Basement design questions - Wet bar, Home Theatre, Exercise Room, etc.
September 15, 2013 in Design Dilemma
Finishing a walkout basement in my 2 year old house. Attached is my current design. A few questions:
1. The 90" wide triple casement window (62" tall) on the bottom left will be new. It'll all be above ground. Facing southeast so it can let in a lot of light. I plan to hire a concrete cutting company to cut through the stone on the outside and 8" concrete foundation wall. The cutting alone will probably cost $800. Then I'll get my general contractor to install the window. Structurally is it ok to open a window this wide?
2. Wet bar close to the stairs: I designed it into an open L-shape. I'd like it to use it for adult friends who want to have a conversation over a few drinks, hence the double tiered granite countertop with bar stools. I'll also utilize it as a buffet table when we have say a kid birthday party down here. I searched a lot for similar L-shaped wet bars but it doesn't seem like a popular idea. Am I missing something?
3. Home theatre: I have the french glass doors open to the outside, mostly because I don't want it to limit space inside for a large sectional sofa. Is it ok to open to the outside? Somehow all my other doors in my house open to the inside, except for a couple.
4. I'm on shared septic and its capacity allows a maximum of 5 bedrooms, which I already have upstairs. I want a backup bedroom in the basement to allow for occasional guests to stay for a few nights and it'll also function as my casual recording studio. According to the county health department, this space can only be labeled as a "study" or "bonus room", etc. But I hope a future buyer will consider it a bedroom if they need it. Right now I put it in the bump out at the bottom. But I'm still debating whether I should close it off or just leave it open and build in some seating along the wall and window for recreation. What would you do?

Any other suggestion is welcome! Thanks!!
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Classical Home Design, Inc. by Susan Berry
1. You need to find out if you are cutting away any bearing points. If so, you will need to add a beam to support what's above. You need a structural engineer to take a look and properly size any additional required support.
2. The L is fine. The main question is if you want the people sitting at the bar to see the TV. If so, do a back bar against the side wall with 4 feet of space and a sitting bar across from it, facing the TV. You have enough space. I am assuming that there is a TV screen across from the love seat on the side wall. If you want them to turn to see the pool table and turn to see the TV, then it's fine as is. If you change it, like mentioned, you can fit a larger couch.
3. Code requires them to swing inside to prevent the doors being blocked in a fire. Consider pocketing French doors or a Barn style door on tracks sliding in on the long blank side wall.
4. Consider leaving it open and putting a fuss ball table, card table or weights in this area. A future home buyer is smart enough to figure out that they can enclose it.
September 15, 2013 at 1:23pm        Thanked by snowang
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Thanks, Susan!
1. I looked at the basement blueprint from the builder and couldn't find anything indicating bearing points. I guess I do need an engineer. Do you think the county will only issue the building permit if I get an engineer to "stamp" on the window location?
2. it's a pingpong table (we've had a pool table before and so rarely used it). I did think about back bar and sitting bar facing it, but bottom 2/3 of the stair wall will be cut open for rails and I think the sitting bar with tall countertops will be a little awkward with one end against the open railing. I may be wrong.
3. Thanks for bringing up the code! I knew I must've missed something. I'll probably still open to the inside, then.
4. That's probably the smartest way. I guess I shouldn't put in any built-in seating given a future buyer may need to take it out for a bedroom.
September 15, 2013 at 1:58pm   
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I'm looking for the bulkhead, which I usually would expect on a basement...
I am assuming you've looked at your local building code? In many places, you must prove ready egress to the outside from enclosed areas like a basement. Is there an actual door to the outside? I didn't examine this too closely.
September 15, 2013 at 2:10pm   
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Yes, there is a sliding door to walk outside. There are also two double case above-ground windows along the bottom wall. So I'm fine in terms of the code already. I want to open more windows on the bottom left wall so I get better natural lighting.
September 15, 2013 at 2:22pm   
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ReSquare Architecture + Construction
1) If you are cutting an opening in concrete, you will invariably need either a steel lintel or a header in the framing directly above if there is no concrete above the opening. And you will need an engineer to confirm this and design it, and most municipalities will require it for permit.

2) For pre-manufactured wet bars, it may not be a popular idea. Such is buying in a market. If it's not popular, it won't be mass-produced or widely available.

3) I am not versed in all State codes, but I am not aware of any base residential code (IRC) requirement for the swing direction of egress doors. Bedroom doors generally open in to avoid opening into a hallway where they would impede general traffic and/or egress corridor width requirements. If anything, as occupancies increase in a space, the general codes will require *out-swing* for egress purposes, swinging in the direction of egress. Also, in the IBC (1008.1.2), doors used as egress are required to be swinging doors; a pocket or sliding door is non-compliant as an egress door. In R-1 use, a pocket door is allowed for egress only from a bathroom within a bedroom.

4) I'd do whatever I need to do. If you need it as a bedroom, but don't want to upgrade the septic system to make it a legal one, then just call it whatever they will let you get away with and use it as you would use it. But if you don't make it a legal bedroom, you can't list your home as anything more than a 5 bedroom.
September 15, 2013 at 2:52pm        Thanked by snowang
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Good, this looks like a very nice plan! I think the reason that you don't see the L-shape bar very often is because people are trying to save space.. and you give some away to the behind-the-bar area (5 feet, which you could change to 4' and still have great clearance).
You also might be able to have less "unspecified" space by changing the layout.
September 15, 2013 at 2:52pm      Thanked by snowang
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OP here. I've attached a 3D for the new window. ReSquare, does this satisfy the "concrete above the opening" requirement so I may not need a steel lintel? I will consult with an engineer to confirm the design and if needed change it to a smaller window.
September 15, 2013 at 4:04pm   
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Just confirmed with the county that the french doors of the home theater can open out to the hallway. On whether I need steel lintel above the new window, the permit department said yes, but two concrete contractors told me probably no, because this is solid concrete and not cinder block, and there will be 2 feet of concrete left above the window for support. I'm totally confused now and waiting for the builder who built this house 2 years ago to tell me if they used lintel above the other two windows.
September 16, 2013 at 7:35am   
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McClure Tables
A great idea for remodeling/designing your basement would be to add a game room or game area! We make custom made shuffleboard tables to fit your taste and needs. Check us out and let us know if we could be of any help!
September 17, 2013 at 7:05am   
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S. Thomas Kutch
Snowang....... it really doesn't matter what your contractors say. It's the "authority having jurisdiction" that matters. He's the one who signs the occupancy certificate. And, as your contractors should know it's not the amount of concrete remaining above the opening, it's the reinforcing in place and since this "new beam" wasn't designed for transferring loads laterally, I doubt seriously that it has the required reinforcing in it. It could be as little as flat steel plate added to the underside of the remaining to have a structural engineer to look at it.

BTW, I like your layout.
September 17, 2013 at 7:24am      Thanked by snowang
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Ha, finally talked directly to the building permit review specialist. He confirmed that a steel lintel is needed. No engineer review is required if it's a regular sized window (64" is about the maximum in that range). A reputable contractor just gave me a quote of $800 for cutting the opening through stone and concrete using a 14" concrete saw, hauling away the concrete, and putting in the steel lintel. I requested wet saw but he said it'll be even messier with the water when they are cutting from the inside. They'll use plastic to cover the job site to minimize dust. Should I insist on wet saw? I also wonder if I should ask them to actually fit the window in. My own contractor can do it but I want to make sure the hole is cut to the right size before I let the concrete contractor go.
September 17, 2013 at 8:45am   
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ReSquare Architecture + Construction
$800 is a good price.

Ideally, you want the cutting and installation to be by the same GC (even if he subs the saw-cutter) to have all the dimensional coordination be on the GC. If you sub both out to separate subs, you want to be sure the *installer* advises the cutter directly, exactly and in writing what rough opening dimensions are needed for the install.

As far as wet saw, it really depends on the interior conditions. If you have finished flooring, you don't want to wet saw. But if you don't wet saw, be extra insistent on full dust protection. Might want to carry some $ to have a crew come in when they're done to do a full dust-down and clean up. The dust will be on *every* surface in the tented zone and it will be fine and not easy to get up. It requires several dry vac brush passes before you can even think about using anything damp for cleaning.

Why can't they cut from the exterior?
September 17, 2013 at 2:57pm      Thanked by snowang
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Thanks, ReSquare! Exactly the info I was seeking.
I just got a better quote from another contractor. For $700 to $750 (he'll let me know the exact once he comes to evaluate the job site), he'll include everything above, the lintel cut to the right size and also fit the window in the hole. He can put plywood up until my carpenter comes to finish the window trimming. The best thing is that he will make the marks himself (the other contractor wanted me to do it and I'm scratching my head how). I forgot to discuss whether he can just do the cutting from the outside. Hooray!
September 17, 2013 at 3:51pm   
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Elisa Jed
Have you already decided on the bigger square windows? Depending on the feel of the room you could also go with the top arched windows, they can sometimes give a more home feeling. I recently looked into windows and came across this site: it might be useful if you wanted to look at options. Good luck!
September 17, 2013 at 4:22pm      Thanked by snowang
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Elisa, thanks for the suggestion of arched windows. We are probably just going to settle with the square window because the existing basement windows are of the same style and I'm also afraid having an arch will add to the difficulty of steel reinforcement. The permit office will very likely ask me to get an engineering firm to approve the plan. I do have an arched window in the first floor morning room and it definitely adds character and is the focal point of the entire room.
September 17, 2013 at 6:45pm   
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Triangle Billiards, Inc
If you are still looking for ideas check out Triangle Billiards at
You can go from mild to wild in .5 seconds there
February 7, 2014 at 10:37am   
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Interior Ideas and Renovations, LLC
What floorplan software did you use for this?
on Monday at 8:48pm   
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