Is a Kitchen in the Basement Legal? [2022]

  • By: Peter Allen
  • Date: 02/10/2022
  • Time to read: 9 min.

Basements and cellars are very different spaces that represent an opportunity for you to expand your living space to best enhance your lifestyle. Well, while you can partition the space to serve your needs best, basements usually have different legal uses that vary from one territory to another.

In this regard, anyone considering making their basement more useful will ask, “is a kitchen in the basement legal?” Short answer: YES. Adding a kitchen in the basement is legal as long as you obtain the building permits needed for the work. All in all, this is only possible if your basement has sufficient space for a full kitchen. Most basements do not have enough capacity for a full kitchen, and that’s why many people only have kitchenettes in their basements.

Notably, some cities do not allow a kitchen in the basement because they don’t want a single-family home turned into a 2-family dwelling. If, for whatever reason, you are considering having a kitchen in the basement, read this article to learn everything you need to know about creating a culinary environment in basements.

Is it okay and legal to have a kitchen in the basement?

Basements provide an excellent way to increase the floor space in your home. That said, while many people tend to underuse their basements, anyone looking to use all available basement floor space optimally can add a small kitchen to their basement. While it is commonly believed that having a kitchen in the basement is illegal, that is not the case.

Installing a kitchen in the basement is legal as long as it meets all city and health department building codes and requirements. At the bare minimum, this means having a means of egress and ensuring everything is installed correctly, including plumbing, electrical appliances, gas, and HVAC system.

Depending on where you live, you might need a special permit before adding a kitchen to the basement. The basement is a delicate space. So, putting up a kitchen here requires great precision and attention to detail to ensure safety and efficiency when using the kitchen.

Whatever is your reason for adding a kitchen in the basement area, you should keep in mind that basements in residential properties of all sizes can never be lawfully rented or occupied unless they meet minimum requirements for air, sanitization, light, and egress. They should also be approved by the relevant authorities before they are occupied.

Why Should you Consider a Basement Kitchen?

Adding a kitchen in your basement is a great way to make your sunken space more functional and probably more appealing. Even if you don’t have a lot of space, you can still have a cleverly designed conversion to create whatever you want.

Although building a basement kitchen takes some special planning and considerations, it can help turn the space into a complete rental unit, plush guest suite, or a floor dedicated to your cooking style. Here is why you should consider building a kitchen in your basement.

Higher return on investment

A basement remodel is one of the most thoughtful home upgrades. That said, adding a kitchen with a great modern design and quality construction to your basement can make the space feel more beautiful and comfortable, ultimately boosting the house’s resale price. Conversely, slight mistakes when adding a kitchen in the basement can keep away potential buyers.

Cost-saving

If you are looking for additional living space and can’t afford a new home, you can make your basement feel like another apartment, complete with its independent cooking space. Considering that remodeling is relatively cheaper than buying another home, building a basement kitchen is a cheaper option.

Greater convenience

Basements are usually close to the drains of your house, which makes adding a basement kitchen quite convenient. You will also have existing utilities in place, which can further cut down the costs. Best of all, if you use your basement as a dining space, you will have a kitchen a few steps away.

More enjoyable leisure

The basement has for long provided perfect space for entertainment and special occasions. Having a fully functional kitchen in place means that you won’t run up and down the stairs to get some snacks and refreshments for yourself and your guests. Overall, the basement kitchen allows you to cook from a convenient place so you can enjoy entertainment sessions fully.

New freedom in design

Although constructing a basement kitchen takes careful planning and probably a lengthy process of obtaining permits, one thing you will truly appreciate is the freedom to create something unique. As long as you have enough space, you can come up with any imaginable design.

Creating rental income

If your basement meets the minimum requirements for renting and has enough capacity for a full kitchen or a kitchenette, it can be a source of income. Although many people consider a kitchen when planning to use their basement as an in-law suite, you can rent it to generate revenue.

Space is an expensive commodity in most cities. Although there are many ways you make use of your basement, building a kitchen is a great way to make your sunken space more useful. A basement complete with cooking space can be used as an apartment by one of the family members, which is still okay.

Factors to Consider When Setting Up a Kitchen in the Basement

Safety and efficiency are paramount when it comes to constructing a basement kitchen. Basically, you need to ensure the kitchen is fully functional and remains safe, easy to use, and maneuverable for the whole family.

Most importantly, adding a kitchen to a basement is not the same as constructing one on the ground floor. Here are things to keep in mind before putting your hands into the project.

1. Space

There is no denying that most basements have small spaces that aren’t enough to hold a full kitchen. That said, it should be no surprise that most homeowners who consider basement kitchens end up building a kitchenette, which is just a smaller kitchen.

Not further from floor space availability, most basements are height-challenged, necessitating checking whether you have sufficient height for anyone to cook efficiently once you set up your kitchen. It is common knowledge that you should not set up a kitchen in a basement with low ceilings.

If you want to build a kitchen in an existing home whose basement ceiling is too low, you should consider renovating the space to make it safer before the kitchen is constructed.

2. Waterproofing

Basements are prone to floods, and, thus, one of the significant basement issues that you need to treat with utmost importance is water leaks. Indeed, water leaks are one of the primary reasons why basements are under strict measures.

That said, before adding a basement kitchen, make sure you waterproof the space thoroughly to prevent all possible risks.

Basement waterproofing starts with checking for cracks on the floor and in the concrete walls, then repairing them upfront. Considering that moisture supports growth or mold and mildew, which raises health concerns, it is advisable that you add internal weeping tiles, internal membrane, or waterproof coatings to protect the new investment optimally.

3. Space design and framing

Your ultimate goal is to construct a kitchen that is functional, safe, and efficient. To achieve this, it is a good idea that you hire a qualified contractor. A knowledgeable and experienced contractor will help you engineer efficient space planning, obtain necessary building permits, and comply with local, state, and federal safety and building codes.

Make sure to do your due diligence before hiring to ensure you get an experienced engineer who is familiar with city requirements.

4. Ventilation

Ventilation is another essential factor to consider when setting up a kitchen in your basement.

Even if you are preparing foods with your favorite aroma, you don’t want the food smell to linger and distract your nose all through. Thankfully, there is no shortage of electric hood fans that can quickly and efficiently eliminate cooking smells. Installing one will keep the kitchen ventilated, so you don’t end up with a basement that smells food.

Depending on your preferences and budget, you can choose ventless or vented units. But, most importantly, pick what works perfectly for your kitchen.

5. Electrical wiring

No matter where you are installing electricity, you should always do the wiring properly to ensure safety. For a basement kitchen, wring can be pretty easy because the mains are probably in the basement.

When installing, remember that most kitchen appliances are heavy-duty, so take precautions and steps seriously. A qualified contractor can help you install everything while upholding safety. Make sure your contractor includes GFCI plugs and outlets with enough amperage as per the electrical codes.

For heavy-duty appliances, make sure there are separate circuits to avoid overloading one circuit.

6. Drains

Your basement is close to the drains of your home, which makes it a breeze to add a kitchen sink and connect other washing appliances. Although you won’t spend a fortune to install plumbing in the basement, draining your kitchen should not be taken lightly.

Remember, there is always the other challenging side. In this case, drilling into and through concrete walls.

7. Fire safety

Although you don’t expect to have a kitchen fire, basement fires are one of the most dangerous. That’s why you need to take additional precautions to ensure that you can put out small fires immediately. Consider getting a fire extinguisher and keeping it in an optimal location in the kitchen basement.

It is also worth investing in good-quality smoke detectors to alert you whenever there is something suspicious. Further, ensure that there is an easily accessible exit.

8. Lighting

By definition, a basement can be entirely below curb level. In this case, it means you won’t have natural light flowing in, necessitating keenness when selecting lights.

If there is no natural light coming to your basement kitchen, you need to pick lights that will evenly distribute light in the whole kitchen. You should also consider reducing the spacing between lights to avoid dark spaces or unwanted shadows. Adding under cabinet lighting will also provide enough and most needed light in the prep area.

9. Flooring

Above all, you should be considerate with the floor you choose for your basement kitchen. In simple words, you need to lay a floor that is moisture- and scratch-resistant – laminates are known to have these features, plus they come in a variety of designs and patterns. They are also installed over a concrete floor, which makes them an excellent option for repairs and replacement when necessary.

What is a Basement?

At its core, a basement is a floor of a building that is partly or entirely below the ground (curb) level. In most cases, it is almost equal to a complete floor, and homeowners can have it partitioned to serve different purposes. Many homeowners usually customize their basements to suit various uses like entertainment, dining, laundry, workouts, family meetings, and cooking, among others.

Notably, a basement should not be confused with a cellar. Although they seem to be the same, a cellar differs from a basement in that it is usually a smaller space that serves a specific purpose. Unlike basements where homeowners can put several house amenities, cellars are mainly used to store wine or coal, thanks to their considerably cooler temperatures and lack of direct sunlight.

Other text versions will describe a basement as any floor of a building with at least one-half of its height above curb level and a cellar as a floor with less than one-half of its height above ground level.

Conclusion

Basements are a useful part of your house. While there are many ways to use the floor space, adding a kitchen to your basement is a fantastic idea for expanding your living, cooking, and entertainment space. In addition, when done well, a basement kitchen can potentially add value to your home should you sell it on a future date.

The most exciting part about basement kitchens is the convenience that they add while making the basement area more useful.

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