Solving Basement Design Problems

Mechanical systems and other obstacles can present design opportunities. Get tips for tackling the most common problems.
Red Basement Bar With Recessed Lighting in Custom Woodwork

Red Basement Bar With Recessed Lighting in Custom Woodwork

Photo courtesy of Basement Ideas

Photo courtesy of Basement Ideas

There are pipes for water and heating, and ductwork can cause unavoidable issues in a basement project. You can get water leaks and worse from overhead pipes, sewer and septic pipes, and cracks in the foundation or floor. Water tanks can erupt, and valves can suddenly blow, spilling inches or feet of water into your basement before you realize it. It's important to prepare for the bad days.

Sneaky Water Leaks

Moisture and humidity are some of the most common problems in basement spaces, and water issues need to be resolved before you build any room down there. If you get water leaks from your foundation walls or floor, this needs to be addressed.

Solution: Humidity and condensation can be relieved by sealing air leaks and gaps, better insulating your basement and running a dehumidifier.

Imposing Mechanical Systems



If you plan to move mechanical systems or appliances during your basement renovation, consider an upgrade. A more efficient furnace can save you money in the long run.

If you plan to move mechanical systems or appliances during your basement renovation, consider an upgrade. A more efficient furnace can save you money in the long run.

Common obstacles are mechanical systems or appliances that get in the way of your floor plans. You won't want to move furnaces, hot water heaters and water filtration systems if you can help it, as this can get costly and create new problems. "You're disturbing an entire system," says Frank Laskey, founder of Capital Construction. "If you're going to move things, you'll be moving all the parts, plumbing, ductwork and wiring."

Solution: It's best to design around these systems and cordon off a furnace and water tank area. "The first thing you should do is get a load calculation of your present system from an HVAC professional," says Donald Prather, technical services manager for the Air Conditioning Contractors of America. "This will help size your heating and cooling system properly, taking into account your new basement space."

Check with an HVAC professional to ensure that systems are ventilated. If you do have to move systems, Donald says, consider upgrading to a properly sized and more efficient system at the same time.

Basement Remodeling Ideas 01:05

Check out our ideas and designs for adding living space in your basement.

Overbearing Columns

While a lally or column might be in the way of your ideal floor plan, they are in your basement for a reason: to support the weight above. Any walls that run perpendicular to the floor joists are likely to be load-bearing. Do not knock down any lally or support columns.

Solution: You can replace columns with engineered and laminated or steel beams, but make sure they have been spec-ed out and approved by a structural engineer and your local building department.

Unattractive Ductwork

Ductwork can be a major eyesore, but moving it will cause unnecessary stress — and add more time and money to your basement project.

Solution: Before you try to relocate it, consider how you can frame around it and use it as a design element, perhaps creating a soffit or a tray ceiling. Donald says that one of the most creative fixes he saw in a basement relocated ductwork from a low-hanging spot on the ceiling to the floor, with a frame and finish that turned it into bench-style seating.

Interior Overhead Duct Work

Interior Overhead Duct Work

Consider your options before rearranging floor plans to hide unattractive ductwork.

Photo by: Fred Hayes

Fred Hayes

Consider your options before rearranging floor plans to hide unattractive ductwork.

Be sure to seal any leaks in the ductwork first before you conceal it.

Low-Hanging Ceilings

If your basement ceiling is less than 8 feet from the floor, consider how much space will be lost to a drop or finished ceiling and a floor. Do you still have enough headroom?

Solution: Some people dig down to get higher ceilings, though it's quite costly and involved.

Basements to Inspire

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Kid's Playhouse in Basement

A playhouse constructed from plywood and corrugated metal is the perfect hideaway for the homeowners' son in this industrial style basement, as seen on HGTV's Cousins Undercover.

Photo By: Chris Amaral © 2013, HGTV/Scripps Networks, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Star Trek-Themed Basement Pinball Arcade

The game room of this finished basement features a Star Trek-themed pinball arcade complete with cosmic lighting and slick, retro floor tiles. Vintage games line two facing walls.

Basement with Wet Bar, Poker Table

A curved soffit defines the full-service wet bar in this basement game room. A poker table fills out a nearby corner, and vintage pieces like an old-fashioned wall phone add whimsy throughout the space.

Basement with Seating Area, Game Room

This fun and functional basement features a wall of pinball machines, an old-fashioned Coca-Cola machine and loads of other whimsical, playful touches. A pair of red leather chairs creates a cozy seating area near the entry.

Vintage Pinball Machines in Whimsical Basement

Vintage pinball machines and a retro Coca-Cola dispenser create a fun hangout spot in this party-ready basement. Track lighting mixes with recessed lights to keep the space airy and bright.

Star Trek-Themed Basement Room

This whimsical, retro basement features multiple spaces for entertaining, including a Star-Trek themed vintage pinball arcade. "Controls" at the entry mimic the Starship Enterprise.

Basement Game Room and Home Theater

Opening up to the theater is a game room, complete with pool table and foosball table. A bar countertop defines the two spaces and provides a spot for watching a pool game, a movie or eating a snack.

Custom Sliding Barn Door Wall System in Urban Basement

A custom sliding barn door wall system features plenty of shelf space for storage in this urban basement. A hidden built-in bar allows for adult entertaining.

Unfinished Basement Before Remodel

This empty basement is set to become a transitional living, dining, kitchen and entertainment space, courtesy of Pineapple House Interior Design.

Photo By: Pineapple House Interior Design ©Scripps Networks

Music Studio in Basement

In the basement, a sound proofed music studio was added for the family's budding musician. Sound proof panels were already in place, so designers revamped the area with a bright couch, new carpet, and profession style cabinets to make the space complete.

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