Sound insulation is a big question to answer for most people looking to finish or remodel their basements. It can seem like an added, unnecessary cost, but the difference it can make is impressive, depending on how you do it.
If you choose to add no sound insulation to your basement, you'll be able to hear pretty much everything happening upstairs when you're in the basement. When you're on the floor above, it will be slightly quieter, but things like TVs and people talking below will be audible. In addition to sounds, people in the basement will hear everything that vibrates, including walking on the floorboards above. Sometimes this banging noise is what's hardest to deal with when in basements.
One of the first things you can do is add carpet to the floors above. It dampens the vibration of people walking and absorbs some of the noise. It's one of the most cost-efficient ways to decrease sound in basements.
Moving into the basement, if you're dealing with an unfinished ceiling, you have quite a few options. First, consider adding 5/8" drywall or thicker. You can also add multiple layers of drywall for double protection. And if you want to add even more, there's a product that some people swear by that you can spread between the two layers of drywall to help with sound even more.
In addition, using insulation in the ceiling joists can help absorb even more sound. You'll lose the benefit of heat traveling up through the floorboards, but the sound barrier often outweighs it. A higher r-value doesn't necessarily mean more sound insulation. Look instead for the thickness that best fills the open space in the joists.
And finally, consider using resilient channels. These are metal strips that you attach perpendicular to the joists, to which you fasten the drywall. This effectively hangs the drywall below the joists so it doesn't touch them directly. This keeps much of the vibration of walking above from reaching the basement. Be careful though, we've heard that 60% of these channels are installed incorrectly and can lose their sound effectiveness with just one screw being driven into the joist, which transfers the vibrations to the drywall, and then to your ears.
Many people considering a basement remodel often wonder if they need to install egress windows as if it's something they are only doing because they have to. The reality is, adding egress windows to a basement is one of the best ways to make your basement more livable.
Adding egress to your basement isn't only about safety. It's important to have a way to escape in case something blocks your normal exit out of your basement, but you can also take advantage of this code requirement and design what can be the best part of your basement.
Our suggestion is to choose the biggest window you possibly can. You're already paying for the digging, concrete cutting, and installation, why not add just a bit more and create a focal point that everyone can enjoy.
Next, think of your egress window as your connection to the outside. Not only will it let a lot of light into your basement living space, but it's possible to design a nice, relaxing view. Tiers down the side or different sized potted plants can add lots of green texture and bring nature down to you. Put your couch or chairs under the egress filled with plants and when sitting, you'll feel like you're in the outdoors, which is the opposite of what most basements feel like. Lay some nice rock at the bottom of the well and it will keep dirt from splashing up on the glass when it rains and will bring a nice touch of zen.
It might seem like a lot to add egress, but if you do it right, you'll be very happy with it. So happy that if you do another basement project, you might want to add extra windows. We did.
A key aspect of a basement apartment are the entrances/exits. Many people want to finish their basement only to find out that it will be more work than they had hoped because they don't have the required access.
If you're finishing your basement for a family member or someone you're close to and you don't mind sharing the rest of the house, you'll most likely have a door that connects the basement to the rest of the house. If your basement is below ground, you'll probably also need an egress window for a second exit point. An egress window has to be a certain size determined by your local codes and be big enough for people to escape through in the event of an emergency. If you have a bedroom in your basement, it must have egress. If you are finishing more of an open studio space, you should check your local codes.
If you are finishing your basement as a separate apartment and trying to maximize rental income, you'll need a separate entrance for the people living there. It's possible to build an entrance, but it will mean cutting into your foundation and digging out a landing and space for stairs. Whether or not your basement has an exterior entrance is a big factor for people trying to figure out their options.
You'll also need to examine how the basement is currently connected to your main house. If there is a doorway between the two, you'll need to look at closing it off, or complying with local building codes, which might mean adding a fire door to create fire separation between the two units.
Lots to think about, but the good thing about basements is that your options are limited and so decisions are easier.