It’s no longer “just a basement.”
Story by Carol McGarvey
Featured in March/April 2022
First, may we start with some definitions?
A basement is completely or partially below the ground floor of a home and generally is used as a utility space. It’s where a home’s mechanicals are located—furnace and air-conditioner, water heater, fuse box, and often the laundry center, especially in older homes. Undedicated space is for storage. In many areas, the basement is the go-to shelter for safety from tornadoes.
The lower level can turn that same space into a home office, a family room, a movie theater room, a craft room, a man cave, an exercise area, a guest room with a full bath, a kitchenette, and even a so-called “safe room.”
In new construction and remodeling circles, “lower level” indicates that the area has become part of the living space. Generally, the basement stuff is still there. It’s just that the unfinished space previously used for storage now takes on an important and specific role.
During the pandemic, many people worked remotely from home. Often office space was delegated to part of the lower level. For many, that need for a dedicated space remains.
Today builders are touting the lower-level space, even it’s not finished at the time of construction. When purchasing a home, don’t ignore that space. Perhaps you or the next owner will want the ability to build out the space as your family or financial situation changes. It’s wise to check with your builder about the possibility of adding extra height to the lower-level walls.
Even if you’re not sure you would use it, definitely consider a kitchenette arrangement. No one wants to carry dirty dishes up and down the stairs every time you have friends over. The kitchen setup doesn’t have to be huge to be useful.
Depending on the area’s support system, try to plan for an open space for a seating and conversation area or for a Foosball or pool table. Think the matter through thoroughly and decide what would work for your situation.
If you have interest and room under the stairs or entrance to your home, you might consider a wine room. Not your style? Then how about just a wine cooler refrigerator.
If you are adding a bedroom for kids or for visiting grandparents or others, you must install an egress window for easy access to the outside in case of a fire or for any other emergencies.
Designers suggest that you’ll want to make the stairway entrance to the lower level welcoming and attractive, too, by choosing just-right lighting and by painting the area a light and friendly color. This first look will encourage visiting the space below and staying for a while. From this vantage point, visitors can see the area is full of fun.
Keep this fact in mind. In central Iowa, most houses have a basement or lower level. Starting in southern Iowa and heading down south, so many homes are built on a slab with no protected place to seek shelter or to celebrate the good life.
Come on down. •