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What Is a Basement Conversion?

What Is a Basement Conversion?

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July 17, 2007

You may have heard people talk about doing a basement conversion, but this term is sometimes misunderstood or confusing.  The reality is that converting a basement is essentially just remodeling or refinishing the basement space.  However, a remodel or refinish often refers to updating or refurbishing an existing space while a conversion usually refers to making changes to your basement so it can be used for a different purpose than its current one.  This may seem like a slight difference in wording, but it is one that many people find important when talking about basement projects.

Basement Conversion

A very common kind of basement conversion is creating a living space that is suitable for use as a mini apartment.  It is sometimes called a "mother-in-law" apartment, a term that comes from the need for many adults to provide their parents with a semi-independent living solution.  Regardless of who will inhabit the living space, converting your basement to a small apartment is an excellent option for many homeowners.  It can be used for a parent, a college age child, or even rented out as an additional monthly source of income.  Because an apartment conversion is more complex than simply updating or refurbishing the space, there are more details and issues to consider as you plan and execute the project.

Plumbing, electrical wiring, heating and cooling, telephone, cable TV, and lighting are all important to consider in any basement remodeling project, but especially so when you are converting the space to a mini apartment.  The area will be used as a primary living space rather than a space that is occupied occasionally, so it is important for the infrastructure to be robust enough to handle those additional demands.  If you plan to rent the space out and have the tenant pay their own utilities then you will need to set the area up with its own meters and measurement systems.  Think also about entry and exit from the basement area.  You will want to include a separate entrance that can be accessed independently of the rest of the house, and you may or may not choose to keep an access point that leads into the main housing areas.  Think about these issues in advance and build them into your plans so that your basement conversion proceeds smoothly and properly.

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