Finished basement with mini home theater.

How To Finish Your Basement: A Beginner’s Guide

Emma Tomsich8-minute read
UPDATED: May 30, 2023

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When you’re in your basement, what do you see? Is it a place that fills you with joy, or does it look a bit more like the set of a horror film? If the walls and floors are made of concrete, the pipes are exposed, or the air is damp and musty, it may be time to start thinking about finishing your basement.

Finishing the basement is often at the bottom of the priorities list for a homeowner because it’s used as a storage space for unused furniture, seasonal clothes, decorations and sentimental knickknacks. However, your basement can be much more than an oversized storage unit or laundry room.

Transforming the dingy underbelly of your home into a livable space may sound like a drain on your time and money, but if done correctly, finishing your basement can add value and extra living space to your home.

What Is The Best Way To Finish A Basement? Preparation Tips

Basement renovation projects can be tedious and may require a lot of work depending on the basement’s condition and structure. Before you begin the task of finishing your basement, you should assess the space. Here are a few things you can do:

  • Learn whether you have any code violations. It’s important to know if renovating your basement would be a code violation. Depending on your location, your basement may require a permit.
  • Analyze the basement’s foundation. One key step for a basement finishing project is assessing its foundation. By doing this, you can determine faults and what may need repairs, such as leaks or cracked walls.
  • Make repairs to eliminate water or structural issues. If your basement has any water issues or other structural damages, it’s a good idea to make those repairs before you continue.
  • Be sure to insulate properly. Proper insulation is another crucial component in preparing your basement for major renovations. If you insulate the basement correctly, your HVAC system won’t have to work as hard, saving you money.

How Much Does A Finished Basement Add To Home Value?

A finished basement can significantly increase the value of a home, meaning this isn’t just a home improvement project – it’s an investment!

For most American homeowners, a finished basement can have a return on investment as high as 75%. That means if you spend $5,000 on the renovations, you could see as much as a $3,750 increase in your property value.

Additionally, if your neighbors have a finished basement but yours is partially finished, it might be worth finishing the entire basement to stay competitive in your market.

Increasing a home’s value can also be helpful for you and your bank account. By increasing the value of your home, you put yourself in a better position when using the equity for a cash-out refinance.

Fund your renovations with a cash-out refinance.

Get approved online now!

NMLS #3030

How Much Does It Cost To Finish A Basement?

When considering finishing your basement, basement remodel costs are always a concern. You want the quality of your remodel to be good enough that it adds value to your home while still being affordable enough to provide you with a decent return on your investment.

The costs can vary greatly depending on the type of basement you want, the square footage of your basement, the extent of your project, the quality of your finishes and even the location of your home.

On average, it will cost $30 – $50 per square foot to finish a basement. If you’re looking to finish a basement that’s 600 square feet, you can expect to pay around $18,000 – $30,000 to complete the entire remodeling project.

Typically, the price of a basement remodel will depend on the market and where the home is located. The project will be more expensive if walls need to be added to bedrooms or if there are plumbing needs. While more detailed and expensive finishes will cost more, they will also give a greater return on the home.

On the other hand, a basement remodeling project will be cheaper if the space is already open and prepped for work, or if you do the work yourself. If you’re interested in completing this project by yourself, read on to learn everything you need to know before beginning your DIY basement remodeling project.

You can also take some time to check out HomeAdvisor, which can help you get an estimate for the cost of your project.

Why Should You Remodel Your Basement?

Aside from monetary value, think about what you and your family could do with that extra space.

By clearing out boxes, waterproofing the space, insulating the walls, installing a drywall and adding water-resistant or easy-to-remove flooring, you can start to turn your unfinished basement into an area your family and guests will want to spend time in.

Basement space has the benefit of being away from the rest of your living area, which means that whatever you put there doesn’t have to be seen or heard by everyone else in your home. A finished basement will also provide space for a growing family and accommodations for guests, and will contribute to added comfort and functionality for the homeowner.

Depending on your wants and needs, you can renovate your unfinished basement and turn it into whatever you want. From a home theater to a basement bar, the possibilities are endless!

Fund your renovations with a cash-out refinance.

Get approved online now!

NMLS #3030

How Long Does It Take Finish A Basement Yourself? 8 Simple Steps

Depending on the scope of your DIY remodeling project, it could take 1 – 2 months. Of course, this amount of time depends on the size of your basement, the availability of materials and how much help you receive.

Be mindful that the timeline for a basement remodeling project can vary significantly depending on several factors. Follow the below steps from start to finish when planning to finish your basement.

1. Create Your Floor Plan

Before getting to work, you should first research finished basement ideas and layout options, and decide how much you want to spend on the renovation. If you have each aspect of the basement remodeling project planned out, you can cut your work time in half and prevent mishaps from slowing you down.

It’s also important that you submit your plans and get building permits before starting construction. Be sure to dedicate enough time to the planning process, and don’t rush through it. Permit applications can take 1 – 28 days, and are essential to the remodeling process, so don’t skip this step. Failure to get a permit can cost you a lot of time and money. Permits will protect your home and ensure your renovation complies with safety guidelines and building codes.

2. Prep The Area

After your permit has been obtained, the next step is to make sure that your basement is ready to be finished. Controlling the moisture is the key to prepping your basement area for a remodel. It’s critical that you waterproof your concrete floor in preparation for laying down the floor joists and subfloor. Another way you can cut down on moisture and keep your basement waterproof is by investing in a dehumidifier. As you start to prep your basement for remodeling, expect to spend around three to five days on this part of the process.

3. Purchase Building Materials

Once your basement area is prepped, you can start purchasing building materials. As you start thinking about what materials you will need, consider gathering these most used items for different aspects of the basement:

  • Basement flooring: Decide what type of flooring you’ll want in your basement. Consider your options, which include luxury vinyl wood planks, tile, carpeting or hardwood.
  • Basement ceiling: Choose whether you want your basement ceiling to be made from thin wood paneling or painted rafters.
  • Basement walls: When it comes to your basement walls, you can choose between having drywall, wood paneling or insulated fabric panels.

It takes about 3 – 4 days to get some of the materials mentioned above. When you begin shopping for these materials, keep in mind that some supplies can be easily found at a home improvement store, but other materials may need to be ordered or custom-made. In this case, it might take you longer to get what you need, so be sure to do your research and plan accordingly.

4. Start Framing Walls And Ceiling

Once you’ve purchased your materials, you can start framing the walls and ceiling of your basement. Before you frame the entire basement, be mindful of your ceiling joists, sump pump and anything else that might stick out or require additional attention. Make necessary changes to accommodate these needs. Plan to frame your entire basement from the walls to the ceiling in three to five days.

5. Build In Utilities

We advise you to hire a professional to add the necessary electrical and plumbing systems into your basement. You may also need to install extra ductwork for added ventilation.

Electrical and plumbing will take around 3 – 5 days to install. Leave this to the professionals. Be proactive by hiring a contractor, HVAC technician, electrician or plumber to assist with your basement remodel. This will save you plenty of time and stress!

6. Finish Walls And Ceiling

Now that your utilities are built in, you can finish your basement’s walls and ceiling which you already have framed. When insulating your basement’s walls and ceiling, we recommend using some form of non-fiberglass insulation like polystyrene or foam insulation. It takes about 5 – 7 days to finish this step.

7. Install Flooring

After your walls and ceiling are finished, it will be time to install flooring. As you install the flooring, make sure to add a vapor barrier. A vapor barrier will protect your basement from experiencing moisture problems which can cause mold and mildew if the flooring is incorrectly installed. Flooring will generally take about 2 – 3 days to install but can also vary depending on the square footage of your basement.

8. Add Final Touches 

Now that the bones of your basement are solidified, here comes the fun part! Start adding final touches to finish up your basement remodeling project. Here’s a list of final touches for you to complete:

  • Adding trim or crown molding
  • Caulking gaps around egress windows or door frames
  • Sanding, priming, and painting walls

As a final step, start finding furniture, rugs, and decor for your new living area to add a personal touch and bring the space to life! Once the space is ready for the next level, get creative with ways to transform your finished basement.

The Bottom Line

As you know by now, there are many benefits to finishing your basement. From having extra living space to increasing your home’s property value, finishing your basement can open new possibilities for your home and your family. If you’re ready to get started on this DIY project, start by brainstorming the basement of your dreams and sketching out a floor plan. If you commit to undertaking this project, you can even use a refinance to fund the remodeling project. Learn more about this option by reading about cash-out refinances.

Fund your renovations with a cash-out refinance.

Get approved online now!

NMLS #3030

Emma Tomsich

Emma Tomsich is a student at Marquette University studying Corporate Communications, Marketing and Public Relations. She has a passion for writing, and hopes to one day own her own business. In her free time, Emma likes to travel, shop, run and drink coffee.