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When it comes to heavy-duty storage space, a basement is a natural. It’s a big concrete vault, often unfinished, generally out of sight; there’s no load limit to weight, as there is on a joist-supported floor; and gravity works in your favor: A basement is easier to fill than to unload.
Too often, however, an unfinished basement becomes a repository for large items: boxes of seasonal decorations and clothing, sports gear, or anything that gets in the way upstairs or outside. As with any other space in your home, tapping the potential of the basement means getting organized.
Utilities and moisture are two hurdles you must cross in the basement. Dealing with the first is a matter of organization. A wet basement may be harder to overcome.
Even before you moved in, your basement already was the home of the furnace, water heater, and water conditioner and probably was plumbed and wired for laundry facilities. While furnace fires, bursting water heaters, and overflowing washing machines are rare, they do happen. Don’t tinker with disaster. Keep stored items away from these units, either by walling off the areas or by designating them off-limits to storage.
Deal with any major moisture problems before using a basement for storage. If water leaks more than occasionally, call in an expert. The most extreme remedy is to excavate around the exterior, install drain tile, and reseal the foundation from the outside. It may be possible, however, to solve the problem by installing a sump pump.
Minor condensation problems and excess humidity, common to most basements in the summer, can be reduced by scrubbing the walls and floor to remove mildew, painting them with a waterproofing compound, then using a dehumidifier to keep the moisture level low.
Even if you correct these problems or have a dry basement, store items off the floor. Concrete tends to wick water and transfer it to flat permeable material that is in contact with it for extended periods. Cardboard boxes, for example, should never be stored directly on a concrete floor.
The projects shown here will help keep items off the floor to prevent damage. Just as with attics, if you plan to completely remodel an unfinished basement, work your storage strategies into the overall remodeling plan. If you’re going to convert the space into a recreation room, office, or bedroom, consider leaving one area unfinished to serve as your heavy-duty storage headquarters.
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