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Converting basement into rec room
Jan 13, 2006

Question: I want to build a rec room in my home and this is one project that I want to take the time to do right and ensure that it is something that I can comfortably live with and enjoy. Can you provide me with some helpful information? 

Answer: Home improvements make your home more comfortable to live in and add value when you sell your home. Such improvements include converting your basement into living space. 

Planning is the most important step in building a rec room. The design and size of your rec room depends on your requirements and the needs of your family. 

Consideration should be given to the installation of a bathroom and a fireplace as well as the possible location of a bar, especially if it is to be a “wet” bar. Even if those features are not an immediate priority, they can be considered in your initial plans with the idea of adding them sometime in the future. 

In your initial stage of contemplating a rec room, familiarize yourself with new products that are available. Collecting current brochures and ideas will help you in the initial planning stage. 

Next, measure the area and make a sketch on graft paper. Use one-quarter-inch to equal one foot. Draw in such things as the furnace, hot water tank, plumbing stack and other permanent fixtures. Now, draw out the rec room area on the plan. 

Make sure you leave enough room around the furnace. Local codes usually dictate how close you can come to a furnace with wall framing and drywall. If the furnace room will be closed off with a door, there is a minimum size requirement specified in the code. 

After you have planned your basement rec room and know what areas of the basement will be finished, the next step is to repair the concrete walls and floor. Such items as snap-tie holes should be filled. Since they extend right through the concrete they can rust out and allow water to seep into the basement. 

Cracks in poured concrete basement walls need to be repaired, including hairline cracks. There are many patching materials on the market which include instructions. Repairing these problems now will eliminate future problems once the rec room is finished.        

Proper installation of insulation and a vapour  barrier are a must if the basement rec room is to be comfortable all year around. 

If the lay-out of your rec room is square and true, then the entire job of building the rec room is made easier. Squaring off the rooms and locating the position of the walls on the floor is a necessary aspect of the project. 

Remember, when laying out a room with partition walls, always allow for the thickness of the partition walls. The partition walls should be framed from two-by-fours. The actual width of the framing plus the thickness of the wall finish has to be taken into consideration when determining the size of the rooms. 

For framing outside walls, I recommend that you use two-by-twos. Of course, these studs require a blocking system. Being able to pull the two-by-two stud out so that it is straight is the reason for using two-by-fours for framing outside walls. It is impossible to do this with two-by-threes or two-by-fours. 

The rough framing for doors is an important part of basic framing, although the actual hanging of a door is not done until the wall finish is installed. I recommend that doors in basement rooms be at least two-feet eight-inches wide. This will allow the easy moving of appliances such as washers and dryers and other large objects that may be used in the basement. 

Bathroom doors are usually two feet wide. Doors should swing into the room. In most cases, bathrooms are small and a two-foot door takes less space to swing. 

I recommend having an electrical contractor do the wiring in the rec room. This is one part of rec room construction that has to be done to the proper building code specifications and with the utmost expertise. If there is a mistake made, it could cause a fire and even lead to loss of life. 

If roughed-in plumbing does not exist in your basement, then it will be necessary to break the concrete floor and install proper drain pipes for the toilet sink and shower drains. Some find it practical to frame the bathroom before they start breaking concrete. 

 Basement flood control should be considered in your plans to finish the basement. Backwater valves should be installed in main sewer lines, shower drains and toilets. A plumbing contractor will do the job according to the code and have it inspected. A plumbing permit is always required. 

Check with your local building supply dealer for information on how to build a rec room, or call a professional contractor to do the job.