Normally, the humble basement is ideally a neatly organized storage area lined with simple shelves and perhaps the odd piece of carpet or a selection of old rugs dotted around the floor. At its worst, the basement is be a place where few dare to tread due to the single, low wattage bulb doing little to illuminate the dank corners in which creatures previously unknown to man may reside. However, your basement doesn’t always need to be this humble, because with the right amount of planning and some new ideas, you can turn it into a space worth visiting!
Obviously, the first thing you need to decide is what you want to remodel your basement as. The choices are almost limitless and ultimately it will come down to your needs. Do you need space for a growing family? Has your family flown the nest, leaving you with time to indulge your hobbies? Do you have interests that would benefit from having a dedicated room? For example, this last choice may include a home gymnasium, a games room or a home theatre. Of course, depending on the size of your basement, there should be no reason why it cannot incorporate all of the above!
This is the beauty of a project such as this, as you will be liberating what is probably the most underused space in your home, why not make it a place where you and your family and friends can go and relax, escape from the pressures of everyday life and simply do the things they enjoy? Once you have decided on the focus of your project, then it is time to call in the experts and watch as your home is transformed.
The scale, level of work involved and timing of the project is very similar to actually building a house from scratch, just a little bit smaller in size. This means that it’s the skeleton and hidden ancillaries that need to be dealt with first, before moving on to the more exciting things. It’s worthwhile seeking out a builder who either specialises in basement conversions, or one that comes highly recommended from friends or family.In an ideal world, it would be beneficial to visit some of the builder’s previous projects to get an idea of the quality of his work. Failing this, most specialists will have a portfolio showing off their accomplishments. Having made your choice you should then all sit down with a scale plan of your basement to map out exactly where things will be going, what needs to built, demolished, changed, moved or concealed. Not only will this bring life to your project, but it will ensure that you are all focused on the same goal. Do bear in mind that you will probably have mapped the room out many times before meeting with the builder, so that you have a detailed idea already in your mind.
This level of forward planning is essential for beginning the next stage. If you will require some kind of water supply, then the plumber is usually first to appear on the scene, followed by any building work, heating/cooling and then electrical work before moving on to the fun stuff. If you are building a home theatre using an experienced company, then they should be present when you plan and design the room. In fact, most reputable home theatre designers should have builders, plumbers and electricians that they have worked with previously that you may wish to employ.
The home theatre experience, when done properly, can sound and look superior to your local movie house. It is a source of personal enjoyment, regardless of if you are a die-hard movie fan or not. Watching sports on a home theatre system is almost as good as being there and if your room is large enough, it can become a great social outlet for you and your friends. I know several families who hold monthly movie parties in their home theatre, complete with their own brochures and usher!
In my view, it is imperative to have chosen your speakers, display and cabling options before anyone starts, as the builders will need to channel all your cables into the floors and walls before completing the job. Some speakers may need to be integrated into the walls, your equipment may need a specially designed cabinet and lights will likely need to be in certain positions, so your workmen will thank you if they know 90% of things up front. Your home theatre designer will doubtless recommend everything you will want, but remember, display and speaker options can be very personal choices.
Displays and Speakers
Today’s home cinema enthusiast is spoilt for choice in both these areas and your decision will come down to your budget. Anyone who is making a multi-function room may decide to choose a large plasma display that can be discreetly hung on the wall, while those who have a larger budget and are making a dedicated home theatre should only pick a projector and a high quality motorized screen. In these cases, you should avoid the cheap screens and purchase a high-quality item, as reproduction of colours and blacks will be vastly improved.
When it comes to speaker choice, it again comes down to how much money you want to spend. It will be worth auditioning as many products as you can before making your mind up, as what sounds good to one person, sounds different to another. For top-notch performance, consider a THX certified series if you are a real home theatre buff, but this may not be as important to the casual user. In the event you are undecided in your choice and you have a good relationship with your home theatre shop, they may be willing to let you run your first choice of speakers for a short while and if they don’t meet your expectations, exchange them for your second choice. When spending this amount of time, money and effort, this should be no problem for most companies.
When it comes down to it, your choice of screen, projectors, amplifiers, DVD players, speakers, cabling and all the rest of the technical equipment can be based on your home theatre installers recommendations. They have done this many, many times and tend to know what sounds and looks good in certain types of rooms. Unless you are an extreme audiophile with very preconceived ideas about what you want, listen to their advice closely.
Once all this is underway, the fun can begin. Furniture, lighting, accessories and memorabilia can now be finally selected, ready for your new basement! If you have a gone for a basement to home cinema conversion, you may want to emulate your own local theatre with cinema style seating. A good compromise between authentic looks and comfort are the La-Z-Boy option named The Matinee. These plush seats have a power footrest and add-ons such as side tray’s and master consoles for remote controls or even a projector. Best of all is that as many as you like can be fitted together to meet you exact seating needs. If your room is multi-function, then other, more normal seating would be appropriate.
Perhaps even more important than where you are going to sit, is how much you will be able to see! Needless to say, you old single, low wattage bulb will not be up to the job, as lighting is important to your basements perceived ambience. Halogen spots or in the case of a dedicated home theatre, hidden track lights and ambient tube lighting are all good choices, especially if you basement has no windows. Subtly coloured lighting to match or compliment your choice of furnishings can also be effective, especially at creating different moods in different areas of a multi-purpose room. Just don’t forget the most important part; a dimmer switch!
Put a dehumidifier into your basement can also help reduce moiture that can cause damage to your electronic devices.
In all the excitement to get your new project completed, it is sometimes easy to overlook some basic considerations. Always remember heating and cooling, especially in a dedicated home theatre, as the equipment can heat up a soundproofed, closed off room very quickly! If you have windows in your basement, proper blackout curtains may be needed to ensure that you get the best quality picture on your screen, or perhaps you will want to investigate home automation and have things such as curtains, screen, and lighting controlled by a central remote system.
Finally, never forget what your basement was before its transformation. If it was used as a dumping ground for all the stuff you wanted to keep, but had no specific place for; then where will it all go when it is remodeled? For this reason, if you need storage space, make sure it is planned for at the very beginning. Again, I will stress the importance of that pre-work stage. Believe me; starting a few weeks after you had planned to make sure you have not left anything unconsidered will be worth it in the long run
Enjoy Your New Basement!
As with any project of this size, there will be times that everything will seem to be going wrong. Refer to your plans, re-assess the situation if need be and work with your builders and experts as they will have seen it all before and before you know it, you will be back on track. Once your basement renovation project has been completed, your home will not feel the same. The sense of satisfaction of turning a redundant area into a haven used expressly for your pleasure is huge. You will wonder why you never did it years ago.
So, relax in your new seats, place your favourite movie in the player or invite your friends round to watch the game, work out in your gym or whatever else you have in what will now be the best room in your home. The only trouble is you will have to find a new word to describe it, as ‘basement’ simply will not do your new room the justice it deserves.