This is an article in the Think Before You Do series. When you plan a renovation project involving your basement ceiling or the flooring on the main floor it is very important to first asses the state of the main floor structure.

Sometimes the state of the main floor structure is a problem in itself. If this is the case and the sagging of the floor needs important remedial work, this has to take priority to any other aesthetically oriented renovation project. Fixing a sagging main floor in an old house is a subject that will be treated by itself in another post. Here I am going to focus on smaller fixes needed before you tackle basement and main floor flooring renovations.

The state of the main floor structure directly impacts two kinds of projects:

For both these kind of DIY projects it is very important to fix the main floor problems before you start doing any other renovations.

Start with a thorough inspection of the main floor by examining it from under (basement) and from above (main floor). Here is what you have to look for:

  • Headroom problems
    How high is the basement ceiling?
    Are there any obstructions caused by the duct work? You will want to do duct work before you add hardwood to the main floor.
    Are the joist even and in the same plane? This will affect the kind of ceiling finish you will be able to use in the basement.
  • Sagging floor joist and twisted beams
    These will affect both the ceiling finish in the basement and the flooring on the main floor. Do not install hardwood on the main floor or drywall on the basement ceiling before you solve the floor sagging problems.
  • Wet sport on the basement ceiling or the main floor?
    These are caused by water leaks from the water pipes or from excess condensation.
  • Electrical cables and water pipes between and across the joists
    Look for any place where they will get in the way or where they might get pierced by drywall screws/nails used for the basement ceiling or by hardwood nails from above.
    Any kind of electrical work and plumbing involving the basement ceiling is done a lot easier before drywall is in place.

If the problems you discover during the inspection seem important than it is better to consult an expert before you start any corrective work. Any water leaks have to be fixed. You will avoid a lot of headaches if you plan and do any plumbing work, like adding extra pipes, before drywall is in place on the basement ceiling. The same is true for electrical work. Think about all the extra electrical circuits you will need in a finished basement. Consult your local building code.

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