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updated: 8/8/2014 11:27 AM

Six things to consider before renovating a basement

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A basement renovation can increase a home's value anywhere from 15 to 20 percent, depending on the renovations and the market, said John Gutman, vice president of sales and acquisitions at Mack Estates.

Tinley Park-based Mack Estates, a division of Mack Cos., is one of the largest owners and managers of single-family properties in the Chicago area. Gutman says homeowners can maximize value by considering these six tips before the basement renovation work begins:

• Know the local building codes

Before investing money into a home, homeowners need to make sure renovations are in compliance with local permitting, building and zoning codes so construction won't need to be redone later.

"Although the rules vary by municipality, in addition to plumbing, electricity and other mechanical requirements, many include standards on ceiling height, egress windows and other features that may be overlooked if you haven't done the homework upfront," Gutman said.

• Make sure it's watertight

The greatest enemy of any basement is water, and the best offense to deal with water issues in a basement is a good defense. Installing a sump pump with a backup battery will ensure the pump keeps working in the event of a power outage.

"If you are redoing the basement flooring, take the time to install drain pipe in the floor along the entire perimeter of the basement walls to catch leaking water and pump it to the sump pump," Gutman said. "There's nothing worse than making your space look perfect, only to have it destroyed by water damage because you didn't take this extra step."

• Don't consume ceiling height with lighting

Although track and pendant lighting may create a homier feel, recessed lighting will allow for more head clearance.

"Most basements have lower ceiling heights than other floors in a house, so you can't approach it in the same way," Gutman said.

• Check the staircase width

Evaluate the staircase to ensure it meets code requirements and is wide enough to move furniture and other accessories into the new space. "Stair width is an easily overlooked detail, until you're stuck at the top of the stairs wondering how you're going to get all your new furniture down there," he said.

• Don't make access panels inaccessible

"When installing drywall, make sure not to bury electrical circuit junction boxes in the ceiling, even if it's not in an area where you're planning to put an outlet," said Gutman. Homeowners will need periodic access to HVAC dampers and electrical circuits to control air flow and electricity in other areas of the house.

• Add rooms -- and resale value

Adding bedrooms or bathrooms to a basement will also add value when it's time to sell.

"Remember that building a room so it can function as a bedroom doesn't mean you need to use it as such -- home gyms, storage rooms and game rooms can all work in the space built as a bedroom," Gutman said.

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