How to Remodel a Basement

Jeffrey Anderson | Improvement Center Columnist | December 13, 2011

Finishing a basement is a great way to breathe new life into your home, and the news that you may be able to recoup much of the cost involved makes it a win-win proposition. Remodeling Magazine's 2010-2011 Annual Cost vs. Value Survey estimates that the national average cost for basement remodeling is about $64,519. Homeowners should expect to receive about 70 percent of that expenditure back when their house is sold. So how do you get started on changing that drab unfinished basement into your family's favorite part of the house?

Basement remodeling considerations

The three big questions that need to be answered before finishing a basement are these:

  1. What types and sizes of rooms do you hope to add?
  2. How much is the project likely to cost, and what's your budget?
  3. Who's going to do the work?

The size and interior layout of your unfinished basement can play a part in how the area is finished, but in many cases the possibilities are endless. Some families are happy with creating a large rec room for gathering to watch movies or sporting events and maybe adding an additional bath for convenience. You may want to fit in a guest bedroom, create a home office or set aside some space for that work shop you've always wanted.

The budget you're working with can also determine the extravagance of your basement remodeling. Finishing one large room is usually a little less expensive than several smaller rooms. If you plan to add a bath or an intricate wet bar, you can expect your costs to begin edging up. The location of your electrical panel box, existing plumbing lines and whether you have to supplement your HVAC system can also affect your costs. If you have a limited budget, you may want to do your basement remodeling in phases.

How can a contractor help when finishing a basement?

If you're an experienced DIYer, you can probably finish your own basement and save a little on labor costs. However, a professional contractor can often offer cost-saving suggestions and devote more time to the project. A few other items a qualified contractor brings to the table:

  1. a knowledge of building codes
  2. an understanding of the most efficient use of space
  3. the ability to accurately estimate costs
  4. experience with supplier lead times and scheduling sub-contractors
  5. the capability of providing permit drawings

Finishing a basement can be a great way to achieve more living space without having to move, and it may prove to be a good investment as well.