From Basement to Home Office:
10 step guide to converting your basement into your dream office.
One of the most important points to consider when planning a home office is privacy. When your business and your family share the same roof, it is vital to keep your home life from interfering with your business and vice-versa.
This is why the basement is so often considered the best place in the house for a home office. It is private and at the same time part of the house.
With the right planning and products, your basement can converted into the perfect home office. This article will give you a step by step guide on how to convert a basement into your place of business.
Step #1 - Make it dry
If you are starting with a damp, wet, leaky or flood-prone basement, the first thing you need to do is to dry it off and make sure it will stay dry all the time. Humid basements are a problem in many ways. They can be unhealthy due to mold growth, and because moist air is hard to heat and cool, they can also be a burden on your budget. A good waterproofing contractor will be able to recommend the best option, depending on your specific basement conditions and your specific needs.
If you are going to run your business from a basement, chances are that you will be installing some expensive equipment and storing vital business-related documents there. You want to be sure you will not find it all under water one day.
Basement Waterproofing Don't: Don't cheap out with basement waterproofing, and avoid DIY jobs with products like internal sealants and waterproofing paints. Those are usually not able to withstand hydrostatic pressure and tend to peel off over time.
Step #2 - Make a list
Now that you have a dry basement, you can begin to visualize the possibilities and start planning. First, write down a list of everything you think you are going to need in a home office: computers, phone lines, furniture, shelving, storage units, appliances, etc.
You may consider adding a bathroom if you do not have one already in the basement, as you will be spending a lot of time in there. In addition, if you think you might be visited by clients, you don't want to send them to the upstairs bathroom that might not be as tidy all the time as one you'd keep at your business place (that is especially true if you have small children).
Also consider adding things like a small fridge for cold drinks, microwave or toaster oven, coffee maker, and a small nook or cabinet for groceries, cups and utensils for eventual visitors. Another option is a "waiting room" that can contain as little as one or two comfy chairs, a coat hanger and a magazine rack, or can be as big and well furnished as your living room.
Consider room partitions at this point as well. You can divide the area into small rooms, each with a different function. In this case, make a list for each individual room.
Step #3 - Sketch it out
Roughly measure the basement area to the best of your abilities. Some basements might be very tricky to measure due to appliances, pipes and pillars. Don't worry too much about it. The basement finishing contractor will perform an accurate measurement when the time comes. This is just to give you an idea of how much space you have, and allow you to make a simple sketch of the area. Sketch it out then mark the places where you have appliances, furnace, water tank and other utilities.
Now, begin to think about how you are going to utilize the area, what kind of function you will assign to each corner of the room and how they will work together.
Plan to use adequate and abundant lighting, especially in task areas. If you do not have a door or an egress window, this is the time to add one.
Step #4 - Check the Codes
Check your local building codes for things like current specifications for egress windows, electricity, insulation, fire safety rules, etc. You want to make sure your project is up to code or you might be facing fines and even having your new business shut down if your basement is found to be non-compliant.
Step #5 - Shop for a basement remodeling contractor
Unless you are an experienced contractor or a seasoned home improvement "DIYer" and are able to shop for the right equipment and finishing products, do not tackle the basement remodeling job on your own. Call in a professional basement finishing contractor that has all the necessary tools, expertise and products for the job.
Consider that the basement is a whole different environment compared to the floors above. Even the driest basement is prone to water accidents such as burst pipes and washing machine hoses or leaky water tanks. The water from leaks upstairs might end up in the basement, as well.
That means that most of the finishing products that you use upstairs, such as drywall, latex-based paints, many types of insulation, hardwood, cork or bamboo flooring, wooden subfloors, and typical hardware store laminates are not suitable for a below-grade environment. They soak in moisture, support mold growth, warp and rot.
The best solutions for basement finishing are usually inorganic, waterproof and mold-resistant products that will not get ruined if wet. You can find some products in hardware stores, but the best products for basement finishing are usually only available through authorized dealers.
You should show your list and sketches to the remodeler and make sure every need is met. Make sure to include all the electric outlets you need for computers, phone plugs, and network cables.
Pick the solutions that make sense to you and are within your budget. Don't let yourself be pushed into signing anything you are not 100% comfortable with by scary and aggressive sales tactics.
If after you sign you feel uncomfortable with the deal, the law in every U.S. state, based on the "cooling-off" rule enacted by the Federal Trade Commission, allows you to cancel the contract up to 3 days after you signed it.
Make sure you are given a detailed proposal and estimate, listing all the products that will be installed and all the services that will be performed. Nothing should be based purely on verbal agreements.
Step# 6 - Fine-tune your remodeling plan.
After you choose a good, reliable basement finishing company, go over the plan with the remodeler one more time before the work starts. Check to see if everything you need is there, especially the wires, plugs and outlets. Make all the necessary adjustments before the crew comes in to perform the job.
Check measurements, especially if you are working with tight areas and are bringing in furniture you already bought, or big fixed-size equipment. You might not need to have a plan for a desktop printer, but you will need a corner for that bulky heavy-duty copier.
This is also the perfect time to make up your mind about the color palette you will be using. For business purposes, it is always a good idea to keep the base of the palette in light, neutral colors rather than dark and vivid ones. Leave your favorite and brightest colors to be used as accent colors against those neutral backgrounds.
Step #7 - Step aside and let the pros do their job
A good remodeling contractor will keep you posted as the work progresses so you can just sit back and relax for a bit. If you are not comfortable with the way the job is being performed, or if you have any questions, you should always talk to the person in charge of the crew, the consultant or sales person you dealt with at the beginning, or with the company's customer service department.
Avoid asking questions about the job to the crew members. They are there to perform specific tasks as they were directed to do, and aren't always aware of project specifics, deadlines, budget, etc. You should also never deal with a crew worker or offer him money to perform jobs that are not related to the remodeling project. If you need additional services, talk to the person in charge. He will be able to tell you if it can be done.
Step #8 - Final inspection
When the basement finishing job is finally complete, thoroughly inspect the area before bringing in the furniture and equipment. Compare it with your list and the proposal to make sure nothing is missing. Test the lighting fixtures and the outlets and make sure everything is working properly. Address any concerns you may have with the contractor at that point; don't wait for him to move on to another job to express your objections.
Step #9 - Furnish, decorate, accessorize and enjoy!
Now comes the fun part. Bring in the furniture and bulky equipment and assign a place to every piece. Bring in the supplies and materials and neatly put everything away. Bring in books, media, training and reference material and organize them in shelves and cabinets.
Bring in computers, printers, peripherals, phones, TVs, small appliances and equipment and properly install them.
Install drapes, curtains and blinds, hang pictures, bring in plants, flower arrangements, pillows, "knick knacks" and accessories and spread them around to give your place the final touches.
Enjoy your newly finished basement and start writing those emails, building that website and sending out invitations for the grand opening. Let everyone know you are definitely in business!
Cynthia Freeney is a web content developer at Basement Systems Inc., the world's leader in developing and providing products for the basement waterproofing, crawl space environment control, foundation stabilization, and basement finishing industries.