If the hundreds of photos and stories submitted to this year's annual Search for America's Best Remodel Contest prove one thing, it's that you love flipping the idea of what a basement can be. With a little work, these once dark, desolate spaces can become bonus rooms for entertaining family and friends or getting some work done. Here, the editors of This Old House pick the best basement remodels.
Finishing the ceiling of a basement can be a tricky proposition. In most basements, important pipes, wires, and ducts already crisscross this area, often lowering the total ceiling height. If you were to install a drywall 5 or standard ceiling, you would be encapsulating these items, making them difficult to find and access in the event of an issue. Therefore, most basement ceilings are finished with some type of drop or suspended ceiling, sometimes known as an acoustical ceiling 9 or a grid ceiling.
Bedrooms – A common strategy is to set up a couple of extra bedrooms in the basement for guests. This is especially beneficial for families that love to entertain on a regular basis. You can easily have guests stay over without disrupting the family space above. Basement bedrooms can also come in handy if you have older kids that cannot share bedrooms any more. Plus, you could also add a small kitchenette and bathroom for convenience.
Failure to obtain proper permits can result removing (demo-ing) any current finishing work or remodeling already installed. You could also face fines. A "stop work order" may be issued, which usually causes double the fees when you do, eventually, apply for the permit(s). If you have to file an insurance claim and can't produce any permits, the insurance company may deny the claim. Finishing a basement without permits also can affect the home's resale value.
A basement can serve many purposes in the home. Finished basements can add extra rooms to your home, whether it’s a TV room for your family to enjoy movies or an extra bedroom. Both unfinished and finished basements can work as extra storage spaces for your home or even serve as a home gym. Regardless of your basement finishing, there are a number of basement design ideas that can help you with your remodeling. A little research is the first step in basement remodeling. It is also a great way to find finished basement ideas.

The ceiling of this Connecticut basement was very unattractive. Wire, pipes, and insulation were exposed to the room below. Connecticut Basement Systems recommends installing a drop ceiling when finishing basements. These allow easy access to shut off valves, wires, and pipes that lead to the rest of the home. The tiles of our drop ceilings are made of mineral wool, making them completely inorganic. Mold can only grow on organic material, so mold or mildew will never be an issue on our ceiling tiles. They will not sag from moisture in the middle, giving an eternal crisp, clean finish. Our tiles even come with a 30 year warranty against mold and sagging. After the installation of the new drop ceiling, the basement was much brighter and had a clean appearance. The stylish crown molding around the perimeter of the room gives a beautiful transition to where the wall meets the ceiling.
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.
But beforehand you’ll want to prep the brick or masonry walls by building a simple wooden framework against them that you will use to attach the paneling or gypsum board (another name for sheetrock).Do that by attaching 2-inch by 2-inch furring strips to the walls. These are inexpensive and lightweight lengths of wood that look kind of like skinny versions of traditional two-by-fours.
All big appliances or home equipment are better to store in the basement. They can be a huge eyesore if you place them in places where they can be seen regularly. The basement is perfect for the heating and cooling system because most pipes and ducts pass through the basement at one point or the other. Water heaters are usually found in basements and you should definitely pencil it in when you are making a basement plan. Most basements are extra space that a homeowner might have in their house. So the basement usually serves a purpose of fun. A lot of basement plans include an area to have fun or to relax. You could follow suit.
Installing a bathroom in a basement costs more than installing a bathroom above ground. Costs can range from $2,500 to $5,000 on average, depending on the number of fixtures and whether the plumbing must be installed from scratch or if it’s roughed in already. Basement plumbing requires special considerations to ensure proper drainage and tie-in with the main sewer line, which may not be deep enough to allow the basement bathroom plumbing to use gravity the way above-ground plumbing does. Virgil Miranda’s Construction subcontracts all plumbing work. Miranda says that sometimes the toilet alone in a basement can cost up to $2,500 because sometimes homeowners need to invest in a toilet that does not use gravity but instead a macerating function to grind waste down to prevent clogging. Miranda estimates that each bathroom fixture in a basement costs $800–$900 on average, so a full, three-piece bath could cost $3,000 for the fixtures alone. Adding a kitchenette or wet bar sink adds more to overall refinishing costs. In addition, some basements require a French drain with one or more sump pumps, which can cost up to $10,000 on average, depending on how much ground the drain covers.

Because basements are usually below ground level, water seepage and moisture issues have to be resolved before construction can start. Prior to creating a project bid, most contractors will inspect the area to check the interior floor and walls for dampness and make sure the exterior of the foundation is in good shape. Depending on how watertight the basement and foundation are, it may be necessary to protect the basement from future water damage after it’s finished, often through the installation of sump pumps. This work can cost anywhere from $700-$3,000, depending on what needs to be done. Learn more about basement waterproofing. To help prevent moisture problems, homeowners can clear downspouts and gutters of debris to ensure that they help keep moisture away from the foundation.
Hardwood, laminate and tile flooring significantly increase the cost to finish a basement. Sebring, who calls carpet “the king of basement flooring,” says many people are scared about the consequences if a carpeted basement floods. But even top-of-the-line vinyl and tile has to be pulled up if there’s serious water damage, he says, and you can replace carpet multiple times for the same cost of installing hard flooring once.
The average cost of basement remodeling varies based on the square footage of the basement space, if structural changes are needed, and if you are adding in elements such as electrical work for a kitchenette or plumbing for a half bath. Other factors in cost include whether you have design plans already and what work you want done on the finishes such as trim and flooring. Here’s a breakdown of the various cost factors.
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