thanks, hilltop. I do worry about security, but then somebody could just walk up and bash in any of the nine or so large windows that are easily accessible at the front of the house, already. I'm curious about how other have dealt with the combination of the need for security and the requirements for safe, code-compliant egress windows.

On the view from the windows: The advantage of a second-floor room would be the view out over a wider area, but, as you note, this is an urban neighborhood with the yards very close together. The view would pretty much be the glaring alley light and the backs of neighbors' houses across the alley. My dream is (post-addition) to landscape the back yard so that the basement windows look out into greenery and the room feels as if it's surrounded by garden. Linked below is one inspiration picture I bookmarked of the kind of relationship I'd love to see between a below-grade room and the garden around it.

Here is a link that might be useful: Half-basement room with door to garden

    Bookmark   February 20, 2013 at 2:36PM
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You'd better ask a local realtor about how basement space appraises. In many locations, what you are proposing wouldn't fly because basement space isn't counted as "living space". Only above grade space is counted as habitable. Or appraises as habitable space. And that will make a BIG difference if you are seeking financing for this remodel, or plan to ever sell.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2013 at 3:33PM
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Good point about the appraisal. I want to limit my expenditure on an addition to less than the differential between what I paid (a bargain, by local standards) and what a house with the additional square footage would go for. This house is never going to become something other than what it is, which is an empty-nester-sized house in a neighborhood of bigger homes that people raise families in. I want it to be the best little home of its kind that it can be, and work as efficiently and pleasantly as possible for me for the coming decades, but I wouldn't want to devalue it by, in effect, losing a bedroom.

I'm wondering now if the way to go might be to have the new kitchen/dining/sitting area close to grade (i.e., lower than the floor level of the current addition, and opening easily onto a patio) and then have a second storey above that for the bedroom. In that case, the second-floor bedroom area would be only a half flight above the original house's floor level and wouldn't loom so dramatically over the original house. It also wouldn't look directly into the bedrooms of the neighbors. Hmm....

    Bookmark   February 20, 2013 at 6:18PM
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