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Your 8-Step Guide to Renovating Your Basement

Here is our 8-step guide to planning your finished basement on a budget.

1. Decide how you’ll use it

Before you even begin planning your budget, decide on what purpose you want your finished basement to serve. Do you have a young family and hope to use it primarily as a rec room? If so, think long-term when you plan your layout so the rooms can be transformed over time to fit your family’s needs.

Do you have plans for the addition of a rental unit? A spare guest room? A closed off laundry room? Consider how many extra rooms (kitchen, bathroom, bedroom) you’ll need to incorporate into your floor plan.

2. Design your detailed floor plan

Designing your basement may seem overwhelming when you’re standing in a big empty room with a blank sheet of paper. Here’s a trick. Begin by envisioning and sketching out the furniture formations you see.

Even though you won’t be arranging furniture until well after your flooring is laid and your walls are finished, starting here may give you a starting off point from which to sketch how your basement will fit together. Other things to consider when you draw up your floor plan:

  • Your furnace
  • Lighting
  • Staircase
  • Closets
  • Crawlspace
  • Windows and doorways
  • Storage areas

3. Set your budget

Plan your budget as soon as possible before you undertake basement renovations. Include in your budget the costs of installations and adding air vents and replacing or enlarging windows before drywalling, installing the flooring and adding lights.

One of the most important parts of budget planning: reassess your home insurance policy to make sure your basement renovations are covered! The last thing you want is for your renovations to be put on hold by a surprise accident you’re not covered for.

4. Check and address moisture issues

Don’t begin work on your basement until you check and address moisture issues. Addressing moisture issues in the basement includes sealing cracks before they get worse, checking the backwater valve to avoid a sewer backup, and / or extending downspouts to prevent water seepage. It’s a lot of work to maintain a home, but nowhere near as much as having to clean up after sustaining water damage in your basement.

Refer to our downloadable Preventing Water Damage in the Basement (PDF) for the main causes of water damage in the basement and how to avoid them.

5. Inspect the structure

Supporting posts, cracked walls and floors that are below the municipal sewer line can pose challenges to your renovation project. You may want to call a qualified contractor to come in and provide a thorough inspection and make the necessary repairs to create a sound shell for finishing. If you are making changes to partitions or load-bearing walls, your work could affect your home’s structural integrity.

6. Electrical needs

Consider your electrical needs for your new basement. What kind of lighting, home-entertainment systems, baseboard heaters, smoke alarms, etc. will you be needing that may require wiring or extra outlets? Whether you design your own electrical plan and do your own wiring or bring in an electrician, ensure all electrical work is done at a suitable stage in the renovation.

7. Choose your flooring

You have a ride range of options to choose from for flooring in the basement: vinyl, ceramic tile, carpeting, linoleum, laminate—all of these materials and more can be successfully used as basement flooring. After you have addressed the moisture issues you may be experiencing in the basement (see #4), you’re ready to begin flooring.

8. Furnish

Furnishing and adding the finishing touches is the fun part, where you can really pull the room together. Take precise room measurements and bring a copy of your floor plan when shopping for furniture.

Don’t risk letting an accident endanger your project while it’s being built. A home insurance policy customized to meet your needs is the best way to be sure your new basement is protected every step of the way. During construction we recommend having civil liability insurance to protect yourself and your workers in case of an accident.

Your 8-Step Guide to Renovating Your Basement

Whether you’re starting your basement renovations from bare concrete and drywall or not, your project can be done on a tight budget. You just need to invest some quality time into planning right.