Growing Down: Watching Costs While Finishing Your Basement

Adding livable space to your home can be expensive, but utilizing existing unfinished space can be much cheaper than building an addition from scratch. You’ll avoid laying foundations, doing exterior construction, roofing… not only is finishing a basement space less expensive, but it’s also generally a faster and less intrusive building project. Regardless of this degree of reduced cost and scope, there are considerations that can impact pricing that need to be managed.

First, let’s take a look at a very general overview of probable costs. According to Remodeling Magazine’s 2013 Cost vs. Value Report, the midrange cost of finishing a basement is around $56,000. This is assumes a number of things: size (20’x30’), flooring (laminate), lighting (recessed), as well as a few other accommodations… namely a bar and a 5’x8’ bathroom. With this scenario in mind, here are some details that can drive up that estimate.

1.    Upgrades. If you’re looking to mirror the high-end finish of your upstairs living space, you can find yourself spending significantly more on your basement. Premium flooring, cabinets, and lighting can add up quickly… as can high-end fixtures and surfaces in your basement’s new bathroom. It’s difficult to say how high these costs can go… it depends on dozens of possible choices. But if you’re hoping for a seamless transition between upstairs style and down, the details make all the difference.

2.    Size. Our estimate above is based on 600-700 square feet, but it’s fairly common to find basements that measure more than 1,000 square feet. Having almost twice the space to finish doesn’t necessarily translate to twice the cost… unless you’re putting in two bathrooms, two bars, etc., but extra room will definitely require extra flooring, as well as more wall and ceiling surfaces to finish.

3.    Multiple Rooms. Lots of homeowners go with a single large recreation area, but if you’re looking for some combination of divided spaces… maybe a spare bedroom, home office, exercise room, even a kitchen or in-law suite. You’ll not only incur the costs specific to whatever room you’re building (counters, appliances, etc.), but dividing your basement into multiple spaces takes more drywall, wiring, HVAC, and possibly plumbing. Your additional expenses for multiple rooms will be highly dependent on your needs. On the upside, creating a whole new living area can allow homeowners to break away from the high-end, premium look and feel of their upstairs and create a space with an atmosphere all it’s own. This flexibility may help cut down on some of the finishing costs.

4.    Doorways. Code requires that finished living space exits to the outdoors in case of fire. If your basement has no direct exit, you might find yourself adding anywhere from a few thousand up to $20,000 or more to your overall cost. Why such a large range? Because you may have to simply expand an opening created by a window… or you might find yourself removing enough wall for a large door, as well as installing external stairs, a stoop, or even a porch… all of finished quality.

There are a lot of factors that come into play when finishing a basement. Remember, the estimate we quoted at the start of this post was for a fairly standard finish. Higher-end finish means higher cost. Find a way to balance your needs and your wants with your budget. Want an extra room? You might need to skip the marble in the bathroom. Need an exit? Maybe your bar doesn’t need a dishwasher and custom wine storage. If you’re curious about what your space can become, and at what price, reach out to a professional to answer your questions—and start planning your project.


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