Finished Basements – A Popular Home Improvement Trend

Finished Basements and Lower Levels offer a Variety of Additional Living Space Options

By Mark J. Donovan

Increasingly future homeowners and existing homeowners alike are looking to own homes with finished basements or finished lower levels. Finished basements can offer significant increases in a home’s living space by providing large private spaces for recreation rooms, gyms, entertainment centers and game rooms.

Typically finished basements or finished lower level remodeling projects are less expensive than external home additions and present less of a hassle when obtaining permits.

Also, with the trend in smaller lot sites for homes, finishing a basement or lower level may be the only choice a homeowner has in obtaining more living space within their home.

Finished Basement Costs

Costs for finishing a basement can vary widely depending on what your plans are for the space. However, for a rough order of magnitude estimate you can expect to pay around $20 – $25 per square foot in construction costs for a basic finished basement or finished lower level. For example, a 1000 square foot basic finished basement will cost you in the neighborhood of $25,000 for Framing, Electric, Insulation and Sheetrock. The cost can go dramatically higher if you have plans for bathrooms, wet-bars, wine cellars and/or home entertainment centers.

Ideal Building Lots for Finished Basements or Finished Lower Levels

Not every home or building lot is ideal for a finished basement or finished lower level. The best building lots for a finished lower level have gentle slopes or grades that allow a side of the finished basement to include windows and a walkout door.

The natural light that this type of building lot affords can really add to the possibilities in a finished basement or lower level.

Basement Waterproofing / Sealing

Prior to starting a finished basement remodeling project you should carefully assess the basement foundation and floor for water and moisture problems.

 Basement Remodeling Bid Sheet

Every basement has high moisture levels, and as such, accommodations should be made for the installation of a permanent dehumidifier. Without the use of a dehumidifier even so-called dry finished basements will eventually show signs of mold and mildew.

In addition, you should waterproof your basement’s interior concrete walls and floors to help reduce the level of moisture that wicks its way through the concrete walls and floor, and into the basement living space. Also, if there are signs of water penetration via cracks and white stains on the floors and walls, you should seriously consider installing a basement waterproofing sealer on the outside of the foundation as well, prior to starting the basement remodeling project itself.

Basement Mechanical Access and Function

You also need to consider furnaces and other mechanical fixtures that are located in your basement. Frequently it is impossible, impractical or just too plain costly to move these items.

Finishing a basement is a great way to obtain more finished living space.

Consequently you need to develop a solid floorplan for your finished basement that can work around these obstructions in the most efficient way while ensuring they can still perform their functions properly. For example, a furnace needs to intake air to burn fuel. As a result, you need to allow for ventilation to enable the furnace to burn fuel properly.

You also need to consider access to these mechanical systems, and even the eventual replacement of them. Access considerations should include not only boxed in service panels to turn on and off valves, but also even items such as door dimensions to enable the eventual removal and replacement of furnaces, oil tanks, water filter systems, etc.

Finished Basement or Finished Lower Level Ceilings

Another major consideration when finishing a basement or lower level is the type of finished basement ceiling. The height of the floor joists above the floor, and/or the number and location of pipes can sometimes dictate your choice.

Though more difficult to do, a sheetrocked ceiling gives a more finished look to a basement. However, a dropped ceiling does offer easy access and simplicity in framing and construction. Again, proper planning is necessary to determine how best to install either a sheetrocked ceiling or a dropped ceiling. If a sheetrock ceiling is preferred, duct work needs to be box framed in and service panels need to be accounted for to obtain access to upper level bathtub J-traps, plumbing valves and other mechanical service panels.

Though a finished basement or finished lower level project has its issues and requires careful planning, today’s housing market trends suggests that finished basements / lower levels are highly sought after. Consequently, if done right, a finished basement or lower level space is a great investment and can be a real asset to your home’s long term equity.

For more help on Basement Additions, see’s Basement Remodeling Bid sheet. The Basement Remodeling Bid Sheet will help ensure that your hire the right contractor so that your basement remodeling project is done correctly and you get the project finished on time and budget.

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