How to Properly Finish a Basement

Finishing your basement can increase the value of your home and provide more living space.

Planning

A finished basement can increase your living space.A finished basement can increase your living space.
A hired contractor is not necessary to properly finish a basement, but having a plan and careful execution is vital.

Measure the available space in the basement and decide exactly how you want to use it. Look through pictures of basement remodels or tour homes for ideas.

Put together a budget, including how you will pay for the project. The budget may dictate the design. Basement finishing can be an inexpensive upgrade, but costs soar when you add plumbing for a wet bar or extra bathroom or expensive electronics for a home theater.

Decide if you want to hire a contractor. This doesn't have to be all or nothing. Handy homeowners can do most of the finishing work and hire contractors for electrical or plumbing work. Contractors may require half the costs up front.

Draw a layout of your finished basement plan. Include the location of new walls, lighting, switches, outlets, smoke alarms, heating ducts, doors, windows and plumbing fixtures. Add measurements.

Clear the space of all clutter.

Finishing Walls

Frame walls using 2 by 4 treated lumber with studs 16 inches apart. Frame new walls and over existing concrete walls for a finished look and insulated comfort. If space is at a premium, 2 by 2 lumber can be used to frame over foundation walls.

Fill the walls. This is the time to run electrical wires to outlets, lighting fixtures, fire alarms and switches while walls are still open. Divert heating vents. Add plumbing, if applicable.

Pack insulation in the wall frames, especially outside walls, to prevent the room from being too chilly. Add a vapor barrier, such as plastic, over the insulation.

Measure walls for drywall. Make necessary cuts in the drywall sheets for outlets and switches before hanging. Use screws to attach drywall sheets securely to the center of wall studs.

Finish walls by applying plaster. Adding a texture to the plaster will mask any imperfections. Allow plaster to dry and paint.

Finishing Touches

Add a ceiling. Suspended or drop ceilings are easier to install than plaster ceilings and allow easy access to plumbing and wiring.

Finish the floor. Most basements have a cement floor. The easiest solution is to paint the cement but the outcome can be a cold floor. Tile is a good choice because of the dampness in a basement, but it is the most expensive and time consuming option since it requires a subfloor. Carpet brings warmth but can hold moisture and needs to be replaced periodically. Use a thick pad if laying carpet to give better cushion.

Add baseboards and trim around doors and windows to give a final, fully finished look to your basement.

Things You Will Need

  • 2 by 4 boards
  • 8D and 12D nails
  • Chalk line
  • Hammer
  • Levels
  • Quick clamps
  • Insulation
  • Vapor barrier
  • Drywall sheets
  • Screws
  • Drywall Saw
  • Screwdriver
  • Drywall T Square
  • Ceiling tiles
  • Brackets
  • Flooring supplies (as needed)
  • Plaster
  • Paint
  • Brushes
  • Rollers
  • Wood
  • Finishing nails

Tip

  • With every step, remember that basements can be damp. Try to use materials that don't absorb and hold moisture.

About the Author

Alice Drinkworth has been a writer and journalist since 1995. She has written for community newspapers, college magazines and Salon.com. Drinkworth earned a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from the University of Wisconsin and won a media award for her in-depth coverage of local politics. She is also a certified master gardener.