Add Value to Your Home With a Finished Basement

We all dream of expanding our living space with a finished basement. However, you may be unsure about the costs involved and the best process to go about it.

Finished BasementView in gallery
Hart & Lock Design

We are here to help you get started in the process to finish the basement and unpack all of those extra boxes you have been storing. 

While this is not a “how-to” article, it includes the initial ideas that you need to consider before you begin the process to increase your habitable space. Also, we will bring you some pictures of amazing finished basement space to get your own fires of creativity burning.

Finished Basement 2View in gallery
Meme Hill

Finished Basement Value and Costs

The value vs the cost of finished basements is a question that is answered in a different way for each person. The answer depends on your lifestyle, the years that you will live or have lived in your house, and your budget constraints.

Project Value

Most homebuyers are looking for a house with a finished basement. Therefore, if you finish your basement, you can stand out among the crowd of potential houses for sale.

According to the National Association of Realtors Remodeling Impact Report, you receive back a little less than 70% of the cost you put into finishing your basement back when you sell your home.

Even more than that, it increases your livable space so that you will enjoy your own home more.

Project ValueView in gallery
Miter Renovations

Overall Project Costs

There are many factors that you need to consider regarding the overall cost of finishing a basement. These include the permits that you need to make sure you follow local building codes, basement flooring, basement walls, the basement ceiling, plumbing, and the cost of the items you need to finish the space.

These costs will vary according to the size and scope of your basement project. For example, some basements may have areas that are finished in part that will not be as expensive as unfinished basements to complete.

Overall Project CostsView in gallery
Pure Wow

According to Forbes Magazine, the national average cost to finish a basement is around $20,000. However, depending on the exact basement remodel the costs can range from $3,000 up to $80,000 or $7-$23 per square foot including labor and materials. Also, you can break the costs up by item. The following list of costs for finishing a basement is not exhaustive, but it does hit most of the major items.

Cost Breakdown

  • Contractors – Finishing the basement will cost more when you use professional contractors for every step. The average cost for a general contractor to oversee your basement finish is $800 to $2,212. Rather than hire all specific contractors to do each project, you can save money on the overall project cost by doing some of the work yourself.
  • Permits – Many of the projects like plumbing work and running electricity require permits and safety inspection. These will cost around $1,600, or between $1,200 and $2,000.
  • Basement flooring – Basement flooring varies depending on what materials you use to finish the floor. However, the average cost for flooring is $3,000 with a range between $1,500-$4,500.
  • Basement walls – Framing in your basement will cost between $7-$16 per linear foot. To have drywall installed in your basement costs between $1,000-$3,000.
  • Basement ceiling – Depending on the ceiling height and type, most people install ceiling panels or drywall. Finishing a ceiling costs around $1,600 or $2 per square footage.
  • Electrical and light fixtures – These costs range from $3,000-$12,000.
  • Plumbing and fixtures – Plumbing work is not needed in every basement remodel. However, if you do need plumbing, these costs range from $2,500-$15,000.
  • Waterproofing – Moisture in a basement can lead to musty smells and worse, so this is an important step in the finishing process. Waterproofing can range from $500-$3,500 as there is a range of needs from just waterproofing to installing sump pumps and drains.
  • Insulation – Insulation costs vary depending on the type. This cost ranges from less expensive options like fiberglass batts for as little as $300 to $2,600 for spray foam insulation.
  • Egress window and doors – Basements that have a bedroom must have at least one egress window or door. Framing and installing an egress window or door can range from $1,000-$7,000.

Basement Finishing Considerations

Cost BreakdownView in gallery
Farm Fresh Therapy

People begin a project like finishing the basement with different goals in mind. It is helpful to think about these goals to decide how you want to complete your project.

Scope of the Project

When a person says basement finishing project vs. renovating a basement vs. basement remodeling project, they might mean the same thing. However, the scope of these projects is different. Finishing a basement implies that you have an unfinished basement that is bare and needs to be “finished” from the floor to the ceiling.

Scope of the ProjectView in gallery
Emily’s Project List

The term renovation means that they have a finished basement that needs to be redone from top to bottom. This will require demolition and construction. Remodeling a basement might mean updating just a few things.

Uses of the Finished Basement

Uses of the Finished BasementView in gallery
The Handmade Home

Think through the ways you are going to use the area to determine how you will layout your space and the plumbing and electrical needs.

  • In-law suite – Make sure that you have room for a bedroom, kitchen or kitchenette, and a bathroom. If you have the room, a comfy place like a living room or office is helpful.
  • Kids hang-out room – Consider the age of your kids and their needs in a recreational room. Do you want to create a space for study and for play? Do you need to have a bathroom in the basement to avoid the constant walking upstairs?
  • Home theater – When planning for a home theater in the basement, you want to be sure that you have the right electrical capabilities for the effect that you want to create. Also, you may want a wet bar or kitchenette so that you don’t have to go upstairs to refill your snacks and drinks.
  • Home office or bedroom – This requires the least amount of extra options like plumbing unless you want to install a bathroom too.
  • Laundry room – Finishing the laundry room in the basement gives you more flexibility than working with the existing layout upstairs. Laundry room needs to be equipped with sufficient plumbing and electricity for the dryer. Also, make sure to install water resistant flooring because of possible moisture leakages from the washing machine.
  • Exercise room – For exercise rooms, the biggest concern is electricity for ventilation like fans and for stereo systems and a TV if desired.

Lighting concerns

Lighting concernsView in gallery

Because of their location, most basements do not have extensive windows nor ample natural light. Thus, many basements have a well-earned reputation for looking dark and dreary. Added light sources help to mitigate all these dark corners.

However, it is important to think of the overall project when considering what kinds of light to use. You need to consider the function of the basement area to decide on lighting sources.

For example, an exercise room will have different lighting needs than a home theater. Layering accent, task, and ambient sources of light is the way to achieve the most effective result.

Ceiling varieties

Ceiling varietiesView in gallery
Cherrington Chatter

There are two main types of basement ceiling: suspended and solid. With suspended ceilings, you place tiles into a grid-like frame that is hung below the floor joists. Many people find benefit in this type of ceiling because it hides exposed pipes and wires. This is also an option that people favor if they require soundproofing as acoustic tiles are a great way to muffle sound.

Most solid ceilings are drywall, though wood and plaster ceiling are also options. Some people prefer this option because it looks less “like a basement” than floor tiles. In addition, there are many decorative solid ceiling options like shiplap and wood beams that have become popular with farmhouse and rustic style design.

Basement Flooring Types

Basement Flooring TypesView in gallery

There are several flooring types to consider. Most basements have concrete floors, and this must be the first item that you address. Make sure that it is level, without cracks, and dry before you proceed with basement flooring.

Flooring That You Can Install Without a Subfloor

Concrete – If you want to save money, you can paint or use a layer of epoxy on the concrete floor without any need for a subfloor. Paint is less expensive than epoxy but not as durable. Some people find that this option feels cold and austere, but you can soften the floor with the strategic use of large rugs if you desire. There are both hard and more pliable floor types.

Ceramic or porcelain tile – Ceramic and porcelain tiles are a good option for basement flooring as there are a wide array of prices for every budget. Also, there are tile styles for every taste from sleek marble-like tiles to rustic slate-like or terracotta. Another advantage of tile is that it can be installed onto concrete floors without the need of a subfloor between. Tile prices range from around $.50-$25 per square foot.

Flooring Varieties That Need a Subfloor

Vinyl – There are two broad categories of vinyl flooring: sheet vinyl and luxury vinyl tiles. Sheet vinyl is an inexpensive option that creates a floor without seams. This type of floor has a warmer feel than tile or solid concrete, though it may not wear as well over time. Luxury vinyl tiles mimic the look of stone and wood and are a resilient type of floor. However, luxury vinyl is expensive and because it has seams, it might have moisture leakage. Sheet vinyl is $.75-$4 per square foot, and vinyl tiles are $2-$7 per square foot.

Engineered wood – Engineered wood, unlike solid hardwood, is a good option for basement flooring. This floor has a thin level of hardwood on the top with a composite layer on the bottom. These are fashioned into interlocking wood planks. This type of floor is perfect for a high-end basement look. However, this is one of the most expensive types of basement flooring available. Engineered wood floor is $4-$7 per square foot.

Rubber – Rubber tiles are a good option for basement flooring. Many people value rubber in workout rooms and playrooms because it is more pliable than concrete or tile. However, like tile and concrete it stands up well to moisture and is easy to install. This is one of the more expensive basement flooring options and many people react to the strong smell of rubber.

Carpet – There are two main types of carpet flooring: wall-to-wall carpet and carpet tiles. Both work well in a basement, though carpet tiles are more flexible and easier to remove if needed. Carpet is valued in a basement because it is soft to the touch and makes the area feel cozier. However, carpet is not a good option if you have any moisture problems in your basement.

Finished Basement Ideas

Now that we have discussed some of the foundational elements of refinishing basements. We have rounded up some amazing ideas from other people’s newly finished basement projects.

Bright Colors in the Basement

Bright Colors in the BasementView in gallery
The Handmade Home

People think of basements as dark and dreary, but this basement defies all stereotypes. The bright colors of the decor and finishings make the room feel airy and bright. Also, the vintage style light fixture radiates off the light blue and white paneled ceiling creating a cozy glow.

Farmhouse Basement Finishing Ideas

Farmhouse Basement Finishing IdeasView in gallery

If farmhouse is your vibe, there are great ways to bring this style into your basement spaces. Consider using shiplap on the walls and adding exposed beams throughout. In addition, choose a flooring that works with this style including engineered hardwood, luxury vinyl tiles that mimic hardwood, or a slate-like tile option.

Cozy Sleeping Nook

Cozy Sleeping NookView in gallery
Meme Hill

This basement utilized every area in this basement including the space below the stairs. This is a great way to add some extra space for slumber parties and overflow guest space. Also, notice that this basement area has a cozy and bright style due to the light walls, textured furnishings and layered accent, and ambient lighting.

Luxury Basement Playroom

Luxury Basement PlayroomView in gallery
Cherrington Chatter

With a playroom like this in your basement, your kids could play for hours without ever coming up for air. Notice the features of the basement finishes beyond the playhouse and the slide. There is carpet to provide a soft landing and recessed can lights to brighten every dark corner.

Stylish Wet Bar

Stylish Wet BarView in gallery
Classic Cottages LLC

This wet bar has a classic but versatile style with the clean and straight-lined cabinets and the textured tile backsplash. This small wet bar has everything you need to complement a home theater or hang-out space. The lighting is effective as it highlights the shelves and the area under the shelves to create a focal point on the wall.

Simple Finished Basement Ideas

Simple Finished Basement IdeasView in gallery
Emily’s Project List

If you don’t have the money for all the bells and whistles, you can still create a cozy basement space on a tight budget. The owner has turned the exposed floor joists into a feature by painting them black and stringing fairy lights across them. They left the concrete floor and made it cozy with a large area rug and cute furnishings.

Wine Storage in the Basement

Wine Storage in the BasementView in gallery
D Squared Construction, LLC

While people may assume that basements are perfect for wine, this is not always the case. Wine needs to have a stable temperature, good insulation, and low humidity. However, basements also have factors that are perfect for wine including darkness and natural coolness. If you are going to store wine in the basement, make sure to build a room that will mitigate the negative aspects for the best quality storage.

Modern Finished Basement

Modern Finished BasementView in gallery
Bearded Builders

This space is proof that basements can look open and bright. There are several factors contributing to this look: high ceilings, open floor plan, large windows, and sleek and modern finishings. One reason that this basement look is effective is the juxtaposition between white ceilings and walls with the textured wood additions to balance the lightness.

Collection Display in a Finished Basement

Collection Display in a Finished BasementView in gallery
FBC Remodel

If you have a collection or hobby that is taking up too much extra space in your current living space, it might be a good reason to finish a basement. This owner used their basement to create a music room and as a place to display their electric guitars. Track lighting accents the collection while the decorative ambient lighting in the ceiling trays illuminates the overall room.

Polished Concrete Floor in a Finished Basement

Polished Concrete Floor in a Finished BasementView in gallery
Pure Wow

Concrete floors have become a popular basement flooring option in the current era. They are inexpensive and look amazing. This basement has a modern rustic style that works well with the polished concrete. The concrete floors have a subtle swirled pattern that give the floor visual texture to make it more interesting.

Basement Snack Area

Basement Snack AreaView in gallery
Farm Fresh Therapy

You don’t have to install plumbing to have an effective snack area. This area has a small cabinet with a beverage fridge. The cabinet works well on the low wall. It has ample counter space and storage to store quick food items. The lighting highlights the area and creates a focal point with the hanging pendant light.

Extra Storage in the Basement

Extra Storage in the BasementView in gallery
The Guide

Everyone can use extra storage. This basement finishing project shows us a seamless way to provide more storage space without taking up too much square footage. This builder has designed storage into the wall that separates the stairs from the room. The shiplap molding throughout the room minimizes the look of the built-in cabinet to create a look that is seamless.

Home Theater in the Basement

Home Theater in the BasementView in gallery
Matrix Basement Systems, Inc

The goal of many basement finishes is to install a dark place to watch movies. This home theater has an opulent style magnified by the textured walls and lit tray ceilings. The accent lighting in the trays provides a level of lighting that is perfect for movie watching.

A Dark Accent Wall

A Dark Accent WallView in gallery
Miter Renovations

Some basements benefit from darker color accents. That is the case in this basement design. These owners have added a charcoal shiplap wall to give the basement a more sophisticated and modern vibe. However, the dark wall is balanced by the light wood floor and white walls which keep the style from looking heavy.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)FAQ

What should you do before finishing a basement?

There are several preliminary steps that you need to take before finishing a basement. First, you want to check the building codes in your area to identify areas that you have to mitigate. Next, check the foundation walls and the floor in the basement to see if you have cracks or water leakage issues that you should address. Then, ask yourself questions about the use of the space to determine what the layout of the basement rooms and the electrical and plumbing needs.

Where do you start when finishing a basement?

Once you have completed all the preliminary steps for finishing a basement, you will begin with framing the walls.

What does it mean to have a finished basement?

A finished basement means that it is finished to the same level as the upstairs space. In other words, there are the systems that operate in the basement as upstairs like electrical, plumbing, and HVAC units as well as filled out walls, ceilings, and floors.

Does a finished basement count as square footage?

In general, a finished basement that is below ground level cannot be counted toward the overall square footage of your home. However, finished basements still add to the value of your home for potential home buyers and for your enjoyment.

Finished Basement: Conclusion

There are many reasons for finishing a basement including adding to your home’s value as well as increased enjoyment in the extra living space. However, this is a big step for many people.

Therefore, it is important to become as educated as you can about the steps and the decisions that you will make in the process.

This knowledge will help you avoid mistakes that will cost you money and valuable time and help you make the most of this amazing space.