Finishing a basement is a great way to add value to your home and make it more livable.
When you finish a basement, you can sometimes double your living space.
Of course, like any home improvement project, finishing a basement is going to come with its own challenges.
There is always something that you will run into when you are in the middle of finishing abasement.
One of these issues is the presence of a French drain.
A French drain is a positive thing for a basement to have, but it can lead to some challenges when you decide to finish the basement.
Can You Finish a Basement with a French Drain?
A basement with a French drain can be finished.
You will likely have to make some accommodations to make sure you are able to finish the basement, but it can be done.
Let’s take a more detailed look into what a French drain is and what you can do to finish your basement with a French drain in place.
What Is a French Drain?
A French drain is a specific type of drain formed by a trench filled with perforated pipe and gravel.
The French drain is not something that is solely placed in basements as these types of drains can be located outdoors as well.
The idea of a French drain is that it gives water a place to go.
If you have water that is pooling in your yard or water that is somehow getting into your basement, then a French drain is a great benefit to have.
For French drains in basements, the drain will run outdoors to keep your basement dry.
Typically, there is a sump pump at the end of the drain which helps to push the water out of the house.
French drains are not standard in homes, but many homeowners will have them installed if the basement tends to flood.
When you have a French drain in place, the potential for damage from a flood is considerably lessened.
Depending on how your basement is currently set up, installing a French drain can be quite expensive.
If you are putting a French drain in your yard, you will not have to spend too much to complete this project.
If your home currently has a French drain, chances are someone spent quite a bit of money to make sure the drain was installed.
You may want to keep this in mind if you are finishing your basement.
Finishing a Basement with a French Drain
There are two ways you can handle this French drain issue when you are finishing your basement.
One way is to frame directly over the French drain, and the other is to leave the French drain in place and start framing out away from the wall.
The second option is the most common.
You will end up leaving a space between the walls of your finished basement and the walls of your basement.
It is fine to leave this gap, which can easily be filled with insulation.
Some will also leave a space above the French drain so that, if any water were ever to get into the basement, it would have an easy way to get out.
Before you finish a basement, there are some tests you will need to do to make sure it is safe and ready for finishing.
For starters, you must check to see how often this French drain is needed to keep your basement dry.
If your French drain is being used weekly to keep your basement dry, you are going to need to tend to other issues before finishing your basement.
Essentially, your French drain is only going to need to work if there is water coming in from the outside.
Spend some time to find out where this water is coming from.
Look for areas where you can make adjustments to gutters or slopes outdoors to help keep the water from getting into the basement.
If you can reroute water and get the basement to stay dry for an extended period of time, then you may be ready to finish your basement.
You will also want to do a check for radon in your basement.
Can a French Drain Leak Radon Gas?
One of the concerns with finishing over or around a French drain is radon gas.
When you install a French drain, you are essentially allowing access points for radon to get into your home.
Radon gas is dangerous for human lungs, and it could cause serious damage in the long term.
Some homeowners are not aware of the dangers of radon gas, and they finish their basement around the French drain without paying any attention to this issue.
There are a few things which need to be done before finishing around the French drain.
For starters, it is very important to have your basement tested for radon before you finish it.
This will give you an idea if the basement is even a safe place to be able to start spending more of your time.
You will also need to install some kind of a system to help collect the radon gas.
These are readily available and something which should have been put in place when the French drain was installed.
Leaking radon gas is serious, and the last thing you want is for that to be happening behind your newly framed walls.
Are French Drains Effective?
French drains can be very effective.
Whether you are installing one in your yard or in your basement, a French drain can do a great job of collecting water and moving it away.
One of the great things about French drains is how much space they take up and how much water they allow to drain.
Instead of having one single collection point in the center of an area, the French drain works all the way down the side of the basement or your yard.
It provides a large collection area and, therefore, quicker removal of water.
When purchasing a home that has a French drain, try to see if it is something that has been used quite often.
As effective as these are, you will want them to stay as dry as possible.
Having water in your basement is a very serious problem, as it will lead to mold and potentially even structural issues.
If you suspect you have water, finishing your basement can be a bigger project and a longer process.
Is It Worth Finishing a Basement?
Obviously, if you have a French drain system, you will have a few extra challenges when it comes to finishing your basement.
Once you get this process figured out, you will be able to finish your basement without much trouble.
The question becomes, is finishing a basement genuinely worth it?
There are a few key reasons it is worth finishing your basement.
Extra Living Space
The top reason for finishing your basement is to gain extra living space.
The space gained from finishing your basement can be used for a home gym, an office, a playroom, or anything else you can dream up.
People have found that this extra space in their basement instantly makes their home feel bigger and more inhabitable.
Since the basement is not usually finished with the same high-end finishing as the main floor of the house, the price to finish the basement is not always quite as high.
You can keep things simple in a basement and make it a more informal living space; however, this will be well worth your time and money.
Most people with a finished basement will admit they wouldn’t know what to do without this space.
If you find that you are running out of storage in your home, the basement is a great place to gain some of the storage back.
You can build closets and built-in storage units that will allow you to keep your extra belongings.
When using a basement for storage, you must make sure that your basement is dry and that the humidity levels are checked.
Installing a dehumidifier is a smart choice and likely something that you will use quite often to keep the basement from getting moldy.
When using your basement for storage, try to stay as organized as possible.
This is quite a bit of space to work with, and if you design it correctly, you can have more storage than you will ever need.
Better Resale Value
If you need a financial reason to finish your basement, you should consider how much more your house will be worth when you finish the basement.
If you live in a home that is not all that large, the extra square footage could significantly impact the price you get for your home.
Many people, especially those with children, will not even look at homes that don’t have a finished basement space.
Most homeowners will tell you that they got all their money back for finishing their basement.
This is an investment that quickly pays for itself.
If you don’t plan on selling your home anytime soon, you will have many years of enjoyment from the basement being finished.
Obviously, you will have to consider your financial situation and whether this will make sense for you.
However, it will undoubtedly pay off in the long term.
How Long Do French Drains Last?
Before finishing your basement, you may want to see how old your French drain is.
Typically, a French drain is going to last about thirty to forty years.
If your French drain is older than that, it may already be in very poor condition.
This could change your plans about how to finish your basement around the French drain.
Potentially, it could be time for the French drain to be removed and filled in.
If there is damage and it is no longer effective, there is no reason to leave it open.
As we mentioned, these openings into your home from underground can release radon gas.
When finishing the walls in front of them, it is going to make sense to make sure the French drain really still needs to be there.
As you can see, a French drain is not going to prevent you from finishing your basement.
You are likely going to need to do a few extra tests and inspections before you can finish the basement, but it is still very much possible.
Take your time and consult with some professionals before you start the project.
Remember that a French drain could be a sign that there were moisture issues in the basement at one point.
You will need to know this before you start your construction because finding water issues later on will be much harder to fix.