Building codes - finished basement

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Bazinga
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Building codes - finished basement

Does anyone know what the building codes are in Maine for finished basements, or do they vary by town? I'm trying to figure out what can be counted in the total square footage of a house when a basement is finished?

I'm trying to figure it out in relation to these scenarios, with the livable space being a family room, bathroom, and office:

1. If a basement does not have an exit other than the stairs INSIDE the house (no bulkhead, no walkout doors), AND no windows, does it count as livable space?

2. If it has windows that are small, typical basement type windows, but no other exit, does that count as livable space?

3. If the windows are big windows (either full-sized or larger basement types) does it count?

4. If the finished area itself has no windows and no other door and no windows (i.e. the wall is built 8 feet from the concrete) does it count?

Thank you for your help!!

Naran
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Bazinga - I would contact

Bazinga - I would contact your local code enforcement office, and ask how you should calculate the square footage for the finished basement. You could also consult your realtor, if you're using one.

I do believe it's customary to include that finished space in the total SF for the home, same as you would a finished attic, etc., but that's the kind of detail for which a realtor is helpful.

jimcooncat
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Most towns in Maine follow

Most towns in Maine follow MUBEC, but some don't, especially those with 4,000 or less residents. Call the town to be sure, and if they don't have time to answer all your questions, at least find out which set of codes they enforce.

Bazinga
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Our realtor is on vacation

Our realtor is on vacation and we saw a house today we liked where this issue came, so I was trying to find out sooner than waiting for her! She has mentioned in the past that a window has to be a certain size (large enough for a fireman and O2 tank, not sure of exact measurements) to get through, otherwise without some opening that large it couldn't be counted as a bedroom. So, wasn't sure if that goes for all "livable" space, and in particular, when that space doesn't have any windows or ways of getting in or out other than the stairs in the house.

pmconusa
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Bazinga:If your basement is

Bazinga:If your basement is currently unfinished and you are planning to finish it you will first need a building permit for the work. This is true for any form of remodeling. Obtaining the permit will trigger the tax assessor and the assessed value will be added to your home value for tax purposes.

If your basement is already finished and it was assessed since the basement was finished it is already reflected in your tax bill. If not, or you have a question you can ask your assessor when the last assessment was done and act accordingly. If you try to beat the system the consequences can be devastating and like Murphy's law will occur at the worst possible time.

Bazinga
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I'm not trying to finish my

I'm not trying to finish my basement. This is about looking at houses to buy, and finding it odd today that a house has a finished room, but no windows in, or exit from, the basement. I thought it was odd that it could be counted in the total square footage (and thus reflected in the asking price) if (possibly) technically it couldn't be counted as livable space. I'm trying to figure if the sellers were working around the system, or if the town assessor wasn't aware that there was no exit from the basement room. I've put a call into the town code enforcer and will wait to hear back from him. I don't want to buy a house, or make an offer, then find out during an inspection, or down the road if we were to sell, that the basement shouldn't have been counted all along.

Islander
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Chances are the town doesn't

Chances are the town doesn't even know the basement is finished.

Roger Ek
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Bazinga, "1. If a basement

Bazinga,
"1. If a basement does not have an exit other than the stairs INSIDE the house (no bulkhead, no walkout doors), AND no windows, does it count as livable space?"

It is livable space, but you can't call it a bedroom unless there is an exit a fireman gan go through with turnout gear and a Scott air pack on. That's a big window. Your Realtor was correct. They usually are.

Mike Travers
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If your family is going to be

If your family is going to be spending time there, you need to put in an "egress" whether the code calls for it or not. Who would want to take a chance on their family being trapped with no possibility of rescue? There's some pretty nifty options available.

dkpant
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I have an unfinished basement

I have an unfinished basement that has a "semi-finished" room in one corner of the basement. Semi finished in that it is enclosed by a 2 x 3 stud walls that have sheet rock. It has one door frame (without a door) between it and the rest of the basement. There is a sliding patio door to outdoors elsewhere in this basement and a staircase upstairs. The room has a small standard casement window at the top of the foundation wall. No flooring whatsoever on top of the concrete slab.

We have decided that we want to add a second doorway (with a door) between this room and the rest of the basement on one of the internal walls of this room in order to allow more light in and to facilitate movement. In order to create this doorway, I will have to reroute some wall plug wiring that is in the wall where the new doorway would go. Do you think that the addition of this doorway constitutes a "remodeling" project requiring a building permit?

I have a second longer term project in mind to insulate this basement's exterior walls on the inside for the sake of energy savings. The plan is to mount foam board against the concrete wall and then to face it with a stud wall with sheet rock on the basement side backed with rock wool insulation been studs around the outside basement to protect the foam board. Rim joist insulation and fire blocking is also part of the plan. I could imagine that this second project would be considered a "remodel" or would require a building permit. I know I should and will talk to my local building inspector. However, before I do I would like to get the general impression of the audience as to whether they too would expect one of both of these two projects to be considered a "remodel" requiring a building permit. Any prior experiences are appreciated. I am not really adding a room that is not already there, and the insulation is for the efficiency of house as a whole (almost half the basement walls are above grade) as opposed to finishing off this particular room.

Gerald Weinand
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Any other use of a basement

Any other use of a basement than storage requires two means of egress. This includes just a washer and dryer. A typical bulkhead doesn't count as it can be buried in snow.

Habital rooms are required to have a minimum of 8% of floor area in glazing (with an exception). A 100 sq ft room would be required to have 8 sq ft of glass, not window frames.

The code here is the Maine Uniform Building and Energy Code (MUBEC). It is a compilation of codes, including the International Residential Code.

Gerald Weinand
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The minimum clear opening is

The minimum clear opening is 20 inches by 24 inches AND 5.7 sq ft.

Gerald Weinand
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This is not necessarily

This is not necessarily correct. Typically a building permit is only required if there are structural changes to an existing building, or an addition to it. Cosmetic work, even replacing the entire kitchen, typically does not require a building permit. Changes to plumbing will require a plumbing permit.

I'll add that a building permit is not required for tax purposes, but to ensure that the work meets zoning ordinances and building codes.

Gerald Weinand
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ALL towns in Maine with more

ALL towns in Maine with more than 4,000 residents MUST enforce MUBEC. There are no exceptions. Towns with 4,000 or less residents are not required to enforce MUBEC, although they can voluntarily adopt it. They cannot adopt any other code than MUBEC.

dkpant
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What about the use of

What about the use of artificial light?.Does that supplant the 8% requirement for natural light? There is no natural light at night, so you would need the artificial light anyway. Just trying to understand the reasoning behind the requirements and when substitutes or options apply.

Gerald Weinand
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dkpant:

dkpant:

It can. Not only is 8% glazing required for natural light, but 4% of the floor area must be openable to the outside to provide ventilation. I'll not get into the details (see R303.1 Exception 1) but if enough mechanical ventilation is provided, then artificial light can be used in lieu of windows. This typically applies to bathrooms in houses (toilet rooms in commercial spaces).

I worked on a project where the owner refused to install a second means of egress out of his basement, and then complained that the stair down made him buy a pool table with two or three pieces of slate. He told the code enforcement office about it, who then made him install a bulkhead. Excavating a hole so that the G.C. could saw cut the newly poured foundation wall was pretty expensive.

pmconusa
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All of this round robin has

All of this round robin has been created because the government has taken away your freedom to build what you want, where you want and impacts no one but yourself. The government was never given the authority to do anything but protect your life, your liberties and your property. If you don't believe me, read the Maine Constitution. They do it because they can and we let them get away with it without challenge. It is all about POWER, they do it because they can. I am prohibited from selling some of my unneeded property as a buildable lot, not because it is not the proper size for my area, but because anyone who would buy it cannot build a home on it because it harbors a plant that is being protected from extinction by, you guessed, our government.

Recently I wrote to the Brunswick Town Council about their intention to ban plastic bags. I told them how ridiculous this was because first, the stores could get around the ban by selling the bags to the customer making them their property and hence no subject to the regulation. It is how the English got around it. Secondly, there is probably not a thing in any store, particularly supermarkets, that isn't packed in plastic of some kind. Talk abut sending coals to Newcastle.

We are no longer governed, if we ever were, but ruled and those who own nature's assets get to make the rules or better get others to make them for them and then exempt them from their application. These intermediaries we call politicians and their minions, government servants.

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