This article contains the main requirements for basement renovations to help you make your home renovation easier and safer. You need to treat the tips below as general guidelines but not as the ultimate truth. Every basement space is unique and different from any other, meaning that a plan reviewer can (and usually will) determine several unusual circumstances that dictate the need for any additional information on a particular project. According to Guy Solomon, the Penguin Basements CEO, the interior basement renovation projects require most code requirements to be verified through the special inspection process.

Ceiling Heights & Habitable Room Sizes

Habitable rooms must have an area which is not less than 70 s.f. which means that a room has to be not less than 7 feet in any dimension. Not only habitable rooms, but also hallways, bathrooms, and even laundry rooms should have a ceiling of at least 7′-0″. Your basement space, according to the experience of Guy Solomon, should have the minimum clearance of 6′-6″ in the case of finished box-outs for decorative or structural beams, any plumbing, ductwork, or electrical systems, and do not forget to leave at least 4′-0″ on center for spacing.


Wall Construction

Walls in rooms of different purposes should meet the following requirements.

  • In general, you should indicate the size and spacing of new partition studs, and the walls have to be finished with the special wall material.
  • For shower areas and bathtubs, you are obliged to use an approved water-resistant gypsum backer board.
  • In case of any interior spaces in the basement room, your interior finish materials cannot have a flame spread rating exceeding 200.
  • Studs may be utility grade, but it is highly advised to use even better rates. Stud spacing shall have a treated bottom plate and can have a double or single top plate.
  • For non-loadbearing walls, studs may be notched to a depth that cannot exceed 40 percent of a single stud width. They may also be drilled, but only if the resulting hole’s diameter is no greater than 40 percent of the whole stud width. The edge of the hole in the stud should be no closer than 5/8 inch to the edge, and it cannot be located in the same section as a notch or cut.
  • You are allowed to use a single flat 2×4 member as a header for the interior nonbearing walls in case of having openings up to 8 feet in width, but only if the wall above is a maximum of 24 inches.

Basement Stairways

If you already have stairways, then be ready that they might need to be modified. As a rule, professionals do so with solid risers or toe board, sometimes with new replacement treads having nosings for new graspable handrails. Some contractors also advise using new intermediate balusters for open stair guards to meet current code requirements.

Our professional advisor for basement renovations, Guy Solomon, explains that guards along open-sided stairs must be at least 34″ in height above the leading edge of the tread and have the least height of 36″ at the stair landings. Open guards should have intermediate vertical balusters that are spaced less than 4″ apart. Horizontal stairway rails, the rail that is parallel to stair treads, and even ornamental patterns are prohibited on basement stairs.

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