Finishing a Virginia basement with low ceilings presents a variety of challenges. How can you transform a cramped, often dark space into something comfortable? Take your time in the design stage and make the most of this space.
Look Under Your Feet
Maximize ceiling height by looking to the floor first. Many Virginia homeowners assume that a plywood subfloor is required, but other options allow for a more open feeling. Leaving the subfloor out will save an inch or two, which could be the difference in passing and not passing building code.
Your concrete subfloor needs to be fairly level to avoid installing a plywood subfloor. Check from corner to corner and pay special attention to any low lying areas; that is where water will collect should flooding occur. Use concrete leveling products to correct any major discrepancies.
Choose from several types of basement flooring that can be installed on a level concrete subfloor, including:
- ceramic and natural stone tiles – mortared directly to the concrete
- engineered wood flooring – floats over a poly barrier and closed cell underpad
- carpet – laid over a closed cell underpad for protection from mold and other moisture issues
Look Over Your Head
The type of ceiling installed in your Virginia basement also makes a difference to the atmosphere, brightness and comfort of this below-grade living space. Depending on the construction of your home and the space required for lighting fixtures, homeowners have several types of ceilings choices available. Not all will help to maximize the feeling of roominess, and details like color choice serve to enhance the effect.
Wood paneling is one of the cheapest ways to finish off a low ceiling. This thin material can be stapled or nailed directly to the floor joists or wood blocking with light fixtures surface-mounted on the paneling. Consider how you will finish the seams and edges of your ceiling and look for rigid paneling with a decent structure.
Drywall ceilings also provide a low profile ceiling that can be mounted directly onto the floor joists. You’ll need to punch out holes for recessed light fixtures and box around bulk heads, but this type of ceiling can be painted white or off white to help expand the space.
Drop ceilings provide easy access to electrical and mechanical elements, but also cut down on the space available. If your Virginia basement has a low ceiling to begin with, this design makes it worse by dropping down two or three inches. Although you can get white tiles and add sound insulation, drop ceilings work best in basements with full ceiling heights.
Check with your local building department about the minimum ceiling height and stay within that limitation if you want to use the basement for living space. If the existing height is dangerously close to the minimum, talk to your Virginia basement contractor about installing the right types of floors and ceilings to maximize space and create an open, spacious feeling in this living area.