Basement Remodeling Ideas & How Tos

A finished basement.
  • 1-3 hours
  • Beginner
  • 0-30
What You'll Need
Graph paper
Pencil
Tape
3D room design software (optional)
What You'll Need
Graph paper
Pencil
Tape
3D room design software (optional)

Basement remodeling will not only add more living space to your house, but if done correctly, it will also increase the value of your home. A lot of homes built in earlier decades were not meant to have a finished basement or living space, so ductwork, as well as water and sewage pipes, are often located in the basement.

It can be a frustrating task until you look at the living space from a different perspective. You aren't seeing an old furnace, washer, dryer, pipes, beams, and unfinished walls. What you see is a finished recreation room, entertainment center, or even a spare bedroom and bathroom.

If your basement is finished with either poured walls or cement blocks, you can make a lot of changes to upgrade the living space. Begin by sitting down with graph paper and designing the living space after taking measurements and deciding what you wish to accomplish.

Check out some planning tips and finished basement ideas below.

Begin with an Idea

drywall basement remodel

No matter what you do, define the basement remodel space. Do you have children that will benefit from a play area? Do you need a family room, with a large entertainment area? Do you want to install a spare bedroom and bath for extended stays by your parents or in-laws?

All of that must be defined before you proceed. The reason is simple—you are at ground zero in your basement. There are certain things that cannot be changed. Your job will be to work around them.

Essentials for a Basement Remodel

You must have access to a furnace, water pipes, sewage pipes, and a sump pump. Support posts in the basement are essential to the integrity of the home.

Upgrade the basement sump pump to a newer model if you live in an older home. A battery backup sump pump is essential if the basement is finished, especially with carpeting or hardwood floors. A controller automatically switches from electricity to the battery in the event of a power outage. Living in a location that has heavy thunderstorms means that the power may fail, making basement floods likely. A battery backup system saves a lot of grief.

A support pole in a basement is often boxed in drywall with a chair railing added for effect. Fancier pole treatments can be designed to imitate a Doric column.

An unfinished portion of your basement can house the furnace and utility room. Contractors recommend that you utilize the space by recessing a kitchen sink or other appliance. Doing so not only increases the floor space but also allows you to add lighting.

Proceed with Basement Remodel Planning

basement remodel

There are two ways you can approach the task. After carefully measuring your basement, use 0.25 inch graph paper to lay out your design, with 0.25-inches on paper equal to one foot of floor space. If you find you haven't got enough room on the paper because you have a large basement, simply tape together more graph paper to cover the entire area.

In your drawing, allow for the finished wall, which will include the stud and wallboard. It will be approximately 15-inches. Record the measurements as accurately as possible. You don't want to install a kitchen or pool table in your new basement remodel and find that you are 6 inches short on space.

The second approach is through the use of 3D software. A very basic program is the Ikea Home Planner. If you are unfamiliar with 3D programs, Ikea is a good place to start. Simplistic and interactive, it can help you lay out the basics of what your basement will look like. Use this to plan the location of electrical outlets, windows, doors, and interior walls. The placement of gas pipes, water pipes, and other obstructions can be mapped as well.

An even better 3D program is recommended by Dave Schrock of Basement Ideas. Mr. Schrock specializes in basement design and remodeling. He recommends the use of Home and Gardens "Home Designer" by ART Advanced Relational Technology.

Home Designer is powerful. It includes a complete set of Computer Aided Design (CAD) tools to detail designs; furthermore, it allows you to import colors, textures, and wall treatments to give you a good picture of what you want. It will guide you in determining the materials you need, and generate a spreadsheet of these items, allowing you to figure budget. It can be purchased at Basement Ideas’ online store for $59.00.

3D Rendering

When using 3D software to design a basement remodel, remember that it is merely a visualization, not actual floor plans. Although you can be very accurate with this software, scaling it to almost exact dimensions, there are too many other factors that are not being considered.

If you take a 3D rendering of a basement design to a contractor or builder, you are only asking for trouble. Use them only for visualization and to give you an idea of what your finished basement will look like. Never depend on these images to be an exact model of the finished product.

Considering a Budget

Once you've come up with your final design, determine your budget. It is always a good idea to have a figure in mind before starting, but when it gets down to figuring out actual materials, you will be surprised.

There are online calculators that will help you to determine the exact amount of drywall, 2x4-inch lumber, and paint to buy for your project. Keep in mind that all of these figures are ballpark estimates. The contractor who does the work for you will know exactly what you will need. Plan to spend between $30 and $40 per square foot to have this work done.

Insulation

basement wall insulation

Adding basement insulation will make your living area more comfortable, save you money on your energy bills, and is the first step towards finishing your basement. If you're wondering about adding insulation to your basement, here are some things to consider.

Before insulating your basement walls, you need to be sure your basement doesn’t have any moisture problems. Adding insulation to a basement that is moist or continuously damp is a waste of time and money. Moisture can enter your basement through cracks or openings in the foundation, so any visible openings need to be repaired.

Moisture can also seep through the walls themselves. Ensure that the ground around your foundations is sloping away from your foundation and your downspouts, and that gutters are emptying well away from your foundation. Doing so prevents moisture from getting into the ground around your foundation, where it will sit against the walls and eventually work its way inside.

Foam sheet insulation is commonly made from polystyrene or polyurethane. These large sheets can be applied directly to foundation walls or cut to size and fitted into openings in stud walls. Foam insulation provides good insulation (R-values from approximately 5 to 8 per inch of thickness), and also has the advantage of being impervious to insects and moisture.

It’s important to cover all the seams between the sheets with moisture-proof tape to prevent any air or water movement. Most building codes require foam sheets to be covered with a fire-resistant barrier such as .5-inches of drywall, which can be installed over the insulation by installing furring strips to the insulation, followed by the drywall.

Basement Remodel Costs

A full overhaul can cost over $30,000, while a simple tweak or two might cost as little as $3,000. On average, people remodeling their basement spend a little under $20,000.

Basement Refinishing Ideas

These design concepts can take your extra space and make it functional and fun.

Curtain Dividers

Divide your space into separate areas for privacy with curtains on a ceiling-mounted track, giving a single room dual functions. Combine an office space with a TV viewing area and pull the curtain for additional privacy.

If you're handy with fabric, you can make your own curtains.

Storage Units

Build under-stair storage to fit the space. Create a network of shelves to fit under your basement stairs that can hold totes with out-of-season gear or serve as pantry shelves.

Home Gym

basement gym equipment

Arrange your laundry room near your fitness equipment and install a TV and ceiling fan to give it the feel of a gym while creating a comfortable space to do laundry.

Home Office

Create a home office refuge with expansive storage, lots of lighting, and a large desk to make it feel like a plush office.

Mini-Kitchen

Make entertaining simple by adding a kitchen or a mini-kitchen in the basement. Install a sink, dishwasher, and microwave along with a built-in bar and TV to make it a nice alternative to enjoy a meal.

Kid's Room

Create a kid’s room complete with a homework zone and a play zone. Keep creativity high with lots of hands-on activities and install plenty of light to keep the space bright.

Arts and Crafts Space

Add a crafting room with bright colors for inspiration. Install plenty of storage for supplies and tools and make the room a functional space for all of your projects.

Home Theatre

basement home theater

Create a home theater in a long, narrow space with terraced seating to create the feel of a real theater. Have great sound control and a perfect place to relax with the family.

Game Room

Convert your basement into your own personal game room with family favorites like a pool table or table tennis and brush up on your skills. Enjoy some friendly play without even leaving home.

You could also add pinball machines, video games, and even an air hockey table. An unfinished basement that was once used only for storage can also be turned into a media room with large screen TV, comfortable furniture, and computers and desks for surfing the Internet.

Sauna/Darkroom/Hobby Room

A number of homeowners across the country have remodeled their basements to include a sauna, darkroom, or hobby area. Contractors can divide a large open basement space into one that has several smaller rooms to accommodate a darkroom or sauna. Do-it-yourselfers with basic carpentry skills can often take on a project like this themselves.

Spare Bedroom

Basements can also serve as spare bedrooms for older children who may want some privacy or for the occasional family member who stays overnight. Add comfortable furniture, paintings, wall art, and other accessories to make the basic basement feel more like an actual bedroom. A fresh coat of paint or mini-blinds on windows and door walls can make it feel homier.

Bathroom

basement bathroom

Whether you use the basement as a spare bedroom, entertainment area, or media room for the entire family, installing a half or full bathroom increases the functionality of the space. It also adds value when you are ready to sell your home. Most people hire contractors for a basement remodel. If you decide to do it yourself, be sure you understand the plumbing, electrical, and venting needs before you begin the project.

Wine Cellar

Some wine lovers transform their basements into cool, efficient wine cellars. Incorporate your storage into the room’s design and create a place to enjoy a bottle of wine, as well as age your collection.

Depending on the scale you're going for, you can create a wine cellar for between $10,000 and $40,000. If you're going full on extravagant, you can spend up to $100,000 on a full room basement wine cellar. As a general rule, expect to spend about $500 per square foot of remodeling to create a wine cellar.

Personally, we think you're probably better off picking up a few wine coolers like these than rebuilding your whole space for this, but if you've got a serious vino collection, it might be fun to think about.

Basement Finishing Challenges

Carpeting and Painting

Once you have the walls in place for your new room, it is time to carpet and paint the area in complementary colors. Choose eco-friendly paints if you have pets or children. Choose high texture paint for a richer color. Select a thick carpet and pad to prevent the cold cement floor from affecting your comfort.

Walls

Don't expect floors and walls to be perfectly straight. They generally aren't if the house was not built to have a finished basement. Walls can lean in or out. Floors are often sloping to allow drainage in case of floods. Always line up new studs with the existing ones. Doing so makes it much easier to access wiring, plumbing, and ductwork.

Ceilings

Although many people desire a finished plaster ceiling, you should consider installing a tile ceiling with traditional grid work to allow access to wires and plumbing. A slightly dropped ceiling in a basement allows access to these housing components and is also handy to check on any pipes or electrical systems.

If you think that acoustic tile is just too commercial, consider installing a soffit perimeter around the room with a tile ceiling in the center. One experience of trying to fish an electrical wire through a finished ceiling will convince you of the wise thinking of the many contractors who recommend this.

Further Reading

Finishing a basement is very different than redecorating an interior room. Listen to the experienced advice of contractors, and you can't go wrong on a basement remodel.

When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn commissions at no cost to you.