Today’s Ask the Expert column features Dan Steward, president of Pillar To Post Home Inspectors.
Q: How can homeowners brighten up a basement to fully utilize the space as they prepare to spend more time indoors this winter?
A: Before turning to cosmetic fixes, make sure basic safety and inspection issues are covered. Check the following issues and address them first:
- If your basement or crawlspace smells musty, it’s likely due to a moisture problem. The smell is usually caused by the growth of mold and mildew, which thrive in damp environments. Allergies, difficulty breathing and low-threshold headaches are all symptoms that can be triggered by mold and mildew.
- Water can make its way into the basement through cracks in the walls, or oversaturated soil seeping water through the wall itself. If the basement is finished, look for discoloration on the drywall, as this is a sign that water is coming in.
- When paint is exposed to water or extreme moisture, it may bubble or begin to peel off the walls and floor. Painting over the affected area—even with waterproof paint—only masks the issue, allowing the underlying problem more time to become worse.
- Efflorescence is a chalky white substance that has the potential to develop a budding crystallized appearance over a period of time. In either case, it’s an indication of a water issue that must be addressed.
- Rust on metal surfaces in the basement is an indication of moisture.
- Moisture attracts insects such as roaches, centipedes, earwigs, carpenter ants and termites, in addition to rodents such as mice. Water problems must be corrected before attempting to remove pests, or they’ll likely return.
- Large cracks or waves in the foundation can be a sign of structural problems that require attention.
After all is structurally sound, it’s time to brighten the area up and add some decorative items. Low ceilings, limited light and general dreariness can make the basement a hard spot to hang out in, but the following tips will go a long way toward brightening things up:
- Paint the walls a light shade. To give the illusion of height, paint the ceiling an even lighter shade.
- Use various lighting sources (wall sconces, lamps, etc.) layered at different heights to brighten up the space. When choosing lighting sources, go for LED bulbs, as they’re typically brighter and cheaper.
- Place mirrors across from windows in order to maximize the effect of natural light.
- Don’t break up the space by incorporating different flooring materials. Pick solid, continuous flooring to help make the space appear larger.
- Look into decorative wall murals, which can be found on a variety of websites.
These are just a few simple ways to transform your basement from dark and dreary to bright and beautiful. Before you know it, your basement will become an alternative area for hanging out at home.
For more information, please visit www.pillartopost.com.
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