Guy Solomon: Considerations when Finishing a Basement

Finishing a basement is very different from renovating an attic or converting a garage to living space. There are several things you must take into consideration, and here are just a few of them.

Fasteners and Hardware

When framing basement walls, the same type of fasteners you would normally use in drywall may not penetrate masonry. This means you must use masonry screws or anchors when attaching wood to the floor or walls. Many times, a special tool known as a shotgun fastener might be needed to install them. A shotgun fastener “fires” screws into cement using high pressure to penetrate the surface.

Vapor Barrier

Even if you have gotten rid of any moisture issues, you must nonetheless safeguard against future problems by installing a vapor barrier against your walls and floor. Polyurethane sheets are commonly used for this purpose. There should also be some space between the vapor barrier and your walls to allow for good air flow. Place furring strips, which are thin strips of wood or metal, directly onto your walls, and then place your vapor barrier over top of them.

Wall Choices

Traditional drywall is not recommended for finished basements, because it is primarily made from paper and could therefore absorb water. A drywall alternative is fiberglass panels that are covered in a very thin fabric. These panels do not absorb water easily, and also resist mold and mildew. If you prefer paneling, ones created from plastic rather than wood are preferred, since they do not buckle when exposed to humidity.


Most basements have only a limited amount of overhead space available, which means that adding lighting can often be a challenge. To make matters worse, the amount of available space is even lower after ceiling tiles are installed. One option you may want to consider is recessed lighting. Recessed lighting can be installed flush with your ceiling or inverted, depending upon the amount of space you have. For best results, this type of lighting should be installed before hanging your ceiling.

Fire Safety

When remodeling a basement, fire safety should always be a concern, particularly if someone will be sleeping in the finished space. Since most basements have only one exit, adding an egress window is normally recommended. An egress window opens wider than a normal window to provide a method of escape during a fire. They are so useful at saving lives that many building codes now require them in all new basements. You should ideally place an egress window opposite your exit door to make it easy to access in case of an emergency. If you have a very large basement, you may even want to install more than one egress window.

These are just a few things you should consider when renovating a basement. Of course, there may be other things to be concerned with, which is why you should check with your local zoning office to find out what the requirements are in your area. Guy Solomon and his crew will help you to be sure that everything is done in the right way.

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