Finished Basements in Portland

Basements used to be scary places where we crammed all the stuff we couldn’t find a home for in the main living areas. Many are still scary but others have been converted into livable space that rivals the rest of the home in features and quality.

Like all successful projects, plan and get a permit. Before you start, there are some basic questions you need to address. The best place to start is the City’s guide on converting attics and basements.

The first and most important question is: Is it dry??? There is always the potential for water to get in but you want to do everything you can to minimize the possibility. Soggy drywall and carpet is not a happy experience. Even if you don’t plan on finishing the basement, a dry basement is a happy basement (and not so scary)!

Basic questions are access in and out. Stairs must meet certain requirements. We were denied a permit to finish our basement because there was insufficient headroom on the staircase for egress even though there is a completely separate outside entrance/exit. We lost on appeal with the City. Zoning issues must also be considered if it is going to be a separate unit.

Windows must open (out) and be a certain size. Installing the windows can mean cutting into the foundation and installing window wells which also must meet minimum size requirements.

There has to be a certain amount of headroom throughout the finished space. There are allowances for ducts.

Walls must be furred out with studs so that insulation can be installed. Wiring must be done with permits (and your panel needs to be able to accommodate the added load). If you finish a wall and then try to legalize it, the inspector can make you open the wall up to see the studs, insulation and wiring.

What condition is the floor in? Carpet and thick pad can take care of a lot bumps and dips but floorings like laminate and linoleum need flat smooth surfaces.

There is a lot more to the overall project but this is a good place to start. The City of Portland is open late on Thursday night for “Residential Permit Night” so that people can get in during non-working hours. When you go to sell, the Oregon real estate Property Disclosures that you will fill out on the property will ask “Has the home been Remodeled?” “Was a permit required?” and whether or not the permit was finalized. You want to be able to answer “yes” to all of these questions. Anyone can check out recent permit activity on a property with no more than an address on www.PortlandMaps.com

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