If you're looking to add living space to your home or at least establish a slightly more presentable basement, know that a finished basement can be a game-changer.
In parts of the country where many homes are built on a slab or crawl space, homeowners looking to add square footage and value are paying top dollar to get the finished basement of their dreams. "It’s a huge, huge expense. You are digging down eight feet from nothing and excavating all that and giving yourself a basement," says Kevin Mond, head of business development and sales for HDR Remodeling in Berkeley, California. He knows of a recently completed basement excavation and finishing project that cost $550,000.
In terms of adding value, a basement that's finished with an entertainment area and full bathroom that costs about $70,000 could recoup as much as 70% of the cost in value, according to Remodeling Magazine's 2017 Cost Vs. Value Report, the last year basement remodeling projects appeared in the report.
But not everyone has the kind of cash to fund a full basement makeover. Whether you’re looking to add value to your home or just hoping to make your basement a bit more enjoyable for your family, there are budget-friendly options that can make it more welcoming.
Here are nine project ideas that will make your basement livable on a budget:
- Focus on the ceiling, floor and walls.
- Improve part of the basement.
- Paint the ceiling and walls.
- Make room for storage.
- Light up the space.
- Create a space for crafts and activities.
- Add easy-to-install flooring.
- Paint or stain the floor.
- Take on some of the labor.
Focus on the Ceiling, Floor and Walls
If the goal of your basement renovation is to add value to your property for resale value, focus on finishing the ceiling, walls and floors too look like the rest of the home. Unless you’ve walled in a room before, you’ll want to hire professionals for this project.
Home improvement information company HomeAdvisor estimates the cost to finish a basement – including framing and wall installation, ceiling and floor – of a 2,000 square-foot home to be about $15,000. This may be well outside your budget, but if a fully finished basement is what you’re looking for, “maybe wait – it’ll save you in the long term,” says Andy Haste, founder and president of Riverside Construction in West Lafayette, Indiana.
Improve Part of the Basement
If your budget limits the amount of space you can finish, consider partially finishing the basement, which will reduce the cost by cutting down on the square footage you’ll be working on. Haste says his company will occasionally finish part of a basement, building out a secondary living room and half bath, and then plan with the homeowner to add a bedroom or other basement space a few years later.
You can also hang drapes or curtains to informally close off a space or create a partition between an entertainment space and a laundry room, for example. However, if your basement is particularly humid, textiles including drapes and upholstered furniture can easily grow mold. If you’re using fabric in your basement, be sure you have a dehumidifier to keep humidity levels low.
Paint the Ceiling and Walls
If interior walls and a ceiling aren’t an option for you, you can still make the space feel more finished with a bit of paint. Exposed beams, pipes and ducts on the ceiling can be painted a solid color to make everything blend.
For unfinished basement walls, you can paint cinder block with latex masonry paint or acrylic paint made for walls, though you should expect to need a few coats since concrete is more porous than drywall.
Regardless of the type of wall or ceiling you're painting, Mond recommends light colors to brighten the space and make it feel bigger. He also recommends a bold accent wall in an eye-catching color that provides contrast to the white elsewhere in the basement. "It makes the light colors feel even lighter," he says.
Before you paint any part of your basement, be sure to thoroughly clean all surfaces and make sure the basement is sealed to keep moisture out. Dirt and water will cause paint to chip, peel and potentially grow mold.
Make Room for Storage
Unfinished basements often become a catch-all storage space for items that don’t fit in closets and cabinets above ground. Improve your organization and make space in the basement by adding shelves or cabinets, so you can take advantage of vertical space and get boxes off the floor.
Light Up the Space
You’ll never want to spend time in a basement that’s lit by a single, bare lightbulb. Mond recommends lighting upward from wall sconces or lamps, allowing light to bounce off walls instead of hanging light fixtures from the ceiling. "Anything hanging down makes the basement feel lower," he says.
For an additional DIY option, string bistro lights from hooks on exposed beams on the ceiling to provide additional consistent light throughout the basement.
Create a Space for Crafts and Activities
What will encourage you to use the space more? Since a basement that’s partially or completely unfinished is fairly bare, it’s the perfect place to set up a craft table for yourself or young kids, as spills on the floor or walls are easier to clean up on concrete.
With the right lighting and bright paint colors, the basement can easily become a place for kids to roughhouse on a cold or rainy day when going outside isn’t an option. “Sometimes the best use of a basement is to leave it unfinished and let the kids ride their tricycles around,” Haste says.
Add Easy-to-Install Flooring
Installing carpet, tile or hardwood flooring in your basement are projects that can take you beyond your budget. One alternative is carpet tiles, which are squares of carpet that can be fitted together via a do-it-yourself project. You can often find carpet tile between $1 and $2 per square foot through specialty sellers like Carpet-USA.com or home decor and improvement companies like Wayfair or Lowe’s.
If you’re not interested in carpeting, foam mat squares that fit together like puzzle pieces may remind you of an elementary school classroom, but they work perfectly for a home gym space in your basement.
Paint or Stain the Floor
If you prefer to keep hard floors, you can paint your concrete floor in the same manner you’d paint the walls. If your basement is dark, consider a bright color to help reflect light throughout the space. You can also opt to stain the concrete, which offers a more natural flooring look. In established living areas or home office space, you can lay rugs to keep your feet warmer.
Take on Some of the Labor
If you’re still looking for ways to stretch your budget but achieve a more finished look, you may be able take on some of the final touches as a DIY project or do the initial demolition work yourself. If you’re building a bathroom, for example, once the walls are up and the plumbing is done, you may save by installing tile and hanging the mirror yourself.
What will your budget let you renovate?
Home prices are high and interest rates are rising, so many homeowners are opting to stay put and renovate rather than search for a new house. According to Houzz’s 2018 study of renovations in the U.S., 51 percent of Houzz users have plans to renovate in 2018, with a median budget of $10,000. But how far can your budget get you? We're breaking down the cost of some popular home renovation projects to help you figure out the best ways to spend your remodel money.Kitchen
It doesn't matter if you're a gourmet chef or a microwave connoisseur – you want a welcoming kitchen that makes the space worthy of spending time, not just prepping food. A kitchen renovation is the most common planned project for homeowners, according to the Houzz study, with 31 percent of respondents noting they plan to remodel their kitchen. But it's also a costly project. Remodeling Magazine's 2018 Cost vs. Value report breaks down the national average cost for kitchen remodels as such:
Midrange minor kitchen remodel: $21,198
Midrange major kitchen remodel: $63,829
Upscale major kitchen remodel: $125,721
How much you'll spend all depends on your planned makeover. Read on for a breakdown of some popular kitchen updates.Kitchen: cabinets and countertops
Kitchen: cabinets and countertops
Cabinets and countertops are two of the most visible aspects in a kitchen, not to mention that they take up the most space. You have a lot of price wiggle room when it comes to material and installation of both: The installation for countertops alone can range from $1,700 for butcher block to $14,000 for quartz, according to HomeAdvisor. For a kitchen with 30 square feet of counter space and 40 linear feet of cabinets, here are some cost estimates for materials, based on HomeAdvisor information:
Budget: $3,600 for stock cabinets, butcher block countertop.
Midrange: $13,800 for semicustom cabinets, midrange quartz or granite countertop.
Splurge: $52,050 for custom cabinets, concrete countertop.
Kitchen: new appliances
If you're not looking to drop $50,000 on surfaces, consider freshening your kitchen with new appliances. Stores like Home Depot and Lowe's often offer significant discounts if you purchase kitchen appliances in a package deal, with the added benefit of having the same brand appliances that match in color and style. Consider these budget options to replace your fridge, range, dishwasher and microwave all at once (based on prices listed as of Sept. 14, 2018). You're more likely to get a deal on appliance purchases close to the end of the month, on a holiday weekend or just after the new year.
Budget: $1,234 for mixed brand.
Midrange: $2,794 for Whirlpool Kitchen Suite through Lowe's.
Splurge: $6,476 for Bosch Kitchen Suite through Lowe's.
Kitchen: knocking down walls
Removing a wall tends to cost the same in every room, but these days it is commonly done in the kitchen to create a more open floor plan. Wall demolition costs vary based on whether the wall is load-bearing – meaning it's a key part of the house's structure – or if there is plumbing or electrical wiring running through it. HomeAdvisor provides national averages for the cost of removing a wall:
Budget: $300 to $1,000 for a wall that doesn't bear any weight.
Midrange: $1,200 to $3,000 for a load-bearing wall in a single-story house.
Splurge: $3,200 to $10,000 for a load-bearing wall with two or more stories.
The second- and third-most popular home renovations, according to the Houzz study, both fall under the bathroom category, covering guest or secondary bathrooms and master bathrooms. Current design trends show homeowners want a spa experience in their bathroom, whether that means a rain-style showerhead, double vanities or exquisite tile work. Remodeling Magazine separates the cost of remodeling a bathroom into two categories, based on national averages for 2018:
Midrange bathroom remodel: $19,134
Upscale bathroom remodel: $61,662
Beautiful tile in a bathroom can make the room a showpiece in your home, not just a necessary space for privacy. But depending on your tastes, new tile can get pricey. Home renovation cost estimate site RemodelingCalculator.org notes the material and installation costs increase with the intricacy of the design and rarity of the material. Based on Remodeling Calculator's estimated costs, here's some pricing to consider:
Budget: $4.60 per square foot for ceramic tile, $3.80 to $6.70 per square foot to install.
Midrange: $6.70 per square foot for granite tile, $5.45 to $7.50 per square foot to install.
Upscale: Up to $25 per square foot for custom mosaic tile, anywhere from $15 to $300 per square foot to install.
Bathroom: moving plumbing and drains
Plumbing changes are often one of the most expensive parts of a renovation. If you're looking to relocate the toilet, shower or sink in your bathroom, the cost to move both the plumbing for water and the drains can add up quickly. Home improvement marketplace and information site Porch.com – a former U.S. News contributor – estimates the national average to move one plumbing line costs between $653 and $802 – and that’s just for the work. Be sure to factor in the cost of new fixtures and any additional work related to opening up the floor and walls.
Budget: $653 to $802 to move shower.
Midrange: $1,306 to $1,604 to move shower and toilet.
Splurge: $1,959 to $2,406 to move shower, toilet and sink.
To renovate a bedroom that's more focused on the furniture inside than the four walls means a simple bedroom remodel should be fairly attainable for someone with a small budget. Often a fresh coat of paint can do the trick to bring new life to a bedroom, but sometimes a little more work is involved. Home remodeling cost guide Fixr estimates the national average to completely remodel a room – from replacing the drywall on the walls and ceiling to new flooring – at nearly $8,000.
Budget: $200 for paint and painting materials.
Midrange: $800 for high-end painting, professionally done.
Splurge: $7,880 for new walls, floors, etc.
Bedroom: master suite addition
Sometimes, though, the bedroom you have isn't the one you want or need. Master suites are frequently high on the list of homebuyer wants, but they're also not always common in older houses. Making an addition to a house is an extensive project that will cost you a lot of money, but your investment does come back to you, at least somewhat, in the increase in property value. Remodeling Magazine notes a master suite addition recoups just over 48 percent of the cost in resale value for upscale projects and more than 56 percent for midrange projects. Here are the average costs for both projects, per the Cost vs. Value report:
Midrange master suite addition: $123,420
Upscale master suite addition: $256,229
Easily transforming your closet to fit all your clothes and having extra room for storage is the dream for many, but a custom closet can cost you. The overall price tag will vary depending on the size of the closet and how customized you want the space to be – a hanging rod and a couple shelves can put you back a few hundred dollars, but once you factor in wood finishes, built-in shoe racks and rolling drawers, that price tag climbs. Here's what Fixr estimates for closet costs:
Budget: $400 to $1,000 for small closet.
Midrange: $300 to $3,000 for walk-in closet.
Splurge: $400 to $6,500 for custom closet.
Once your kitchen, bathrooms and bedrooms are right, it's time to tackle those rooms that aren't as frequently used but can make a big impact on your daily life. A revamped laundry room can be just the ticket to taking the household chore of cleaning clothes from a hassle to downright enjoyable. The cost to redo or build a laundry room varies based on what you have already and whether you need plumbing and electric moved. Fixr breaks down the range of costs depending on if flooring is replaced, whether appliances are new and if professionals are required.
Midrange: $6,000 to $7,000
While it's more out of necessity than luxury, your roof is certainly a major home improvement project to consider if you’ve experienced leaks or it's near the end of its functional life (about 25 years). It's possible you'll only need repairs done to the existing roof to ensure the rest of your house is protected from the elements, but you may need an entirely new roof installed.
Budget: $334 to $1,243 for repairs.
Midrange: $2,380 to $12,100 for new asphalt shingle roof.
Splurge: Up to $84,000 for a new slate roof.
She has appeared in media interviews across the U.S. including National Public Radio, WTOP (Washington, D.C.) and KOH (Reno, Nevada) and various print publications, as well as having served on panels discussing real estate development, city planning policy and homebuilding.
Previously, she served as a researcher of commercial real estate transactions and information, and is currently a member of the National Association of Real Estate Editors. Thorsby studied Political Science at the University of Michigan, where she also served as a news reporter and editor for the student newspaper The Michigan Daily. Follow her on Twitter or write to her at email@example.com.