Basement Renovations Basics for Beginners

posted in: Home & Garden

As a homeowner, you’re probably well-aware of all the improvements that can be made on your property. Maybe the exterior of your house could use a fresh coat of paint or a new roof. Or perhaps your kitchen or main bathroom could use a facelift. When you compile your mental checklist of renovations, you probably don’t give much thought to what’s going on below the surface. But maybe you should. Specifically, you might want to consider how a renovation underneath your main living space could positively impact your home’s value. That’s right: a basement renovation could be the best choice.

What Are the Benefits of Basement Renovations?

In basic terms, a basement renovation will add both value and usable space to your home. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, approximately 204,000 single-family homes that were completed in 2017 had a full or partial basement. But an unfinished basement won’t do much for your home’s value. It might be a serviceable spot to store seasonal clothing, holiday decorations, and unused exercise equipment — but that’s not exactly going to hook future homebuyers. A basement that’s finished, however, can be a real selling point. Whether you turn it into an entertaining space, an in-law suite, an office, or a laundry room, you’ll be able to get so much more out of this space when you remodel it. Not only will that allow your family to enjoy your home even more, but it’ll also translate into a higher asking price if you choose to sell your house down the road. In fact, Remodeling Magazine’s 2017 “Cost vs. Value” report found that the average basement remodel offers a 70% ROI. Ultimately, that means you’ll be able to sell your home for top dollar without spending a lot of time or money on your renovation.

Do Basements and Budgets Go Hand-in-Hand?

Speaking of money, it’s important to note that you don’t have to have a lot of it in order to take on a basement renovation. Even if you’re operating under a tight budget, you should still be able to make some noticeable improvements to this space that will add both value and enjoyment. There’s a pretty wide range of what homeowners are willing to spend here. According to Home Advisor estimates, homeowners will typically spend anywhere from $10,500 to $27,000 to remodel a basement, but other sources say you can spend as little as $6,500 on turning your basement from drab to fab.

How much you spend on your renovation should really depend on how long you’ll remain in your home. If you’re fixing up the basement just so you can sell your house, you shouldn’t spend more than 15% to 20% of your home’s value on this project. But if you plan on staying there for the next five to 10 years (or more), you may be able to justify loosening the purse strings a bit.

Either way, you should try to keep your spending in check. While a basement remodel will pay off, it simply doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to splurge on expensive materials or custom-made elements. In basement renovations, the biggest expenses are typically flooring materials, wall coverings, plumbing, electricity, carpentry, insulation, cabinets and storage, and paint. As long as you price out the essentials accordingly, you can absolutely remodel your basement on a budget.

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What Are Some Basement Renovation Must-Haves?

The way in which you want to use your renovated basement space will be largely up to you. A “man cave” will have different amenities than a home office or added bedroom, after all. But there are certain essentials that need to be addressed, regardless of the purpose the finished space will serve.

In underground spaces, light (both natural and not) must be a priority. Light fixtures and windows absolutely need to be incorporated into your design. Otherwise, your family won’t want to spend a whole lot of time downstairs. The same can be said for installing proper insulation and waterproofing. Basements can be notoriously cold and damp, which will make it difficult to convince your friends and family to gather there for any length of time. Installing the right kind of insulation can make your entire home more comfortable and allow you to save on heating and cooling costs. And since 98% of homes with basements experience some type of water damage, you’ll need to protect your investment through waterproofing.

If you plan on installing a bathroom, a sink, or a laundry setup, you’ll need to include plumbing in your renovation. Below-ground plumbing can certainly be a challenge, so it’s best to hire professionals for this purpose. You’ll also want to assess your current setups for HVAC and drainage (i.e., septic) at this time. These certainly aren’t the most exciting parts of a renovation, but failing to address them now can cause a real headache later on.

Of course, you’ll get to make some aesthetic choices, too. You’ll get to decide on a flooring material, furniture, decor, and storage solutions. These decisions can help you make the space more visually appealing and will ensure your guests feel welcome in your home. Just be sure to strike the balance between attractive and expensive; while the finished room should be enticing, you shouldn’t spend a fortune on decorating it. That said, shopping for these elements can be a whole lot of fun and can allow you to put your own personal stamp on this finished space.

The basics of a basement renovation might be new to you, but we bet you now know what to include (and what to avoid). Using this guide as a reference, you’ll be able to prioritize the most important parts of your basement remodel and make smart choices that will add value to your home.

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Trae Bodge is an accomplished lifestyle journalist and TV commentator who has specialized in smart shopping, personal finance, and retail for more than a decade. She has appeared on TV over 1,000 times; including Today Show, GMA3, NBC Nightly News, Inside Edition, and network affiliates nationwide. She has been named a Top Voice in Retail by LinkedIn, and her expert commentary has appeared in Forbes,, Kiplinger, Yahoo Finance, and numerous others.

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