Having a house with a basement represents a classic bit of Americana. Below ground, the kids can set up blanket forts, host sleepovers, and make lifelong memories. Parents can crack open a cold one and watch the big game, work up a sweat in the gym, or even better, have an out-of-the-way spot to store the Christmas decorations for 11 months. It’s a place for everyone in the family to enjoy, and underneath it all, basements offer an important retreat within the home—because if the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that we could all use a little extra space.

All basements are not created equal, however, and across Portland many of the older homes have underdeveloped subterranean areas—yet the potential is there. “They were built essentially as a fruit cellar. Nobody was using the basement for much else but a furnace and some canning jars,” says contractor Steve Gemmell, whose deep expertise providing residents with finished, usable basements (and the high demand for such work) motivated him to form his latest company, Top Dawg Basement ReCreation.

Though this business may be new, Gemmell is firmly established in the construction industry and in the community, with more than two decades of experience in residential remodeling and the commercial sector. Starting with Gemmell Construction in 1995 and Earthquake Tech a few years later, Gemmell has fortified hundreds of homes with his seismic retrofitting services, bringing clients’ visions to life while also offering them peace of mind.

People have spent a lot of time at home in the past year, and their priorities are shifting along with their lifestyles. “That’s the big thing these days. People want more space, but you’re kind of limited on city lots,” Gemmell explains. “There’s not much room to bump an addition out. So the basement becomes very viable, and we’ve been seeing a lot of interest.”

Square footage is worth its weight in gold, and for many homeowners adding a completed basement is a way to increase resale value, not to mention an opportunity to design a standout feature, whether that’s a family entertainment room, a modernized wine cellar, or a separate Accessory Dwelling Unit that can be rented out. Gemmell adds, “I had one guy tell me, ‘I want to dig out a basement, put a driveway in, and drive cars down to work on them.’”

Whether your project is purely cosmetic or requires complex structural renovation, Top Dawg is well equipped to see the project through. “We’ll come into an existing space, we’ll dig down, and we’ll keep the old foundation with this system we use,” Gemmell says. “In some cases, these ceilings are like five feet high, but we create more headroom, upgrade the existing foundation to today’s code for seismic, and then build out new bedrooms, bathrooms, kitchens, living rooms, that kind of deal.”

Gemmell and his crew are down-to-earth, with a passion for their craft. “We enjoy what we do. The work itself is gratifying, but it’s nice to meet people and vibe off of their energy,” he says. “We get a lot of really creative people who want to use their space for creative things. Portland’s just been a place where I’ve been able to get in and do my thing. I moved here in ’95, and it’s been a good ride.”

For more information or to request a quote, call 971-229-0987, or email [email protected].

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