A basement can be transformed from a dark storage area to a comfortable den, playroom or functional addition to the living area of the house. Properly and efficiently finishing a basement requires careful planning, budget evaluation and awareness of local regulations. Electric and plumbing requires professional contractors, and most municipalities require inspections throughout the building process, as well as a final inspection.


Work on a finished basement can be accomplished largely through the homeowner, by a builder, by subcontracting various stages of the building process, or a combination of these strategies. Please keep that in mind when planning your basement and using the steps outlined below.



Planning and Waterproofing


Step 1


Design the basement. Planning is the most important first step for any project. Time can be cut down significantly with good planning. Make up plans for your basement. Determine how it will be laid out and how you will design it. The homeowner, if he or she has a knowledge of construction, can make the plans, or work with a contractor in designing plans for the project. An architect can also be utilized in the planning stage. In the long-run, this can sometimes cut costs.


Step 2


Make up a materials list for the project. Estimate the cost of the basement. Cost for a contractor to complete the entire project with labor and materials are about $40 to $60 per square foot, but can be as high as $100 per square foot, depending on options and what is needed. Homeowners who do much of the work themselves, can expect costs of as little as $27 per square foot.


Framing materials usually are of metal, rather than wood, for basement walls. Metal screws will be needed. Sheetrock, tape and joint compound, primer and paint will be needed. Plumbing supplies, if needed should also be considered and should be subcontracted for code, as should the electric.


Step 3


Apply for necessary permits, along with your plans, and make sure that it will be approved as designed. Apply for plumbing and electrical permits as well if necessary. Get estimates from contractors or subcontractors for the project. Don't assume that the cheapest estimate is the best. Sometimes the cheapest estimate can turn out to be the most expensive. Use good judgment in hiring reputable contractors.


Step 4


Install sump pump. Determine if the basement will need a new sump pump, and install it.


Step 5


Apply waterproof coating to the interior of the basement, and exterior if necessary. Install French-drains, if necessary. Install sump pump which will capture and pump out water buildup.



Construction


Step 1


Frame out the interior of the basement. Walls can be framed with metal studs, ceilings with wood. Metal columns can be framed out and sheetrocked, or simply painted, which also looks attractive. Call for a framing inspection if required.


Step 2


Install electric and plumbing. Hired contractors can begin work on electric and plumbing. Call for specific inspections when complete.


Step 3


Install insulation between studs in all exterior walls. Call for insulation inspection if necessary.


Step 4


Install sheetrock. Sheetrock screws are more secure than nails.


Step 5


Tape joints with three coats of joint compound, heavy compound at first, then lightweight for the final coat. Sand joint compound smooth with fine sand paper on a pole sander. Be careful not to sand it too low, as it can damage the tape underneath. Paint the sheetrock with a latex primer.


Step 6


Install the suspended ceiling. In most cases a suspended ceiling is preferred for a basement because of irregularities or plumbing in the basement ceiling.


Step 7


Install doors.


Step 8


Install finish trim and caulk all joints.



Finishing


Step 1


Apply finish coat of paint. Make sure that there are no irregularities in the surface. Touch up any irregularities with lightweight joint compound. Apply second finish coat of paint if needed.


Step 2


Install carpeting and/or tile. Make sure surfaces are smooth and work out any serious irregularities or defects in the floor.


Step 3


Get final inspection. Add furniture, additional lighting and enjoy your finished basement.


Skill Level: Challenging




Things You'll Need

· Building permits

· Framing materials - 2 by 4's and/or metal framing

· Screws and nails

· Insulation

· Sheetrock with sheetrock nails or screws

· Electrician

· Lighting materials

· Plumber and plumbing supplies

· Sump pump

· Waterproofing coating

· Spackle and joint compound

· Caulking

· Paint, primer and finish

· Finish trim

· Doors

· Drop ceiling materials

· Carpeting

· Appropriate tools


Tips


The cheapest estimate is not always the best. The quality of the contractor's work, his dependability and reputation are of importance.



Doing major construction projects without the appropriate permits, can easily be flagged in most municipalities in the United States, and result in a hefty fine. Make sure you get all the necessary permits and inspections. Make sure your contract with any contractor includes inspection approvals and final inspection approval before the final payment.


Reference Sources:


1. CalFinder: Basement Refinishing Costs


2. The Family Handyman: How to Finish a Basement - Framing and Insulating


3. Finish a Basement.com