How Much for a Basement Remodel: 5 Factors to Consider

Peter Chambers

Dec 30, 2022

how much to finish a basement

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Have you considered doing a basement remodel?

What lingers beneath your stairs? While this sentence may sound like the lead in to a horror story, it’s an honest question asking you what you do with all that space below your first story. Only 5% of mid-range homes on the market feature a finished basement, and completing yours could be the perfect way to enhance your property value. 

Buyers today value such spaces more than ever. Multigenerational living has once again risen in popularity along with soaring housing costs. Some families move in older family members, while others make room for adult children trying to save for a down payment in a nation where rent often costs half their monthly income or more. 

However, you have to complete your project right and follow the rules and that doesn’t come cheaply. You will face an initial expenditure, even if you recoup the value later when you sell. How much to finish a basement? Here are five factors to consider. 

1. Will You Be Using It as a Living Space?

When figuring out how much it costs to finish a basement, your first question is whether you plan to use the area as living quarters. Why? According to the International Construction Code, all such spaces must have at least two points of egress in case a fire or another emergency blocks the stairwell. That can mean installing a specialty window that allows residents to evacuate safely should the worst occur. 

The average installation costs roughly $4,000, although you may pay more or less depending on factors like your soil quality and foundation type. Of course, you might be lucky — some homes have basements with an egress point on the side of their homes already. Otherwise, you’ll have to call in the pros, as this project is far too complex for most DIY fans. 

Another way you might not have to install an egress window is if you have a bi-level home. If your garage and basement occupy the same floor, residents can escape up the stairs or through that space. However, it might still be wise to include one, depending on your home’s configuration. For example, consider a separate exit if a fire could block the stairs and the garage door. 

2. Will You Add a Bathroom? 

When asking how much to finish a basement, the second priciest factor for most people is whether they intend to install plumbing fixtures. You might not need to, even if you use the space as a dwelling. For example, healthy adult children can climb the stairs to use the restroom or kitchen. 

However, this arrangement can get inconvenient for everyone. Plus, a resident who becomes sick or injured won’t want to travel that far to use the facilities. Are you considering converting the space to an Airbnb? If so, you don’t want guests tramping through other common areas of your home. 

It costs anywhere from $5,000 and $35,000 to add a bathroom to your basement. Price factors include existing plumbing — you’re lucky if the hardware is already installed. Otherwise, you’ll probably need to hire a contractor to provide water to the area. 

You’ll then need to decide on fixtures. Pro-tip: If you plan on renting out the space as a vacation or long-term rental, pay attention to ADA guidelines. Features such as grab bars make your area more accessible for people with mobility issues. While you may be exempt from the legal requirements if you also occupy the property, it doesn’t cost much — and it makes the space suitable for long-term tenants, should your vacation model fail. 

3. How Much Moisture Do You Get? 

You’re in luck if your basement walls consist of concrete bricks. Why? It’s much easier to check for moisture before you frame the walls and add amenities like wiring and plumbing. How can you do so? Look for the following signs of trouble:

  • Water trickling out of walls
  • Standing water on the floor
  • Condensation on cold walls and floor
  • Odor, mold and mildew
  • Rot and decay of wood headers or joists. 

If you suspect water in your basement, fill all cracks. Then, coat your walls with a waterproof sealant before framing them — otherwise, mold could develop, posing a health risk and rotting your new basement. 

4. Must You Frame Interior Walls? 

Perhaps your basement’s interior walls are already framed, but that isn’t always the case. Furthermore, you might decide to separate a larger space into several smaller rooms, like a kitchenette and bathroom. If so, you’ll have additional interior walls to construct. 

In general, it costs around $1,200 to frame a basement. You’ll have to factor in materials like wood and insulation. If you plan to complete interior rooms, your price may increase. 

5. How Is Your Cold Tolerance? 

Finally, many basements are cold places. This feature comes in handy during the hot summer months but can leave residents shivering in winter. What can you do to keep the space warmer? 

One idea is to install a heated floor. After all, most basements consist of concrete slabs, and it isn’t too challenging to put down the necessary infrastructure — you may even DIY. Plus, this method won’t increase your heating bill much. The operating cost is roughly the same as operating an electric blanket, although the initial materials cost more. 

Other solutions include pellet stoves and space heaters. Pellet stoves are safer, but you’ll need to pay a contractor to vent them properly to ensure you don’t have toxic fumes backing up into the space. Space heaters today are safer than earlier models, but you should still follow safety tips like unplugging them each time you leave the room — an option you may not fancy if you plan on renting the space. 

How Much to Finish a Basement? 

Relatively few homes today feature finished basements. Adding one to your home can substantially enrich your property’s value, especially as more families seek multigenerational living solutions. Your area could double as a side business if you turn it into a vacation rental. 

However, you have to follow the rules. How much to finish a basement? It all depends on what you will use the space for and how extensive you want your remodel to be. 

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