In older homes, basements are often dark and moist, with dirt floors and low ceilings. Creating safe storage under these conditions can be challenging. Newer homes are more likely to have solid concrete floors and walls, with higher ceilings and fewer moisture problems.
Here are some suggestions on how to assess the potential your basement holds for safe and secure storage as well as for transforming it into living space.
Moisture problems in a basement are not always clearly visible, nor are they always due to leaks from outdoors. A rising water table can send water through the floor. Plumbing pipes can leak. Condensation can develop due to temperature differences. Before you start planning your basement storage, check for and address any existing or potential moisture problems. Even a small amount of dampness can damage stored items.
Good lighting will make any basement more useful and comfortable. A well-designed lighting scheme should include both ambient (whole room) and task (specific area) lighting. Overhead lights can be a problem in basements with low ceilings, but you can create ambient lighting with wall-mounted fixtures or with recessed lighting between joists.
If you would like to add some natural lighting in your basement that is completely underground, consider installing a window well.
In older homes, basement stairs are often steep (head bangers, for tall folks) and lack a handrail. For safer access, especially if you plan to turn the basement into living space, you may have to reconstruct the stairs. This may involve little more than adding a handrail, but it could also entail repositioning the stairs. Often, a straight stairway can be rebuilt into a L-shaped design that is both safer and more attractive.
Though not an issue for storage purposes, if you plan to turn part of your basement into a bedroom, your building code will likely require that you add an egress window that is large enough to allow someone to escape in the event of an emergency.
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