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Does Finishing Your Basement Add Value for Resale?

The short answer is yes, because it adds to the livable square footage of your home. The long answer is, it depends.

However you plan to use the extra space, a finished basement ensures your home's lower level doesn't go to waste. Besides expanding your home's functional square feet, finishing a basement can significantly boost the property's value.

Before you get your hopes up, there are two major considerations for making the decision to finish your basement: the potential for flooding and the ceiling height in your basement.

These are the two key things that really impact what you can do. If you live in a flood-prone area, then it’s not worth refinishing. If you don’t have the height, you can’t do much.

Buyers and home inspectors are always concerned about flooding in a basement, so this is an important element to address before jumping into remodeling. That might mean having a sump pump added or having French drains installed in the yard to move water away from the home. In most cases, you’ll also want to add a dehumidifier to remove water from the air in the basement, preventing mold and mildew.

You’ll want to insulate the basement, primarily for heating and cooling—but also soundproofing.

Consider the cost of a project of this scope. That can vary wildly depending on where you live and how much you plan to change the space. Are prices going up or down in your area? Do comparable homes in your neighborhood have finished basements? How will that affect how you price your home when it comes to resale?

5 Things to consider before beginning a basement remodel:

1. Do It Yourself

Plumbing and wiring are best left to professionals. Still, some basement refinishing projects (such as framing walls, installing insulation, and hanging drywall) are within the capabilities of experienced DIYers. Snap-in vinyl floors are also relatively easy to install, but costly to hire someone to do it for you.

2. Add Light Sources

If you have a walkout basement, or windows, you have some natural light. By adding recessed lighting and lamps, you can create a light-filled space, even if you only have small windows solid doors.

3. Find the Right Flooring Option

Not all flooring can (or should) be used in a finished basement. Solid wood is one example; even minor fluctuations in moisture levels can cause buckling and splitting. Instead, shop for products such as vinyl planks, ceramic tile, and engineered wood flooring that can be used below grade and still achieve the look you want.

4. Decide How to Finish the Ceiling

Drop ceiling are an easy solution because it's easy to move them individually to access plumbing pipes or electrical hookups if needed. An installed drywall ceiling is another good option and can be more flexible for different ceiling heights when you have to work around pipes, beams and wiring.

5. Have an Escape Route

You should plan ahead for emergencies when refinishing a basement. An unobstructed exterior door is best. “Egress” windows must be large enough for a firefighter in full gear to get into a burning house and for occupants to safely escape if stairways are blocked by fire.

What is the Return on Investment?

Finishing a basement can be a good investment. According to cost versus value surveys conducted annually by Remodeling magazine, nationally, the average return on investment for a basement project is around 75 cents on the dollar. However, be cautious about over-improving. You don’t want to spend too much on a high-end basement remodel if home prices in your area won’t support that kind of investment.

A Renovation Story

The owners of this Rodgers Forge home remodeled their basement themselves during Covid. It had been partially finished when they bought it, but the owners wanted something better. For instance, there was already a full bath, but you had to walk through a dark and dingy unfinished area where the laundry and furnace were, so they took down and integrated the bathroom more fully by continuing the new vinyl floors into that space.

“With a lot of time on our hands and a tight budget, we did the demo, framing, drywall and door installation. A friend showed us how to install the vinyl flooring, so we did that ourselves too. We created a closet under the stairs, laundry room, and closet with the furnace and water heater. This allows us plenty of storage without it taking up an entire room.

Finding and repairing the stone wall behind some existing drywall was a bonus and became the focal point of the room. The cabinets along that wall came from second chance, as did the post at the bottom of the stairs. We topped the cabinets with a custom-milled ash board from Freestate Timber. We DID hire a professionals to do install the electric and lighting, as well as finishing the drywall after we installed it.

Now we use this large room as a second social space, and by utilizing a nice air bed, we have an additional guest bedroom with private bath!”



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