Four ways to transform your unused basement

Often underutilized or downright forgotten, your basement could be the key to your dream house.

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Having a basement is a treasure. Sure, that dark room below might not seem like much now, but the hole beneath your feet is actually a huge untapped space. So throw out those old boxes, open up those dusty windows, and let's reveal your basement's hidden potential.

But before you get started, Jonathan Smith, owner of Buckeye Basements in Delaware, Ohio, says there are three major things you need to consider: "What do you want, what do you need, and what's your budget," he says.

To help you get the ball rolling and your creative juices flowing, here are four remodeling ideas that can add extra living space to your home and take your basement from drab to fab.

Basement Idea #1: The Entertainment Zone

"The number one thing people want is a second family room/media room," says Smith.

And if you're one of these people, you could make your wish come true by turning your basement into an entertainment room for your family.

Consider a family game room, for example, complete with a pool table or foosball table, darts, and an old school arcade game. Or how about a movie room with a huge projector and theater-style seating?

Whatever your family decides on, one thing to consider during the remodel is the noise factor. The cheers you hear when someone wins a game might not be so cheery when you're trying to get your taxes finished in the room upstairs.

With this in mind, you'll probably want to put in some insulation to help block out the noise. And according to the U.S. Department of Energy's website, there are many different types of insulation to choose from. The type of insulation that will work best really depends on where you need to install it and the effect you want as a result.

So, make sure to talk to your contractor about what you're hoping to get from the insulation.

[Thinking of creating a game room downstairs? Click to find the right contractor now.]

Basement Idea #2: The Home Office

Are you tired of using your kitchen table as your work desk?

Good news: The seclusion and privacy of a basement can transform nicely into a home office.

And as you're planning your new office space, one thing to keep in mind is that it doesn’t have to be built for just one person. For example, a built-in conference room, cubicle-style desk space dividers, and a door to the outside can turn your basement into a full-fledged company office.

In fact, "We had a customer who added a $33,000 forced walk-out," says Smith. "We dug out the outside and put in a big stone stairwell and beautiful French doors. It was a humongous project, but it changed the dynamic of the whole house."

As for those who think their basement is a little too dark and creepy to be an office, think again. You can design your basement around the available natural light and also install windows.

"We do a lot of egress windows, where we'll dig out the opening and put a big full-size basement fire escape window so they can get a lot of natural light," says Smith.

[Thinking of turning your basement into a home office? Click to find the right contractor now.]

Basement Idea #3: An Escape for the Kids

"Parents want a fun, safe place for their kids to go, and they want to have their kids' friends over and be under their roof," say Smith.

If this is the case for you, why not turn your basement into an oasis for your kids?

And while playroom options vary in terms of design and how you want to remodel your basement, Smith recalls one extreme renovation: It included a full-size slide from the upstairs playroom to the basement. "It was unbelievable," he says.

Of course, not all play pad renovations will be this extreme. However, no matter what route you decide to take, there's one thing you shouldn't overlook during the remodeling process: Plenty of plugs. This is especially true nowadays, when electronics play a huge part in kids' lives through computers, TVs, Blu-ray players, and video games.

And unless you're an electrician, you'll want to call in the professionals to add the outlets to the existing electrical system in your basement. This way, whether they're blasting space aliens in the latest Halo or watching cartoons on Disney, you'll be giving your kids and their friends a cool, comfortable place to play.

[Want to create a downstairs escape for the kids? Click to find the right contractor now.]

Basement Idea #4: A Second Master Suite

Whether you have an aging family member moving in or you simply want to have nice accommodations for your guests, the basement could be the perfect place for a second master suite.

To start, consider adding a bathroom with a spa-like essence, complete with a big, deluxe tub, towel warmers, and whatever else you envision for your relaxation retreat.

But, don't forget it's still a basement. And if you don’t want your master suite to feel like a basement, you'll have to make some big changes.

"Doing a good job concealing the obvious basement things such as poles, duct work, hot water tanks, furnaces - integrating those into your design and layout goes a long way to making it not feel like a basement," says Smith.

What's something else you'll want to consider with this basement-turned-master-suite renovation? "Adding amenities," says Smith, who notes that it can "help the resale value of the house tremendously."

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