DIY Basement Finish Average Cost Considerations

Discover the secrets to transforming your unfinished basement into a functional living space with our comprehensive guide. From assessing the project scope to planning, choosing materials wisely, and estimating overall costs, we’ve got you covered!

If you like this post you might also like: Basement Bedroom with Built-in Storage, Install a Window in Basement Bathroom, and Coastal Inspired Basement Kitchenette.

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Photo Credit: Shutterstock / Photographer: Kelly MacDonald

Embarking on a basement finishing project can significantly enhance your living space and add value to your home. This comprehensive guide will delve into the average cost of DIY basement finishing, covering essential aspects such as labor costs, square footage, materials, and more.

Understanding the financial implications is crucial, whether you’re converting your unfinished basement into a home office, gym, or entertainment area.

In the world of home improvement, few projects offer as much potential for transformation as finishing a basement. Whether you’re envisioning a cozy family den, a stylish entertainment space, or an additional bedroom, turning your basement into a functional and inviting area can significantly enhance the value and livability of your home. However, the prospect of a basement finish often comes with concerns about budget constraints. 

Join us as we turn your basement dreams into reality without the budget nightmares!

Basement Finish Average Cost!

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Photo Credit: Remodelaholic

There are many factors to consider when budgeting for a home improvement project, and a DIY basement refinish is dozens of projects rolled into one large project. This article summarizes what basement remodel costs you should consider and plan for.

In summary: A finished basement averages $50 per square foot, with the average basement remodel cost coming in at $75,000.

But what contributes to this basement finishing cost? And how can an intrepid DIYer use their skills to reduce that cost to make basement finishing more affordable?

Let’s dive in and discuss everything you should consider when budgeting for remodeling or finishing a basement living space. This may read a little more like a list of considerations, so please let us know in the comments if you have questions or need clarification.

Assessing the Scope of Your Project

Unfinished Basement Considerations

  • Detecting Damages and Issues: Begin by identifying any existing concerns in your basement. Water damage, mold, and foundation issues are common culprits that can derail your project if not addressed promptly. A thorough inspection will help you create a plan to tackle these challenges head-on.
  • Egress Window and Safety Measures: Check if your basement has a proper egress window for emergency exits. Safety should always be a priority, and installing or upgrading an egress window may be necessary to comply with building codes and ensure a secure living space.
  • Sump Pump Installation: Basements are susceptible to water accumulation, especially in regions prone to heavy rainfall or with a high water table. Assess the need for a sump pump installation to prevent water-related issues and maintain a dry, habitable space.
  • Radon Remediation: Depending on your home’s location.\, radon gas can be a concern; a quick Google search for states impacted by radon might be a good start. Radon is a gas created by the breakdown of rocks and soils. Be sure to have the space tested, and remediated if necessary before using the space regularly as radon can cause lung cancer.
  • Asbestos or lead paint: Depending on the age of your home, you may need to consider asbestos remediation and or lead paint encapsulation or removal. Any homes built before 1978 need to consider this and may need to test for these substances.
  • Framing Costs: Wall framing is typically calculated by linear foot, so you need to have good measurements for a good estimate of where you’ll be adding stud framed walls. An open floor plan with fewer dividing walls will cost less for framing.
  • Electrical Rough out: Depending on if the space has been used in any way, there may be very limited existing electrical work. This will need to be addressed. We talk more about this below in selecting finishes.
  • Plumbing Rough out: If you are planning to add plumbing for a laundry, bathroom or small kitchen this will be a very important task: either tying new plumbing into existing lines, or plumbing out all new work.
  • Insulation: Basements are nice in that general geothermal settings keep them at a relatively constant temperature year round, but often the space can feel cold, so proper HVAC and insulation will be very important. (We discuss this more below.)

Size of the Basement

  • The dimensions of your basement significantly influence the overall costs of your finishing project. Larger spaces entail more materials, extended labor hours, and potentially additional features. Understanding the size of your basement sets the foundation for accurate budgeting and planning.
  • Additionally if budget constraints are a huge concern, consider doing small spaces at a time rather than the whole space.
    • The caveat to this plan is this, when hiring professionals like a plumber or electrician, it may be more cost effective to have them rough out or finish the whole space at once, rather than coming and doing small portions repeatedly. This will really depend on the finish level of the space, but it is something to consider.

Structural Changes and Building Codes

  • Scope of Structural Changes: Define the extent of structural modifications required for your vision. Whether it’s adding walls, relocating utilities, or altering the layout, clarity on these aspects is crucial. Consider consulting with a structural engineer to ensure your plans align with the integrity of your home. You can also checkout this link from Apartment Therapy for more basement ideas.
  • Navigating Building Codes and Permits: Familiarize yourself with local building codes and regulations. Obtaining the necessary permits is non-negotiable and ensures that your DIY project is not only aesthetically pleasing but also compliant with safety standards. Failure to adhere to codes can result in costly setbacks and potential legal issues, especially when selling a property later.
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Planning Your DIY Basement Finish

Determining Square Footage

  1. Precise Measurements: Begin by accurately measuring the dimensions of your basement. Account for any nooks, crannies, and separate rooms. Precision in measurement is key to understanding the full scope of your project.
    • A laser measuring tool is worth the cost to ensure accurate measurements, quickly and easily recorded. This laser measure has great features and amazing reviews!
    • Start with sketching the basement measurements on graph paper and consider moving the measurements to a digital format, on SketchUp or other 3D design apps.
    • Double check all measurements. Inaccurate measurements can really cause huge problems with the future budget.
  2. Separate Room Considerations: If your basement comprises distinct rooms or areas, factor in each one individually. Whether you’re envisioning a cozy home office, a vibrant playroom, or a dedicated gym space, the layout and functionality of each room affect material needs and costs.

Consider Your Basement’s History

The worst thing that could happen is finishing your basement and then having a flood that destroys all the work you have done. If you have a history of seasonal flooding or other issues, be sure to address that, but also consider using product that will not be destroyed by a flood if possible.

For example, we have flooded our basement 2 times since finishing it. By installing tile in our basement, we have not had to remove any flooring when we have had problems. Considering using green board (water resistant drywall) or vinyl baseboards in places where you might have problems.

You do not want to create places for mold or mildew to grow, so really make sure you consider the history of your basement without rose colored glasses. If you suspect you may have some flooding in the future, then maybe the space could still be used but in different ways and more of a semi finished vibe. Do what is best and safest for your family with a reality-based plan.

Choosing Materials

  1. Flooring Options (Laminate, Vinyl, Hardwood, Tile, Carpet)
    • Laminate: Known for its affordability and versatility, laminate flooring is durable and resistant to scratches, moisture, and wear. It’s an excellent choice for high-traffic areas.
    • Vinyl: Vinyl flooring offers durability, water resistance, and easy maintenance. It comes in various styles, including luxury vinyl plank (LVP) and luxury vinyl tile (LVT), mimicking the look of hardwood or stone.
    • Hardwood: Hardwood flooring adds warmth and elegance to any space. While it’s more expensive than laminate or vinyl, hardwood is durable and can be refinished multiple times, increasing its lifespan. Keep in mind that in a basement setting you will need an engineered hardwood (not solid) and moisture will play a significant role in whether or not you should even attempt it. (I would personally steer clear of hardwood in a basement setting.)
    • Tile: Installing tile isn’t typical in a basement because it makes for a cold floor, but if you’re adding a basement laundry room or have concerns about flooding, ceramic tile is a durable option for a basement utility room. (We have had water issues in our personal basement and have opted for wood look tile, in some of the rooms and have been very happy with our choice.)
    • Carpet: While carpet is out of favor for style in living rooms and high traffic areas, it’s hard to beat carpet for comfort and warmth on basement floors. The additional layers of material add insulation over the concrete floor keep the space warmer, which is especially important for basement bedrooms. (In our daughter’s room, we chose carpet for our most recent basement finishing.)
  2. Lighting Fixtures:
    • Choose lighting fixtures that enhance the functionality and ambiance of each space in your basement. Consider recessed lighting for a clean, modern look or pendant lights for added visual interest if your ceilings are tall.
    • Opt for LED lighting options for energy efficiency and longevity. LED bulbs consume less energy, last longer, and produce less heat compared to traditional incandescent bulbs. Be sure it is a light that allows you to change the color temperature between 3000k incandescent yellow light – 6000k natural sun or blue daylight. So the light isn’t sterile and uncomfortable, and can be changed seasonally if necessary for those with seasonal lighting sensitivities.
    • See Justin and Cassity’s favorite low-clearance recessed light fixtures from their DIY basement finish.
  3. Electrical Systems and Wiring:
    • Ensure proper electrical wiring is installed throughout your basement to meet safety standards and accommodate your specific needs. Hire a licensed electrician to assess your electrical requirements and perform the installation.
    • Plan the placement of electrical outlets, switches, and lighting fixtures strategically to optimize functionality and convenience in each area of your basement.
    • The building code does have requirements for receptacle placements, so be sure to review those. In this day and age the more plugs the merrier. Consider installing USB charging plugs to make it easy to charge devices.
    • Another consideration is the amperage that is supplied to your house. This is the amount of electrical service you receive. In older houses you may have a lower amperage; for example ours at the Birch House is 100 amps, and at some point we really would like to update to 200 amps. Adding a lot more electrical load could cause problems to systems running and our electrical issues. A professional overview and talking to your service provider would be wise at the beginning of the project.
  4. Insulation and Waterproofing:
    • Invest in quality insulation to regulate temperature and improve energy efficiency in your basement. Proper insulation helps maintain a comfortable indoor environment and reduces heating and cooling costs.
    • Address waterproofing concerns to protect your basement against water damage and mold growth. Consider installing a vapor barrier, sump pump, and adequate drains and drainage system to keep moisture at bay.
    • Sound Barrier Considerations: If planning bedrooms in the basement, consider adding a sound proofing insulation to the ceiling of the room. We have used and like RockWool insulation which has both fire and soundproofing abilities.
  5. Wall Finishes (Drywall, Paneling, Paint):
    • Drywall: Drywall is a popular choice for finishing basement walls due to its affordability and versatility. It provides a smooth surface for painting or wallpapering and can help improve sound insulation.
    • Paneling: Wood paneling adds warmth and texture to basement walls, creating a cozy atmosphere. It comes in various styles, such as beadboard, shiplap, or tongue-and-groove, offering options to suit different design preferences.
    • Paint: Painting basement walls is a cost-effective way to add color and personality to the space. Choose moisture-resistant paint and consider using lighter colors to brighten up the area and make it feel more spacious.
  6. Basement Ceiling Treatments (Drywall, Suspended Ceiling, Exposed Beams):
    • Drywall: Finishing the ceiling with drywall provides a seamless and cohesive look throughout the basement. It allows for recessed lighting installation, covers ductwork, and can help improve acoustics.
    • Suspended Ceiling: Suspended or drop ceilings are a practical option for basements, allowing easy access to plumbing, electrical, and ductwork HVAC systems above. They come in various styles and can be customized with acoustic panels or decorative tiles. See how to DIY a beadboard drop ceiling here.
    • Exposed Beams: Exposing structural beams in the ceiling adds a rustic or industrial charm to the basement. Consider painting or staining the beams to enhance their visual appeal and coordinate with the overall design.
      • We did this in our Birch House basement, and from our personal experience, exposed ceiling beams are not a great idea for a basement bedroom, as sound transfers from the upstairs very readily, and may make sleeping difficult. It works great in a living room or home gym etc, but just consider the need for peace and quiet of the space if considering this option.
  7. Cabinetry and Storage Solutions:
  8. HVAC Systems and Ventilation:
    • Ensure proper HVAC system design and ventilation in your basement to maintain indoor air quality and comfort. Consult with HVAC professionals to determine the appropriate size and type of heating and cooling equipment for the space, especially in a utility room with a furnace or a basement laundry room with a washer and dryer.
    • Consider installing additional vents or air returns to ensure adequate airflow and temperature regulation throughout the basement.
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Photo Credit: Shutterstock / Photographer: My Krakenimages.com.

DIY vs. Hiring a Professional

As you venture deeper into your basement finishing project, a pivotal decision awaits – the choice between the hands-on approach of DIY and the convenience of hiring professionals.

In this segment, we’ll explore the average cost of labor, the benefits of DIY, and when it might be prudent to enlist the expertise of a general contractor.

Average Cost of Labor

  • Evaluate Labor Costs: Begin by assessing the average cost of labor for your specific project. Research local rates for skilled trades, such as carpenters, electricians, and plumbers. Understanding these costs provides a baseline for comparing the financial implications of DIY versus hiring professionals.
    • A good place to look might be the Thumbtack app, or Home Depot has list of local pros. Also, ask friends and neighbors for good references.
  • Weighing Pros and Cons: While DIY can be a cost-saving endeavor, certain tasks may demand professional expertise. Evaluate the pros and cons of each option, considering factors such as time commitment, skill requirements, and the complexity of the work at hand.

Benefits of DIY

We love the joy and satisfaction of accomplishing a project. But I want to be clear, that even as Remodelaholics we often will hire out portions of the projects we are working on. We don’t love plumbing work, and we have a great contactor for plumbing, and it is worth the time savings even if it costs more to use a professional.

So when considering the project think about the things you like to do, and then which things might greatly benefit from being done right and quickly.

  • Sense of Accomplishment: Tackling certain aspects of the project yourself can provide a profound sense of accomplishment. From framing walls to laying flooring, DIY endeavors allow you to witness the tangible fruits of your labor and creativity.
  • Potential Cost Savings: DIY can potentially reduce labor costs, especially for tasks that align with your skill set. Painting, installing trim, or assembling furniture are examples of areas where your hands-on involvement can contribute to budget brilliance.

READ: How to Plan a Home DIY Renovation Project to read Jenny’s experience and learn more about when to DIY vs when to hire a professional to plan and execute your project.

When to Hire a General Contractor or Subcontractors:

You can either hire a general contractor to manage the whole project and find good subcontractors. Depending on your local building code, you may be able to manage the subcontractors yourself (acting as the general contractor).

  • Structural Changes: Critical structural changes, such as adding or removing walls, should be approached with caution. A structural engineer may be needed to determine load-bearing walls, for example. Hiring a general contractor ensures that these modifications align with safety standards and building codes, preventing potential issues down the line.
  • Electrical and Plumbing Work: Tasks involving electrical and plumbing work demand a professional touch. Ensuring these elements meet safety standards is paramount. A licensed electrician or plumber can navigate the complexities of wiring, outlets, and pipes, along with HVAC and water heater consideration, providing peace of mind.
  • Compliance with Building Codes: At critical stages of your project, such as structural alterations or utility installations, hiring a general contractor becomes advisable. Their expertise ensures compliance with local building codes, avoiding costly setbacks and ensuring the long-term safety of your finished basement.
  • Building Permits: DIYers can apply for building permits with the local council or city offices, but depending on the local building codes and requirements, it may be worth hiring a professional to ensure the paperwork is in order. At a minimum, you may need to pay permit fees and schedule an inspector to come check your project at various points to ensure code compliance. This is a good practice for your peace of mind at the very least.

As you weigh the DIY approach against hiring a professional, consider the unique aspects of your project and your personal skill set.

Striking the right balance between hands-on involvement and professional expertise will pave the way for a basement finish that’s not only budget-conscious but also structurally sound and aesthetically pleasing.

Don’t forget to consider your time in this equation. If it would take you a week or even two (depending on time constraints) to finish the plumbing, maybe a professional that could do it in one day would be well worth the money and time saved.

We have found this to be true in several homes. A project that would have taken us weeks has taken a professional 1-2 days, and the cost has not been that much higher, considering that we would have to buy supplies and tools to accomplish the tasks.

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Photo Credit: Shutterstock / Photographer: Ground Picture

Financing Your Basement Finish

When financing your basement finishing project, what are your viable options for a loan and budgeting to stay within your desired expenses?

Here’s how to approach it:

  1. Financing: Research different lenders to find the best personal loan option for your needs. Consider factors such as interest rates, repayment terms, and any fees associated with the loan. Ensure that the monthly payments fit within your budget constraints to avoid financial strain.
    • For a personal loan or signature loan, talk to your bank or credit union.
    • A Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC) is like a credit card based on the equity of your home. You must have a plan in place to pay this off before starting and the means making payments.
    • A cash-out refinance allows you to have access to cash by refinancing your home’s mortgage. When mortgage rates are low, this can be a good consideration; when rates are high, a cash-out refinance could significantly increase your monthly payments and cost a lot of money over the life of the loan.
    • Cash: Consider making small steps toward finishing your space over time with cash. Get creative with garage sales, bake sales, or small side hustles if necessary to speed up the time it takes if your budget is tight. Use your tax return, sacrifice a vacation fund, or tighten up your budget in other ways to free up cash for a basement finish or remodel.
  2. Budgeting Tips: Effective budgeting is key to managing costs throughout your basement finishing project. Track all expenses, from materials to labor to permits, to keep a clear understanding of where your money is going. Prioritize essential elements of the project, such as structural improvements and safety features, while considering optional upgrades carefully.
    • ALWAYS have a planned buffer for unforeseen expenses, 10% minimum. This rule also extends to finishes; a 10% buffer of tile, for example, is wise. You may be able to return the extra after, but if you don’t buy it at the same time initially they maybe slightly different colors if they aren’t from the same initial lot. These buffers should be added at first to your initial budget so that you aren’t surprised in the middle of the project.
  3. Energy Cost Considerations: Investing in energy-efficient features can lead to long-term savings on utility bills. Consider incorporating LED lighting, energy-efficient HVAC systems, and proper insulation into your basement finish. While these upgrades may require an initial investment, they can pay off over time through reduced energy consumption and lower utility costs, and added comfort in the space.

By exploring financing options, implementing effective budgeting tips, and considering energy cost considerations, you can ensure that your basement finishing project is both financially feasible and environmentally sustainable.

Setting a Realistic Budget

Setting a realistic budget for a basement finishing project involves considering various factors such as the average cost per square foot, room-specific requirements, and a contingency fund.

Here’s a breakdown:

  1. Average Cost per Square Foot:
    • Research suggests that the average cost per square foot for basement finishing in the United States ranges from $30 to $100 or more, depending on factors like location, materials, and complexity.
    • Let’s assume a mid-range cost of $50 per square foot as a benchmark for calculations.
  2. Room-Specific Requirements:
    • Identify the specific rooms you plan to include in the basement finish (e.g., bedrooms, home office, home gym, entertainment area).
    • Estimate additional costs based on the requirements of each room. For example, electrical work, custom storage solutions, resilient flooring, proper ventilation, lighting fixtures, plumbing (if adding a bathroom), appliances, etc.
    • Allocate funds accordingly for each room based on its unique needs.
  3. Contingency Fund:
    • It’s advisable to set aside around 10-20% of the total project cost as a contingency fund or buffer.
    • This contingency fund will help cover unexpected expenses such as structural issues, permit delays, material price increases, forgotten items, or design changes.

Example Budget Calculation:

Assuming a basement size of 800 square feet and planning to finish it with a home office, gym, and entertainment area:

  1. Average Cost per Square Foot: $50
    • Total Estimated Cost: 800 sq ft x $50/sq ft = $40,000
  2. Room-Specific Requirements:
    • Home Office: $7,000
    • Gym: $8,000
    • Entertainment Area: $10,000
    • Total Room-Specific Costs: $25,000
  3. Contingency Fund (15% of Total Estimated Cost):
    • Contingency Fund: 15% x $40,000 = $6,000

Total Estimated Budget:

  • Total Estimated Cost: $40,000
  • Room-Specific Costs: $25,000
  • Contingency Fund: $6,000

Grand Total Budget: $40,000 (Estimated Cost) + $25,000 (Room-Specific Costs) + $6,000 (Contingency Fund) = $71,000

You can also get accurate quotes for your basement remodeling project here at Local Remodeling Quotes or Apex Construction.

Additional Costs to Consider

The types of finishes you choose will be one of the biggest factors in cost. The more expensive the finish the more cost, obviously. If there is a finish the you must have or dream of having, but the budget cannot cover the cost currently, consider upgrading or adding decorative finishes over time.

This can be a way that you have the space available to use now, while adding that dream wallpaper or expensive backsplash down the road.

You may need to think about what finishes cannot be installed while you wait, so you aren’t paying twice for an item that you plan on replacing.

For example, if you would like an expensive LVP flooring but cannot currently afford it, why not consider painting the concrete and using area rugs in the mean time while you save for that dream flooring. (This may not work with every surface, or use, but is definitely a strategy you might use to get things done, while saving money more immediately)

  1. Lighting Fixtures: Illumination is a crucial aspect of any space. Consider the cost of lighting fixtures and ensure they align with the ambiance you envision for your finished basement. LED recessed lights, pendant lights, or track lighting can add both functionality and style.
  2. Electrical Systems: If your basement finish involves additional electrical work, factor in the cost of wiring, outlets, and any specialized electrical requirements. Consulting with a professional electrician ensures a safe and compliant installation.
  3. Cosmetic Changes: Beyond the structural elements, budget for cosmetic changes such as paint, flooring, and trim. These details contribute to the overall aesthetics of your finished basement and add the finishing touch to your DIY masterpiece.

By meticulously calculating square footage and setting a realistic budget based on this information, you can ensure that your basement project stays within financial constraints while meeting your design goals and functional needs.

At Real Estate Finished Basement
Photo Credit: Remodelaholic

Basement Finishing Q&As

What is the most expensive part of finishing a basement?

The highest costs when finishing a basement are structural changes (especially if you need to alter the foundation – such as adding egress windows) followed by plumbing and waterproofing concerns.

What is the hardest part of finishing a basement?

Many of the technical issues that come with finishing a basement involve moisture issues. Beyond that environmental concern, the biggest headaches with planning a basement finishing project typically have to do with layout and space constraints: low ceilings, awkward ductwork or protruding pipes, necessary support columns in inconvenient locations, etc.

Does finishing a basement add home value? Is finishing a basement worth the money?

Yes and probably yes. First off: finishing your basement can add value to your home while you live in it, by making your home a more hospitable place with the space you need to work, play, and sleep (or by adding income to your property if you can rent the space or list it on Airbnb).

A finished basement can also add value to your home for resale. Basement square footage doesn’t always count in total home square footage, but the added space will certainly add value for potential homebuyers. The investment return (ROI) on a finished basement is usually around 75% of the initial cost, depending on the finishes and the local housing market.

Consult a local realtor with experience working in your area to know really understand what changes might add to your home’s overall value. But also consider the benefits you will receive from the added useful space, while living there and using it. Will it save you from moving? If the return on investment feels less than worth it, factor in these considerations.

Conclusion

In conclusion, embarking on a DIY basement finishing project requires a blend of creativity, meticulous planning, and smart budgeting.

By understanding the average costs associated with materials, labor, and permits, homeowners can set realistic budgets that align with their financial constraints while achieving their vision for a functional and aesthetically pleasing basement space.

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Cassity Kmetzsch started Remodelaholic after graduating from Utah State University with a degree in Interior Design. Remodelaholic is the place to share her love for knocking out walls, and building everything back up again to not only add function but beauty to her home. Together with her husband Justin, they have remodeled 6 homes and are working on a seventh. She is a mother of four amazing girls. Making a house a home is her favorite hobby.

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