Remodeling a Basement (2nd Edition)

A reasonably good coverage of most of the topics for residential basement renovation.


Remodeling a Basement (2nd Edition)

Walking around the neighbourhood these days, I’m struck by the number of dumpsters parked in driveways, collecting debris from the latest demolition/renovation. Apparently, more people are choosing to stay and upgrade their homes rather than moving on to other pastures. One of the prime candidates for remodeling is the basement, and Roger German applies his thirty years of contracting experience to this topic.
Spread over ten chapters, he covers the topics of conceptualizing the project, demolition and repairs, framing walls, the mechanicals (plumbing, wiring and HVAC-heating, ventilating and air conditioning), walls and ceilings, finish carpentry, painting, staining, floors, and finishing up. I especially appreciate his mention of topics often omitted from other books, such as the eradication of pests (e.g. termites and carpenter ants), the need for egress windows, building code mandated headroom minimums, and safety devices (e.g. smoke and carbon monoxide detectors). However, I found his treatment of the various topics to be a little uneven, some topics like the framing of walls and installing drywall are covered in good detail while other topics are presented less thoroughly.
There are also some fairly serious omissions in his book. Many North American homes built before 1990 will have asbestos in their basements. It was cheap, readily available and an effective insulator. Many homeowners used it to wrap their basement pipes and ducts. German should have mentioned the carcinogenic dangers of asbestos and the need to have it disposed of by specialists. Similarly, many older homes will still rely on knob and tube wiring to deliver electrical power throughout the house. If it is exposed during demolition, it should be replaced; in fact, many insurers today will not cover homes which have knob and tube wiring. The book makes no mention of this type of wiring.
Although not posing a physical threat to homeowners like asbestos and outdated wiring, I think the book should have included spray foam insulation in its discussion of insulating options. The author covers the traditional fibreglass batts and rigid extruded polystyrene foam sheets, but omits this newer technology which even comes in a DIY kit form these days. On the other hand, German does present the latest research by the Building Science Consortium which advocates the elimination of vapour barriers on basement walls.
Similarly, his discussion of basement flooring options is curious. He describes at some length, carpet, tile, vinyl and linoleum but barely mentions the newer laminates that are tailor made for DIYers. These man-made flooring materials are forgiving of uneven sub-floors and are easy to install requiring no adhesives with just a few simple, hand tools. Especially significant for basement applications, they are water resistant and very durable, many coming with warranties of fifteen years and more.
All in all, apart from the omissions mentioned above, the book touches upon most of the topics for residential basement renovation. The constant references to various building codes is welcome and serves to remind the homeowner that just anything won’t do. Stemming from his fifteen years as a community college instructor teaching a course on basement remodeling, I also appreciated his enthusiasm and confidence in the DIYer who might attempt a renovation project. That said, I’m not sure I would attempt a major remodeling effort based on this book alone, although it would make a decent primer to the kinds of things that need to be considered when contemplating a basement project.


  • Introduction
  • Getting Started
  • Design and Planning
  • Demolition and Repair
  • Framing Walls
  • Mechanical
  • Walls and Ceilings
  • Finish Carpentry
  • Paint, Stain and Floors
  • Finishing Up
  • Resources
  • Index
PUBLISHER:Taunton Press
AVAILABLE FROM:Your local bookseller or online
FORMAT:Softcover, 176 pages
AUTHOR:Roger German

Gerry Tsuji
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