Tour gives ideas to transform basement spaces


Presented by NARI Atlanta; remodeling teams will be on hand to discuss each project and answer questions.

10 a.m.-4 p.m. Oct. 19.

Tickets: $10 in advance; $15 on tour day. Proceeds from the rain-or-shine tour benefit the Georgia Chapter of the Muscular Dystrophy Association.


It won’t be long before the weather begins to drive everyone back indoors. So if that unfinished or cluttered storage hold of a basement needs a makeover, it’s not too soon to start thinking about sprucing it up before the holidays arrive.

Need ideas? Local builders who are members of the National Association of the Remodeling Industry invite you to tour four of their best projects to see what possibilities await.

It wasn’t intentional that this year’s tour on Oct. 19, the fourth one organized by NARI’s local chapter, features reformatted lower levels. But each of the homes in Buckhead and Milton and the two in Roswell will showcase an assortment of ways to change drab basement spaces into home offices, bedrooms with full baths and entertaining centers with wet bars.

Basement makeovers aren’t necessarily a growing trend in the remodeling world, said Mark Buelow of Distinctive Remodeling in Roswell. “In fact, the house we’re featuring is the only basement we’ve done in the last 12 months,” he said.

Even if there’s not a basement re-do in your future, the tour offers another view of how to create living and work spaces in other parts of the house.

Roswell: Distinctive Remodeling

At 6 years old, this terrace level of this million-dollar home in Roswell was ready for a renovation that fit with the family’s entertaining lifestyle.

“It was just blah,” said Mark Buelow, owner of Distinctive Remodeling. “It had been finished by the original builder, and it was nice, but the bathroom was in the middle of the space. We wound up taking out a load-bearing wall, putting in steel beams and new footings to make it work. The owners had also put in a pool, and they wanted this basement to be an extension of the entertaining they do. It had to serve multiple purposes.”

Over the course of 12 weeks, major changes were made. A gathering area with a television and pingpong area with cedar accent beams was created to cater to the family’s teens and friends. An elegant wet bar and a custom theater system were installed. A cork-floored exercise space was carved out of a rear corner. The relocated bath was finished with a sauna and steam shower.

“The best part of this project was that the clients were very flexible in letting us exercise some design creativity,” Buelow said, “but it was always a family-focused design project.”

Roswell: Neighbors Home Remodeling

A 20-year-old split-level in Roswell was undergoing an empty-nester shift. The homeowners, whose children had moved out, were ready to turn the former basement storage area into the “parent cave.” Walter Lewis, president of Neighbors Home Remodeling, took on the project.

“The walk-out basement opens to the front of the house, but it was just two rooms with a closet and bathroom plumbing,” Lewis said.

One of the job’s toughest challenges was the ceiling. To hide the utility wiring, Lewis installed a triple tray with built-in lighting and crown molding.

“The ceiling makes an architectural statement in itself,” he said. “The multi-levels make it appealing and add a lot of interest to the room.”

In six weeks, the space also gained a wet bar, a billiard area, a living space with an arched entry and a full bathroom. The result is a relaxation area that has left the moved-out kids drooling.

“The boys were upset that this room was finished after they left,” Lewis said. “It’s now everyone’s favorite part of the house.”

Milton: Bires Remodeling

A typical, 10-year-old brick traditional two-story had a full walk-out basement with a big enough footprint to add living space. The owners’ primary goal was a remodel that would add a home office, storage areas and a little more room for a growing family to spread out.

The first challenge of the project was removing a dividing wall that broke up the flow of the area. That meant adding steel beams to pick up the load. But the biggest hurdle came when an attempt to move the plumbing uncovered a considerable amount of water under the concrete floor.

“There was a lake under the slab,” said Dean Bires, owner of Bires Remodeling. “There were some exterior drainage issues, too, so we had to bring in an engineer. It took a good 10 days to get the level down so we could move forward.”

Once work got underway, it took only four months to rework the space. The first part of the project added upgraded insulation, a zoned heating and air system, a tankless water heater and extensive wiring for technology. A wet bar with a wine cooler and below-counter refrigerator, a powder room and a slip-resistant porcelain floor followed. The home office area was a bit more complicated.

“The office is in the interior, so to get natural daylight in the office while still having the ability to close it off, we used doors with glass panels and side lights,” Bires said.

Despite the design complications, Bires said the homeowners are thrilled with the space.

“I felt like this one (project) fought us all the way, but the homeowners were a joy,” he said. “That’s important, since a project like this has to be a collaborative effort.”

Buckhead: Hall Design Build

This 6-year-old French manor house in the Chastain Park area of Buckhead was foreclosed on, then rented, before the current owners took possession.

“A lot of the finishing products needed to be replaced,” said Bradley Hall, owner of Hall Design Build, “and a lot of repairs were needed.”

In addition, the owners wanted to add privacy from the street and a safe play area for their children.

“It’s a small lot on a busy road, so we added gates, fencing and a lawn area for children to play,” Hall said. “There were also some challenges to add parking, since there really was almost nowhere to put it.”

Retaining walls bolstered an overhaul of the landscaping around the gates and fences, giving the front of the house a face-lift. But the jewel of the project is the approximately 2,400-square-foot terrace level that opens to a new saltwater pool, arbor, fireplace and outdoor kitchen area. Over the course of six months, the area was reworked to include a bar, wine cellar, billiards area, sitting room, spa area, powder room, theater, exercise room, bedroom and full bath.

The project also called for structural changes (the addition of steel beams to the basement ceiling), mechanical system upgrades and lighting improvements.

“The owners wanted the sitting area, the pool and grilling area to work together,” Hall said, “and though we didn’t change the facade of the house, it’s like a new home.”