Professional Advice on Designing The Perfect Finished Basement

A Finished Basement is a Great Way to Add Usable Living Space to Your Home.

A finished basement is a great place to let your creativity and personality show. This fireplace is built into cabinetry in a non-typical fashion, for design flair and functional comfort. The bookshelves, reclaimed Chicago brick, and game table are just a few of the personal touches in this lower level.

If you're thinking of increasing the usable space of your home, and you have a basement, the answer could be right beneath your feet! Creating a finished basement can be a great way to add living space without the expense of building an addition. As a bonus, a finished basement can offer a great return on your investment (up to 69% in the first year, on average) and add plenty of usable space, all without increasing the footprint of your existing home.

A finished basement offers such a great return because of the basic infrastructure, the exterior walls, and floors are already in place. This can greatly reduce construction costs per square foot, saving you tens of thousands of dollars compared the cost of an addition with similar size and features. An addition typically requires a basement foundation anyway, and you don't need to do any exterior work on siding or roofing. Because a basement remodeling uses your home's existing footprint it can avoid the complications of property line setbacks and other zoning restrictions that can sometimes complicate adding an addition to your home.

Remodeling your basement comes with some specific challenges that need to be addressed before you begin your project. With a little research and some work, you can create the perfect finished basement.

Moisture is Enemy #1 of a Finished Basement!

A finished basement can be the perfect location for a home office, craft nook, or homework area. Chalkboard paint makes this nook a spot for whimsical artwork or practical list-making.

The biggest challenge when planning a basement remodeling in the Madison area is moisture. A finished basement should be warm, dry and comfortable and the weather in Madison can be cold and wet and snowy.

Any chronic leaks, moisture, condensation or flooding need to be fixed before you begin any work. Repairs can cost anywhere from a few hundred dollars to thousands of dollars depending on the problem and the scope of work needed to fix it. This can cut the return on your investment, but if you cut corners here, you'll pay for it later with musty smells, mold, mildew and replacing soggy carpets.

Large windows can make a finished basement feel like it is part of the main home instead of a secondary space. Notice how the stairway leads you down toward the view in this home, rather than dumping you into a dark corner.

With some work addressing these problems can be the first step towards transforming your basement into an entertainment area with a wet bar, a home theater, a guest suite, rentable space or a kids playroom. Working with an experienced design build firm can help you explore all of the possibilities of this most functional space and help you to meet your families needs.

Take The Right Steps When Designing Your Finished Basement

After you've prepared your space and remedied any moisture issues (on your own or with the help of your design build company), it's time to begin the design phase. Basement remodeling is a process and the more thought and preparation you put into the process before you begin, the easier it will be to execute the work. Here are some steps to take as you begin a basement remodel.

Evaluate Your Basement

A walkout basement provides light and access to the back yard. A wet bar is popular option in a situation like this to entertain indoors and outdoors.

Your basement will pose some potential obstacles that you'll need to plan for like low ceilings, moisture (although this should have been addressed!) heating and ventilation concerns. You will most likely also need to address issues like working around or moving electrical lines and hiding plumbing. If you are adding a kitchenette, bar or bathroom you'll also have new plumbing and a gas stove or fireplace will require tapping into the gas lines as well. Inexperienced remodelers and do-it-yourself basement finishes often neglect providing proper heating and ventilation to basements, leaving them cold in the winter and dank in the summer.

Determine Its Use

A home theater can be the perfect use for a dark, windowless corner of a finished basement. Painting the wall behind the screen black creates a true theater feel, but also improves viewing by focusing the eye on the screen.

Think about how you could best utilize your new space. Speak with your family members and determine how the space available in your basement can best fit your needs. Do you need an extra bedroom for your teenager or a guest suite for aging parents, or are you looking for a family room with theater seating and a wet bar? Do you have windows or a walk-out basement? Or is your basement entirely buried with no existing windows? Your design build firm should be familiar with building codes and limitations. For example, if you're planning on adding a bedroom, you may need to install an egress window in case of fire, as well as to provide light and air.

Set a Reasonable Budget

List your wants and needs and understand that a finished basement can cost anywhere from $15,000 or $25,000 for a small office or bedroom, to $100,000 or more depending on the details. For example, excavating and adding a walk out door for a second egress, professional waterproofing or adding a bathroom can significantly add to your final cost.

Platforms can be built to allow true theater-style seating with great views for everyone. Planning the room layout so that you can enter the room at floor level and step up to the seats can be the most difficult part of the design.

It's also important to realize that finishing a basement after the home is already built typically costs about twice as much as doing it during new-home construction. This is because economies of scale are present during new home construction: every trade is already mobilized and on site, and the additional work to manage a basement finishing project during construction of the rest of the home is minimal. In comparison, finishing a basement as a remodeling project requires all new building permits, mobilization of every trade contractor, and the difficulties of moving equipment and materials through a finished house or carrying it by hand through the yard.

Understand The Work Involved

Although your basement may be behind a closed door, if you don't have a walkout, you will have workers regularly walking through your home for eight to twelve weeks carrying materials to do your project.

A finished basement can add usable space to your home, increase its value and improve your lifestyle. When it comes time to sell, it's very attractive to potential buyers and can help your home to sell faster. Keep your space attractive and highly functional to achieve the best return. When remodeling your basement, you have a number of options open to you. The best option is to talk to a professional design build firm like Degnan Design Build Remodel. They can help you to understand your options, and handle your project from concept through completion.

Make Your Basement a Finished Lower Level

If you are going to do a finished basement, wouldn’t you want it to feel like a part of the home? Discover what to do so that you end up with a finished lower level instead of a drab basement, by viewing this video. We’ll share our secrets and philosophies to help you get the best result.

This article was updated on 12/3/2018 by Abe Degnan.

About Degnan Design Build Remodel
Since 1981 Degnan Design Build Remodel has provided home improvement and construction services to customers throughout Greater Madison, Wisconsin. Our goal is to WOW you with a "Designed For Your Life" solution using a process that will transform your home into a beautiful living space, delivered on time, and on budget. We are known for our communication, respectfulness, and a commitment to our customers and our community. Contact us to speak with one of our designers about your home improvement project.