How much does it cost to finish a basement?
This post is the first in a series that will explore in depth the costs associated with home improvements and what is behind them. Every project is unique and every home is different, so the numbers that are presented here are “ballpark” for educational purposes. Individual projects will be higher or lower. They are only for homeowners to educate themselves before contacting a contractor. To see a survey of what projects are costing in your area, the “Cost vs Value” report produced by Remodeling and the National Association of Realtors is a great resource. You can find by clicking here.
The basement. Often forgotten, often filled with numerous boxes and items in storage. Sometimes, it’s just a home to spiders. The lowly lower level almost always receives second billing to the main floors of a home.
The unfinished basement is potential:
The home with a basement offers great potential for expanding the livable area of the home at a reasonable cost. The options for the space are endless. A place to gather. A place to send the kids to play to give mom and dad some quiet. A man cave. A place to exercise. A hobby space. A place to unwind.
Bedrooms, bathrooms, living rooms, game rooms, wet bars, wine cellars, home theaters, exercise rooms, and home offices are just some of the room options in the modern basement. Gone are the days when finishing a basement just meant buying some paneling. Before a finished basement becomes reality, the space needs to be planned out and then built. What goes into this?
Considerations in design:
Each basement has its own baggage that needs to be designed around. From the really low ceiling height one tends to find in older homes, to baggage every basement has, such as the location of the furnace and ductwork, the location of structural columns, the location of the main electrical box, the water meter, where the sewer exits the home, and other items. Most any of these items can be addressed by spending more money to move or change any of these items, but most homeowners decide to design around them. Build a mechanical room for the furnace, soffit around the ductwork, and create closets for things like the water meter and sump pump.
A finished basement is like any other part of the home. Once it becomes finished, it has to meet the same code standards as any other improvement. It needs to be framed like a home. It needs to be insulated and drywalled. Basement rooms need a source of heat, which usually means bringing in ductwork into each space. Electrical requirements are the same in any finished space, basement or not. You have to have a certain amount of outlets, lighting, and circuits for any given space, including the finished basement. If you plan to drywall the ceiling, you usually have to move electrical junction boxes to an area where they can be accessed. Burying junctions behind drywall is illegal. You also need a means of escape from the basement in an emergency, such as a window well with a ladder or an exterior door.
If you want a bathroom, a laundry room, or a wet bar in your basement, that leads to plumbing work. Usually, the concrete floor needs to be cut and pipes installed underneath, leading to a dedicated ejector pit, which pumps the basement sewage into the main sewer. Concrete then needs to be patched. Also, plumbing fixtures need to be vented, which is sometime difficult in a basement due to the limited places to tie into the plumbing.
All of these items cost money
The parts that go into a lower level finishing project:
Let’s take a look at a standard basement of a newer home built in the 1980’s or later with a full, unfinished basement of at least 1,200 square feet. Let’s say we want this space to have a living/tv space, a full bathroom with shower, a bedroom designed onto an existing window well, a home office, two finished closets, and one or two unfinished mechanical room/storage area spaces. Trim and doors match the rest of the home. The bathroom is tiled, and the rest of the basement has either laminate flooring or a good carpet. The builder stairs that lead to the basement are brought up to a finished standard. What are the separate parts that go into a new basement? This mostly complete list is as follows:
· Planning & Drawings
· Drywall & Taping
· Building Permits
· Framing Lumber
· Bathroom Tile
· Rough Carpentry
· Plumbing & Piping
· Trim & Doors
· Heating Work
· Trim Carpentry
· Electrical Work
· Plumbing Fixtures
· Lighting Fixtures
· Cabinetry & Countertops
It costs how much to finish a basement?
Assuming that you are looking for a good building experience and a basement that won’t fall apart after a year, you are hiring a professional remodeler who is insured, licensed, uses only licensed & insured subcontractors, and has years of experience finishing basements. Typically, here is what you can expect to pay:
§ A basement as described above, can easily go for $80,000.00 plus. Addressing code deficiencies, such as needing to retrofit in an escape window or addressing seepage issues adds thousands more. A larger basement with things like wine cellars and other add-ons can easily pass $100,000.
§ If you do not need a bathroom or plumbing, and your basement is on the easier side to finish, you might be able to finish it for $50,000 plus.
§ Every scenario is different, and your project may come in higher or a little bit lower than these numbers.
Two worthwhile upgrades:
Zoning: Zoning the basement heating and cooling with a zoning system has become extremely popular in recent years. Using zone dampers, a computer system, and separate ductwork, the basement can have its own thermostat and climate. No longer does one have to be too cold in the basement because the thermostat located on the first floor is in a warm place.
Back Up Pump: An emergency sump pump system is a wise investment to protect your newly finished basement. To have a system that has a better chance of working during a power outage or primary sump pump failure, make sure to ask your contractor to recommend a quality, durable system, not a cheap system from the home improvement warehouse. Cheap systems have caused many flooded basements. Expect to spend at least $2,800 on this.
Good luck with your basement project! Remember, the key is to select the right professional contractor for the job. He or she can guide you through the process and provide you with a basement you will enjoy for years/decades to come.