Finish a Basement: How To Plan Your Basement Renovation

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Finishing a basement has tremendous benefits and allows you to make the most of the space. Aside from creating more usable space in your home, finishing your basement adds more value to your home and can be a place where fond family memories are created. There was a time when basements were just an area used to store anything that needed to be kept out of way. Today, more and more families are choosing to invest in their basements.

Finishing a basement also has energy saving benefits and offers one of the greatest ROI when it comes to home improvement projects. But one of the burning questions homeowners have is how hard is it to finish a basement?

Knowing how to finish a basement boils down to lots of research and planning. A well-thought-out basement finishing plan will help the project to go on with minimal disruptions. Failing to plan properly can end up costing you even more money to fix problems that were overlooked or correct the mistakes that were made due to inexperience. So having a detailed plan can make all the difference in the success of your project.

DIY finished basements

Many homeowners consider do-it-yourself basements, particularly if they have a tight budget. While doing the bulk of the work yourself is doable and can save you a lot of money, there are some aspects of the project that require professionals, particularly plumbing and electrical work. DIY finished basements done right can be just as appealing as those that are professionally done.

Also keep in mind that you do not have to wait until your basement is completely finished to begin renovating it. It may take many months, even years to finish your basement due to limited resources or other reasons. This shouldn’t deter you. There are many partially finished basement ideas you can incorporate as you plan your project.

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Planning your basement layout

You’ll need to establish how you would like to utilize your basement space once it is finished. To do this, it’s best to consider your family’s lifestyle and habits. For example, if you have small children, you may want to consider using your basement space as a play area or family room. A game room is also a great basement idea for family fun, particularly if your children are a little older. You can also transform your basement into a multi-purpose room with something for everyone. The possibilities are limitless.

Some popular finished basement ideas include:

  • Basement apartment
  • Bedroom
  • Sauna
  • Home theatre
  • Home gym
  • Game room
  • Playroom
  • Home office
  • Bar

With so many options to choose from, it may be difficult to narrow it down to one. Think long-term and consider how your basement can continue to be useful over the years.

The current layout of your basement is also a key factor in helping you determine how best to use your basement. You want the space to be functional and as convenient as possible, so where you plan to place fixtures and furniture is extremely important. Also use the location of windows and natural light to guide you on the layout. For example, if you plan on using your basement as a home theater, you may want to set up your TV away from the window to create a darker area and reduce glare.

Inspect your basement and address any underlying issues

Before you begin any construction work, make sure that your basement is in good shape. There are some issues that you should not ignore and failing to fix underlying structural issues or moisture problems before construction commences will cost you more money in the long run.

1. Test for moisture

Water in your basement can either come from the ground water outside of the basement or from humid air in the basement. It’s important that the source of moisture is identified and eliminated before you begin any construction in your basement. Basements are prone to moisture, and this can cause significant structural problems and health risks to your family if this is not addressed quickly.

There are several ways to test for moisture issues in your basement:

a)    You can use plastic sheeting to cover the floor and walls and wait for a period of at least two weeks to see if any condensation forms on the plastic. If any drops of water appear underneath the plastic sheet, your foundation has not been sealed. If there are droplets on top of the plastic, your basement needs to be dehumidified.

b)    You can use aluminum and duct tape in a similar way and check after 24 hours for droplets of water.

c)     For a quicker option, use a thermo hydrometer to test for humidity. If the levels are elevated that means that there is a moisture issue that needs to be further investigated.

If there’s moisture there’s a high probability that there may be mold in your basement. This will need to be removed immediately.

2. Check for pest issues

Make sure that you don’t have any pest issues before you embark on your renovation project. Inspect your basement for any signs of insect damage, particularly by wood framed windows, rim and headed joists and in corners.

3. Make sure there is no sagging on your floor joists

To do this, use a ladder to climb up until you are at eye level with the bottom part of the joist. Check to see if everything looks aligned properly. It’s also a good idea to have a professional look at the ventilation system in your home for any carbon monoxide buildup.

Do you have enough headroom?

There are specific ceiling requirements for basements – usually between 7 and 7 1/2 feet. Measure your headroom to make sure you have that clearance or else you may have to break up the concrete floor and lower it. This is a very expensive task so try to see if there are other things you can do to meet the height requirement, i.e. moving ducts and pipes.

Another area you should also double check is your stairs leading to the basement. Are they up to code? And while you’re at it, get familiar with your local building codes. Each municipality has its own rules and regulations for construction work that need to be adhered to. Find out what these building codes are including the number of exits your basement needs to have.

Have a backup sump pump

It’s a good idea to have a battery backup for your sump pump just in case you experience a power outage. We also recommend that you have a secondary pump to use in the event that the main one stops working. If your home gets its water from municipal water, consider purchasing a water-powered backup pump that relies on the pressure from the supply line.


If you notice that you have minor leaks in your basement, you may be able to patch them up without having to hire a professional. But you do want to make sure that you address these leaks before they become bigger, which is bound to happen over time. Some ways to address small leaks is to use concrete patching compound to fill in any cracks or gaps that are present around your pipes. If you have larger cracks, use hydraulic cement to fill these in. If the width of the cracks is wider than a pencil, you will need to have a structural engineer address the issue.

Insulating pipes

Exposed pipes can cause a significant amount of heat loss. To prevent this from happening, use foam insulation sleeves over hot water pipes. Also do this for cold water pipes to reduce condensation from forming inside the drywall.

Finishing basement walls

This is something you should do to help insulate your walls and prevent heat loss. There are three ways that you can finish your basement walls:

  • Insulated stud walls – this is something you can do on your own if you have a limited budget. It’s one of the most common methods of insulating your wall and requires the use of a vapor barrier and rigid-foam insulation to be placed over the foundation walls trim. Once this is in place, add a stud framing and drywall.
  • Interlocking panel systems – this can be done by putting insulation panels together and gluing them to the walls. They can also be clipped on or screwed to the walls. When this has been completed, the drywall is then attached to integrated strips to make the wall thinner.
  • Professional basement finishes – a licensed expert can add insulation to the walls, floors and ceilings.

Once your basement walls are finished, you can apply a beautiful coat of paint and get creative with your décor to dress up the walls. There is a whole world of basement wall ideas you can explore. However, try to avoid adding too many partition walls because this can eat up a lot of space in your basement. Other options you should consider instead of building walls is to incorporate sliding doors and movable screens where privacy is needed.

Finished basement ideas


Select material for your floors that is suitable for your basement and how you plan to use it.

  • Carpet – some people like the idea of carpet because it helps to combat the cold that is often associated with basements. It can make the space feel cozy, however, it can trap moisture if you experience flooding.
  • Vinyl – is a popular choice because it is waterproof and easy to install. Should folding occur, cleanup is quick and easy. There are so many options for vinyl floors to suit just about any design preference.
  • Tiles – this is another great option because tiles are easy to clean and maintain and also give a nice, finished look.
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Sound proofing

Consider soundproofing your basement to keep sound from penetrating the basement ceiling and disrupting other members of the house. This is particularly a good idea if you are using your basement as a home theater or game room.

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A well-lit basement is very alluring, especially since basements are notorious for being dark and gloomy. Think about installing supplementary lights like pot lights and incorporating decorative lighting options like lamps and cabinet lights. This can be done creatively and lighting can be used to highlight certain features or areas in your basement that you would like to stand out. Also think about ways to utilize natural lighting as well.

Small Kitchen Renovation Project by Harmony Basement Bradford

Add a mini kitchen

You don’t have to install a full kitchen into your basement, but it is a good idea to create some space where you can store food. For example, a mini fridge for beverages, a microwave to heat food and a cabinet to store snacks.

Luxury Basement Remodeling Project by Harmony Basements Richmond Hill

Incorporate space-saving accessories

Many people like the idea of having a pool table in the basement, but when you think about the size of a pool table, it will eat up a significant amount of space in your basement. So does a ping pong table. To save space, think about using a multi-purpose work table that can accommodate several people. You can use the table for board games, puzzles, crafts and many more activities. Another example of space-saving accessories is choosing to use wall hooks for coats instead of a coat closet. If you’re going to use your basement as a laundry room, choose stackable machines.

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Make your basement cozy

A great way to do this is to think about features that give the room warmth. A fireplace can do just that. Not only can it be a focal point of your basement, but it can have a direct vent gas unit that will make your basement cozy. Other things to consider for inexpensive basement finishing ideas are using colorful accessories to give the room more character, like an area rug.

Bathroom Renovation in Custom Basement by Harmony Basements Burlington

Planning to add a bathroom?

Think about ways to make the bathroom both functional and visually appealing at the same time. Use light reflecting finishes that highlight the fixtures in your bathroom and play with textures to add a splash of creativity to the room. Basement bathrooms or are notorious for back ups so be mindful of this. An experienced plumber can help you install a backflow prevention valve to make sure that you don’t have any back up with your sinks or tubs. To reduce any extra moisture in your basement bathroom, incorporate measures to eliminate humid air in your bathroom, like adding a humidistat to the exhaust fan in the bathroom. It will turn on automatically if the air becomes too damp.

Finishing a basement is a lot of hard work, but it is also extremely rewarding. Transform your basement into a space you will love by exploring various finished basement ideas and choosing your favourite.Check our website for more incredible basement ideas!