How Much Does DIY Basement Finishing Cost?

You have either purchased a home with an unfinished basement or you have built a home and included a basement. Good for you, a basement is an excellent investment. It is estimated you can finish a basement for less than 50 percent of what it would cost for an addition to your home. It is also reported over 90 percent of money invested in finishing a basement is recovered at resale. If you are a qualified do-it-yourselfer, your potential for a greater return is much higher.

Basic Cost to Finish a Basement

If you have the work done by a contractor, your can spend up to $50 per square foot to finish your basement.  This estimate is on the high side as the average for this type of work is closer to $25 to $27 per square foot for a basic set-up. Most homeowners will select upgrades for the project which will raise the cost by $2 to $3 per square foot.  A 2005 survey reported the average cost to finish a basement was $51,000. (At $2650/sq.  foot this equates to a 1924 square foot basement).

Do-It-Yourself Cost

The majority of the estimated $51,000 to finish a basement is in labor cost.  According to RJK Construction, only about 25 to 30 percent of these costs are for materials. The remaining 70 to 75 percent are for labor and other expenses.  This is the highest disparity of any remodel. Put in very simple terms, of the above mentioned $27 per square foot to finish a basement, approximately $2025 of that amount is for labor.  This puts your material costs as just $675 per square foot.

Overall Cost Comparison

We have determined the average basement being refinished is 1,924 square feet and costs approximately $51,000 if you have someone complete the work for you.  This would result in an increased home value of $48,951, a return of 901 percent on your investment. If you finish the same size basement yourself, your cost will be approximately $12,987 a savings of $38,013.  You are now well in the positive on cost versus resale value.

Speical Considerations

While you can realize a large savings by providing your own labor, your final project cost will depend heavily on what design elements you include in your plan.  A bathroom is a very desirable option and will add approximately $4,500 once you have the room roughed-in. A wet-bar is one of the more expensive items homeowners install in their basements.  A wet bar can add between $5,000 and $10,000 to your final cost. It is also worth noting the estimated cost of finishing a basement is rising by 7 percent per year. 


You will need to include a second means of egress from your basement.  This is especially true if you intend to convert part of the basement into bedrooms. A doorway with direct access to outdoors is preferable, but egress windows are also acceptable.  Depending on the construction of your home these items could be very simple to install or extremely costly. You will need to carefully evaluate your situation to determine how you can best achieve your objectives in the most cost effective manner. 

About the Author

Tom Raley is a freelance writer living in central Arkansas. He has been writing for more than 20 years and his short stories and articles have appeared in more than 25 different publications including P.I. Magazine, Pulsar and Writer's Digest.