What are the Different Kinds of Basements?

Sheri Cyprus

Basements in homes offer extra space. Depending on your needs, basements can provide many living solutions for many different lifestyles. The different kinds of basements include finished, unfinished, below ground and above ground.

A man installing a basement floor.
A man installing a basement floor.

Above ground basements have the entry right at ground level. An above ground basement is often called a walk out basement since you can just step outside at the front door with no stairs. Raised bungalow homes have above ground basements that often have large windows in the front and a patio in the back. A raised bungalow usually has an entry that is between the basement and the first floor with stairs leading in both directions. Above ground basements are usually not as cool in hot weather as below ground basements, but they are often brighter.

Finished basements have all of the space finished with livable rooms, such as a recreation room.
Finished basements have all of the space finished with livable rooms, such as a recreation room.

Below ground basements are cooler than above ground basements in hot weather, but are often darker due to smaller windows. A walk-up basement refers to any basement with an outside entrance that has a stairwell. Flooding is sometimes a problem with walk-up basements, so an adequate stairwell drain and angled doors are often featured in modern homes with a below ground basement. Some parts of a walk-up basement may be above ground in a sloping yard.

Unfinished basements are fine for storage but not living space. An unfinished basement usually means there are foundation walls and a concrete floor. Unfinished basements are often unheated and finishing a basement usually means that walls, floors, heating and plumbing need to be added. Air conditioning and lighting are other big issues to consider in finishing an unfinished basement, but connections for plumbing, air conditioning and heating equipment are usually already in the basement. Insulation is another important consideration in finishing an unfinished basement.

Finished basements usually have all of the space finished with usable, livable rooms such as a kitchen, recreation room, bathroom and laundry room. Planning is crucial in finishing a basement. Decide what you need the space for, whether it is storage, a home office, entertainment space, laundry, another bathroom and/or a play area for the kids. If you want a pool table, you must plan for the appropriate space around it to allow room for the players to use cue sticks.

Sketching the basement area and considering how you would like to divide the space is a good first step in planning to finish a basement. Bathroom and laundry rooms should be as close to the water heater as possible in basements. For plumbing and electrical work, hire contractors with work permits rather than doing this work yourself. Basements can be designed in a style similar to the rest of the house or something a little different. Decide if you prefer a basement that is country, contemporary or traditional and consider your paint, wallpaper and flooring choices.

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