Knowing the basics about basement building codes will help DIY home remodeler along with those of you who are going to be working with a remodeling contractor and want to make sure they follow best practices and adhere to local and state building codes so you get the best possible results. Here are some industry standards to keep in mind as you (or your contractor) remodel your basement.

Ceiling Height

The minimum ceiling height requirement for living areas and hallways throughout your home, according to the International Residential Code (IRC), is 7 feet. This typically only excludes closets and storage areas. If your basement (or certain areas of the basement) isn’t going to be used for habitable purposes, a ceiling height of 6’8” inches is required. If you have beams or ducts that dip lower, make sure they’re at least 6’4” from the floor.


If you’re planning on removing a beam, taking out a wall, or making other structural changes, consult with your local building department first. You may need to have a structural engineer inspect your basement to determine what elements can safely be altered. If you make a mistake, it could cost you a lot of money to repair and threaten your safety. Structural problems can lead to cracks in walls and sagging ceilings.


Since the basement is below ground, for many, it can become humid or damp during certain times of the year, which can lead to mold and damage to your home and belongings. To ward off moisture and avoid damaging materials installed as you finish your basement, many building codes require moisture barriers and insulation to be installed prior to finishing. Check your local and state building codes for specific information. A certain minimum R-value (heat flow resistance) may be required for your region.


Only a qualified electrician should install outlets, lights, and other electrical components throughout your basement. The National Electrical Code requires outlets to be added every 12 feet on walls that are wider than 24 inches. If you’re planning on adding a bathroom, bar, or kitchen, you’ll need to add ground fault current interrupter (GFCI) outlets in these areas.


You may be required to install a metal door to separate your furnace or boiler room from the rest of the basement as well as add ventilation to your mechanical room to make sure air can flow properly.


Are you planning on adding a bedroom or two to your basement? You’ll need an egress window (or door) in each sleeping room with a rescue opening that can safely and easily lead inhabitants outside in case of an emergency. You may also be required to install an egress window in your basement even if you don’t have a bedroom down there. If you have a rec room, office space, or home theater in the basement, you’ll likely still be required to have an egress window.

If you’re considering finishing your basement, be sure you know the codes before you start, or you could end up in an unfortunate situation, either by being found out during a home inspection or ending up in a situation that compromises your or your family’s safety.

Get Started With Cyclone Contracting

If you’re ready to remodel your basement or any other room in your home, contact Cyclone Contracting in Ames, Iowa. We know and follow local and state building codes and requirements and would love to work with you. Contact us for any of your home improvement needs.