Basement living redefined
November 13, 2023
The basement was the one room in the house that people looked down on, literally and figuratively. It used to be the least appealing room that many used to store seasonal decor and other seldomly used items. The key phrase though is “used to be,” as today the utility and beauty of the basement is in full display.
Whether it is a man-cave, a femme flat, a game room or home theatre, the basement is extra living space that everyone can use. A little imagination – and maybe some elbow grease – is all it takes to unlock all its potential. These days, the basement takes an even more prominent role, as its development is encouraged to use as a rental space or even as an AirBnB spot to augment the household income.
In Calgary, most single-family homes have a basement, and some townhomes too. Some are now designed with nine-foot ceilings that make the lower level feel less dungeon-y. The popularity of including a side entrance to the home has made the basement development even more functional and appealing as a rental space. And of course, a basement development on a walkout lot is the high-water mark for lifestyle points.
Many homebuilders now offer developing the basement with the construction of the pre-sale home to save the owner the trouble of doing it themselves later. The latest showhomes from Homes by Avi and Cedarglen Homes in Rockland Park in the northwest shows just how utterly livable today’s basements can be.
What’s the advantage of developing the basement?
Many of the new communities in Calgary are now zoned for developed basement suites and homebuyers are realizing the full potential of the home by including this in their mortgage.
“One of the major perks of developing a basement right off the bat with your homebuilder is that you will get to enjoy the extra space right away and make the most out of the extra square footage,” says Cedarglen Homes’ Lauren Friesen, Showhome Design Consultant. “In addition, the homebuilder often has a well-designed basement layout already pre-determined for the house that you are building that will optimize the space and ensure everything is built to code.”
“A finished basement will increase the value of your home,” says Gary Streng, Homes by Avi’s Area Sales Manager at Rockland Park. “Finishing your basement adds additional square footage for livable space, more storage room or could be used as a rental suite.”
“It can also be a great space for entertainment by adding a basement bar and media center,” adds Homes by Avi’s Showhome Decorator, Rachel Amsterdam. “Another advantage for developing the basement would be extra space for guests or privacy for teenagers to use and have their own space.”
Would you advise new homebuyers to develop the basement as the home is constructed?
“We always recommend that homebuyers develop the basement of the home if they know they have plans to do so soon anyways,” Cedarglen’s Jaliali says. “By having the homebuilder build the basement, you can ensure that the same skilled trades that completed the rest of your home are doing the work and that everything will be built consistently, and most importantly up to building code. In addition, you avoid the inconvenience down the line of having to live in your home while renovations are being done and finding skilled trades to complete the work.
Cedarglen Homes is currently running a limited time promo for their front drive garage homes where buyers can get free basement development (around 450 square feet) which is an approximately $30,000 value, Friesen adds.
Homes by Avi takes the same approach. “Out of convenience if you’d like to use your basement right when you move in. Also, if you want a consistent design and similar finishing’s as the rest of your home, it would be a good idea to develop it at the same time. Typically, $30,000 to $35,000,” Streng says.
Basement design innovation
Basement development has come a long way over the years and these spaces can often feel just as bright and airy as the main and upper floors. Friesen says at Cedarglen, they make sure that basements have big windows. “Windows that let in natural light make a big difference in how bright the space can feel, and walk-out basements – like in our Rockland Park front-drive showhomes – will provide the best lighting due to the size of the windows it can accommodate,” she says.
“Other important factors to consider would be the location of the mechanical room. In order to maximize the square footage of the home, it is beneficial if all the mechanical systems can be tucked away into one corner of the basement to allow for more open space for the other rooms.”
Homes by Avi’s Amsetrdam emphasizes the need for proper lighting in the basement. “Installing proper lighting and increasing the window sizes will enhance and brighten the space. We usually recommend a nine-foot basement foundation, this will make the space feel much larger and more open.”
But she says the most essential thing to consider when thinking of basement design is – what do you want the space to accomplish. “Do you want a suite or a gym or a space for guests or an entertainment area? Having higher ceilings and windows creates a brighter and more spacious feel but is not necessary for most basements.”
She says natural light can be brought in with larger basement windows or patio doors for a walk-out basement if the lot allows. “Ensuring your basement has enough artificial light is another important detail to consider. Adding pot lights or recessed lighting throughout is very important to ensure all the space is bright and useable. Another way to keep a basement feeling bright and open is to use light paint colors.”
Using space wisely
No matter the size of the home, maximizing every inch of space is as essential in the basement as it is anywhere else in the home.
“Regardless of the home style that we build, we always try to maximize the useable space we can offer in our basement developments,” Friesen says. “If you have a smaller home style such as a duplex or laned home, it is important to remember that you can still have a basement that serves your needs if you make use of the space efficiently.”
“In our most recent front-drive garage showhomes in Rockland Park, we decided to showcase two different options one can consider when developing a basement. Our Elbow SSY 24 showhome features a 685 sq. ft. walk-out basement that includes a spacious open concept rec room, as well as a bedroom and full bathroom. This basement offers the perfect space for a family movie night, or entertaining friends and family. The large living space designed with large-scale furniture and the creation of a games area allows for great flow throughout the rooms without feeling too cramped.
Next door at our Glenbow 26 showhome, our team has designed an impressive 2-bedroom legal secondary suite. As a walk-out basement, this suite features plenty of natural light and includes 2 bedrooms, a full bathroom, in-suite laundry, and an L-shaped kitchen that overlooks the great room. One of the benefits of building a secondary suite with Cedarglen Homes, is that we ensure all the legal requirements are met to classify it as a legal suite enabling the homeowners to rent the space out and gain some supplementary income. Find out more at cedarglenhomes.com.
Homes by Avi’s Rockland Park showhomes have similarly smartly designed basements that display the full potential of the home.
“Our legal suite for our Titus Showhome in Rockland Park is a great example of how you can increase the value of your home and have a rental suite for investment or a perfect spot for extended family to stay,” Streng says.
“We are very proud of the basement development in the Titus in Rockland Park,” Amsterdam adds. “This basement feels bright, open and is extremely functional. With a full kitchen, dining space, large living room, spacious bedroom, full bathroom and laundry, there isn’t a whole lot more that you can want in your basement suite. It has an open concept which is great for entertaining and allows the natural light from the patio doors of this walk-out basement flowing through the whole space. With a fun decal detail in the living room, the space has personality but can be easily changed.” More information at homesbyavi.com
About Pepper Rodriguez
Pepper Rodriguez is a writer, editor of New Home + Condo Guide's Calgary and Edmonton editions.