Finished basements can be the sites of stunning achievements or apocalyptic home disasters. Problems there can significantly decrease the value of your home, while cost-effective finishing work can add livable square footage, vastly increasing its value.
Whether you’re thinking of remodeling your basement or you need to fix leaking or sinking foundations, the cost of your work will vary based on your geographical location, type of soil, kind of repair or enhancement and complexity or amount of work needed.
Options for Basement Finishing vs. Remodeling
An unfinished basement serves as a valuable blank canvas. The finishing process begins with basics such as hanging and painting drywall and installing plywood floors at a relatively low cost. Basement finishing means taking a space that currently is not livable and transforming it into a space you can use and enjoy. In an unfinished space, there may be nothing but a concrete floor, exposed pipes and electrical, and no walls or only the barest of wall framework in place. On average, the cost to refinish will fall anywhere between $6,500 to $18,500
, or more for larger spaces.
Projects that may need to be tackled to finish a basement include but are not limited to:
- Framing in walls with studs and adding insulation
- Framing in for egress windows, especially if needed to upgrade to fire code
- Hanging drywall
- Adding/upgrading electrical for lighting
- Installing outlets and charging stations for electronic devices
- Encasing ductwork; rerouting ductwork
- Installing a ceiling
- Sealing a basement floor to reduce risk of moisture
- Installing flooring
- Installing additional plumbing for a bathroom
Basement remodeling differs from finishing a basement space. Remodeling generally happens after the finishing projects have been completed and typically refers to the altering or changing of an existing space. Remodeling projects tend to cost homeowners somewhere between $10,000 and $30,000. These prices include material and labor costs.
Remodeled basements can mean…
- additional living rooms
- play rooms for kids
- home offices
- apartment/en suite
While a remodel generally happens after a basement has already been finished, you may find that you want to remodel your new, unfinished basement. Remodeling your basement before refinishing it can often save you money.
Installing all of the necessary plumbing and electrical work while walls and floors are unfinished will result in savings.Starting from scratch doesnt require demolition, which can save you around $2,000. Framing may be necessary to define rooms and spaces. System upgrades usually call for minor expansions to the HVAC and electrical systems, but not adding plumbing. The bulk of the cost, however, is in flooring and finishing. After wrapping things up with carpeting, drywall, and ceiling material, you can expect to pay anywhere from $6,500 to $15,500.
Your basement probably houses some of your home’s work engines: a boiler, hot water heater, furnace, maybe an extensive network of pipes carrying water or sewage. It’s the area that’s extremely susceptible to water damage and leakage. Whatever work you do, you probably will want to include waterproofing as well.
Remodeling a finished basement is costlier. The demo can cost from $1,500 to around $3,000 to prep the site. System upgrades include expanding the HVAC and electrical, but even if you already have a bathroom in place, remodeling can add $1,000 to $4,000. Finally, the finishing work can be kept low if you stay with the basics, but upgrades to hardwood floors and other luxuries will add $7,000 to $10,000 to the job. On average, expect to pay $13,200 to $30,500 for this job.
Converting a finished basement from a general room to a full-service guest suite involves all of the above and then some. After adding or remodeling a bathroom, a kitchenette, cabinetry, HVAC and electrical upgrades, etc., you can easily spend $20,500 to $50,000.
Some houses only have partial basements. Extending your foundation is an involved job and can cost from $10,000 to $30,000 on top of the above estimates.
Things to Think About
If you’re doing a basement renovation, remember to work with your contractor to create a budget and payment schedule. Factor in cost of materials, labor and possibly time off if you need to let in the workers or be there during the day.
The size of the basement will be a factor. Labor costs make up the bulk of the projects budget, so you might decide to tackle finishing a small basement by yourself. You will still need to call an electrician and/or a plumber if adding any of those amenities. The costs below do not include these specialized contractors.
Size DIY Cost Pro CostSmall Basement (<700 sq ft) $5,000 $15,000Average Basement (700 1,00 sq ft) $8,000 $18,500Large Basement (1,000+ sq ft) $15,000 $30,000 – $40,000
The finishing touches you choose, such as ceiling, flooring, and other features, will add to the final costs. When designing your basement, remember to factor in these features to the budget.
How fast the job needs to be completed has a significant impact on the final price. A professional team can take a basement from framing to complete in about 45 days. A DIYer typically needs more time. If things need to be inspected, inspectors work on their own schedule, and if concrete needs to be poured, time must be allotted for it to properly set.
If time is critical, consider a basement finishing kit. A finishing kit has insulated wall panels, and some include a walkable flooring surface and ceiling material for DIY installation. Depending on the size of your basement, these kits can be installed in a weekend. However, the floor wont be carpeted, the walls wont be painted, and there will be no electrical or plumbing. Other features such as doors, trim work, and more also need to be added.
The cost of a finishing kit ranges from around $4.75 sq. ft. for just wall panels that you install yourself to $30,000 for the walls, ceiling, and floor installed by a professional team.
Your Home’s Systems
Basements are where you find your homes comfort systems. Plumbing for sinks, baths, and toilets run along the ceiling and down the walls to boilers or water heaters and/or drainage pipes. Sump pumps, furnaces and HVAC systems also, often, reside here. You need to design around these systems as relocating them may not be an option.
One solution is to paint ceiling pipes the same color as the ceiling to hide them — or in bright colors to make them interesting. Placing a water heater in a closet is a consideration, but be sure to check local codes before doing this. Large systems like boilers and HVAC units are not so easily to tuck away.
Professionals agree the utility room should not be finished. The ventilation and drainage requirements for these systems are very specific, and you need easy access to the systems for inspection and repair. Consult a professional before settling on a design to prevent any issues from occurring down the road.
Framing – $1 sq ft.
When finishing a basement or adding a room as part of a remodeling project, framing for the walls refers to creating wood frames and studs to outline the space; including leaving areas open for doors, windows, or closets. The main material cost is the wood, plus any hardware needed to secure the framing. On average, expect to pay about $1 per square foot
for these materials.
Drywall – $1.50 sq. ft.
Drywall attaches to the framing and finishes the actual wall or ceiling. Drywall or gypsum board is gypsum that has been flattened into a sheet and wrapped with heavy-duty paper. It can be primed and painted, wallpapered, or covered in any type of décor materials to create the look you want for the room. The basic drywall panel measures 8-feet tall and 4-feet wide and is available in thicknesses that range from 1/4″ to 5/8″. This standard panel usually costs between $10 and $20
. Price will vary depending on the brand, panel’s thickness, and if it has any special features like mold resistance which may be beneficial for a basement space. Other material costs when adding drywall include the hardware to secure it to the framing, joint tape, and drywall mud. Estimate the overall cost to install drywall in the basement at approximately $1.50 per square foot
Exterior walls can be framed and insulated, or can be installed with attachable insulated panels. Installation of these panels can vary in price depending on the manufacturer and type of insulation. Wall panels that come with basement finishing kits should be checked to see if they can be painted or papered.
Ceilings – $1 – $6 sq. ft.
Once the drywall and floor surface is in place, your basement is considered finished by technical standards, but probably not by yours. To make the space comfortable it’s time to consider finishing touches; including installing ceilings and fixtures.
Pipes and ductwork often hangs lower than the joists. This makes a smooth ceiling impossible. Many repurposed urban spaces mask these features by painting them and the ceiling the same color. A sprayer can be rented for about $100 a day, or you can hire a pro for around $300 to $500.
Drop ceilings are overcoming their bad reputations with acrylic panels that imitate other materials or have attractive patterns. They generally cost between $2.00 to $6.00 per square foot.
If your pipes and ducting are above the joists, drywall the ceiling or use sheet paneling. Drywall costs about $15 per panel, while sheet paneling costs about $12 to $30 per panel.
Finally, tongue and groove wood such as pine looks great and is lightweight, making it perfect for a warmth-adding ceiling. Expect to pay between $1 and $3 per square foot for the paneling.
Floors – $300 – $5,000
Once your flooring surface is laid down, you can decide on your flooring material. Carpeting costs an average of $1,500
for a typical space, but you may choose tiles ($1,500 – $2,000
), vinyl ($300 – $500
), or even wood flooring ($4,000 – $5,000
Basement Bathroom Installation
Planning is the first stage with any basement bathroom installation. For a basement that’s designed as a recreation room, work space, or kids’ play area, a half-bath (stool and sink, but no shower or tub) is adequate. A basement with bedroom or en suite needs a full bathroom. Knowing how you plan to use the basement living space typically dictates the functional purpose of its bathroom.
You can fit a full bathroom with tub/shower combination in a room that measures 40-square feet. However, on average, a smaller bath (with just a stand-up shower) or a half-bath usually needs to be about 30-square feet for comfort and functionality. Depending on the basement space and layout, you may be able to go with a larger 60-square feet or more bathroom space. Creating bathroom with a separate water closet may require 100-square feet or more.
For a professional to do the full bathroom installation, expect costs to range from $10,000 to $15,000. Tackling the full installation on your own can cut costs approximately in half.
Consider these factors when planning your new basement bathroom.
- Plumbing Check locally for required permits and any zoning law regulations about adding in plumbing, or whenever working with septic and sewer lines. Planning your basement bathroom directly below or close to the pipes of an existing bathroom may help reduce the overall labor and costs. Remember that all drainage lines require a downhill slope to sluice away waste water. If this isn’t possible, a sewage injection pump must be installed. An approximate cost of these pumps ranges from $150 to $3,000.
- Electrical It’s usually recommended to hire a qualified electrician for this type of project. Electrical wiring will need to be run for lighting and other items. Plan for ample outlets and even charging stations for a phone or tablet when designing a living space.
- Material Costs In addition to the cost of framing and installing drywall to a basement bathroom, material costs can include: ceiling, flooring, paint, trim, toilet, sink, vanity, all fixtures, tub/shower surround, lighting, and all finishes like towel racks. Plumbing and electrical supplies also factor in to the final budget. Many material costs depend on type of product selected, the brand, and how high-end it is. Heated ceramic floor tiles cost more than basic vinyl tiles.
Additional Rooms and Features
How the basement is used determines many factors. For example, if it’s a living space such as a bedroom, egress windows are required. Other uses and features to consider:
- Playroom A playroom for the kids needs plenty of kid-friendly features such as soft carpeting, bright colors, and storage for toys. Open areas allow room to run around and space for larger toys like playhouses.
- Entertainment Home theaters are popular for basements. Plenty of seating centered around a large TV or a projection TV aimed at a large screen makes a trip to the movies as easy as going downstairs.
- Wet Bar A wet bar makes entertaining guests very enjoyable. Plumbing and electrical systems need to be specific for their functions, and a half-bath is ideal.
- Rec Room For older children, a rec room with video game system and other games creates a safe hangout. Stereo systems, a small fridge, and microwave for snacks finish the space nicely.
- Home Office/Workshop A place to retreat from the noise of a full house so you can get things done is the perfect use for a basement. You dont need much space, but you will need to have electrical systems run for a computer, lighting, and other features. Depending on what your projects, you may need specific temperature/humidity controls.
- Laundry Room Perfect for smaller spaces, a laundry room can have cabinetry for supplies, a table for folding and sorting, racks for drying, and a utility sink.
- Suite If you have a large basement, consider a suite of rooms especially if you have an elderly parent or adult child moving in. A bedroom, living room, and bathroom can be put in for maximum comfort.
The final touches for a finished basement can make it as amazing as any room in the house. Recessed lighting keeps headspace as high as possible while crown molding adds a luxurious touch. Wall-to-wall carpeting or hardwood floors add comfort and warmth to the living space. Paint and wallpaper can add style while built-in storage adds function.
Finally, if the space is too big to be a single room but too small to be multiple rooms, consider visually dividing the room with a counter. It can be lower for children to use as a craft table, or it can be bar height to become a standing desk.
Any project involving electrical, plumbing, or turning the basement into a livable space, requires permits. Plumbing must be done to code for proper drainage to avoid health issues. It also has to ensure flushing certain waste back into the sewer. Electrical issues can cause short-circuits, blown breakers, and fires. The chance of something happening increases if installation is not done properly from the start, including acquiring the proper permits. If creating a bedroom or other regular living space, permits are required. Emergency escape avenues (for fire and other emergencies) need to be in place as well.
Failure to obtain proper permits can result removing (demo-ing) any current finishing work or remodeling already installed. You could also face fines. A stop work order may be issued, which usually causes double the fees when you do, eventually, apply for the permit(s). If you have to file an insurance claim and cant produce any permits, the insurance company may deny the claim. Finishing a basement without permits also can affect the home’s resale value.
Permits for most jobs cost about $50.
Your foundation should be inspected prior to finishing your basement. You dont want to cover up any structural damage that would be identified in an inspection by installing framing and drywall. If items such as pipes have rust, the problem may be humidity instead of a leak, but it can be just as damaging. Waterproofing the basement and using a dehumidifier helps reduce dampness and the risk of mold development.
Old homes may suffer from sagging foundation beams as a result of shifting ground or decay and deterioration of the original building materials. Foundation beams can be raised and shored up successfully, but the right tools, like a pneumatic jack, are essential. Depending on how much the foundation beam must be raised, this job may require several days of incremental steps to complete – which means increased labor costs. Hiring professionals is the best option for this job. Expect costs to run about $10,000 for repairs like a shifted foundation.
Pillars are a common element basement finishes and remodels need to work around. The basement pillars most likely provide integral structural support for your home. Do not move them without consulting a professional contractor. Alterations to the structure of your basement or foundation should be done by a professional prior to refinishing.
Basement water leakage can cause serious problems for a homeowner. Standing water can lead to mold growth, which poses health issues. It’s also a haven for bugs and other pests. Over time, concrete blocks and foundations can sustain hairline cracks. While they may appear small on the surface, they can be the start of an enormous problem, so early repair is key. The only way to rectify a basement water problem is to remove the water and seal the leaks. This may involve removing existing paint or wall coverings as well as replacing soggy beams.
Waterproofing comes in a variety of techniques. It depends on the source of the water and its severity. On average, basement waterproofing costs around $7,000, though minor waterproofing can cost as little as $300 to $500. Be sure to get multiple quotes and details about the job. Have your basement checked before beginning any remodel.
Added Value of a Finished Basement
A finished basement has the potential to add value to a home, especially when it comes time for resale. The average basement remodel project can have up to a 70% return on investment
. Home buyers typically prefer a house with a finished basement and may even increase their offer if that living space recently has been updated or remodeled. The finished basement also adds value by creating more living space in the home without having to spend thousands on an addition.
A finished basement can add valuable living space to your home, and your design is limited only by your budget and imagination. When going underground, the skys the limit!