Suggestions on what to consider in designing a basement finish

drgwspup Jan 15, 2022

  1. drgwspup

    drgwspup TrainBoard Member

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    Hey everyone,

    I will be embarking on a basement finish to house my N scale layout. I'll have a decent sized room when done. Was wondering what folks would include in a list of suggestions that I should plan into the design. I am basically dealing with a blank slate here.

    A master switch to turn off all electricity in the room? I did that in my very first basement finish and now think it's a little overkill. Never got to really use it in a model railroad capacity due to a divorce.

    Number of wall outlets? Just follow code and place them every 10 feet or so?

    HVAC considerations? I have a gas forced air system that I'll be extended a couple heat registers into the train room. Would filters on the registers cut down on dust? Dust doesn't seem to be an issue in the current unfinished space.

    Lighting type and number of circuits? Was planning on recessed can LED lights. I've already rough in a bunch to give me a sense of it and it's plenty bright. What about lighting effects like morning and dusk?

    Flooring suggestions? Currently it's just a chipboard wood subfloor.

    Instead of backdrops that can be seen over and see everything/everybody in the room, what about putting floor to ceiling walls up as peninsula dividers? Opposite of the open floor plan concept so popular on HGTV. Would that give a more isolated feel to running a train from Helper Utah to Solder Summit?

    Basement is already insulated. There will be one egress window in the location of the train room. Cover it to have a uninterrupted wall? It's a deep window well that get very little direct sunlight into it or is potential ventilation a better option, but that introduces another source of dust.

    Overall just looking for ideas to consider. I'd appreciate your thoughts.

    Thanks!!

    Mark
     
  2. Grey One

    Grey One TrainBoard Supporter

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    In an ideal world:
    Temperature control
    Dimmable lights controled by bluetooth
    A nice sound system with remote control and tied into the layout
    WifI booster or a hardwired link to network / internet
    A big sign that reads:
    "It's my Railroad."
     
  3. Shortround

    Shortround TrainBoard Member

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    First be sure to follow code. Don't cover an egress, the window. Cover that chip board. It is not meant to be walked on or it will break down. Enjoy the toy room and the freedom.
     
  4. drgwspup

    drgwspup TrainBoard Member

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    Thanks for your comments. Yep I always follow code and I get inspections from local building authorites cuz I will take out a permit for the basement finish. There will be another egress window in the same room over by my workbench away from the layout so I'm not concerned with covering the one where layout is planned. Plus there is another egress window in the non-train part of the basement.
     
  5. BigJake

    BigJake TrainBoard Member

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    Make sure there is a return air path for the HVAC, not just additional registers for output in your train room. And if that return path is via upstairs, you will generate a chilly draft up the stairs.

    Ditch the master cut-off for the basement electricity, especially if you are not planning to add a sub-panel for the basement. Just plug a lamp into any power strip or whatever you want to ensure is off when you leave (and don't turn off that lamp by itself). One light circuit is almost certainly enough, unless you will have a lot of high wattage lamps (unlikely with LED bulbs). My entire upstairs (4 bedrooms, 2 baths) lights are on one breaker, and that was done before LEDs or even CFL bulbs. Depending on how your basement is currently wired, you may be able to piggy-back onto the existing basement light circuit, but make/keep it a lights-only circuit.

    Consider track lighting instead of fixed ceiling fixtures, for flexibility, unless your layout plan is very firm prior to lighting installation and wiring.

    Your "chip-board" flooring is probably OSB (Oriented Strand Board), and is not recommended as a primary surface, even if painted with floor paint. Your budget and tastes will dictate what flooring you use, from vinyl sheet/tile to wood (solid/laminate) to ceramic tile. I like the "LVP" (Luxury Vinyl Plank) flooring (in wood-look planks), but it can be pricey. But it is also very durable (if you buy quality).

    Putting up floor to ceiling dividers will force you to use more HVAC vents and more lighting. Make sure you decide that before the HVAC and lighting work is planned. I personally would not go with floor-to-ceiling dividers, too claustrophobic. The number one rule of real-estate (applicable to remodeling too): "Think exit when entering. How hard would it be for a potential buyer to "see" the space as if the model railroad were removed? Very hard if it is all cut up into otherwise unusable stalls, or even worse, a maze.

    But these are just my ideas, not yours. Only you can decide what you want. This is, after all, YOUR MODEL RAILROAD!
     
  6. in2tech

    in2tech TrainBoard Member

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    Wow, sounds great. Like others have said, think Resell value on the home IF you had to move and how easy it is to look like open space for potential buyers. It might never happen, but could. Weird to hear wood or whatever is on the flooring instead of concrete in a basement, guess it depends on area of country you live in, or country? Watch his videos as he is just building his Basement layout and using LED track lighting I think? Just to get a few ideas.

    https://www.youtube.com/user/Rochsub/videos

    He also just painted the open ceilings instead of dropping the ceiling. Might get some ideas from him and other YouTube videos?

    Most of all good luck. What scale?
     
  7. drgwspup

    drgwspup TrainBoard Member

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    Thanks for all the feedback! Especially great comments Grey One. I had not been thinking of those items.

    I have the green light from my wife to make the space as I want. My last basement finished focused on resale and I wound up with a train room that was too small for what I want to do in n scale. Our approach in this house is to make it work for us first, and now.

    Here in CO we have expansive soils in a lot of areas so builders put in structural OSB subfloors. Which has a small crawl space under that. Makes basement finishes much easier.

    Great comments about air returns and needing more registers if I add some interior walls and the claustrophobic nature of it.

    I used lvp on the last. Loved the look but was hard on the feet. Looking for ideas to help my aching feet at times. Bought some rubber flooring squares at Costco but it dents really easily with chair legs. But it is great to stand on

    Thanks for the link. I have an 8ft ceiling so no need to drop the ceiling. I'll drywall the ceiling to keep dust down. But I'll look at those videos.

    My last train room finish had a combination of can and track lights. Seemed too busy but probably would have worked well had we stayed in that house.

    Thanks everyone!
     
    in2tech likes this.
  8. Shortround

    Shortround TrainBoard Member

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    Best wishes with your project. The floor being over a crawl space has been done here for many years. It's not just for trailer houses. My second house was built in the '30s and like almost all here was done that way.
    Putting the whole floor on a master cut off switch wouldn't be a good idea. Most things require constant energy supplied to them to remain useful and to come on quickly. Doing so could also void warranties.
    Shutting down and turning on is part of the great game. Except for that smart phone of course.
     
  9. Sumner

    Sumner TrainBoard Member

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    Good for you. I've built 3 houses and sold two and we are living in the third. I've built all of them to fit my/our needs and never really consider resale and the two we sold did sell right away so the plan worked out well.

    On the outlets for sure 'DO NOT DO JUST WHAT CODE REQUIRES'. You want way more in my opinion. I have tons of outlets all over the house and shop and a lot of them are double ones. My wife loves all the kitchen outlets I put in and you can find an outlet any place you are working. I have a couple double outlets wired to the front of my main workbench. When I build the main layout there will be outlets built into it. A cord will go from them to a nearby wall outlet but I'll have outlets to plug into while working on the layout and while running it and won't be plugging tools and controls into extension cords.

    When I built the current house I put in a wood floor over the slab.

    [​IMG]
    http://purplesagetradingpost.com/sumner/newhouse/newhouse19.html

    I started with redwood 2 X 2's on the slab and then what we call wafer board here but is OSB.

    [​IMG]
    http://purplesagetradingpost.com/sumner/newhouse/newhouse33.html

    Then what is called Particle Board here (on the right) over the OSB. A common sub-floor but needs to be covered right away while it is still clean. I put a sealer on it and then used stick down tiles when we built the house as money was tight. Later I covered the floor with tongue and groove oak. If it is the OSB or Particle board I'd get it covered soon with something better before it gets beat up. The particle board gives a nice flat surface but isn't strong enough by itself. The combination of the OSB on good floor joists along with the particle board gives one a really solid feeling floor. If not the above I'd be interested in seeing what they did put down.

    Good luck with the build and having a nice comfortable place to work or play is really nice,

    Sumner
     
    Last edited: Jan 16, 2022
    Mudkip Orange likes this.
  10. BigJake

    BigJake TrainBoard Member

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    If your previous LVP installation was on a concrete base, it will make a huge difference that your new under-floor structure is wooden.

    Also, investing in very good footwear (work shoes) helps a lot, especially as we get older (and/or heavier).
     
  11. drgwspup

    drgwspup TrainBoard Member

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    Previous LVP was over the same structural wood floor situation. Yeah I need to get better footwear, already wearing supports but not getting better.

    Sumner, thanks for the advice. Liked the idea of wiring outlets to the front of the workbench. How do to plan to build the outlets into your future layout? Haven't seen that before. Like using a power strip?

    I enjoyed looking at your blog of how you literally built your house. Very cool. Can't say I have ever seen that many outlets. Was the particle board over the OSB just to give you a smooth surface for the tile. Is there another benefit to the double flooring?
     
  12. Sumner

    Sumner TrainBoard Member

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    On the workbench I used regular double outlet boxes and outlets on the fascia of the workbench. Ran the duplex wiring from them back into a wall box with a cover on it. On the layout I'll do something similar but since the layout is an island I'll use one heavy duty extension cord from one of the boxes back to an existing wall outlet. The layout will be 6' X 24.5' so I'll probably have about 3 boxes down both sides. The cord will go to the first and it could be a double or triple box with an on/off switch which could cut power to all the other boxes if needed. I do use a power strip to turn the power to my DCC++EX command station and Raspberry Pi computer and Monitor and the DC throttle with one switch. I'll continue to use that but it will plug into one of the outlets.

    [​IMG]

    If you are talking about the ones above they are under the main box and each goes to a breaker in the box and is the first outlet on one of the house/shop 110v circuits. Being a GFI outlet they protect all the other outlets in the circuit they go to. If a circuit breaks (very rare) I can check them and the breaker just above them. The new shop hanging furnace plugs into one of those that only has a couple outlets on it.

    Yes the primary purpose was to give a smooth surface when I used the tile but with the OSB being 5/8" and the 1/2" particle board the floor feels really solid. I later laid down the tongue and groove oak and the thick floor was still advantages since the nails I used were penetrating a total thickness of 1 1/8". That floor is about 8 years old now and looks as good and is as solid as when I laid it. The OSB and particle board are not that expensive in the long run.

    Keep us up on your progress,

    Sumner
     
    Mudkip Orange likes this.
  13. SDVike

    SDVike TrainBoard Member

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    Sorry I didn’t see this earlier but here is what I am doing in my train room (old storage room).

    1. Vinyl plank floating floor with a cork backing. Don’t do carpet as it will loose parts and collect and create dust. Dust is our biggest enemy for a layout. I like the cork backing on the floor as it will resist mildew on a concrete floor. It also adds just a little bit of cushion.

    2. Negative Pressure Room. You may not be able to do this in an open basement environment, but in my train room, I have no registers or returns. Because its a basement, it will hold the temperate fairly consistent. I plan on installing a fan like a bathroom. The idea is if I am sanding or painting anything, the fan will be on sucking air outside. This will create a negative pressure situation that should keep any fumes or dust from getting in the house. I also really hated the idea of dust from the layout construction getting into the ductwork.

    3. Plug-ins. I have one 20 amp crkt. I am not sure if I should do another 20 amp. I was told by an electrical inspector that I should do 20 amp crkts in my theater room because it reduces the likely hood of surges to the receiver. I figure the same logic should apply to the DCC equipment.

    4. I put a modular track lighting system on the ceiling that allows me to focus the lights from certain directions. I can also control the LED lights from one dim-able switch. This system wouldn't work as nicely on a multilevel layout though.

    5. My biggest mistake and success was not finishing the room first. All my inside walls are unfinished drywall. My exterior walls are concrete wrapped in a insulation blanket. I need to finish the exterior walls so I can run electricity to them. I also want to paint and finish the interior walls. All of this will create some level of dust for the layout that is currently in phase 1.

    So obviously you can see why I made a mistake not finishing it right away, but why do I call it a success also? Well, I never worked on the room. In the 3 years of prepping the room, I manage to install 75% of the floor, 4 lights on 1 track, and 3 plug ins. That's all I accomplished. In the year and half since, I have build a solid 5x11 layout, finished the floor, expanded the track lighting, and enjoyed running trains for the first time in 26 years.

    Some day in the next year plus, I will finish out the rest of the room. It will suck with that giant layout in the way. I sure, I will get dust on the layout that I won't be happy with. I will have to remove my work bench and shelving to paint. But I will be 3 years into enjoying a hobby that I just never made time for before.
     
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  14. Shortround

    Shortround TrainBoard Member

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    Best wishes with the dreams.
     
  15. RailMix

    RailMix TrainBoard Member

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    My suggestion for the construction dust problem would be to put together a wood framework over the layout and get yourself a big sheet of plastic to put over it. Something similar seems to work for George Sellios during the part of the year when he is concentrating on kit manufacturing.
     
  16. SDVike

    SDVike TrainBoard Member

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    That is my plan. The layout will get wrapped in plastic. There is still a lot of other stuff that will be a pain to work around but hopefully the layout will be safe.
     
  17. Mudkip Orange

    Mudkip Orange TrainBoard Member

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    Ditto Sumner on outlets everywhere. When I did my office electrical (which may eventually house trains, if North Forest ever gives way to an actual dining room) I put in all 2-gang boxes with 1/2 the outlets on an unswitched circuit and the other half switched.

    This way my computer, etc is plugged into a circuit that's always on, but the air purifier and other things are on a switch so I can shut it all down.

    Horrifying MS paint diagram:

    mudkip office electrical.png
     
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  18. Mudkip Orange

    Mudkip Orange TrainBoard Member

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    One other thing, if you've got multiple circuits in the same box you want to differentiate outlets.

    I used 20A and 15A plugs (the 20A is the unswitched) but you could also use different colors, e.g. white and gray.

    different outlets.png
     
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  19. drgwspup

    drgwspup TrainBoard Member

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    Thanks for the additional replies.

    Great suggestion Mudkip! I like that a lot.

    SDVike: I am down in southeast Aurora, CO near the reservoir. Have the same plastic wrapped basement but no other interior walls. Aurora requires all basement finishes to put in 20 amp wiring. You might want to check with your permitting authority. I put 4-5 circuits in since Aurora limits the number of outlets per circuit. Had one for lighting in the train room and one circuit for outlets, plus a couple outlet were on another circuit. Not sure I would know how to do a negative pressure room. Code is going to require at least a heat register or two in finished space (due to egress windows)

    I hear ya. Waiting to finish basements, moving, other life issues have really sidetracked my plans. I kept my HCD layout set up downstairs instead of under the xmas tree as in the last few years. Did the HCD layout while finishing the last basement. It was good to do some modeling, instead of collecting. Having the HCD set up in basement has prolonged my normal 1.5 months of trains and I have really enjoyed it. Got a lot of decoders installed. But I seeing my stuff starting to spread out in the unfinished basement and wondering how I am going to build with everything down there. Ugh.

    If you ever want to consult about our respective basement plans, PM me.

    Mark
     
    Sumner likes this.
  20. HemiAdda2d

    HemiAdda2d Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

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    Having lived in homes with and without forced-air HVAC, I can unequivocally say forced-air is WAY more dusty. Even when changing the filters monthly as recommended, the dust on the layout was noticeable. I have a boiler-heated home with baseboard radiators now, and there's far less dust. If additional filter capability is available for the train room, I suggest doing it.

    For the floor, install something temporary to absorb the mess of construction and scenicking. If not temporary, use something that's easy to clean. I haven't used LVP, but if it's easy to clean, it should be fine. You will be amazed at how sloppy construction and scenery building can be. Consider the mess of using plaster products before they have set, ballasting, adding ground foam or scenery materials and fixing them with glue-water mix. That stuff gets EVERYWHERE. (OK, maybe only I'm that sloppy! :p :p ) In many big box stores, you can get samples of the plank to take home and assess for the design. These can be used to assess clean-up from the expected mess you will be making. I don't recommend carpet, until the layout is mostly finished...

    For outlets, consider the electrical work you'll need to do on the layout--soldering track, feeders, etc. You'll want to be able to plug your soldering outfit in directly without adding extension cords to trip over. I'd double what code requires, if your main panel can support it, and consider upgrading your panel if it cant! Consider where your main operations panel will be--the various powered accessories and power supplies to power the layout will all need to share these outlets--you may want to have more outlets in this area if your panel cannot support room-wide amounts more than code requires.

    A finished ceiling is nice--recessed LED lighting uses less electricity which is nice, and consider what level of light you want. I would do a dimmable type over the layout for evening and early morning lighting, or night shots. Have independent light for the aisles if you like. If you intend to watch trains, you don't need as much light. Try to space your lighting out evenly so there's no dark or hot spots on the layout. If you intend to photograph your layout (amateur or professionally), you need a lot more light capacity. "Stopping down" to increase the image depth of field requires more light, or a longer exposure. Plan your lighting for 5000K daylight. The cool white lights at ~4000K are too blue for daytime lighting situations, but can be useful for "night" photos. There might even be a variable LED lighting setup that you can dial up and down to different color temperatures (in degrees Kelvin) to add variety in your layout lighting.

    Backdrops vs walls--I'm not an interior designer and didn't stay in a Holiday Inn Express last night, so there's that. Walls will require more finish material. Drywall, mud, paint, sanding (more MESS). It will aid in scenic isolation, separation of signature scenes. It will also complicate crew communications, if you intend to do op sessions with multiple operators. It might require using radios versus talking around the curve to the dispatcher (much less prototypical anyways). Scenic separation is great for modelers as it helps mask the compression in most model railroads. The train in two different towns at once is not usually prototypical, but scenic blocks hide the size disparity.

    I wouldn't recommend covering an egress window--for safety reasons, even if the basement isn't bedroom or other living space for which code would require egress. In the event of a fire involving your main egress, this gives you a way out. Maybe temporary curtains can be used to hide the window/block light. I don't know if that's legal, though.
     

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