How much does basement finishing cost?

basement finishing cost

Finishing Your Basement Space

Because of construction savings and property tax advantages, many new homes are sold new with an unfinished basement space. But what happens when your family grows larger or you decide need more finished space to live in? How much does it really cost to make this space a finished living area?

The answer to this question depends of course on how you intend to finish your new basement area. If you know what you want to do however, you can usually come quite close to predicting the costs by following a few simple estimating rules. These rules are outlined in the following article.

Start with a plan

If you are seriously planning to finish your basement space or just shopping to see what it might cost, it is always best to have as good a finish plan as possible. You should plan carefully just how you intend to finish your basement space. Some people like to hire a professional architect to draw plans but because your space is already structurally done this is not usually necessary. If you are going to use a professional designer this will usually add about $ 300 to $ 1,000 to project depending on its complexity.

Many remodeling contractors also offer free design and estimate services and some will even credit you the design fee if you use their bid for the work. You can also save money on your project by doing the design and planning yourself. Start by making a rough plan sketch of the area to be finished on a piece of paper. Mark your plans with the locations and dimensions of all walls and the location of any significant changes.

Note on the plans for how you intend to finish each area. Make a special note of any expensive electrical, heating, or plumbing changes that may occur. From your finished plan, you can then make a list of all the items that will be changed and the areas that are involved. For example, in one sample room you may have a list that looks like this;

  • 1)New carpeting 120 square feet
  • 2)New drywall walls and ceiling 472 square feet
  • 3)Paint walls and ceilings 472 square feet
  • 4)New window curtains 1 ea 3ft x 5ft
  • 5)New room lights 2 ea
  • 6)New finished door 1 ea 28 inches
  • 7)New base board trim 42 ft

Quality Matters

After you have you have a plan and a list with the areas, you can work on the specifications for your project. Research carefully the type of quality you want to use on every item in your finished space. List what type of drapes, carpeting, paint and electrical fixtures you will be using. There can be a huge difference in the price of a finish items depending on the quality used. For example, base carpeting prices start around $ 15.00 per yard installed but some expensive wool Berber carpeting can be as much as $ 120.00 per yard.

If you aren’t sure what quality you want and you feel the price is more important than frills you can always refer to standard builder-grade quality. This is usually the least expensive functional quality product that meets federal housing authority (FHA) standards. When you have specified the quality of all your finishes like the carpet, the paint, the trim, and even the texture of the drywall you are ready to begin getting prices.

Unit Pricing

The next step in getting your costs to finish is to figure out the costs for each separate finish item. You can start the process by using a unit pricing book available at most public libraries or on the Internet. These books will give you a rough cost for the labor and materials on most remodel items. For example, in our local area drywall is currently installed for around $ 0.76 per square foot. Multiplying the unit price times 472 square feet will give you a cost to drywall your sample room of $ 358.

If you are doing this work yourself your labor cost should be less expensive. If you are hiring a drywall contractor remember to add about 30% to 40% for his overhead and profit to do the work. After you have added up all your separate unit prices you should have a rough idea of what your finish costs to be. Most basements finish completely for between $ 15.00 and $ 35.00 per square foot depending on what you are doing and how expensive your finishes are.

Getting a Closer Estimate

Unit pricing will help give you a rough estimate of your finishing costs but to get a closer estimate you will need to either figure out the labor and materials for each finished item or get a firm bid from a contractor. Remember you can divide out the work and do some of the easy stuff yourself (if you are so inclined) or divide the work between several subcontractors for different parts of the project.

The carpeting can be done by a professional flooring company, the painting by a painting company, and so forth. Things like electrical, plumbing, or even drywall are more difficult than work like painting or laying vinyl tile. Unless you have experience in remodeling it is usually wise to leave the difficult stuff to a professional.

To get some cost ideas invite your local sub-contractors over and take the time to make the project as clear as possible to them. Show them your plans and specifications and ask for a firm bid. The more prepared your planning is the better your price should be. Be sure and get three bids for expensive items.


Finishing a basement is usually one of the simplest remodels and it is almost always cost effective. The more planning you do the more accurate your pricing should be. Better planning will also leave you much more pleased with the finished result. Remember not to forget the new increased cost of maintenance for your finished basement. You also should include the increase in your property tax values as a cost of your new project.

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