A basement project is big, so big it took us almost two years to get ready. We loved the potential of our walk-out basement when we bought our house. We were not financially ready to tackle the project right after buying the house, but the delay was a blessing in disguise.
We were able to live in our home before deciding which modifications to make. Before deciding what we wanted to do with the basement, it was nice to live in the rest of our home. After seeing how our home lived we were able to recognize gaps in our living spaces. The perspective we gained over two years certainly changed our plans for the basement.
Basement Finishing Project Scope
The basement finished square footage will be a little over 1,000 sq feet. There is also an additional 150-200 sq. ft. in the utility and storage areas. We settled on adding the following living areas in the basement:
- Family/Media Room – we do not have a formal living room on the main floor and we are not really formal people, but there is something appealing about having a second living space. It will give us more options for entertaining.
- Play Room – after 2 years with toys over-running our living room and a distant play space in the upstairs loft, we have realized how important it is to us to have a play space in close proximity to the family room, but separate enough to allow us to keep toys mostly out of sight.
- Exercise Room – our builder suggested a media room, but we prefer to hang out in a family room. Instead we are going to create a dedicated exercise room. This is as much of a lifestyle choice as a design choice. We want to make a space in our home and lives for convenient and routine exercise. We figure down the line two teenage boys might appreciate this space as well.
- Kitchenette – there is lot of space in the basement to include a wet bar area and we know it will be really convenient for entertaining and snacks. There is enough space that we plan to include a retro-style apartment size fridge, like a SMEG or Big Chill. We will also have some lower cabinets with a small sink and space for a microwave.
- Game Area – I want the nook area to be furnished with a couple banquettes, a round table, and chairs. I think it will be the perfect place for family game night and entertaining.
- Bathroom – There were already rough-ins for a bathroom and we know an additional bathroom is important for resale value. We are planning a generously sized 3/4 bath (toilet, sink, and shower).
- Bedroom – This will be the 5th bedroom in our home, but we plan for it to be my studio. With resale value in mind we are putting a closet in the room, so it can be classified a bedroom. With a bedroom, bath, kitchenette the lower level could serve as an apartment, if we ever needed to host long-term guests.
Besides getting the layout right the only other hesitation with starting the project was cost. It can be intimidating to contact contractors for bids and risk finding out what you want to do is way out of your budget. Luckily we got our feet wet last year with our deck project. For the basement we actually went back and selected our 2nd choice for the deck (and the one we regretted not choosing as 1st choice). Knowing which contractor we wanted to work with was half the battle.
Our chosen contractor was recommended to us by one of my husband’s colleagues who did a basement project with them. The colleague also shared the general cost of his basement finishing project was about $45,000 and included everything. No project is the same, but it was nice get a general idea of the price range. We decided we would be more comfortable financially with a different approach to our basement project, in part to lower overall cost and spread the cost out over time. For the first phase of the project, we have contracted for professionals to do a portion of the basement finishing work and we plan to DIY the rest.
Basement Finishing Project Costs
Based on our skill sets, time available, and physical labor we were willing to do, we opted to contract the below work. The contracted work costs approximately $26,000 for our basement.
- Concrete Work – to reroute some plumbing pipes and rough-ins
- Plumbing rough-ins for toilet, shower, bathroom sink, and wet bar sink
- Electrical wiring for light switches, recessed lights, fan, lights, smoke detectors
- Drywall and Ceiling with knock-down finish- ready to paint
We plan to DIY the below items. Our DIY budget is not formal, but we would like to complete the below work for under $6,000. The bulk of that cost will be flooring and tile. We will have to get creative to stick within the budget. Labor will be free :)
- Flooring – we plan a combination of carpet, cork, and tile and may add on installation for some of these items (most likely the carpet) through the flooring retailer
- Painting – this is one of the easiest things to DIY and can save a ton of money (have you ever gotten a quote from a painter?)
- Trim – Installing baseboards and door/window moulding
- Kitchenette cabinetry and countertop- we will buy cabinets and install them ourselves
- Shower Tile – the plumber installed a shower base and we will tile the shower walls ourselves
There will be additional work remaining for the professionals, but is not contracted yet. The budget for this work will be less than $3000.
- Finish electrical work
- Plumbing – hooking up toilets and sinks
- Installing interior doors – we have hear this is not the easiest task even with pre-hung doors, we have 6 interior doors for the basement
The grand total budget for our basement project will be $35,000. This cost would not be achievable without the DIY work. To make this overall cost easier to digest, we have also structured the project to spread out the costs.
For the contracted work, we only signed a contract for about $21,00 which included the concrete work, plumbing, electrical, HVAC, framing, and permits. The contract also included itemized options for drywall, finish electrical, and hanging interior doors. The reason we did not contract all the work up front was 1) to ensure the contractor met our expectations, and 2) to spread out the costs. The contractor required 20% ($4000) plus permit cost ($1000) up front and then two installments of $8000 each. The full $21,000 will be paid out in less than 4 weeks, because they are working that quick!
We do not have to pay for the options until we execute a change order. For example, we plan to have them do the drywall which was included as an option on the contract, but we are not paying for it until we sign the change order to do that work. That allows us to wait to pay out that $5000 until later in the project. We can do the same with the finish electrical and door hanging. Not all contractors may be willing to work this way, but ours was willing to take a more phased approach to the project that made us more comfortable getting started.
The DIY work also helps us spread out the costs. We can purchase and work on projects when we get to them. There is no need to rush financially. We would rather wait to save up for the finishing touches we really want, than to feel trapped into builder options. We will have complete control over the time we take to choose finishes and where we want to purchase products. Our contractor does work with several local showrooms and we are welcome to work with them even for the DIY portions of the project.
Tips for Starting a Remodeling Project
I hope this detail on project costs and project approach helps you if you are considering a large home project. My key tips would be:
- Live in your home for a while before making changes to determine how you really want or need the space to function
- Make sure you are comfortable with your chosen contractor and how they structure their contract
- Referrals from friends and neighbors are the best way to find a good contractor and you should meet with them about your project. Treat the meeting as an interview to see if you want to work with the contractor.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for the work to be broken up into smaller phases, you do not have to sign a contract for everything at once. It is okay to tell them you plan to do some DIY.
- Consider what parts of the project you can DIY to save money, but only the work you are comfortable doing. It does not hurt to get estimates on all the work and then determine which pieces might be worth DIYing
I am not an expert, but would be very happy to answer any questions you have and share my own experiences. The next few weeks on the blog will include a series of posts detailing the above work as it takes place.