The Best Basement Renovations for Your Home Improvement Buck

Jennifer Noonan | Improvement Center Columnist | October 26, 2016

An unfinished basement is a blank slate of possibilities. There are so many potential uses for that extra square footage: bedrooms, bathrooms, media rooms, or home gyms. If you do it right, you can recoup up to 70% of your investment when it comes time to sell your home. Specific return on investment is a constantly shifting target, and depends on economic factors, as well as region and neighborhood. So, before starting any project, do your homework and study the comps in your area. These basement remodeling projects, however, will give a boost to both your resale value and your lifestyle.


1. Extra Bedroom

If your space adheres to local fire codes and zoning laws, you can add an extra bedroom when finishing your basement. An extra bedroom not only adds value to your home, but it expands the subset of interested buyers, making your home more marketable overall. On average, the cost of refinishing a basement comes in around $25 - $50/square foot, with a bedroom addition landing in the lower end of that range. Adding a bedroom to your basement utilizes the existing footprint of your home, making it a less expensive project than putting an addition onto your house to gain the same space. Zoning laws in local municipalities vary, but in general, to be considered a legal bedroom, a space must have a door that closes, a window, and a closet. Having extra space for guests, or for a growing family, can make a big impact on your enjoyment of your home.

2. Bathroom

If you're creating new living space by finishing your basement, a bathroom will be high on the priority list. No one wants to hike upstairs to visit the loo, especially in the middle of the night. You should plan to spend between $15,000 - $20,000 for a new bathroom, and realize that there will likely be significant plumbing required to tie everything into sewer lines, etc.. The good news, though, is you can recoup 80% or more of what you spend. You can lower the cost of a bathroom addition by installing a half bath, or just a corner shower, instead of a full bathroom with a tub. Whatever you spend, a bathroom in your finished basement will enhance the convenience and enjoyment of that space overall.

3. Bar/Kitchenette

It's a big bonus to be able to entertain in your finished basement without needing to haul up and down the stairs to prep and clean. You can spend anything you want - from $1000 to $20K - on a basement wet bar or kitchenette, depending on the space you have to start with, and the finishes you want to use. First, be sure your plans are legal. Many municipalities don't allow second kitchens, so a wall of cabinets with a sink and microwave might be your best bet, minimizing your cost and maximizing your return.

4. Media Room

The lack of natural light in most basements makes them ideal for media rooms and high-definition theaters. If this kind of entertainment appeals to you, you can expect to spend anywhere from $1,200, at the low end, to $16,000 and beyond if you want professional grade equipment. You won't recoup the cost of the equipment when you sell, but remember, you can take that equipment and the furniture with you. What will appeal to future buyers is the infrastructure -- the wiring for audio, the lighting, and the cable connections.

5. Home Gym

A home gym doesn't have the broad appeal at resale that a bathroom, bedroom, or wet bar does. But you can increase its marketability by making it flexible. In other words, create a space that can be used in other ways, like perhaps a home office. Good lighting, storage, and electrical/cable access help potential buyers see beyond the exercise equipment, to envision the space in ways that suit their personal needs. While you may not recoup your construction or equipment investment when you sell your home, if you really use your home gym instead of paying for a gym membership, you'll save all the money you spent, and then some.

When considering any home improvement, keep your family's needs at the forefront. While it's important to keep resale in mind, the most important goal is to positively impact your lifestyle.

About the Author

A confessed DIY junkie, Jennifer writes about home improvement, gardening, upcycling, and all things do-it-yourself. She lives in Delaware with her husband and daughters, where she is ardently teaching the next generation how to use power tools.