Quick Overview – How Much Does it Cost to Remodel a Basement?

The average basement remodeling cost ranges from $6,000 to $19,000, according to a poll taken for the year 2018. Homeowners spend an average of between $10,000 to $30,000 on major basement remodel ideas. On average, it costs between 10 and 35 dollars per square foot to renovate a basement.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, an estimated 204,000 single family homes completed in 2017, had a full or partial basement. 

Why does this matter?

An unfinished basement provides quite a lot of storage space, however, it does not add any value to your home. On the other hand, a renovated basement can not only provide a place to relax, cook, play, and entertain guests, but will also add significant value to your home. 

Why Undergo a Basement Renovation?

There are two primary benefits to finishing your basement: 

Add usable space to your home – 

This could include an additional bedroom or a “guest bed”, make the basement into a game room, create an entertaining space, develop space for a fitness area or home gym, transform the basement into an in-law suite for an older child or to rent out for additional income, add a laundry room if you don’t already have one, build shelves for more storage

Increase the overall value of your home (resale value) – 

At this point, it’s clear that renovating your basement holds a lot of value for both potential buyers, and current homeowners. According to Remodeling Magazine’s 2019 survey, on average, basement renovations offer 73% (and higher!) ROI. So, renovate your basement and enjoy it while you’re living there, then enjoy the ROI you’ll get once you move out. It’s a win-win.

What Should You Include In a Basement Renovation?

Alright, so you’ve finally decided to renovate your basement. But… where do you start?

Firstly, it’s a good idea to add a solid ceiling to your basement finishing project. Some basements already have a ceiling, or drop ceilings, but if your basement doesn’t have one, it’s a good idea to apply a ceiling using drywall or decorative ceiling tiles. An unfinished basement usually has concrete floor, replacing that with hardwood floors or carpet can make the area feel more welcoming (we’ll get to covering more about concrete floor and replacement ideas).  

To begin, you’ll need to determine how you’re going to use the basement living space. Consider the square footage you’ll have access to down there. What do you need in your home? Are you missing a proper laundry room, or a guest bedroom? What do you want in your home? Would you benefit from having a home gym? If you opt for a home theater/entertainment space, how often would you actually use the space? Have you considered the idea of creating a man cave in your basement? Many homeowners like to build a wine cellar or wet bar in their basement, as the temperature downstairs is naturally cooler than upstairs. Just a few questions to help get your creative juices flowing.

Now that you’ve decided what you’re going to use the basement space for, you need to assess what elements and/or pieces you want to include in the renovation. This includes elements you absolutely have to have, or pieces you’ve wanted in your own home for ages – you’ll finally have space for it all!

Keep in mind, these elements may consist of brand new items, OR fixtures that you already own/pick up at your local thrift store and spruce-up a bit! Upgrading older furniture and fixtures can be a lot of fun, plus, you can customize the items to meet your exact “design vision”.

Here are the most common elements used in basement renovations:

New (or Refurbished) Flooring – Generally speaking, most unfinished basements in U.S. homes feature concrete floors. You always have the option of painting or staining the concrete, but that would entirely depend on what you’re planning on using your newly renovated basement space for. Be thorough when deciding what type of floor you want to install. An example: If you’re aiming for a cozy home theater to host parties with friends and family, concrete floors may be a little too “cold”, as well as unsafe for younger children, in this situation. On the other hand, if you’re planning on designing a home gym, you could paint or stain the concrete, then lay yoga mats for cushion while you get your sweat on.

Updated Lighting – When it comes to underground spaces (the basement, for example), built-in lighting features are a must. Even if you’re able to get some natural light into the space, you should still consider investing in proper light fixtures. Some homeowners choose track lighting, which can be effective in many spaces. That said, recessed lighting is considered ideal in spaces such as the basement, where ceilings are lower. You can avoid creating corner shadows in your space by placing the recessed lights about 3 feet away from all walls. 

Insulation – If you’re a homeowner, you already know how quickly the energy bill adds up each month. You’ll save a chunk of change by ensuring the basement insulation is installed properly. Overall, proper insulation allows you to be in better control of the temperature in the space, minimize water damage and flooding problems, and reduce your energy consumption (which your wallet will thank you for later). Foam insulation is the fastest installation method, and is great at reducing moisture problems, but it can cost more than standard insulation. In fact, did you know that properly installed insulation can lower your monthly heating and cooling bill by 40%. 

Windows – Face it… basements tend to feel dark and claustrophobic, as they generally have little to no natural light. This is particularly true for basements without any windows. Install an egress window during your basement renovation for some added natural light. Want another reason to invest in at least an egress window? It is required by almost all city building codes, as an emergency exit route. So, like it or not, you’ll need that window in order to meet your city codes. Trust Us when we say – you’ll be glad you added the window. It’s amazing what such a small window can do for a dark space, to brighten and freshen it up.

Plumbing – If you’re thinking of adding a bathroom, laundry room, or working kitchen in your basement renovation, you’ll need to employ a professional plumber. When it comes to adding plumbing in a basement, or any space below ground level, the process becomes more complex. This is due to the fact that you may need to have an up-flushing system, or a sewage-ejector system if your current pipe system runs above your basement. These projects aren’t quick or easy to complete – be prepared to pay extra money, and spend extra time, towards your basement renovation.

Furniture, Fixtures, and Decorations Ahhh… Now we’re to everyone’s favorite part! Homeowners find decorating their renovated spaces to be the most enjoyable part of the process, and we’re not surprised. It is fun! By selecting the decor and furniture pieces to put into your newly renovated bathroom, you’re given the opportunity to stamp on a bit of your own personal touch to the space. Of course, in regards to ROI, you’d be smart to choose furniture in the mid-range price point (or better yet, lower than mid-range). You can still make your finished basement a nice and enjoyable place to be, without spending a pretty penny on decor and furniture. 

HVAC and Utilities – When it comes to HVAC and water heaters, it’s safe to assume you already have them. However, if you live in an older home, these units are likely in need of replacement. The basement remodel is the perfect opportunity to buy new HVAC and/or water heater units. Another note – if these units are currently out in the open in your home, it may be more aesthetically pleasing to relocate the units to a more concealed area. 

Storage – Even if you aren’t planning on renovating the basement specifically to create a large storage room, you can use any additional space leftover after the remodel to install shelves for added storage. If you’ll be installing the shelves yourself instead of your general contractors, be sure to drill into the studs of the wall. This is essential in order to establish solid shelving. 

Why Determining a Renovation Budget & Apply for Permits

At this point, you’ve most likely decided what you want to renovate your basement into. Now, you’ll need to determine an appropriate budget within your means, hire general contractors (if needed), and start applying for permits.

Budgeting Advice for Basement Renovations

A large factor that will play a part in how much you spend on your basement renovation, is how long you’re planning on living in your home. If you’ll be selling the house within the next 2-5 years, it may affect how much you money you pour into the renovation (however, finishing your basement will add quite a lot of extra value to your home). According to recent polls, the average homeowner spends anywhere between $5,000 to $20,000 on their basement renovation. 

In order to keep costs down, consider the following budget tips:

  • This one is more helpful than you’d think – be clear and specific regarding the scope of your renovation project from the start, and do your very best to avoid deviating from it
  • Do not spend more than 15-20% of your home’s total value on your basement renovation project. The only exception to this tip is if you are planning on living in your home for at least another 5 years
  • Opt for an open concept, as open spaces cost much less to renovate versus multiple rooms, plus the cost to install walls can be pricey 
  • Be money smart – don’t splurge on items you cannot afford. In 2017, the use of credit cards for home renovation increased by 23%. Don’t spend what you don’t have
  • Organic materials are great for some home renovation projects, but the basement is NOT one of them. Natural/organic products don’t work well for basement remodels due to the fact that they are more prone to mold growth