the basement plan

Last week we shared with you the work we’ve already done to our basement over the last 5+ years. After completing the structural work in 2009, we began brainstorming different ways to layout the new space (you can see the “before” and “current” floor plans of our basement on the design page). The basement is still relatively small (just under 400 SF), so we’ve given careful thought to what we need now and what we might need in the future. (If you’ve been following our blog for a while, you’ll know that a main goal of ours is to make the most out of this small house while providing the greatest amount of flexibility as our needs change.)

1. Media/guest room: this space would double as a TV room (we’re using the word “media” because the goal is to have a dedicated surround sound system at some point) and a guest bedroom. Ideally, we’d have a sleeper sofa and dedicated storage space that could easily accommodate guests.

2. Guest bathroom: although 99% of the time we function just fine with one bathroom, it would be nice to have a second bath and we see this as something that would add substantial value to the home. (Many homes of this era in Seattle only have one bathroom.) We also like the idea of having a lower tub that Bailey could more easily jump in and out of.

3. Laundry/utility room: our washer and dryer (the same ones that came with the house!) are currently in the basement and will remain in the same general location. However, we’d like to create a more dedicated laundry room with better storage, a large work surface and a utility sink. (When it comes time to replace the appliances we’ll go with front-loading machines and install a counter on top.) The existing footing and column create a somewhat awkward divide in this space, but we’ll probably eventually wall that area off (where it says “storage”) and fill it with deep shelves. While the “short basement” is completely open to the basement right now, eventually we’ll have a single access door near the exterior basement door.

4. Hallway: we debated whether or not the stair should open directly into the media/guest room, but ultimately decided that it would be better to provide more acoustical privacy for movie-watching and sleeping guests. At the end of this small hallway there will be some type of storage cabinet that will likely house linens, extra towels, toilet paper, etc. At the back of the cabinet we’ll design some type of access to the under-the-porch storage area.

As you may have guessed, the portion shaded in yellow is what we’ll be tackling this year. (Click to enlarge image.) We don’t need that second bathroom yet, but we wanted to make sure we had a plan that would allow it to be added in the future. (In addition to spreading out costs, splitting the work into two phases also means we can use the unfinished space as a staging area during construction.)

One of the challenges with our basement is that the concrete slab slopes about 6″ from one end to the other. We could choose to level out the entire floor, but this would have negative head height impacts to a space that is already pretty short. Therefore, to create a level floor while maximizing head height we’re going to level out the floors of each room instead. This means we’ll frame out the spaces first and then level the floors, creating a small step at each doorway. 

In lieu of this approach, we also considered tearing out the existing slab, digging down and pouring a new slab at a lower elevation to create a taller basement space. Our main concern with this approach was the amount of work that would be required to gain a modest amount of head height. Because our foundation footing is right below the slab, we’d also have to underpin the existing foundation to prevent unwanted settling or structural failure. Ultimately, we decided that working with what we had would be a smarter use of time and resources.

This project may seem straightforward on the surface, but finishing out a basement is a fairly technical process that requires careful attention to how you handle insulation, waterproofing, thermal breaks, etc. We’ve been doing our homework and discussing the best tactics and will share all the details with you as we go! 


20 Responses to “the basement plan”

  1. Melissa says:

    Love the plan. I think it’s a good idea to give guests privacy from the stairs but what about another barn door to provide that privacy if you need it but openness when you don’t?

  2. michael says:

    just wanted to thank you two for taking the time to provide all the details you do. i’ve been following along for a long time now and i find your blog inspirational and educational. i love when you describe the behind the finishes work. for instance, i liked all the electrical detail way back when. thanks again and i’m looking forward to the next basement moves.

  3. Reubeneuben says:

    Cool plan, I’m looking forward to it.
    Say, what kind of drafting program did you use to make that graphic?

  4. jason g says:

    I miss the Indestruct-o!

  5. Patty B says:

    My husband and I want to finish our basement in our Seattle bungalow too. we look forward to watching your progress? Just curious, how much head height don you have?

  6. furpants says:

    This looks like a great plan. Your blog is so helpful and filled with good ideas.

    I used to rent a little cottage where the lower floor was dug out and had a low ceiling. The owner was a high end contractor/builder. He painted everything bright white (including doors and framing) and used one lite privacy glass doors with high quality modern hardware. Borrowing light from all the rooms made it feel more open, especially the hall area. The place also had varying heights (little step ups and downs) and I think the carpet helped to visually smooth them out. By being careful with the finishes, he made the space perfectly nice and not at all basement-y.

    • kzerbey says:

      thanks furpants, we are putting in a 4′-6″ x 2′-6″ privacy glass window to the outside located above the tub!

  7. Dorothy says:

    What about a door at the foot of the basement stairs and remove the wall between the bedroom and hallway. Makes the bedroom bigger and turns it into a suite with the bathroom. Or perhaps that’s a load-bearing wall.

    • kzerbey says:

      well, we thought about that but didn’t want to have to go through the guest room to get to the laundry;) also want the second bath available to people upstairs without going through the bedroom.

  8. Gavin says:

    Looking good as always. Better plan ahead and save your pennies for some stealth speakers for the surround. Wish we did that in our house so I don’t have to look at the 5 speakers around the room.


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