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Compare Pros & Cons of Finishing a Basement

An Expert Comparison of Basement Remodeling

Maybe your basement is old and dingy. Or maybe it’s just not quite the comfortable living space you’d like. Could finishing it be the solution?

Finishing a basement is a worthwhile and rewarding project for many homeowners, but it’s not the right decision for all homes in all neighborhoods. As with any renovation project, homeowners should weigh the pros and cons carefully before taking the plunge.

Cost of Finishing Your Basement

So many factors go into the price of a basement refinishing project: the size of your basement, the type of rooms you’re creating, the finishing materials you select, your geographic location and the state of the housing market. Adding kitchens or bathrooms can easily escalate the budget, as can high-end finishings such as hardwood floors and crown molding.

Generally, expect to spend anywhere from $25 and $35 per square foot for basic finishings, and $50 per square foot or more for high-end finishings.

Finishing Your Basement Pros

  • Increases livable space - Finishing your basements creates a lot more livable space for a fraction of the cost of building an addition. Transform unused space into an extra living room, a guest room, a home theater or playroom for the kids.
  • Increases resale value - Finishing your basement can significantly increase the resale value of your home. This is particularly true if many other homes in your neighborhood have unfinished basements. Your home will seem much larger, and it will likely sell faster.
  • Creates a private space - A finished basement can be an oasis from the noise and chaos of the rest of the house. Create a quiet, comfortable space for watching TV or relaxing. Or, let your kids use the space to make all the noise they want.
White Basement Remodel

Finishing Your Basement Cons

  • Cost - Finishing a basement can be an expensive project. It’s not a good idea if you’re on a tight budget or if you owe more on your house than it’s worth.
  • Time consuming - Depending on the condition of your basement and how you decide to finish it, the process could take several weeks or months. You’ll have to be patient while a portion of your home is under construction.
  • Return on investment - Money spent on renovating areas such as kitchens and baths usually produces a greater return on investment than refinishing your basement. If other areas are in need of upgrades, tackle those first, especially if you’re planning to sell in the near future.

Planning Your Project

Not sure where to start? Here are some tips for planning your basement remodeling project.

  • Figure out exactly what you want to do with the space. A playroom will have very different finishing requirements than a workshop. Do you have a single use for the basement or multiple? Maybe you want a dedicated media room, or maybe you’d like a media room and a guest room.
  • Next, asses your space. If you have a large basement, you can probably divide the space into separate rooms. If the basement is small, that might not be ideal. Figure out the square footage of the basement and use that information to decide if you have enough space for multiple rooms. Keep in mind that most potential buyers will prefer an open concept design to small, choppy rooms.
  • Get creative. If you don’t need a guest room, playroom or home office, what about a hobby space? Turn that unused basement into a craft room, a wine cellar or a music room.
  • Set a budget - and make it realistic. A basement remodel is not worth putting yourself in financial jeopardy. If the project is too expensive for the time being, hold off until you’ve saved some money.
  • Give some thought to finishes. Do you want carpeting or wood floors? Track lighting or recessed lights? What about decorative touches like crown molding? Keep in mind that your budget might drive some of the finishing choices.
  • Seek quotes from multiple contractors before choosing one. Eliminate any quote that seems suspiciously high or low. Do some background on the contractor you’re thinking of hiring - check references and the Better Business Bureau.

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