Keeping Your Basement Remodel Within Budget: 5 Helpful Tips

Basement Budget

Keeping your basement remodel within budget may be more challenging than you think. Basement projects are notorious for going over budget. Frequently homeowners start remodeling projects without a clear idea of their desired end result. In other words, what started out being a gym ends up as a fancy entertainment room with a treadmill!

Many times a budget isn't considered before a project is started.​ This can be particularly dangerous, especially if you're hiring a contractor. Let's face it, home improvement projects can be expensive. However, with a little planning and a few best "best tips" you can remodel your basement into a usable space without it becoming a money pit.

The Cost of Finishing a Basement

You should first consider your overall plans for your house. Do you plan on living in your house for the next 5 years? 10 years?  20 years? Determining your budget will depend largely on the return you'll see in your resale value.

For example, if you spend $20,000 on your remodel and plan to live in your home for the next 10 years, the resale value of your home won't be a big consideration in relation to the total cost of the project. 

However, the resale value becomes important if you plan on selling your home within 10 years, and it should be reflected in your budget. As a general rule, a finished basement will account for 10 to 15% of a home's value.

​So when you are setting a basement budget for your remodel, if your home is worth $300,000, you could safely budget between $30,000 to $45,000 on the project. This amount will not only improve the resale value of your home, but it'll also prevent overspending without a return on your investment.

​Obviously, you shouldn't feel obligated to spend this much money. It simply means that you have that amount of money available to spend without overspending in relation to your home's value.

  • Did you know that the average homeowner spends between $10,500 to $27,000 on a basement remodel?

5 Tips for Staying within your Budget

Basement Budget

Tip #1 - Stay within the Scope of the Project

It's not at all uncommon to let a basement project get out of hand, and basements, like all home improvement projects share 3 common elements.

  • Time - From start to finish. The amount of time you'll spend on the project.
  • Budget - The amount of money you'll spend.
  • Scope - The project itself.​

If the scope of the project gets out of hand there's a good chance it will also  prevent you from meeting your budget and time schedule.  Think of it this way, you planned on putting in a new sink, but once you started the project you decided to add the entire kitchen around the sink!

Make a plan and stick to the plan. Be realistic about what you want to accomplish with your remodel project. Major construction changes, such as changing the direction of a stairwell, are almost always possible, but they can also quickly add major additional expenses.​

Once you've started your project, don't lose focus of your planned result. Working within the structural boundaries of your home's space, and not making changes to the plans you've made once the project started, will not only help you set a reasonable budget, but it will also help you stay within the budget.

​With that said, unplanned issues do frequently come up during a renovation. We recommend including a buffer within your budget of 5 to 10% for the unexpected. Then when you are confronted with a "surprise" you'll have some money available. However, be selective and careful not to veer too far off your original plan. 

Tip #2 - Research, Research, Research

Many homeowners find this to be the most entertaining part of the entire remodel because you have the opportunity to visualize the end result. Dreaming big is fun, but use caution that your end plans are realistic.

Your research should begin with gathering ideas. Trade shows, home improvement magazines, websites such as Pinterest, and even visiting homes with basements are all great places to collect ideas.

​Once you determine how you want your basement to look, it's time to begin researching what's involved in getting it that way. Take the time to research the project itself as well as the materials needed.

For example, if you want your basement to have a kitchen, your first question should be how often would you use it  . . . ​would you use it for entertaining? Would one of your children live downstairs and use it daily? If you would only use the kitchen a few times a year, it might make more sense to simply add a counter. From a budgeting perspective you could save thousands of dollars.

Another common basement remodel addition is building a bathroom. In some cases this makes sense, such as if you have a guest bedroom downstairs. However, if your basement will be used primarily for entertaining, or as an office, or a gym, the added expense (up to $5,000) may not be necessary. 

Tip #3 - Make Open Spaces Your Friend

Many unfinished basements do not have walls. Adding walls to separate a gym or office from the other spaces has both advantages and disadvantages. The cost of drywall, studs, electrical wiring, and doors can add up and become very expensive. In addition, once the walls are built, your basement will be limited by the size of each room.

Instead of building walls, consider taking advantage of the open space in your basement. If you want to separate different areas off, you can always use portable room dividers. You will have a lot of flexibility by using open space, plus your remodeling budget will thank you!​

Tip #4 - Save Money on Flooring

When selecting your flooring material you should consider cutting a few corners. Many homeowners like to install "the top of the line" materials when selecting flooring. However, with a basement, it really isn't necessary.

There are a few reasons you should consider using less expensive flooring material. First, basements are prone to leaking. Spending a lot of money on premium flooring and then having an unexpected flood in your basement is beyond frustrating.

The other reason is that flooring is an easy way to save a little money. If you select a lower priced carpet and install a premium pad under the carpet, you'll be amazed at how good it'll look.

The same is true when installing a less expensive tile. It'll have the same look and function as a premium tile. You can make your basement look excellent and still save a few dollars!

Tip #5 - Keep it Standard

Don't customize! Using standard sizes can save you a heap of money. Many items, such as cabinets and counters, are pre-fabricated to standard sizes. By simply purchasing items that have already been manufactured, you can have more money to spend elsewhere in your basement remodel without cutting any corners!

Basement Budget - Regulations

Basement Requirements

There is nothing that will ruin a budget like the failure to address the requirements prior to beginning your project. Prior planning will help save money in the long run. But it will also keep your job running smoothly without unexpected headaches.

The following things should always be addressed prior to beginning your basement remodel:​

Emergency Exit - The good news is your basement will become a living space. The bad news is because it will be a living space the codes have changed.

When the county drops by to inspect your basement, it must have at least two exits. The first can be the staircase, but there also must be another exit in order for you to pass your inspection.

Also, keep in mind that if you have bedrooms in your basement, each bedroom needs an exit as well. An egress window will usually fulfill the requirement. ​

7-foot Ceilings - The International Residential Code (IRC) governs all living spaces. ​Living spaces include bedrooms, laundry rooms, hallways, and bathrooms.

The IRC code requires that all living spaces have a ceiling of at least 7-feet in height. However, there is some leeway if your beams and ducts fall below this threshold.

​Waterproofing - The time to worry about waterproofing your basement is before your remodel! Even if your basement doesn't have a history of flooding, we highly recommend being proactive in this area. In addition, if there is any dampness at all,  the potential for mold growth is high. 

All basements have the potential to leak, and realizing that your newly renovated basement has flooded is not only expensive, it's also a huge headache.