Reconfiguring an Awkward Basement

When you buy a used home, it might seem like you’re beholden to the layout you inherited on closing day, but that’s not the case. With a little help, you can add and remove walls to completely transform the space you have. Take note of the total space—with pictures, doing a walk-through or using the actual floor plans—to get a good feel of where you can best save floor space.

Basements tend to be one of the most awkward areas in the home for space usage because of the stairs, ceiling height, plumbing or other foundational structures, but making the most of the floor space you have is key to creating the basement of your dreams.

One misconception is that plumbing has to determine the layout. People come to us all the time looking devastated because the original builder laid the plumbing in a way that isn’t conducive to a functional basement. Simply put, this is just not true. We recommend consulting professionals before you go cutting lines and trying to move them yourself, but oftentimes builders don’t have bathrooms plumbed in the correct or best spot and pipes can actually easily be moved.

Load-bearing walls are exactly that: walls rooted in the foundation that bear the weight of the structure resting on it. They tend to seem like a huge pain when you’re trying to remodel or rework the layout of a room, but they’re typically just a minor speed bump if you know what you’re doing. You can find if a wall is load-bearing if it has ceiling or floor framing joists running perpendicular to the wall itself.

Contrary to popular belief, you can remove load-bearing walls, as long as they’re replaced with load-bearing beams. In short, the steps include stripping the drywall, installing a temporary wall so you can remove the old studs, and installing the beam. Buying a sturdy board is key. Don’t skimp on quality. Most lumberyards will be able to help spec out the proper size and type of board, but if you’re still unsure we’d be happy to help.

The paint and lighting in a room can dramatically change the way it’s perceived in terms of how much space there is. Since dark colors tend to absorb light, dark walls will make a room seem smaller, while lighter paint on the walls will help make a room feel more open.

If you haven’t seen new recessed lighting, it helps to make a room seem larger as compared to external lighting fixtures that can make a room seem smaller that it is. Incandescent lights with thick trim typically don’t light a room as well as most recessed LED lighting fixtures. Not to mention, lighting fixtures that hang from the ceiling quite literally take up more space in the room, while recessed lights are tucked away above the ceiling line.

If you’re looking to reconfigure an awkward basement, don’t let the plumbing, load-bearing walls or standard lighting keep you from perfecting your space. A lot of these things can be done on your own, but for the things you can’t (or just plain don’t want to) do, let us do the dirty work.

What have you done to help make the most of your space? Let us know in the comments below!