The average cost to remodel and finish a basement is $30,230 for materials and installation with most homeowners spending between $19,112 and $35,940 for a 1,200 sqft. basement with bathroom. The price can vary greatly by region (and even by zip code). Get free estimates from pros near you.
You’ve been looking at the space in your basement for a while now, thinking about how you could finish it out into an extra office, bedroom, game room, or living space. But how much would it cost?
The average cost to finish out an existing basement for a 1,200 square foot home is around $25/sqft, meaning you should expect to spend an average of $30,500, or around $15,250 if your basement is only a half/partial basement. A 1,200 sqft home is the average size of a house basement built in the ‘70s—early ‘90s.
The amount you end up spending on your basement will likely be affected by your long-term plans for the home and your family. For example, many homeowners will elect to work with a budget of between 35% and 45% more if the plan is to stay in the home longer than ten years. If you’re turning the basement into something that could generate income by doing either long- or short-term rentals, then you might elect to spend that little bit more.
The average cost to finish a basement:
|Basement Material||Average Cost|
|Doors and Trim||$2,400|
Where you live makes a difference in the final cost because the per hour rate for contractors will be different, and labor makes up a significant portion of your basement project cost.
The average time to finish out a 1,200 sqft basement is roughly five weeks. Regarding your return on investment, adding square footage to the home will increase its value by roughly $0.75 for every dollar spent on the project, plus the bonus of any rental-generated income.
Your layout options are not just about having a big play area; you can have extra bedrooms, a game room, a media area, bathroom, home office, and even storm shelter or a safe room. Once you’ve chosen the number of, and purposed, the rooms, the main focus of the planning component of the project is to ensure the most efficient use of space. Consider the following:
Floor space - An effective option for a bedroom in a basement is to have the long edge of it against a wall, which will allow for more floor and study space.
Storage - can be built on either side of the bed, and attached to the wall above the bed, as a more effective use of space. The storage options don’t have to be big, but keeping them from being spread out around the floor will make the room feel bigger.
Location of sleeping areas - bedrooms will need to be located around the outside edges of the basement to facilitate a quick and safe exit, and for emergency responders to gain entry.
Flexible lighting - Also look at attaching flexible-arm lamps to the wall above the bed to allow for cozy nighttime reading.
Light - Because there are smaller or no windows in a basement, you have to maximize any and all light sources. One way is to reflect light with chrome hardware and white cabinetry.
Sewage backups - Because your new basement bathroom will be much lower (known as below grade) than any other plumbing in your home, steps have to be taken to prevent backups into the tub or sinks. Ask if your installer can install a backflow-prevention valve in the main drain line, or have a plumber do it. Also, a macerating toilet, which has a compact tank, can also handle the output from the sink, which will reduce the footprint of the waste produced before it is pumped into the main line.
Damp - Basements, especially in damper regions of the country, are usually more prone to moisture accumulation and its resulting damage. Add a humidistat to the bathroom exhaust fan that will automatically turn it on when the air's too damp.
Furniture – look for smaller alternatives to a traditionally sized sofa.
Deco - The two elements that will make any basement more enjoyable for your family or guests are roominess and brightness. Careful selection of your furnishings and decorations can contribute to this atmosphere.
If you are a dab hand at making such decisions, you can avoid soliciting the services of a professional, but a professional may have more experience in maximizing basement spaces and be more aware of products that work well in that environment.
Windows - For the most part, the majority of the windows in your basement will be hopper windows, except in the case of a well window for emergency exits. When standing in a basement room, hopper windows are high and not very tall, and it is possible to distract from this reality by installing cabinets below the hopper windows so your eyes are not drawn to the windows.
Areas in the basement that are purely functional don’t have to be as plush as the rest of your new development, but they should still be planned in advance along with the living spaces.
Washers and dryers - can take up a lot of space in a side-by-side configuration, so look at installing stackable versions for your laundry needs. They only take up half the space and free up space for installing a sink plus some shelving.
Entry point - you can install hooks to hang items of clothing like coats, etc., and opt out of traditional solutions like a coat closet, thus minimizing the impact to the total available floor space.
Screen glare - If you are including a home theatre section or just an area with a TV, it can be situated in a part of the basement with the least amount of natural light to help eliminate glare on the screen and develop more of a home-theater atmosphere.
Snacking - With the future use of the home theatre in mind, consider the location of the mini fridge to store snacks and beverages so that people won’t be passing in front of the screen for refreshments during a movie or big game.
Natural light - Wherever you think the most people will gather—whether around a pool table, ping pong table, or a dart board—locate it in an area with the highest amount of natural light.
Thermostats - If you live in a region that gets a real winter, consider opting for a separate thermostat for the basement, since its climate will likely differ from upstairs.
Vents - Have the heating and cooling vents installed close to the floor instead of installing them in the ceiling.
Radiant heating - In areas where it is common to experience extremely cold temperatures, you can install radiant mats or underlay, or even put it in the walls.
Fireplace - If you plan on installing a fireplace, look into getting a direct-vent gas fireplace so you won’t be taking up more space with firewood, and you won’t have to carry it up and down the stairs.
Additional items to consider in relation to making basement living a little more convenient are:
The standard rule of thumb when it comes to basement mechanicals is to leave between 2’–3’ of clearance, which should be enough for a maintenance person to walk around and do any work that needs to be done. This is true in the case of moving mechanicals or just boxing what is already in place.
Naturally, a contractor that includes an engineer and architect on his/her team will be able to give you the most accurate layout plan of all, like Renovate Max in Santa Clara, CA, who says, “From vision to completion, we provide design ideas, either interior or exterior/ architectural /engineering calculation.”
Listed in order of least to most expensive, these are the average installed costs per square foot for the different options in flooring:
|Flooring Material||Cost Per Sqft.||Total for 1,200 Sqft.|
Generally speaking, it is unlikely that your basement will be already plumbed and ready to deliver water. Adding the feature of a full bathroom in a space of about 40 square feet, including all the plumbing work, could range between $3,500–$5,000 as a line item on the final quote.
A sewage pump might be needed, since it is likely that the physical location of the toilet is now lower than the depth of your existing waste line. Sewage pumps can run anywhere from $290–$1,000 for the pump itself, and then there will be labor to install and connect it to the waste line.
When planning for the pump, it is a good idea to factor in a replacement pump and a backup battery for the main pump. That way, if there is a power outage, or your main pump fails, you will not be left with nasty consequences.
Alternatively, there are also water-powered backup pumps that operate on the pressure in your municipality water line. These start at around $200.
Insulation will help to control the temperature and moisture, and it can act as an additional soundproofing agent to minimize outside noises. See if your contractor carries insulation which includes a vapor barrier on each side, or look into spray foam insulation. The basement building code may have regulations regarding what types of insulation are permitted in your area.
Local building authorities will either have put together their own rules or follow the standards of the International Code Council (ICC), and most states require an egress, or an additional exit, from the basement in addition to the stairs leading down into the basement. From a regulatory perspective, this is one to really pay close attention to.
Basements with one or more bedrooms are required to have an emergency exit and rescue openings in each bedroom. An exit is required for other spaces used for living, eating, or cooking if there is no bedroom. This would include offices and recreation rooms, but only one exit is required in the bedroom for a combined bedroom and office finish out.
The egress window or door has to open easily to the outside of the home without the use of keys or tools. A window must open wide by at least 20” and high by at least 24”, with a crawl space of at least 5.7 square feet. It can’t have a sill higher than 44” above the floor unless a permanent ladder or steps are installed. Once out the window, you must have a window-well floor space of nine square feet dug. The reason for such stringent rules is in case of fire—facilitating safety both for the exiting habitant and the firefighter.
According to “Know the Rules for Finished Basements,” on bobvila.com, “here are the basics of a typical basement egress window system:
You can buy complete egress kits from companies like Boman Kemp. Theirs is $950, code compliant, includes a window and an escape ladder, and can be installed in retrofits and in new homes. You can also buy terraced-step window-well systems or pre-cast concrete stairwells with steel doors. They can be installed in a few hours. Have your egress custom built, or have your basement finish contractor install an egress window kit, at a cost of $200 to $3,000.
Some of the more expensive solutions, while generally made from plastic or fiberglass, have been fabricated to look like brick or wood. Some well covers are a clear dome structure that allows light in, while others are made from similar plastic to the well and block light from coming in when closed. The reasons for the addition of the lid is to stop kids from falling, and to keep rain and/or snow out.
Any electrical or plumbing work, such as the addition of radiant heating or a bathroom, will usually have to be inspected. In addition to regulations you may have at the local city or state level, the ICC building codes apply no matter where you live. The sections listed below contain references that are specific to basements:
If your basement is finished out with standard drywall, there is a strong possibility that mold could accumulate on the coating, which is made of paper. Once that happens, in addition to having mold, the gypsum inside the drywall runs a risk of crumbling. As alternatives, talk to your contractor about Georgia-Pacific's non-paper-faced DensArmor Plus high-performance interior panels, or USG's Sheetrock Brand Mold Tough gypsum panels. In a standard lab test for mold resistance, these two products received the highest scores.
Consider hiring a contractor with decades of experience in sealing the home from water intrusion, like TP Renovations in Portland, OR, a certified installer for DuraDek waterproof membranes. Or one like BCR Construction Division in Coarl Gables, FL, who specializes in water, fire, smoke, and mold damage restoration services.
In addition, as mentioned above, consider looking into faux-wood vinyl flooring for your basement flooring. Thanks to modern high-tech printing techniques, this gives scratch-resistant floating vinyl boards a realistic wood-like appearance.
For most people, the very mention of ceiling tiles conjures up images of the one look common to nearly every single corporate environment. Thankfully, in recent years, ceiling tiles have stepped out of the one design fits all look, allowing a basement ceiling to look much more creative and interesting than a boardroom. Remember to check the most current ICC basement ceiling height regulations when deciding on a hung ceiling, as a hung ceiling will mean it is closer to the floor.
Overhead space is a precious commodity in any home and especially in a basement. If you can install recessed lighting, then you can maintain the maximum overhead space possible.
According to Craftsman, a typical basement finish-out construction schedule project plan for a 1,200 sqft basement includes two bedrooms, one bathroom, a wet bar, and a fireplace. The following plan is split up into what to expect each week or so.
Depending on your available time, skills, number of required tools, and your level of courage, you could do the following work in advance:
Water leaks - Look for and repair minor leaks. “Often a few simple fixes will solve a moisture problem,” says This Old House general contractor Tom Silva. His tips:
Brothers Handyman in Washington, DC, say, “Running toilets can have relatively simple fixes that can save you lots of money on your utility bills. Leaking faucets and shower fixtures can make quite a mess and damage wood, making for costly repairs. Nip it in the bud and get them fixed before they become an issue.”
Insulation - Take care of some initial insulation in the basement by adding slip foam insulation on your cold-water pipes to prevent condensation from building up and then dripping inside your drywall or ceiling. Put slip foam on the hot-water pipes to prevent the loss of any heat. This should be done before boxing in any of the pipes in the basement.
If you want to have your basement project completed faster than having the work done from scratch, use a basement finishing kit. Basement finishing kits can include everything from framing, walls, flooring structure, and even ceiling finishes, while other kits just focus on delivering a framing and wall surface solution. Many solutions in this space are well suited to making the planning of your basement space layout a straightforward process, because they are modular.
When it comes to the walls, there are some key design features that set the kits apart when compared to a typical installation:
Some products include:
The wall panels are durable, insulated fiberboards (with an insulation rating of R-11), that are installed over existing walls. They are made with a DuPont Teflon for resisting stains and easy cleaning. The estimated time to have all the walls fully in place is roughly two weeks. These finish systems also include a choice of two different types of suspended ceilings, but they do not include any flooring.
This company provides walls, flooring, ceilings, and even windows at one point of purchase. The walls are insulated to a rating of R-13. The time it takes to complete a standard installation is roughly two weeks.
Champion features a wall system that allows for a livable and useable space within two weeks, on average. Walls are rated as R-13 for their insulation and are moisture, mold, and mildew resistant.
The feature that sets them apart is their excellent acoustics. If you want a home theatre, consider the Champion fabric-covered walls that provide a 95% NCR (Noise Reduction Coefficient) rating—it absorbs 95% of all sound into the walls and ceiling, which will provide a better home theatre experience while insulating the upstairs living areas from sound from the basement.
Most contractors will require payment upfront for the materials each week, while others ask for 50%. Only give your money to a contractor who has passed the checklist below. Too many homeowners have handed over their project savings and never seen the contractor again. We at HomeGuide hope we have provided enough information to make sure this doesn’t happen to you.
One HomeGuide contractor, Artisans Home Repair in Richardson, TX, for example, says, “We charge 78.00 flat fee for the bid, which is rebated to the customer after the work has been completed, which makes the bid free! All other jobs that will take anywhere from an hour to 2 days, will be billed on an hourly basis. The first hour is $145 and every hour after that will be $95 billed in increments of 15 minutes which divides into $23.75 per 15-minute increment.”
Colorado Log Home Builders in Denver, CO, say, “We usually enter into an open book with a fixed fee contract but sometimes have a lump sum agreement depending on what the client prefers.”
You want the best contractor for the project at a price within your budget, but don’t take the lowest bid unless the contractors you’re researching have most of the following:
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