You know that empty space downstairs where you’ve been storing old clothes, old tools and old toys? What if it became a new office, a new home theater or a new billiard room?
Turning a basement into a living space ranks among the top 10 remodeling projects, according to the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI). Not only does the project bring life to a sometimes-forgotten space, it also boosts resale value: According to the 2017 NARI Remodeling Impact Report, homeowners could recoup almost two-thirds of their costs for a basement conversion. While NARI estimates the cost of a professional basement re-do as about $40,000, a DIY version can cost a lot less, especially if you’re creative with some of the basics. Here are eight tips to help get you started.
Start Small—But With Flair
When people use up their budget on redoing the entire basement, the result may look bland, says Leah Smith of Ohio-based contractor Buckeye Basements. Instead, think about “finishing a smaller area, and use your funds to incorporate some fun features,” she advises. Adding a wet bar or a big-screen TV, or making aesthetic upgrades with brick or stone “can take the basement finish to the next level and greatly add in resale value.”
Keep It Dry
Moisture and leaks can curse a basement, finished or not, says Smith. So make sure there are no water or moisture issues. “If so,” she says, “consult a company specializing in waterproofing and water-related repairs.”
Get Creative with Flooring
Since basement flooring can get expensive, Smith suggests luxury vinyl tile, or LVT. “It’s water resistant,” she says, “and results in huge savings compared to traditional tile installation.” For a more industrial look, refinish with concrete and use large area or throw rugs.
Don Your Painting Clothes
If you’re installing new walls, a pro will do it better and in less time than you can. “Hire someone to put up the walls and finish the drywall,” suggests Teris Pantazes, CEO of EFynch.com, which connects consumers with remodeling professionals in the Baltimore area. “But do the painting yourself to save money.” He suggests that you choose a light color, to help offset any lack of natural light.
Change It Up
“The basement is where most homeowners feel comfortable taking ‘decorative liberties,’” says Pantazes. Head to a thrift or salvage store and look for unique items. Want your space to feel like a ski lodge, a farmhouse or the ultimate football fan zone? “Channel your inner interior designer!” says Pantazes.
Choose Your Ceiling
You have three options here: sheetrock, ceiling tiles or painting. “Ceiling tiles can be extremely useful in the basement,” says Pantazes, since they make it easy to access water or sewer pipes and electric lines. But, he adds, “ceiling tiles are somewhat troublesome to install—they need to be done right and perfectly square.” Sheetrocking is cheaper, says Pantazes, but cutting into the sheetrock later for any repairs is a pain. The simplest? Painting, if you don’t mind the rehabbed-industrial look—and you can do it yourself.
Clear the Air
Despite your best efforts to keep moisture at bay, musty smells can still develop. “Don’t forget about air quality,”says Pantazes. “If you skimp with that, the basement will be underutilized.” An air purifier could help, so shop around for the right fit. Units can start as low as under $100.
Check the Codes
You can save money by doing things not bound by codes: installing trim or doors, painting walls and woodwork, and installing flooring, says Buckeye Basements’ Jon Smith. Beyond that, count on using some pros. “When it comes to the framing, electrical, HVAC and the related calculations as to combustion air, insulation/firestopping, and plumbing work,” he says, “these all must be inspected by local municipalities and building departments in many locations.” And these types of projects can cause a lot of headaches if you DIY. “A lot of people start to tackle the basement-finishing process themselves,” says Leah Smith. “But they call us because they didn’t get permits—and then get stuck and need a rescue.”
Transforming your basement could add value to your home, so you’ll want to protect it with homeowners insurance through the GEICO Insurance Agency.
By Katrina Brown Hunt
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