Most homeowners tend to neglect or overlook the potential of their basement, using it only as an extra storage room. But many homes have basements that are fully capable of being converted into more livable and adaptable space. That adds additional square footage and can significantly enhance your quality of life and the marketability of your home.
"It's always easy to save money if you are willing to put in some sweat equity. Tackling the mold and termite damage was so disheartening and disgusting, but we survived, and the room is now safe, livable, and functional for our family. It's a great family recreation room. We keep our toys and games down here, and there is plenty of storage, so everything has a place. Despite not having a ton of natural light, this place still feels cozy and inviting to us."
Finishing a basement can cost between $25–$50 per square foot on average, depending on how the basement is finished, whether any challenges come up or whether there are special circumstances with the project. For this reason, a 1,000-square-foot basement can cost up to $50,000 or more to finish. Virgil Miranda of Virgil Miranda’s Construction, a general contracting company based in New Bedford, Massachusetts, says it can be tricky to estimate remodeling jobs based on square footage alone, due to the variance in each job. Larger basements may have a lower cost per square foot than tiny remodel jobs.
Drywall must be applied to any framed basement walls you have and must be applied to any additional walls used to create your basement bedroom. A standard 8’ by 4’ panel will cost between $10 and $20, depending on the thickness. The cost to install these panels varies, but most homeowners report spending around $1.50/sf. The total cost of your project will range between $1,152 and $1,982, with an average cost of $1,915 to install a wall.
Most basements have a cement or concrete floor. If it’s level, the cheapest solution is to just use that as your floor, maybe covering it with rugs or a roll of vinyl flooring. If the concrete is not level or smooth enough you can add a thin layer of new concrete on top of it and smooth it with a trowel as you apply it. You can also add pigments to concrete to color it if you want a shade other than basic gray – such as terracotta, beige, or charcoal. Another option is to buy paint made for porches and patios and apply it over a primed water-sealing undercoat. You can find that kind of paint at a home improvement store, starting around $35 a gallon.
Leave the plastic there for a couple of weeks. Then check it for droplets of moisture, the kind of condensation you might find beading up on the outside of a glass of cold lemonade on a summer day. If the droplets collected on the outside of the plastic that means that the moisture is generated from inside your basement. But if they have collected like dew on the inside of the plastic, that means the dampness is coming through the walls or floor from the outside.
If time is critical, consider a basement finishing kit. A finishing kit has insulated wall panels, and some include a walkable flooring surface and ceiling material for DIY installation. Depending on the size of your basement, these kits can be installed in a weekend. However, the floor won't be carpeted, the walls won't be painted, and there will be no electrical or plumbing. Other features such as doors, trim work, and more also need to be added.
With a level, smooth surface you also have tons of other flooring options, based on your decorative scheme and your budget. A relatively inexpensive and easy option is carpet, with a carpet pad beneath it for added comfort and to keep your feet warmer in winter. Peel and stick vinyl tiles are another option, and they come in various styles, colors, and price ranges for any budget.
If you decide to go with a pony wall, you may be able to handle the project yourself (saving money). However, if you’re going to expand your house and need to install weight-bearing walls, you’re better off leaving it to the pros. Additionally, you or your pro will need to investigate building codes and local requirements to ensure you comply with structural guidelines.
Leave the plastic there for a couple of weeks. Then check it for droplets of moisture, the kind of condensation you might find beading up on the outside of a glass of cold lemonade on a summer day. If the droplets collected on the outside of the plastic that means that the moisture is generated from inside your basement. But if they have collected like dew on the inside of the plastic, that means the dampness is coming through the walls or floor from the outside.
For homeowners who are seeking fully remodel a basement, then they will be aiming to spend anywhere from $30,000 to $65,000. The varied range depends on the extent of the renovations that are made to the space. The addition of bedrooms, bathrooms, exterior insulation, electrical wiring, plumbing, flooring, furniture, light fixtures and the help of a contractor will all cause an increase in the price. Of course, the cost to remodel a basement will also depend on the square footage of the space.
Your basement will likely need to be fitted with additional wires to support more lights and electronics. You will need to hire a licensed electrician if you plan to install additional overhead light fixtures, outlets and other components that require additional wiring. The cost of electrical installations depends on the exact project, but licensed electricians tend to charge between $50 and $100 per hour.
Sourcing supplies, clearing debris, and doing prep work can all help you save on basement costs. Consider what skills you have and talk with your contractor about what will shave money in each area. You may have the tools and strength to demo walls, which can save you several hundred dollars. Sourcing the materials for the pro takes this task off their labor time and saves you money. Doing prep work and finish work is also a way to cut down on total cost. Painting the walls yourself at the end of the project could save you hundreds of dollars. Negotiate all these aspects before signing your contract.
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