Photo by Randy Pertiet

Update: Finishing a basement is a great way to easily and affordably add space to your home. You’ve got the basics already there, so you just need to make it habitable and you’re away! Basements are great for an extra living space such as a den or kids’ playroom, or even an extra bedroom suite with an additional bathroom. There are some challenges involved with finishing a basement, too, but these should be easy to overcome so you can have the extra space you need.

When you find yourself in need of additional living space, consider your basement as the place to grow. You will be surprised at how easy it can be to claim that unused space for a remarkably small investment. Deciding to finish a basement can offer almost unlimited possibilities to meet the needs of a growing family or simply to enhance your lifestyle. You can also finish a basement in stages, as your budget permits additional work.

One of the joys of deciding to finish a basement is the discovery that the most difficult work and the most expensive is probably already done. You already have exterior walls and a floor. You probably also have some windows in place, as well as two points of access to the area: stairs from the first floor of your home and an external access door or window.

First, identify basic needs. Here are some basic initial questions to ask and answer:

  1. Do you need to install plumbing?
  2. Do you need to install or enhance electrical wiring to various parts of the basement?
  3. Do you need to install a separate furnace and air conditioner? Or, can you simply connect new duct work to your existing furnace and air conditioner?
  4. Are there supports (posts, etc) that you need to incorporate into your floor plan?
  5. Is additional natural lighting needed?

Second, develop a plan for how you will use the space. Identifying the uses you want to make of the space in your basement is the first step in planning your project. Make a list of the rooms or areas you want to create. Some very popular uses of basement space include:

  • Select a style and roof line that is consistent with the style of your house Contractor Selection Workbook
  • A home theater
  • A home office
  • A suite of rooms for in-laws or teens
  • A playroom for children
  • A den
  • A game room
  • A wine cellar
  • Guest bedrooms
  • Storage rooms
  • A spa
  • An additional bathroom
  • A computer or homework room
  • A library
  • A mud room
  • A hobby or craft room
  • A family room
  • A party room

Third, after identifying the rooms or spaces you want to create, plan the location of each room or area within the space. Here are some things to consider in designing your floor plan:

  • Since most basements have one to three “sides” that have no windows (because they are essentially underground), plan to place the rooms that do not require windows on that side of the basement. For example, a home theater would be a good choice for a room that will have no windows.
  • Try to place bathrooms and/or a kitchenette near or under first floor rooms that already have plumbing. The shorter the distance you must travel with new plumbing, the more money you will save. An ideal spot for a home spa would be in a windowless part of the basement near existing plumbing.
  • If your plan includes creating a teen suite or an in-law suite, carefully consider access to the remainder of the space. For example, do not place the bedroom of the suite at the bottom of the stairs from the first floor.
  • Plan for access and privacy. For example, if you are finishing your basement in order to create both a playroom for children and an in-law suite for parents, you might want to put them at opposite ends of the basement area.
  • Consider the noise from the rooms above. Either locate the rooms that will be used frequently in the basement under quieter rooms upstairs or consider adding sound insulating board on the ceiling in the basement.

The next thing to decide is how many walls you actually want to create. Do you want to create a single large area that has several semi-defined spaces, or do you want to create discrete rooms for each function? You might want some combination of effects, depending on how you will use each space.

For some great design ideas for your new basement space, check out our design gallery. Search over 50 million design photos for inspiration! And to calculate your remodeling costs, use our easy, free remodeling cost calculator.