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How to Design the Basement of Your Dreams: An Interview with Dave Schrock of Basement Spaces

By Dave Schrock

Tell us a little bit about your company and the services you offer.

I have been a remodeling contractor for the past 23 years finishing basements in my local area. I also have a design service whereby I can design a basement layout for anyone that needs help figuring out how the space should be. With some information provided by the homeowner, I'm not restricted as to location. Please contact me should you be desirous of some help. A website I maintain in addition to basementspaces.com is basementideas.com. There you'll find lots of pictures, floorplans, videos and articles all basement-related with the intent to spur ideas and get the creative process going.

What's one of the biggest mistakes you've seen people make during the basement design process?

Basically two- fold: (1) Not thoroughly thinking through the design. I always strive to create a space that flows well. I want homeowners to be able to make great use of their basements. As their needs change - take for example small children becoming teenagers - the space may need to be re-purposed. If that is something that can be done with little or no expense I've done well. (2) As most every remodeling project is a series of compromises thinking what is most important in the long run is what you ultimately should be living with.

Here's a great example. I get asked a lot about putting in a guest bedroom in the basement. Whenever this occurs I always play devil's advocate and try to ascertain, just how often the space will be actually used for this purpose. Here's my thinking. If the room will be used a lot, or can be multi-purposed into another function, such as an office, well then fine. If I find out that the space will only be used once or twice a year, when in-laws and other family may be over I mention that a bedroom can take a lot of basement real estate (which can be in short supply).

Would it not be better to simply have a sleeper sofa or a murphy bed in the space that can be used when needed? If Grandma and Grandpa are over you wouldn't send the kids downstairs to play as it may disturb them, hence the whole level becomes their suite. Why then devote so much space to something that may not get a lot of use? This causes prospective clients to look and see if the bedroom is a viable need or not.

What do you do to help homeowners avoid this mistake?

I ask potential clients questions such as the above to find what actually is important vs. what is not important. I also can create a design with my computer software that will show them how the space will look before any work is done.

What are the basic steps of a basement design?

I have a few self-imposed rules I follow from years of experience. First, when I create a space, I like to have big open areas as much as possible. Cutting the basement up into little rooms doesn't work so well.

Where and how a bathroom is located is important. I try to keep bathroom entrances private by creating little hallways or alternatively putting the door on a wall that is out of the main traffic pattern. Bar spaces are highly individualized too. Some people just want a horizontal surface to put things out on. Others want a back bar with a seating island or more. Depending on the personal desire and budget I'll make decisions on how much of a focal point the bar should be. The ceiling height of your basement may be a source of consideration as well, especially if it's lower.

You'll want to properly plan so as to take advantage of the higher and lower areas and avoid the pitfalls from lack of planning. There are a lot of things to consider and weigh in on to make everything come together fluidly. Don't shortcut the planning process.

What are the most helpful things that people can do at the beginning of designing a new basement?

Having a knowledgeable and ethical contractor with a lot of experience finishing basements if that is your chosen path. Make sure the hired contractor obtains all the required permits and offers you a guarantee. If you're a craftsman and plan on doing much of the work yourself, have a well thought out plan first. Then you get all the required permits. Working with villages and towns can be a headache at times, but it's well worth the effort. Once your work is complete you've removed some potential insurance liabilities.

If there are any water issues, those MUST be taken care of prior to any construction. I also recommend getting a back-up sump pump (if you have a drain-tile system) and most importantly, phone your insurance agent and make sure you have whatever appropriate policy is available for basement flooding. You want to be fully covered and only be responsible for a deductible should flooding happen.

What's the best way for people to contact you and your company?

Contact me via email or phone. My email address is: dave@basementspaces.com Phone: 630-978-8269.

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About The Author

Dave Schrock, author, owner, and founder of Basement Spaces, boasts 23 years of...

Phone: 630-978-8269

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