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Basement Remodels: What Are the Costs?

A basement renovation should not be undertaken lightly, as it can be a complicated and costly project. Depending on the area, the size of the basement, the age of the house, and whether there’s plumbing involved or not, it can be a significant project. Before starting a basement remodel, you should at least have a good idea of the costs, so you’re sure you can afford it.

The costs for a basement remodel can be broken down into two primary categories: materials and labor. There are a number of other costs as well, however, that may not fit into these two categories. These can include demolition costs and permitting/inspection costs (if required).

It’s a good idea to have a general idea of the costs associated with a basement remodeling project. There are plenty of online calculators available, but one of the best ways to get an estimate is to call out a reputable contractor. Keep reading to get a better understanding of how to figure out how much your basement renovation will cost.

Basement Remodels: What Are the Costs?

A basement remodeling project might be finishing an unfinished basement (i.e. a basement without walls, flooring, etc.), or it might just be renovating an existing basement. These two projects will have varying costs associated with them, as there are things you probably won’t have to do in one project that you will have to do in another:

 

Unfinished Finished
Framing Walls Demolition Costs
Permits for new construction Updates to plumbing and electric
Install plumbing and electric Change existing layouts
Installing vapor barrier Add features/rooms

Each of these situations will require different costs, like the cost of professional plumbers or electricians. Often, if you hire a general contractor, they’ll have in house professionals or subcontractors who can get the job done. It’s important to have a good idea of what you want out of your basement before you call in the pros.

Estimating Labor Costs

The cost of labor is something that’s highly dependent on the part of the country you live in, as well as what you’re trying to get done in your basement. This is because specialty professionals, like plumbers or electricians, may charge a higher rate than general contractors for their services. Therefore, if you’re just knocking down a couple walls or putting up a couple walls in your basement, you’ll probably end up paying a lot less in labor costs than if you’re installing an entire apartment in an unfinished basement. In general, however, you can get a reasonable estimate of the labor costs by looking at the square footage of your basement.

According to Homeadvisor.com, the average cost of a basement renovation can vary greatly depending on what you’re trying to do. However, for general planning purposes, finishing an unfinished basement may cost anywhere from $6,500-$18,500, and remodeling a finished basement can cost anywhere from $10,000 to $30,000. 

There are a number of factors that can affect the cost for a basement remodel. Some of these factors can include:

  • How much time you want it completed in
  • Square footage of the basement
  • Adding additional features (i.e. bathroom, kitchen, laundry room)
  • Upgrading HVAC systems for increased load
  • Foundation inspection, repair, and waterproofing
  • Demo and material disposal
  • Re-routing existing plumbing and electrical

Saving on Labor by Doing it Yourself

 

Labor costs will be a significant portion of the bill for remodeling your basement. Materials are largely a fixed price, and you could theoretically buy the materials yourself. However, if you’re thinking about saving on labor costs by doing your basement yourself, there are a few things you should think about as well:

  • Professionals have all the necessary tools. If you do it yourself, you’ll have to account for the cost of buying or renting tools
  • If you work full-time, your project will take longer to complete than a dedicated crew working on it daily
  • Zoning laws may require that licensed professionals like plumbers or electricians handle certain aspects of your project, or you may have to pay for extra inspections
  • Remodeling a basement is difficult. It requires a lot of specialist knowledge that you’ll have to learn
  • If you make mistakes, fixing them down the road can be even more costly than doing a new install.

Of course, the savings afforded by remodeling your basement yourself can be significant. In many cases you can save up to 2/3 of the cost of hiring professionals. If your remodeling is only knocking down a couple walls and maybe framing a few new ones to make some layout changes to your basement, it might be worth completing it yourself.

However, if you’re planning on making significant changes or you have existing issues with your basement, it may be worthwhile to hire a professional. 

Why Professionals Are More Expensive

There are a number of reasons that professionals are much more expensive than trying to remodel your basement by yourself. Obviously, they’re a business so they need to make money doing it. They have overhead costs, salaries of the people they employ, operating costs, etc. They’re doing all the work, which means you don’t have to do it.

 

Picking a Good Contractor

 

When you’re looking for a good contractor, there are a number of factors to consider. Some of these factors are specific to a basement remodel or finishing project, but some of them apply to contractors doing all types of jobs. 

Many contractors in certain areas might specialize in finishing or remodeling basements, for example, simply because that’s the majority of their jobs. If you’re finishing or remodeling a basement, one of the first things you want to do is find contractors in your area that specialize in those types of projects. 

Other considerations when choosing a contractor can include the following:

  • Check online for reviews, i.e. Google, Facebook, Yelp, Home Advisor. Contractors who do good work will likely have multiple positive reviews on several platforms.
  • Get several reputable contractors  to give you an estimate on your project. Not only can you get valuable ideas from them, it helps to compare services for the best price.
  • Ask about time frame, but expect it to go over. Renovations rarely stay on schedule, especially if it’s a complex job. Someone promising a very short time may be a red flag.
  • Make sure the contractor is licensed in your area. Having someone who’s unlicensed to do the work may leave you without legal recourses if there are issues with it.
  • Price isn’t anything. Contractors who do good work will likely charge a premium, and sometimes that’s better than the alternative. 
  • The Internet abounds with horror stories of contractors taking off mid-job after they’ve received some payment or leaving major issues. You don’t want that to happen to you.

Choosing a contractor for a basement remodel can be tricky, but approach it the same way you would approach hiring someone to do any other job. There are plenty of other tips out there for hiring a good contractor, and just a little diligence up front can pay dividends later on.

Remodeling for Flipping vs. Yourself

 

Another factor that will determine a lot about a basement renovation is whether you’re planning on flipping the property (i.e. fixing it up and then selling it for a profit) vs. doing it for yourself. Renovating the basement on an investment property can be smart, but you have a greater focus on maximizing your return on investment. 

On the other hand, finishing or remodeling a basement in your actual house that you plan on living in might not require as strict an adherence to a budget and timeline, (though of course you should keep that in mind). Even if you plan on living in the home long-term, you should keep an eye on making sure the remodel actually adds value to your home.

Renovating the Basement on an Investment Property

 

The key thing to keep in mind when remodeling an investment property’s basement is budget and schedule. Since you probably have an idea of the amount of profit you’re trying to make, you most likely have a budget for your basement remodel. Going over budget by putting too much work in, or running into problems, can throw the whole project off the rails. Therefore, you’re going to want to make sure the contractor you choose for this sort of project understands that you have a strict budget and a strict timeline. You should understand, however, that estimates given for a job are just that, estimates, and the final price tag may be higher or lower. A reputable contractor should come in relatively close to the estimate though.

Another thing to consider when renovating an investment property basement is that you don’t know what the next occupants are going to use the basement for, so you should make it as “general purpose” as possible. You might think adding a wet bar in the basement is cool, but running the plumbing is a significant cost and most people don’t need a wet bar in their basement.

Generally speaking, though, adding a bathroom in the basement and adding a generous amount of storage are two things that should provide a fairly high ROI, as long as they’re feasible given the layout. It really all boils down to cost, and if adding a bathroom won’t provide enough of a bump in the sell price, it’s probably not necessary.

Renovating Your Home’s Basement

 

Homeowners should of course be concerned about cost and timeline, but they may have a little more flexibility in both of these areas than someone who’s making their living flipping houses. Therefore, they can afford to make their basement a little more customized to their specific needs. For this reason, you might find you can add a bathroom or a specialty room, based on your space and budget, as you may not be worried about selling to someone who may not have those needs. You can make your basement fit your own family’s needs. However, you should always keep in mind resale value and do everything in your power to build your house’s value.

If you’re remodeling a basement that you’ve purchased, sometimes less can be more, especially if it’s an older build. If you start opening up walls, you may find or create issues that wouldn’t have necessarily been a problem had you left those walls in place. Those issues can significantly blow your budget, so when remodeling, you don’t necessarily want to gut the entire basement. 

When you’re remodeling your basement, another consideration is whether you want to add plumbing rough-in for future potential. Even if your budget or needs don’t have you installing a bathroom this time around, installing the actual rough-in can save you boatloads of money in the future. 

These sorts of projects are easier to undertake when your basement is unfinished or when you already have some space opened, due to other renovations you are making. A dollar spent today may well save you twenty dollars in the future.

General Assumptions for Labor Costs

 

In general, you can make some rough estimates for how much a project will cost you based on the square footage you’re trying to renovate. According to Home Advisor, the average cost to homeowners for a basement remodel is about $20,000. This has a pretty wide range, though, from only $4,500 for a bare-bones, minimal work remodel to $45,000 for high-end. 

It’s possible to find an average price for a variety of common basement renovation features. For example, a lot of people like to install a wet bar or a home theater in their basement. Here’s a brief table of common renovation projects and their associated total costs. These costs include labor, materials, and any permits or projects.

 

Feature Price Range
Wet Bar $2,000-$12,000
Home Theater $1,300-$16,500
Home Gym $1,000-$1,500
Bathroom $6,000-$15,000
Re-Framing New Rooms $2,000-$12,000
Home Office $5,000-$10,000

 

Of course, the most expensive type of basement renovation is often when homeowners install a whole additional living space in their basement, complete with kitchen, laundry, bathroom, bedroom, and living space. 

These types of renovations, which require a significant amount of space, are for people who want to rent their basement or have a family member live with them, and can be very costly. Building a completely new living space can run up to $75,000 for materials and labor in some areas, but it can provide a return on investment of up to 70% as well. 

At the end of the day, your contractor is going to be able to give you a better idea of how much they’re charging for labor. Getting a good estimate may only take about an hour or so. 

Again, getting several estimates from local reputable contractors can help you make sure you’re not paying too much (or too little) to get what you want out of your basement renovation.

How Contractors Handle Estimates

 

Contractors usually have several suppliers they work with for their materials, so the prices usually aren’t included in their estimates because they’re relatively fixed. Sometimes, if you want options, a contractor will provide a fixed list of options (for example, several types of flooring, paint colors, etc.). This is to keep their costs low and ultimately, your costs low as well.

Make sure you understand up front what your contractor requires from you in terms of materials, and how they plan to handle it. Again, usually they’ll quote their costs for labor, but they might bill you for materials once they’ve figured out exactly how much they’ve used. You need to know how they’re going to charge you for materials so there aren’t any surprises.

Some contractors will give you what’s called a bid, where they’re telling you upfront how much they can do the project for. These bids will include materials, and may be a good way to figure out which contractor you’ll be using. They should also show roughly how much they’re charging for labor vs. materials, so you can easily compare and see who’s giving you the best price.

Closing Thoughts

 

A basement renovation can be a fun way to make your basement space livable or more livable, make it better suited to your family’s needs, and add a significant amount to the value of your home. Figuring out the cost for a basement remodel can vary widely, but one thing to know for certain is that hiring a professional will cost significantly more than doing it yourself.

However, a professional will bring expertise to the project and is worth considering, especially if you don’t have any experience with construction. Reach out to a few local contractors near you to get an estimate, if you’re in the market to renovate your basement, and add living space to your house.

 

Contact us today for a free on-site consultation and get a bid for your home remodeling project.

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