If you’re a house-hunter, you probably have established a list of needs and wants. Is a finished basement included as a need or a want? For some families, a finished basement isn’t a priority and many homeowners spend decades in a home without ever taking on this home renovation project.

If it is something that is important to you, finishing the basement once you’ve moved into a home can increase its value while adding additional living space and giving you the opportunity to tackle your first home renovation project!

Perhaps you envision a spectacular man cave, complete with wet bar, home theatre and games area. Or maybe you’d like to create an exercise studio, home office or children’s playroom. Whatever your goal, there are some key factors to consider before you start planning that first basement party. If you’re a home reno rookie, you might want to consider hiring a contractor to help with certain aspects of your project, particularly layout design, flooring, the ceiling and dry walling.

When establishing a floor plan, consider window placement as a starting point. If you are creating a bedroom, there must be a window. If you want a theatre area, avoid locating it directly beneath a window to reduce glare. If you want a wet bar, you’ll need to consider plumbing.

When starting with concrete floors and walls, it’s a good idea to test for moisture before you start covering these areas up permanently. The easiest way to do this is by securing a two-foot square sheet of heavy duty plastic to an area on the floor and wall. Wait a couple weeks and inspect the plastic for condensation underneath – a sign that your foundation is not sealed. If moisture droplets appear on top of the plastic, you might need to purchase a dehumidifier.

Consider a suspended or dropped ceiling if your basement ceiling is high enough. That way you can always have access to the plumbing, electrical wiring and other ‘guts’ of the home.

Since basements are prone to moisture and leaks, you’ll have to install a sub-floor. The space between the sub-floor and the existing floor acts as a barrier to moisture problems. When it comes to choosing flooring, it’s a matter of budget, personal preference and usage. If the space will be used as a recreation room for the whole family, Berber carpet is a warm and durable option. A home gym would work with laminate, ceramic or vinyl tile, though those options could mean a cold floor.

After you’ve addressed these structural aspects of your basement reno, you can focus on the fun stuff like decorating and furniture shopping!