A Beginner’s Guide to Basement Renovation

Basement Renovation Design

Basement renovation doesn’t get enough attention. In fact, a livable, finished basement may just be one of the most underappreciated aspects of home design. Having a good basement you can spend time in makes a world of difference. And an excellent basement, one that feels like an extension of your home, is one of life’s little joys.

While some homes are better off without a basement altogether (due to dampness and moisture issues), the number of fully renovated basements is on the rise. That’s because developers and homeowners alike have realized the value of a finished basement—both in quality of life and in your property’s market value.

The data is in: the modern basement is a finished basement.

Still, basement renovations can be daunting, especially when you’re confronted with concrete floors and unfinished walls. Never fear: read on for a few crucial basement renovation tips that can make your project a success.

Why Should I Renovate My Basement?

A renovated basement ups the resale value of your home while providing a tremendous boost to your living space. Many include an extra bedroom (for potential guests), space for working or fitness, a place for children to play, or even a secondary living room. Unlike the roof of many basements, the sky is the limit.

Where to Start When Renovating a Basement?

The very first step in any home renovation project is a concrete idea of what you’d like the space to look like when you’re finished. This may seem obvious, but it’s an often-overlooked key aspect of any basement renovation process.

Think of it this way: your basement renovation design should reflect your specific goals:

  • Are you primarily focused on upping the value of your home? You might focus on adding bathrooms or a space for laundry.
  • Or is your goal to create a space for relaxation? Your plan should shift to accommodate that dream.

It’s important that you physically tour through the space you have and reflect the possibilities. You may realize you want something you didn’t expect…and it’s better to have that clarity now before you start renovating your basement.

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What about Waterproofing the Basement?

There are a few other important details to take note of before you get going. Moisture in the basement is a particular problem, and as such, you should conduct a thorough inspection for any cracks or signs of unwanted moisture. In a similar vein, it’s worth looking for and sealing any openings that could allow pests inside.

One last thing: it’s worth taking photos of your space before any work is done. Especially when it comes to “unseen” upgrades like waterproofing, these photos could help a future real-estate agent to explain the value of your work.

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What Should I Include In My Renovation Plan?

A simple online search (i.e. “basement renovation ideas on a budget”) can yield a wealth of results that will help to spark your creative energy. And while a good basement renovation contractor will be able to help with this…as with any investment, it’s a good idea to have some sense of what you’re looking before you bring in the experts.

A few key basement renovation tips to consider:

Basement Kitchen Renovation

Basement Storage Space

A small space for extra storage in your basement can be incredibly valuable. Not only is this a feature that will appeal to any future buyers (nobody wants their clutter upstairs), it can also save you costs when finishing your basement, as many small storage areas have unfinished walls.

Basement Living Room

More Basement Lighting Is Almost Always Better

Unless your unfinished basement happens to be a walk-out basement, odds are it’s a dimly-lit space. This can be a downer for almost everyone. Fortunately, filling your space with warm, even lighting doesn’t have to put a hole in your wallet.

Basement dining area

Many professional renovators will recommend recessed ceiling cans, as they can save space while ensuring an even spread of light. Using CFL or LED bulbs in the basement can help ensure you’re getting the right amount and colour in your light while using only about 1⁄4 the energy.

Lighting for a Basement with an Unfinished Ceiling

Of course, if you choose to leave your ceiling unfinished, you will have to go a different route for your ceiling lights. In that case, a combination of track lighting along with pendant lighting features can work for you. Track lighting helps to ensure a balance in colour and tone, while pendant lights help to give your space a touch of high design.

RELATED ARTICLE: Energy-Efficient Basements

Basement Kitchen Renovation

Practical Basement Flooring

Basement flooring is a different beast than flooring in the rest of your home. Because it rests near the ground, there is a special concern with water and moisture, meaning that whatever choices you make when it comes to the floor should take into consideration how it will dry out.

living space in basement

Basement Windows

The Ontario Building Code, like many such codes around the world, requires an egress window somewhere in your finished basement. Due to its role as an emergency escape route, a basement egress window must be suitably sized, operable from the inside, and should be possible to open without specialized tools or knowledge.

Beyond the requirements the basement egress window, though, it’s worth that almost nobody wants a basement with just a single window.

Do I Need a Basement Renovation Contractor?

A good contractor, especially one experienced in basement renovation services, can greatly impact the outcome of your renovation…while helping you avoid potential pitfalls. Unlike a few simpler tasks in home maintenance/renovation, this is one that is often best left to the experts. Basements are, by their very nature, extra susceptible to wear and tear.

While the initial cost of bringing in a contractor might seem like it would balloon your basement renovation budget, it may actually save you money in the long run. You don’t have to look very far online to find examples of DIY basement renovation projects gone awry.

Generally speaking, there are three main tasks that almost everyone will need to bring in a basement finishing contractor for: flooring, plumbing, and electrical.

What Will It Cost to Renovate My Basement?

The average cost of basement renovation will vary depending on the scale of the project at hand.

That being said, according to basement renovation experts, the average cost to renovate a home basement is about $6,500 to $18,500 USD (that’s roughly $8,500-$24,000 Canadian, as of this writing).

RELATED ARTICLE: How Much Does It Cost to Renovate a Basement?

Basement Kitchen

However, there are a few ways to keep basement renovation costs within a reasonable range. One popular method is to keep things simple with the ceiling. As many basements have a low ceiling to begin with, you can save on costs and make the space seem larger by simply painting the ceiling. A darker colour like charcoal can actually play tricks on the eyes and help the space visually open up. It also helps to be fairly strict with yourself regarding your initial plan. There is a classic tendency to expand your vision once work begins—and while it’s good to aim your sights high, too many extra basement upgrades can really start to blow the budget.

Otherwise, of course, there are a host of variables that can impact your budget, as well as the success of your basement design. That being said, we hope this guide helps to make it clear that no one needs to settle for an unfinished basement. Basement renovations are often much more achievable than they may seem.