Frequently Asked Questions

Why do I need a permit for a finished basement?

  • It is a state requirement for all municipalities to conform to a common building code.  The code requires the work to be performed to fire safety and construction standards, which must pass inspection by the local code enforcement.

What will happen if I don’t get a permit?

  • Firstly, as your contractor, I would be responsible for obtaining all necessary permits.  If work were to be done without a permit, the local municipality has the right to levee a fine to the homeowner if work is found to be in violation of code.  Most times, the enforcement officer will allow the homeowner to demonstrate that work is to code, then to pay the appropriate charges for a permit.  However, many times the homeowner must tear down a significant amount of finished work to allow inspectors to see all of the aspects of the construction.  Also, when selling a house, most buyers today employ a home inspector.  As part of the “due diligence”, they may contact the township or borough to verify all permits were taken our on any remodeling work seen.

My brother-in-law did his own basement without a permit, and he never got caught.  Why should I worry?

  • Well, for one thing, if you have an insurance claim (fire, water damage, etc.) you may not get paid if the insurance company finds out that work was not permitted.  Also, you may have a disgruntled neighbor who sees work going on and tips off the township.  It just isn’t worth the risk.  Bottom line – steer clear of any contractor who tells you to skip the permit.  Most likely it is because he 1) cannot obtain a permit because he is not licensed by the state, or 2) doesn’t know how to bid the job with all of the necessary requirements to meet the code.

Why do I need an egress widow or door?

  • The building fire code requires that basements (as habitable space) have a secondary means of escape.

Which is better, steel or wood studs?

  • Early on (up to the mid 90′s) I used all wood studding; in fact, my own basement uses all wood studs.  However, it is impossible today to obtain the quality studs of the “old days” due to the limitations of harvesting “old growth” trees.  Today’s studs are inferior, period.  They tend to warp and twist, which makes for uneven wall surfaces.  While necessary for structural support, they are not needed for partition (non-weight bearing) walls in the basement.  Galvanized steel gives us the opportunity to build near-perfect, flat surfaces.  Plus, there are no worries of “nail-pops” from wood studs since the drywall is screwed securely to the steel.

Shouldn’t we use a “dropped” ceiling in the basement?  How will I ever access the pipes?

  • I guess we should tear out your kitchen ceiling to “get to” all the pipes going to the upstairs bathrooms!  Seriously, for any necessary access (valves, alarm contacts, gas shut-off, etc.) I will provide a means to reach it.  In all of the hundreds of drywall ceilings we have completed in basements, we haven’t had to go back and cut holes to access something.

What is your feeling on these basement systems that apply insulated panels right against the foundation walls?  Isn’t that better than drywall?

  • My opinion is that these systems are overpriced junk.  I couldn’t believe they were ripping off homeowners for MORE money than real wall construction.  My walls are insulated with R-13 fiberglass and the appropriate vapor barrier.

Should we use “greenboard” drywall, due to the moisture in the basement?

  • I have seen amateurs use this, thinking it was necessary.  The answer is to solve the moisture problem first, then it is unnecessary to worry about “special” materials.

What if we have a moisture problem?

  • First, we determine if you have a “water” problem or a “moisture” problem.  I have experts on hand to solve water problems. (French drains, foundation crack repair, exterior drainage, etc.)  Most moisture problems are solved by the integration of the ductwork to condition and circulate the air in the basement.  Rarely is a de-humidifier necessary after I have completed the job.

Is it worth it for us to hire a designer?

  • It is not necessary for you to spend money for somebody who has only designed, at best, a tiny fraction of the basements I have designed over the years.  Basements are what I do.  I look at them in a different way than most other builders and designers.  I have the experience and candor to tell you what “works” and what doesn’t.  In the few cases where somebody employed a designer, I held back from telling the customer, “I told you so,” when the layout proves problematic, as I warned before starting.

After looking at some of your work, I’m afraid I cannot afford you.  Are you the most expensive?

  • I’m flattered by that question.  In fact, I have been told later (once the customer feels comfortable) that I was significantly less than some other builder.  I’m really not surprised, though.  My estimates are usually “dead on.”  There are not piles of extra material ordered, nor is the labor “padded” with hours, or days, of uncertainty.

Do you really think you singlehandedly have finished more basements in this area than any other contractor?

  • Yes

How long does the construction take?

  • For the average job, I like to allow 6 to 8 weeks.  This allows time for all the tradesmen (plumbers, electricians, etc.) to work in proper sequence, which ensures the best quality overall.

Can we be “green” on this?  We like to be environmentally friendly in as many areas as we can.

  • Absolutely!  From a waste perspective, you will be impressed by how little construction debris is generated.  Wood scraps are utilized during framing, and the steel scraps are 100% recycled.  The drywall scrap (also minimal) is taken to a construction demolition facility, where it is appropriately disposed.  I utilize the most environmentally friendly paint, AFM Safecoat, which is not only zero-VOC, but it is actually completely non-toxic.  It is perfect for anyone with chemical sensitivities.  I offer countertops made from recycled materials, as well as eco-friendly flooring (cork, bamboo, recycled rubber, etc.). Check out Eco-merica to see all fo the products I offer.

Do you charge for your design ideas?

  • No, however, I do not give away a copy of the plan that I create.

Why do you have six payments on the contract?

  • This is done for the customers’ comfort.  The size of the job allows me to tailor a payment schedule that “follows” the work being done.  You, as the customer, won’t feel that I am “holding all the money” and won’t strive to get the job done.  I have built my reputation on mutual trust so both of us are comfortable during, and after, the project.

Does somebody have to be home while you and your men work in my home?

  • It is not necessary for you to worry about us in your home.  We respect your home and your privacy.  Again, a mutual level of comfort should be felt by both parties before we enter an agreement.

What’s the first step?

  • Call my office or my cell, or fill out the contact form to set up an appointment.  You should allow one to two hours, depending on the complexity of your project.