Basements offer huge potential in increasing the living space, functionality and resale value of your home. Usually, basements are used for storage purposes, but with a little work, a basement can be transformed into a guest bedroom, home theater, sound proofed music studio, a wine cellar, game room, gym, man cave, etc, complete with a bathroom.
For spaces of 1,000-1,500 sq.ft. the average cost of a basement remodel is $18,000-30,000. Luxury basements remodels can cost as much as $40,000-65,000, while minor updates and upgrades for an already finished basement can cost as little as $5,000-7,000. Remodeling costs for a basement depend on the condition of the existing space, the level of desired finish and local labor rates.
Before diving into a basement remodel, you need to understand the scope of work, as well as the costs involved in finishing your basement.
In this post:
Home much does it cost to finish a basement?
Remodeling vs finishing the basement
Basement remodeling costs per square foot
Cost to finish a basement with a bathroom
Cost break down for each phase of the remodel
Preparing for a basement remodel
Is a basement subfloor necessary?
Is it smart to use a basement finishing system?
How to waterproof the basement
Setting a budget for a basement remodel
ROI of finishing a basement
Average cost to finish a basement
Finishing a basement can, on average, cost you anywhere between $14,000 to $50,000. Most homeowners report spending $20,000-23,000 on a 500 sq.ft. basement with a medium level finish and a half bathroom bathroom. A high-end job could go up to $46,000 – 70,000 depending on the size of the space.
Remodeling an existing basement can cost $2,500-18,000 depending on what you are looking to update.
Adding a bar or a small kitchen starts at $3,000-16,000 depending on the size and the existence of gas, electric, water lines.
Adding a closet costs $1,000-2,000 depending on size and level of customization
Installing a fireplace starts at $2,000 – 3,000
If you are considering an open-plan model, you will end up paying less. When you don’t have a lot of walls, you save 40-50% off the cost of framing, trim, drywall and insulation. Moreover, if you work within the existing structure of the basement rather than move or add walls, you can also save thousands of dollars.
Adding rooms, upgrading the electric panel, installing egress windows, putting in a kitchen, and/or bathroom will mean paying more. Keep in mind that if want to put in an “official bedroom” into the basement, it needs to have a closet, a window, and a door, to be listed as a bedroom when you sell the home.
As with any major renovation, professional labor eat up a huge chunk of the total budget. Expect to spend at least 40% of the total estimated cost of contractor labor.
Basement finishing cost based on size
The size of the basement will be one of the biggest factors driving the total remodel cost. The smaller your space, the less money you will have to pay.
Remodeling basements that are less than 500 sq.ft. costs $10,000 – 15,000. An open-plan basement measuring 500 square feet will cost you around $18,000; adding 1-2 bedrooms will push the price up to approximately $25,000.
Basements that are 700 – 1,000 sq.ft. cost $18,000 – 22,000
Large basements that are over 1,500 start at about $30,000. If we consider a bigger area, say 2,000 square feet, you will end up paying around $60,000 for an open plan, and $80,000 – 100,000 if you add rooms and bathrooms.
Finishing vs remodeling a basement
Finishing a basement involves creating a livable space in a basement that was lying vacant with just concrete flooring, no walls, exposed electric wiring, pipes, and vents, etc.
This is a major home improvement project that involves the following:
– Inspecting/fixing existing foundation or pouring new concrete foundation
– Framing in walls
– Adding insulation
– Installing drywall
– Adding electrical to fix lighting and including outlets
– Camouflaging ductwork
– Installing flooring and a ceiling
– Adding an emergency exit to comply with the fire code, e.g., an egress window
– Adding plumbing for a bathroom and or kitchen
– Installing heating and cooling system (HVAC)
Remodeling involves updating or upgrading an already finished basement. This can mean repurposing the space by knocking down walls, adding more rooms, adding a bathroom, etc.
Typically finishing a basement space that has never been used is 25-30% more expensive than doing a remodel of an already finished basement. This is primarily because all the electric, plumbing and framing work is already done.
However, major remodels that involve changing the original layout of the space, eliminating or building walls, moving piping, upgrading heating and cooling systems, adding a bathroom, can add up to cost about the same as the original finishing project.
For more detailed pricing, see our Remodeling Costs Guide for 2020.
Per square foot estimates
To remodel a basement, you will spend around $30 to $50 per square foot, or, on average, $40 per square foot. High-end basement finishing projects cost $80-90+ per square foot. Keep in mind that if you opt to use high-end materials, the cost will go up by as much as 30-50%
Remember, these are simply estimates, and the actual costs will go up or down depending on the materials, space, and complexity of the project.
How much does it cost to finish a basement with a bathroom?
Having a bathroom in the basement means additional plumbing work. You will end up paying around $7,500 to $12,500 to add a bathroom, with plumbing and drainage being the most expensive costs. Adding a luxury style large bathroom will cost $20,000+. You will also have to consider the costs of bathroom fixtures (sink, toilet, shower), vents, exhausts, etc.
Adding a simple half-bath with only a sink and no bathtub or shower head will be much cheaper, around $3,000-6,000. However, a full bathroom will be best if you are planning to add a bedroom suite. On the plus side, adding a bathroom to your basement can increase your home value by up to 20%.
Basement finishing costs breakdown
There are several phases or steps to finishing a basement and turning it into a livable space. Here we explore the costs involved for each aspect of the job:
Cost of fixing existing basement foundation vs pouring new foundation
Before you start on the basement remodel, its essential to check for any cracks in the existing foundation. Most likely, you or the inspector will discover cracking, especially if your house is over 10-15 years old. If you are lucky, there will only be minor cracks, which a pro can easily fix for $600-1,500. However, if there is major cracks and damage in the foundation, you will need to use hydraulic piers, and installing them costs $9,000-16,500, depending on the size of the space.
If your existing house does not have a basement and you ambitiously would like to pour new foundation under your home, prepare to spend some big bucks. The average cost of this job will be around $20-23 per square foot. So creating a 1,000 sq.ft basement foundation would cost at least $20,000-23,000 If the soil excavation on your property is difficult, you can be looking to spend an extra $5,000-15,000 to get this done.
When your are building a new home and would like to pour a new basement foundation the average cost will be $9-12 per square foot.
Cost of framing
This is the first step, and you can expect to pay around $1 per square foot for materials to frame the basement. This step includes giving the space an outline using a wooden framework to define rooms, windows, doors, etc. It will house the insulation packing, wiring, plumbing, and will be covered with drywall.
The finished work, including framing and drywall, will cost around $2.75 to $3.5. Framing a 500 square foot basement will cost you approximately $500 for wood and $1,500 with drywall installed.
Drywall installation prices
Drywall is made from flattened gypsum, and it goes over the framing to finish the walls and ceilings. You can paint or wallpaper it depending on your décor preferences.
Drywall, along with finishing materials like tape, mud, studs, etc. will cost around $1.40 approximately.
Drywall panels are available in varied thicknesses, ranging from 1/4” to 5/8”, and measuring 8-feet tall and 4-feet wide. A single panel costs between $10 to $20 depending on the type you choose; the available options include blue, purple, green, cement, and paperless boards.
The cost will go up depending on the number of walls you intend to have in the basement. Installing drywall in a 500 sq. feet area will cost approximately $750 in an open-plan basement; however, the cost may go up to $2,000 if you add rooms.
– Always opt for moisture-resistant drywall for the basement.
– Calculate the total number of panels needed by adding the width of each wall together to get the perimeter, and then divide the total by 4 (the width of the drywall).
Basement ceiling costs
When it comes to ceilings, you have a few options, and the cost of ceiling installation will vary depending on your choice. However, average ceiling costs will fall in the range of $1 to $6 per square foot.
Approximate cost for each ceiling option:
– Drywall will cost you around $3.50 to $4.50 per square foot, including adding joists and insulation batts. Installing drywall on the ceiling is more complicated and requires additional equipment. This makes installing drywall on the ceiling costlier than installing it on walls, even though the drywall panels prices are the same.
– Wooden or tile ceilings range from $2.5 to $5 per square foot installed.
– Painting an exposed ceiling costs around $1.2 and $1.8 per square foot, depending on whether the ceiling is smooth or rough. Spray painting will cost even less.
– A drop ceiling that includes lath will cost approximately $25 per square foot. Installing a suspended roof grid system that can be covered with tiles or drywall runs approximately $0.80 per square foot.
– You can have tongue and groove wood panels installed, and they will cost between $1 -$3 per square foot, depending on the type of wood.
You have several options when it comes to flooring in the basement.
The cheapest is to score and polish the existing concrete floor; this will cost you approximately $2 per square foot. You can also use epoxy to paint the floor, and the cost will be $3 per square foot. Carpets are a good and cheap option and will cost $1 -2 per square foot, for budget grade carpeting. However, in a basement prone to moisture seepage, installing a carpet may not be ideal.
Porcelain floor tiles will cost around $3 per square foot, whereas ceramic tile will be around $0.50 – 1.00 cheaper.
Overall, vinyl or laminate is possibly the best floor option for the basement, as both of these materials can accommodate moisture and temperature changes in the concrete. It will cost you around $3 to $ 6 per square foot.
For a high-end basement remodel, you can also opt for hardwood, but this will be a significant expense, as hardwood flooring costs an average of $8-10 per square foot.
HVAC installation costs
No basement is complete without proper heating and cooling, and this is another big ticket item on your spending list. If you are looking to install a central air system complete with new ductwork, the cost will be $5,500-10,000 depending on the size of the AC unit your space needs.
A great alternative to central air that does not require any ductwork is a mini split. It offers both heating and cooling and can cost $3,200-4,940 for a single zone system.
Preparing for a basement remodel
Before you start, you need to spend some time on the ground preparing the basement for renovations.
Clean out the basement: if you have been using the space for storing stuff, you will have to clear it, and do some clean-up like sweeping the floor, etc. A clean space will help with planning and other checks before the actual work begins.
Check for leaks: your basement must be dry and free of moisture before the work begins. If you suspect any leaks, get them fixed. Sneaky leaks that can undo your hard work later on. Lastly, do tests to make sure you have successfully eliminated all sources of leaks.
Read up on local building codes: you will need to figure out the building codes for the basement in your state and make sure your basement meets them. For instance, you may need to install egress windows to bedrooms.
Arrange for permits: permits are required for plumbing and electrical work, and for making the space livable. Failure to acquire one will result in fines and even demolition of completed work. Usually, permits for jobs can cost $50.
Foundation and structural checks: Make sure the foundation is not sagging, decaying, or deteriorating, especially if the building is old. Any alterations to structural elements, like pillars, should only be done by experts.
Getting price quotes: we recommend contacting at least 3 local remodeling companies for price estimates for your basement finishing project.
Do you need a subfloor when finishing a basement?
If you want to go for floor covering like hardwood, engineered wood, linoleum, tiles, etc., you will need to install a subfloor. This will cost up to $2 per square foot for plywood installations, and $3 per sq. foot for wood flooring joists.
Alternatively, you can install a special subfloor system from brands like Barricade ($1.95 per square foot) and Tyroc ($2.70 per square foot) These products eliminate the need for layers and fuse everything into a single tiles, which are then joined together.
A subfloor is a necessary part of transforming the basement into a living space, because it will make the floors warm, dry and flat. Without a level subfloor, your finishing flooring materials will warp (wood planks, linolium tiles, etc) or crack (porcelain or ceramic tile).
Ideally, your subfloor should do the most important job of keeping moisture at bay. Water damage in basements is a common problem even if no flooding takes place, so having a quality subfloor is of paramount importance to keep leaks at bay. Having a subfloor will also prevent the growth of mold in your basement.
Did you know? The subloor is different from the flooring underlayment. The latter is an additional thin layer of material that is installed on TOP of the subfloor, before installing hardwoods, tile, carpeting, laminate, etc.
Should I use a basement finishing system?
Basement finishing systems are prefabricated designer units available for installation. There are several options for basement finishing systems, and most exclude flooring and ceiling. The companies usually make money from the installation charges, so you cannot DIY them after purchasing one. These systems are expensive and can cost more than the ones built by a contractor. You can end up paying $30,000 or more for a basement finishing system.
Waterproofing your finished basement
Water leaks are a huge concern when it comes to basements. Mold growth, cracks in foundations, insects, etc. can cause problems and lead to health issues. This is why it is essential to waterproof the basement walls and floors.
Pro tip: most people start waterproofing the basement only after leaks and moisture have been discovered and initial damage has been done. Fixing leaks in the basement can cost anywhere from $1,500 to 15,000 depending on the scope of work. However, when you are refinishing the basement, you can take some steps to PREVENT moisture problems from the start.
1. To waterproof the walls, you can use special paint, such as DRYLOK White Extreme Waterproofer (its sold at Home Depot)
2. As part of the building process, cracks will form around pipes and joists. You can prevent moisture from seeping in by filling these cracks with special hydraulic cement, which expands during the curing process, creating a watertight space.
3. Add slip-foam insulation around piping before its boxed in to prevent moisture from condensation. This insulation costs $1.50 – $3.70 per six-foot piece, depending on its thinkness.
4. If you are adding a bathroom, make sure to put in a good exhaust fan and a dehumidifier.
5. Put in a drain – tile system that will take care of any water that may collect near the house foundation. This can cost $2,500-5,000
6. If the ground around your house needed to leveled in order to keep the water away from the basement, expect to spend $5 – 6 to move one cubic yard of earth using a tractor loader backhoe and $35-70 per cubic yard if moving the soil with a hand shovel.
7. To make the water drain away from the basement windows, dig a larger well space and fill it up with gravel. Make sure to install a window well cover. These are not expensive $35-90 per cover.
Talk to your contractor about other waterproofing measures that can be implemented specifically in your basement.
Basement remodeling budget
Before you start looking for professionals or the materials (if it’s a DIY project), you will need to sit down and think about the expenses involved. The most important step is to set a budget for the project. You can start by listing out all the features you want to include, like essentials and décor items.
Pro Tip: A sound budget for finishing a basement should be around 15% to 20% of the total home value. Try not to go over this limit if you plan to sell the house in the next 5-7 years. Consider spending more only if you see yourself living there for a long time.
The next step would involve contacting local pros to get quotes and discussing your requirements vis-à-vis the budget you have set. Once a contractor takes a look at the space, he will give you a better idea of the cost of materials, labor, electric work, plumbing, etc. He will also be able to provide suggestions and options for materials that work within your budget.
Its best to have a clear idea of what you want to include in your finished basement. If you find yourself overshooting the set budget, you can tweak the features, opt for cheaper alternatives, or draw up a different plan. You can also DIY several aspects of the remodel, such as painting, to save on professional labor services.
Remodeling pros always recommend having at least a 10% buffer set aside for unexpected surprises, which usually come up, no matter how hard you try to avoid them. If your remodeling budget is $20,000, its a good idea to have around $2,000 extra to mitigate any issues.
Is finishing a basement a good investment?
The short answer is yes. Basements provide livable space in a home, so when you are trying to sell the house, the extra square footage will add to its total value. It can offer up to 70% return on investment, with some buyers offering to pay more for a recently finished or remodeled basement.
Generally speaking, converting a basement into livable space counts as new construction, which, in turn, will improve your home’s value. This will lead to an increase in your property taxes. The cost will ultimately depend on the extent of work done and the state’s mill rate. However, you can significantly reduce this cost by partially finishing the basement to exclude it from tax appraisal. You can finish the project just before selling it.