Finishing Your Own Basement: What You Need to Know

The time has come to finish your basement but you’re not quite sure how to proceed.


If your house has an unfinished basement, you may have talked it over with your spouse when you bought it and convinced each other that “someday” we’ll turn it into a family room, guest room, storage, or whatever. You had grand hopes in your hearts and high ideals in your head, but now the time has come to put your money where your mouth is and you’re not quite sure how to proceed.

Well, first things first. In India, there is a Tamil proverb, “Gently flowing water will hollow even a rock.” Water can whittle away at the foundation of a house until, like the Tamil proverb, it’s been so badly undercut that it’s hollow, putting your house on the road to an eventual collapse. You might be seeing recurring cracks in the walls as a result of continual setting brought about by flowing water. Doors that once swung freely might suddenly start running into the floor before they’re halfway shut, or windows you previously could raise and lower without difficulty are now sticking and refusing to budge.

These are all signs of possible water movement under your house. If the floor of your basement is always wet with standing water, that pretty much confirms it. So, if you want to finish your basement and turn it into something other than a dank, smelly cave, you’re going to have to do something about all that water.

What Is A Sump Pump?

A sump pump is a small pump designed to be installed in the lowest part of your basement. A float, similar to the one in a toilet tank, activates the pump if the water gets above a predetermined limit. The sump pump then pumps the water out of your basement into a pipe that takes it away from the house. The pipe has to extend for a minimum of 20-30 feet away from the house before it empties the water, otherwise, the water might seep into the ground and return to your house.

A sump pump normally sits in a sump pit in your basement, a hole about 2-3 feet deep. The bottom of the pit is lined with 4-5 inches of gravel over bare dirt. As water seeps up from below, it gradually fills the pit. The pump, sitting on the gravel, gradually becomes submerged in water until the float, sometimes called a float activator, triggers the pump to start working. There are a wide variety of sump pumps to choose from, as you can see in this review.

Camouflaging The Sump Pump

Sump pumps are generally electric and don’t make much noise, but they do make some so you need to find some way to muffle their sound and keep them out of sight too.

Sump pumps are usually located in a corner of the basement or near a wall. This makes it easier to build a small cabinet or enclosed closet around them. You could even make the closet a half-sized closet and use the top of it as a decorative table to further hide what it really is.

Another thing you’ll want to consider adding is a dehumidifier, to extract as much water from the air as possible. That helps dry out the basement and keep it from feeling like a cave. It will help prevent mold and mildew as well. Additionally, you can run the drainage from the dehumidifier right into the sump pit. The sump pump can then pump it out of the house alone with all the groundwater seeping into it.

Check The Pipes

You want to check for and avoid any leaks in your water handling equipment before you start finishing your basement. Water stains will ruin a new carpet or flooring faster than you can dance the Tango and once the stains are there, getting rid of them will be a major effort.

The best way to prevent water leaks is to use plumber’s tape on all the pipe connections. Plumber’s tape, also known as thread seal tape or Teflon tape has to be wound clockwise around the threads of your pipes before screwing two sections together. The tape is pressed down into the threads as the pipes are tightened, sealing them against any possible water leaks.

Water Be Gone

Once the water is gone from your basement and you’ve got a dehumidifier keeping the air dry, then you’ll be ready to start making your plans on how to finish your basement the way you’ve always dreamed of.



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