Would You Try a DIY Finished Basement? If So, Keep These 8 Tips In Mind!

Having a usable finished basement can add a ton of value to your home, but not everyone has the money to drop on a down-downstairs reno. So what about a do it yourself finished basement? Insane? Maybe not, provided you don’t have a lot of moisture or flooding issues and you’re not starting with a dirt floor and cracked foundation walls. Maybe you want a man cave or a rec room complete with extra classy globe mini bar or extra office space. Trust me when I say it can be done, but the results you achieve will always be better when done right versus done half-assed.

Would this work for you?

So how do you do up your do it yourself finished basement while also staying on the right side of the law and the wrong side of pesky stuff like mildew? Follow these 8 tips, for starters!

1. Do you have a building permit? Do you need one? It may seem like yet another hoop you have to jump through to finally get your exercise bar media room, but having the proper permitting in place before you do anything is the way to go. Do you have a plan? Now is the time to figure our your basement reno, not as you go along. Which I think is how our finished basement came into being *sigh*.

2. Let a pro handle the electricity if you need more outlets. It’s just the right thing to do, whether you’re finishing a basement or expanding a bathroom. For real.

3. Your basement needs to be DRY. Bone dry. Especially if you’re putting up walls and laying down floors and plan on putting furniture up against the walls. Mold and mildew sure do love that damp that so many basements are famous for.

4. For those putting up walls – as opposed to just using something like this to seal up foundation walls – should make sure there’s AT LEAST a half inch gap between the wall and the foundation. That’s what furring is really for – as opposed to what, say, Urban Dictionary would have you believe.

5. Buy this book. Or check it out of the library. Seriously, the Black & Decker Guide to Finishing Basements is awesome.

6. Drop ceilings aren’t the most attractive option, but they’re the option that lets you continue to access pipes and wires running through the floor/ceiling that may prove important or broken in the future. More than one contractor has had to get at stuff in our finished basement’s ceiling, and as much as I hate drop ceilings, I’m glad it was there.

7. Speaking of wires and pipes, you may have some that stick out in weird places. It wasn’t an issue when your basement was housing a workbench and unopened boxes from your move four years ago, but if you’re trying to class up your finished basement, you may want to do some buildingaround these. Still keeping in mind the possible need for future access.

8. Finished basements do not have to be a second living room or an entire apartment or a full-fledged movie theater. As in the picture above, sometimes some walls, some shelves, some furniture, and a coat of paint on the stairs will do the trick. If you’re okay with your basement’s existing climate, no fancy flooring necessary. You can just throw some paint on the concrete floor and call it a day.

And there you have it. Would you consider finishing your own basement? Or have you actually done it?

3 Responses to “Would You Try a DIY Finished Basement? If So, Keep These 8 Tips In Mind!”

  1. AJ July 7, 2011 at 6:20 am #

    Hate to give you more work, but…what are some ways to get the basement bone-dry? Just, if you want another topic for another blog. :) That’s our biggest concern right now. We don’t get enough water for a sump pump, and already have 1 dehumidifier going-definitely planning on getting another. Probably should get someone to patch up the walls a bit better, maybe even hire a pro to paint-seal them. Electrical work was done, by a pro, and the drop ceilings are a great idea, only we don’t have much head room to finagle with- can we mount the supports pretty much flush with the beams? That’d be sweet. And I’ll read that book, just as soon as I finish up my grad work…

  2. Steph July 8, 2011 at 8:07 am #

    Our bsmt was “finished” when we moved in. The wiring was self-done and is horrendous. We are going to have to tear the ceiling apart to get at all that junk. Drop ceilings are really a great idea.

    We re-carpeted the floor and ripped out a monstrous shelving unit built with bald 2x4s. Right now it is not really decorated or anything, and I’d like to try rebuilding a shelf set into one of the walls, but if we have more kidlets, we will need to build a bedroom down here. So…just going to leave it until the future sorts itself out.

    I must say, though, it’s nice to leave the TV downstairs and have a big people living room upstairs where it’s really just about the piano, chillaxing and conversation instead of boob-tubing.

  3. La Petite Acadienne July 8, 2011 at 12:08 pm #

    We’re planning on finishing part of the basement. Most of it will be unfinished, as I really don’t need drywall in the furnace room or in the room where we store our firewood. But we do plan on finishing off part of it as a rec room/guest room. And yes, we will likely be putting in a drop ceiling. We’re not putting in flooring, though. Just a few rugs — if they get manky, we can wash them or biff them out.

    Fortunately for us, The Stonecutter’s father is a finish carpenter, and The Stonecutter also definitely knows which end of a hammer to use. But we’re hiring an electrician for the wiring. Electricity is one thing that you do not mess around with, if you don’t know precisely what you’re doing.