Designing Basements for Every Lifestyle - Basement and Remodeling Basics

Part one of our video education series.

Written by: Mike Bayes

For every lifestyle, there is a basement, and in this first episode of Basement and Remodeling Basics, Blue Sky's Online Education Series, you will learn what elements of basement design are important for kids, entertainment, guest space, and more.

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Mia: And we’re live. Hello everyone. Welcome to basement and remodeling basics. This is an online series brought to you by Blue Sky Remodeling. I’m your host, Mia Voss, and I am so excited for this. We’re going to give you so much information about what you need to know about basement and interior project remodeling. Everything you need to know so that from start to finish, your project goes well and you have a spectacular addition to your home. So before we get started, I want you to go to YouTube and subscribe to Blue Sky Remodeling and then also you can go to

They have an amazing free basement finishing cost estimator. Then you can also sign up for updates about this online series. You are going to get so much information. So, listen, we are going to get started. Today’s show is obviously all about basement designs and how different lifestyles require different basement designs. So I have with us two excellent experts. I have Adam Rossi and he is the president of Blue Sky Remodeling, and then Julie Rossi is also joining him and she has a bunch of letters after her name CFO, CIO, and VP of quality. You are qualified. It’s great to talk with you both. Welcome.

Julie: Thank you. Thanks for having us.

Adam: Thank you. Thanks Mia. I’m the president. She’s the boss.

Mia: Right, I see that’s the chain of command. I like that. All right so tell us about Blue Sky Remodeling.

Adam: Well Blue Sky Remodeling has been around since 2007 as a performing entity doing basement finishes and remodel-type work. Basement finishes is one of our main products that we do. I have been doing these for about 15 years. Blue Sky Remodeling is probably one of the larger basement construction firms in the Denver area. We work all around the entire metro area. We do some in-house designing, interior designs. We do basement finishing, the construction management through a subcontract model which tends to be very … It works really well. It’s fluid.

Depending on what the client wants, we work across a lot of different price ranges from the very deluxe to very simple and just extra space for the family to recreate. So we’ve been awarded a few points along the way. We’ve been recognized by Remodeling Magazine as one of the top 50 in the country. We’re also in the Builder 550 which is another recognition by Hanley Wood, the producers of Remodeling Magazine, and locally here the Denver Business Journal has awarded us one of the fastest growing companies.

Mia: So now you know why they have an online series. Blue Sky Remodeling obviously has vetted and has been doing a ton of great projects around Denver. I can’t wait, now you have some pictures and some samples of some of your work today, right?

Adam: Right. We’ll show you some of the things we utilize here tools, techniques, and some of the technology that we have at our disposal to make sure our client has a good experience.

Mia: So stay tuned for that. We’re going to have that coming up. But let's jump in.

What are the main reasons someone decides to finish a basement?

Mia: So first off, what are the main reasons that people decide to finish a basement?

Adam: Well I’d say the main reason is the family is growing. The family is expanding and needs some additional space. Most builders provide all the requisite rooms of kitchen, bathrooms, and bedrooms and maybe a family or dining room. We build all the fun spaces below that the family can then grow, expand. The kids are hanging out with their friends and they’re bringing their own adult friends over. So generally it’s for the family growing.

Mia: So definitely speaking in terms of play areas and storage and things like that. That’s probably the first thing to go as the family grows. They move into those areas and so you do need to take that unfinished basement and do something with it because it’s just square footage that’s just sitting there.

Adam: That’s right.

Julie: That’s exactly right. Instead of moving, you might as well take advantage of the space that you have. We tend to work for a lot of expecting parents, a lot of babies on the way. And so they want the grandparents to come and stay with them. So that’s another area where we can create another bedroom and some privacy down there so the family can stay close together.

Mia: I think that is one of the bigger issues when you have people come and stay because people usually come for a long weekend. So having that little bit of privacy so you can just kind of go downstairs, right? And then the family still has … You have your own privacy and they also feel like instead of going to a hotel room that they have their own sort of hotel space.

Julie: No, that’s exactly right.

Mia: What are some of the more … Give me some more ideas. So we have play areas. We have storage. And then we, of course, have guest areas. Have you done a lot of projects where you end up sort of framing it in the basement so that it is a laundry room. Because a lot of times isn’t it just kind of a laundry room? It’s concrete, unfinished walls, and a washer and dryer.

Adam: Yep with lots of spider webs and creepy windows and it’s too dark with the two light bulbs down there. Right. It’s very unpleasant.

Mia: And you’re always running up the stairs because you’re scared.

Julie: Yeah, exactly.

Adam: Yeah that’s the old spooky space.

Julie: Yeah.

Adam: A lot of the things that we also are putting in, you had asked me, are exercise rooms are big. So instead of having to get gym memberships and leave the house at six in the morning or five in the morning. We do a lot of areas that double between exercise and craft. Larger family rooms where the kids can go down and play their games or the dads can go down and watch their football and not have to worry about taking up the main level spaces. So, yeah, kind of turning those creepy basement, unlit, spider web into a room that feels just like it does upstairs. Well lit, it’s warm. You know, it has a nice finish to it that looks just like the upstairs or better usually.

Mia: Well and you’re right, we missed one of the main ones is the man cave.

Julie: That’s right.

Adam: Yeah, you know, it doesn’t seem to … It’s the family cave. I think the older HGTV man cave is kind of more like their new show called the Fam Cave. That’s more I think what we gear towards and not just build the uber bar with all the pub stuff, the darts and shuffleboards. Although those usually do get added in for the whole family to enjoy. But yeah it’s probably where the guys will go down to and to enjoy the football games.

Mia: Right. Well I like fam cave. You’ve coined a new one. Hashtag fam cave. I also like woman cave. That would be mine.

Adam: Ma’am cave? Yes, right.

What is the process for designing and remodeling a basement? Are there a lot of revisions?

Mia: All right so give me an idea in general, just for more of a basic if you’re going to maybe turn it into one room, how long does that take for the project kind of from start to finish?

Adam: You know, it’s so custom. But let’s just kind of take it at just one nice, big, large recreation room at the bottom of the stairs. Probably between three and four weeks. It’s very simple. It requires very little electrical, no plumbing. The framing and drywall and pain and trim and then you pretty much have a room. So probably three weeks to four weeks to do something very simple like that.

Julie: As you get more complicated, the design itself can take sometimes longer than the actual building of the basement. We go through sometimes multiple iterations as the spaces get more complicated. Making sure that the homeowners can see exactly how everything is going to fit together. And so sometimes we go through quite a few more weeks of design than we actually do building the space. The larger basements that are going to be more involved, they’re going to take more like seven to eight weeks. And we might spend just as much time designing it before we jump into the actual building of it.

Mia: We’re going to segue into another section here in a second, but with that idea it sounds like there is a lot of time that you dig into lifestyle with people and get them thinking long-term because they are going to remodel what exactly they want to use it for. So tell me a little bit about that when you meet and go through the design process.

Adam: Okay. Our approach really replicates a very standardized design-build methodology. The first appointment once we’ve spoken with them on the phone and understand what type of project they want to do. That they’ve got some idea of how much it’s going to cost and how long it will take. To say it sounds like the project is very feasible. So once we’ve reached that feasibility point, we get into the design phase. And as Julie mentioned, it can take one or two weeks and it can sometimes take two or three months. Even on the more elaborate and more expensive spaces, the family may actually choose to put it off for six months to a year or more to make sure that the funds are all available. Once they understand truly what all the costs are involved.

So the design part of it is immediately what we kind of jump into. To begin designing the space based on a series of questions. We have a pretty long questionnaire that we complete during the first interview meeting to really understand what the family’s goal is for the space. So once we understand what the goal is, then we can help apply all the normal design methodologies to just creating a really nice floor plan. And then we begin to refine those spaces, make this room a few inches smaller, add a second vanity in the bathroom, all the things we may not catch in the very first pass. So we do allow the design creativity process to take whatever life of its own. Sometimes we’ll hit two and three revisions. Sometimes we’re out to 10 or 11 revisions. It’s important to get it just right. Because once we start, it only takes eight weeks and then it’s all done.

Mia: Right and then it’s there. I mean so you’re helping them to build something that’s long term. So getting it right instead of having to remodel the remodel, you want to get it right from the first time so that it lasts for them for a really, really long time. And I want to remind everybody our next show is actually going to be about financing. So tune in for that because that’s the other piece that goes with this as you’re deciding about your design, right? Is how much you can afford and where you want to put your funds in.

And please go to, sign up for updates, and then of course we’ve got that nifty little free basement finishing cost estimator. So that will go in line with our next show too.

Learn some tips for designing a basement for today's needs and those of the future. Also, can finishing a basement add value to your home?

Mia: So let’s dig a little bit more about basement designs for kids which is so much fun. I know there’s everything from play areas to storage and webcams and safety, right? Because it’s almost like a little daycare depending on the age so you want to be able to keep an eye on them.

Adam: Yeah a lot of times the design will reflect the age of the children at the time and also allow some flexibility. We don’t want to build something that would be very, very much just a kids playroom and a little playhouse and the little ladders and things right at the bottom of the stairs where three years from now when the kids are no longer four and five and six years old. They’re going to want the space to hook up the Wii and the Xbox. So we do try and design the spaces that kind of meets today’s needs and then also well what does it look like in three year or four or five years from now to make sure the space really works well. And often times you do want to keep the younger kids closer to the stairs, closer to where you can see and hear them directly down from when you’re upstairs.

A lot of times that will determine whether we take the doorways off of the stairs and completely open them to the main level so that you can easily see and hear the noises below. And we can always put doors back, but that’s a lot of times what we think about for the kids is fun spaces. And we do have our families too that know that in probably four or five years they’ll probably need to remodel that kids area because we do build some sort of like a little almost built-in playhouse. And it’s fun for the kids for a few years. It keeps the neighbor’s kids from running around through around the streets and just down in their basement. Knowing that they’ll probably have to take that out in a few years once they need that space back for their exercise room or the man cave.

Mia: And it sounds like when you design the playhouses, you better get ready for some traffic because all the kids in the neighborhood want to come over and hang out at the playhouse space, right?

Adam: You bet. You’ve got the coolest house on the block at that point. Yep.

Mia: You just have to change out the carpet or whatever is going down the stairs because all the kids show up. I love that. It’s more of like from LEGO’s to Xbox. That’s the transition that you make in designing it, right?

Adam: Finished basements are great new toys. Everybody loves to come see the new finished basements. Whether it’s the adults or the kids, it attracts a lot of the neighbors.

Mia: Again that’s what adds value to your home as well is when people come over and you’re like let me show you our new basement. We’re so excited about it. And then, of course, for resale it’s huge.

Adam: Yeah, depending on what part of the country you’re in. Here in Denver we enjoy probably a pretty transient group of people. So we have a lot of mother-in-laws and father-in-laws that come and travel out of state. We have brothers and sisters that don’t live here. So we do, we finish a lot of basements that include those bed and bath areas and recreating areas knowing that they’re going to be at least 10 or 15 percent of the time occupied by family members.

They tend to be really great resale pieces. One of the planning and designing, going back to that thought, is that we build something that is good as a legacy to leave for the next family that might want to buy the home. That it really fits well with the home’s organic structure and rooms. So it has those rooms that it’s missing upstairs and adds more interest and appeal. So we find that often times return on investment is very, very high. I think even in the Remodeling Magazine cost versus value which just came out this month lists it across the country generally between 78 and 85 percent return on investment immediately.

Mia: Wow.

Adam: But we actually build for less dollar per square foot than most of what they’re talking about. We find that return on investment is much higher than that. Perhaps even greater than 100%. And then after a couple years you find that that extra square footage certainly goes into the increase of the home’s value.

Mia: I love that the legacy for the next family. That’s such a great way to say that too. That it’s something that is a showcase for them, but for the next family that goes in it works for them too.

Adam: Yeah, it’s hard to stay in any home for more than 10 or 12 or 15 years. You eventually want to expand even more, move to a different part of the city or even out of state. So we make sure the designs are not completely centric on just that family unless they want to. Absolutely we can design some and have done once in a while a real crazy space that’s very much just for that family and they don’t care what’s next.

Audience question: What's the most unique basement you've designed?

Mia: We do have a comment from the audience and he wanted to know what’s the most unique basement design feature that you’ve seen, and then Julie I know you also have a picture to show us too. So let’s jump into that for a second.

Adam: Okay yeah. That’s a great questions. We’ve done some really cool things. When I think uniqueness or I don’t know what the audience member is describing. Kind of like the specialized spaces and really unique and intricate wet bars. Fun spaces that include like little poker rooms with specially designed lighting and soffits. Two-sided fireplaces and pool areas. Interesting round walls. We have one that has a dedicated home theater with very specially constructed walls and insulation and HVAC. We did have a basement about two years ago that everything went into that one basement. So as far as uniqueness, that probably is one of the most unique just because it had everything in it. And it really came out super.

We haven’t built many crazy things. I can’t say anything unique. We had one that had a little climbing gym in it. We do a lot of dance/ballet once in a while with mirrors and bars. There’s nothing crazy, I don’t think. So I don’t know if that was the question towards that kind of uniqueness. We’ve excavated basements out. We’ve taken entire basements and made them taller which is pretty unique construction method. You just end up with a taller basement than you would have otherwise, but there’s a lot of work involved with the structure of the home to do that. We’ve excavated out crawlspaces and turned those into wine cellars. That’s kind of fun. You use some of the geo-technical cooling of just being in the crawlspace itself to keep the wine cellar cool naturally. So I don’t know what that question was for uniqueness.

Mia: No definitely and it sounds like and I love that you’re saying that you actually drop things so that you do have the taller ceiling. That has to be an issue especially with some of the older homes as well structurally. Or how safe is it to excavate further. So I’m sure you help them decide on that too of picking your battles. Do you want a taller ceiling or is it cost. You have to think about those different things as well.

Adam: Exactly, they built that house before there was even cars. And it’s an old brick foundation and they didn’t have the construction methods or materials that we do nowadays. So we do have to bring those really old buildings, the 1920 and older buildings pretty significantly up to par.

Photos of a kids play area in a finished basement with lots of storage and big windows.

Mia: Hey, let’s check out that shiny picture you have cued up for us.

Julie: Okie doke. So this is just an example of a kid’s play area we were talking about. And there’s lots of storage built into it, so you can see the bookcases with the little cubbies so you can stay organized with all the kid’s toys. Which kind of hides them, but still makes them accessible. And then the window seat also doubles as more storage as far as you lift up the lid and put more toys inside there. And, of course, so it’s a nice little crafty area where kids can get all their stuff out and it still looks nice though once it’s all put away and you can get them to clean up of course.

Mia: Right. It’s important for design too to make it easy for things to be put away quickly, easily, and then it has a clean look. And the design still comes through. That looks beautiful by the way. And that’s probably a big deal. Do you also work with the windows as well? So that it’s not these tinier windows. You can make those deeper well windows for the space and have more light.

Adam: We do. We expand a lot of the smaller basement windows. Those little small basement windows we all kind of grew up with and think about as a basement window. The particular picture that we were just looking at, they were lucky enough to have a nice walkout. So they’ve got very large windows along the entire walkout wall. And so we’re using the natural light and using that play area in an area of the basement that’s still connected with the main recreating, the family room. So it’s still connected. So we had to kind of gear down a little bit. Sometimes we’ll paint kid’s places really bright colors and stripes on the walls and pinks and yellows, things that are very bright and friendly.

This is inside a family room and they just wanted to keep it all kind of in that muted earth tone. But the cabinetry and everything that was custom built in place using a knotty alder that’s why the wood looks a little bit muted and stained. It’s a knotty alder wood. It goes along with the theme of the basement kind of rustic, a little bit more of a mountain. We used a lot of mountain theme here with stone and old knotty woods, beetle kill pine and things of that, big log fireplace mantles. So the kid’s playroom still kind of fit into that, but yet still really finishes the space well. So once the kids get a little older and they don’t need the baskets of playthings, it can still be utilized as a small little library, a little reading nook. So it takes a second or a third use out of it. It will get a long, long way.

Mia: It looks beautiful. It looks wonderful. Listen, if you’re just tuning in you’re watching the basement and remodeling basics show and it’s brought to you by Blue Sky Remodeling. We’re talking with Adam and Julie of Blue Sky Remodeling. They’re giving us a ton of information and ideas about remodeling your basement and what goes into the design and the whole process.

How to plan for wiring and storage in a basement.

Mia: So let’s go on to entertainment areas, gatherings for the family. We’ve touched on that. I’d like to touch a little bit more on the importance of built-ins and wiring in the design. You were just talking about that with the built-in and the shelves. And how does that go more with spaces for entertaining family and friends?

Adam: Well like you had mentioned earlier, it’s storage, storage, storage. We try and find every little spot that can meet the family storage needs. When it comes down to a family room or an entertaining area, media maybe not even full-on home theaters. Not many people go for the full theater experience anymore. We’re still building in a lot of nice infrastructure wiring into the family rooms. So you’ve got the surround sound already built into the walls so that you don’t have to have exposed speakers everywhere. A lot of times we’ll bring from the audio source we’ll bring additional speakers that go into bar areas, exercise rooms, even the kid’s play areas so you can have distributed audio and video. You can play different TV.

So we coach and work with our clients as part of that design is how we’re going to put in the local infrastructure into the basement. How is that going to work for the family? And generally, you can never put in too much wire behind the walls, too much speaker wire and audio wire. Because you always want more. Once you have it, you really enjoy having that distributed sound through the basement. So wiring and storage kind of go along with those big areas because that’s usually where the family is going to recreate. They’re going to store books and DVD’s and CD’s, the kid’s games, the adult’s games for that matter. And kind of the center of the media experience for the house.

Mia: That really is an important point of getting that wiring correct so that each room can feel separate, but yet you control it. So if you’re in this room and you’re working out, you can have this going on, this music, the TV here. But then it’s separate so it still stays really functional as well. I can be here and it’s my little space and then I’m over here maybe it’s a home office that’s down there. A lot of people use it for that too. It looks like we have another picture cued up that’s going to blow our minds. Let’s see it.

More examples of finished basements, including unique ceiling treatments to add life to your lower level space.

Julie: Well this is just an example of kind of a dual room that serves as a family room where you can hang out, watch movies, cozy up by the fire. And then there’s the wet bar is kind of right next to it. We like to do a lot of nice details like the tray ceiling you see. It really defines the space and gives it just some visual details that you wouldn’t always expect in a basement. You can see kind of the speakers. I don’t know if you can see those under the pictures on the wall by the TV. So that’s kind of some of that audio visual that Adam was talking about as far as building these things into your plan and having that ready to go.

This is just another example. You can see the TV and the whole entertainment center around it, cabinets below so you can hide a lot of your components and those kinds of things. And in other cases, we’ve done full-blown theaters like this one where you have the large screen and they actually have some really cool recliners in there so they can sit back. And you can see the equipment is in the back. So you can go real simple with it or you can make it the super fancy and have a whole room dedicated to just watching movies.

Mia: I need the address for that place.

Adam: Generally comes down to that discussion around budget, right?

Mia: Yes.

Adam: If you’ve got money to spend, we can certainly find a good place to put it for you and give you a really nice experience. And most people don’t want to spend the kind of money to put into a full theater. It’s really the equipment that is what’s staggering. So then we have to put into the design where does the equipment go? Like Julie said. Does it just go in a base cabinet somewhere? Because most people don’t want all those blinking blue and green and red lights exposed next to the TV. The old entertainment centers we had growing up, again, that everything was just on a shelf right below the TV.

Nowadays we have these nice, flat screen TV’s. It’s hung on the wall. It looks like a piece of art. And all of the media equipment, the source equipment is somewhere else in the basement. So we run conduits for future expansions on the type of technologies. And we have gear rooms sometimes even full racks of equipment. It’s either concealed behind a hidden bookcase somewhere or it’s just in an unfinished area nearby. We try to make it easily accessible so that it’s usable, not hard to get at. The wiring is all easy. You always hate having to reach behind a receiver or a piece of gear to pull out that HDMI cable. You’ve got to pull the whole thing out. So you try to make it all as easy as possible too. Part of the functional of the design.

Mia: That’s such a great point about the wiring and so forth and having, I was going to ask you about that, that separate closet or something separate so you’re still keeping the integrity of the beauty of the design. A lot of times you’ll see these beautiful furniture and design and then all these cables and wires coming through it’s always such a problem for people. We have a great comment from the audience as well saying “That space is gorgeous. I’ve never seen a tray ceiling in a basement.” I was thinking the same thing. I mean talk about making that just seem so open. I mean I would not think that’s a basement at all.

Adam: Yeah. A lot of times half of that tray ceiling is based out of necessity. We have duct work and beams, other things that hang below the ceiling joists that we need to accommodate. And then it’s just based I’d say the technical savvy of the designer to make sure that you bury what needs to be buried and then you add other soffits to make the ceiling really one of a kind. It creates the space blocking without having any walls. So it really does create special kind of spaces just defined by the ceiling itself. It adds a little bit of height. You have that different it’s called compression and release. So as you walk under a soffit, you feel the space get smaller and then expand again as it opens up.

It makes the room feel larger even though the ceiling is at the same height as it always was. So we utilize the soffits in both of those reasons. And then throwing in some crown molding, some rope light really can give a room a lot of ambiance without having harsh down lights or anything. Which sometimes for watching TV and evening viewing it’s nice not to have those recessed lights which is a very common way to light a space. But they’re kind of harsh. They come straight down at you and it’s harder to watch TV. It sometimes causes some shadows or some glares on the screen. So a lot of design into each ceiling and what it looks like. And it really helps define a space and make it look really kind of cool just like the viewer said.

How do you design for changing needs in the future? What is the process?

Mia: Here’s a quick question for you too. What about actually re-purposing a room like that or unwinding a room. Let’s say you’ve decided you’re going to turn it into the game room or the wine cellar. How’s that for switching things around on a design of a room?

Adam: Yeah, again, you kind of take it in reverse. You start with something that’s already there and then what’s the shortest path either one the least expensive or the most functional pathway to get what you want done. So it’s just kind of designing kind of in reverse and figuring out what you can keep and what you need to remove. We call it demo, demolish. Take some walls out. You see it on HGTV all the time guys with their hammers and stuff taking walls out and cutting studs and making new openings where there wasn’t one. Closing in a door and doing some drywall patching. So it’s very, very easy to manipulate and modify walls and make a room into something different. It’s really not that difficult.

Mia: That’s excellent.

Adam: When you’re professionals it’s not difficult.

Mia: Excellent distinction. Don’t try this at home. Have somebody else try this at home that knows how to do it.

Adam: Yeah, always with the caveat. We’re the pros. It looks a lot easier than it really is in practice. There’s a lot of code regulations that need to be followed. There’s a lot of safety regulations with wiring and the plumbing that could be behind walls that you just don’t want to get into it if you haven’t done it before it can be really daunting. And you can make a mess of your house really quick.

Mia: Absolutely and that’s where you live so that’s also a great point. Unless you just plan on spending some money and go staying somewhere else, you really do want to start it right from the beginning. And then it doesn’t extend out longer which is what also happens when projects aren’t started and designed and then executed properly. You touched on it briefly before.

How popular are wine cellars in finished basement design, and are they always large and expensive features to add?

Mia: We’ll just talk on it real quick about wine cellars that you’re utilizing, that you take advantage of that crawlspace area. Is that something that’s real popular? Are you seeing a lot of wine cellars? I know I would like one. Yes, please.

Adam: Yes, please. I would think probably a quarter to a third of our spaces, again, depending on the demographic and where we’re building. Some of our simpler basements, they just won’t be adding those kind of spaces in. Either the house is a little smaller and it doesn’t have the physical space, but in the larger basements and the ones where our owners want to spend a little bit more money a wine cellar is a really excellent way to efficiently store a lot of wine bottles in a very, very small space. We’ll bring up a couple pictures that can show … Here’s one right here. A real modest space. It probably only stores only 280 bottles, but that’s still a lot more than what you could put in a refrigerator.

So if you have a little bit of wine and not a ton of wine, that’s a neat way to do it and have something to really talk about with your friends. This one is actually the one that’s cut into the crawlspace. You can see a mechanical cooling unit in the background there. Because we do, this client wanted to keep that room very, very humidity and conditioned temperature controlled to a very fine degree. So the racking and the wine materials that go into the room are important, but how the room is constructed.

The way it’s built is probably even more important to keep the cool, humid air in without damaging the drywall, causing mold problems, and also just spending a lot of energy that you don’t need to. So this is a pretty simple little wine cellar. So they don’t have to be these big elaborate things that you’d imagine. So this is done on a very, very kind of a low-cost basis. And we talked with the owners and I did the interior design on this one as well. We kind of added a throwback to what looks like kind of a barrel type ceiling with the wood on the ceiling. It was just kind of fun. It has no technical function at all other than just looking cool. So wine cellars are fun. You can play in those rooms. Those are fun, adult play rooms.

Mia: They’re a piece of art in themselves it looks like too. You’re displaying your wine bottles and it just looks beautiful and impressing your friends. It’s just trying to keep the wine supplied, right? That’s your next problem when you do that. Is getting that.

When should you get an architect involved in basement design?

Mia: So we are getting to the end of the show. As you can tell, we have a ton of information. Let’s touch briefly on and then we can go into this on other shows, and of course you’re watching the basement and remodeling basics. We have Blue Sky Remodeling that’s giving you all of this information. Let’s talk real quickly about when to get architects involved and permitting. And then, of course, on another show we can dive into that deeper.

Adam: Okay, yeah thanks. I’d say the biggest question that you asked there is should you get an architect or not. I think really lends itself to most homeowners don’t know does it take an architect to design a basement? It does not take an architect. There’s no reason that the building department requires an architect or professional stamp. So covering that basis. Now architects are very talented at floor plans, space layout, utilization, how to actually use hallways and foyers, how to use that compression and release of ceiling elements and designs to make this space really organic to the house, but feel special. So we take the family’s input as well. It doesn’t need to be an architect, but it has to be someone who is very skilled at basement layout.

And I say basement layout because you have to work around some things that are there that architects don’t work when they design a house. We have beams and columns. We have duct work and air conditioning lines. We have windows that are already in a certain place that we have to design the space around what’s there. What we call existing conditions. So as long as the person who designs the basement is very skilled at it, and I don’t want to toot my own horn but I do all of our basement designs and now I have someone working with me. I do call in interior designers now and again to kind of get me over a hump if we have a family that wants some real attention to material pallets and colors.

But I’ve been doing it for 15 years, so I have a lot of experience doing it. I don’t have an architectural degree. I do have a technical degree in engineering, but I don’t think that helps me much. So it kind of answers that question. Julie, after seeing a bunch of these and building them with me can sit down to designs too. And she’s actually done some design elements and modifications talking with owners who were just inquiring about what they could do with the space. So once you’re used to it, you’ve seen a lot. We’ve built hundreds and hundreds. You get a good feel for what is going to work well for that family based on what they’ve asked for and knowing all of the code regulations and just the general architectural kind of rules out there.

We do it in house. I mentioned very early in the program about design build methodology. So our designs and our budgets run completely in parallel with one another. One just can’t exist without the other. And it always comes down to being kind of boring sometimes if they’ve got just so much budget available to the project then sometimes that will drive the amount of design elements that we can put into the space. The amount of detail and the amount of expensive materials. We break it all out. It’s very, very itemized. We expose them to the learning curve of everything as well as expose them to all of the vendors and material suppliers that we utilize.

So the design itself, yes an architect could do it. And I do actually work with a couple of architects that have designed some spaces. Sometimes architects will bring me in and say I’d like you to build this basement that I’ve designed. But I would say 99% we design in-house for ourselves for our clients. It saves them some money because it’s just part of our overhead of working on the basement. Where they don’t actually have to spend another one to two thousand dollars perhaps on an architectural drawing. Which doesn’t do much more than what we’ve already done in-house.

Mia: That’s great information. I think there is a lot of confusion on that. So it’s great to know it can be a one-stop-shop type of thing so you’re not bringing in a lot of people. Yes, it takes a village on some things obviously, and you know when to bring in people. But you can also do it very easily.

Adam: Yeah, we can do it easily just because we have a lot of experience doing it. There’s a lot of companies out there that have been around for a long, long time but if you haven’t designed a whole bunch of basements or been around the architects for as long as we have you probably could be doing your clients a disservice by trying to design something. Making it too simplistic or designing something that just won’t work in the cities or the codes eye. Once the city inspector comes out, he’s got the final jurisdiction on whether you did it right or not.

Mia: And at that point it’s too late.

Adam: And lots of money.

Mia: Exactly and that’s definitely what we don’t want. So far too late. Well listen, Adam and Julie, you have given us so much information. Did we not say at the top of the hour you were going to get so much information on this show and this is just the first one. So it’s been great. This is our inaugural for the first of the online series of basement and remodeling basics. So stay tuned. We’re going to be covering finance and financing your remodeling project on the next show.

Julie: That’s right.

Mia: And that one, we just touched on that about spending money at the end of it. So we’ll definitely do that. We’ll also be getting into moving out versus living in your home during remodel. A great point we touched on as well. So as always, make sure to go to You can go and sign up for updates. We’ll email you when the next show is coming. Go to YouTube and also subscribe to Blue Sky Remodeling and then make sure when you go to their website, you have their free basement finishing cost estimator. And again, we’ll jump into the next one. So on behalf on Adam and Julie and the Blue Sky team, I’m Mia Voss and we’ll see you on the next show. Thank you for joining us.

Adam: Thank you for joining us.