This post has been a LONG time coming. Today I’m going to give you ALL the details on how we DIY’ed our basement renovation to finish the basement. This project is actually not QUITE complete, but we’re SO close to completion that I want to walk you through it while it’s on my mind. When we purchased this house this is how the basement looked:
What to Look for in an Unfinished Basement:
- We loved that other than the ductwork, the ceilings were over 7′ high.
- Other than one corner that could be fixed, there were no water issues.
- It only had supporting beams down the middle, which allowed for a large rec. room.
- The utilities were concentrated to one area, allowing the rest to be finished.
Because we used all of our extra money to complete renovations on the main floor, we knew it would be a few years until we could tackle the basement. So we put white paint on the floors and walls and enjoyed this space as our kids play room and rec room.
Eventually we framed out the guest room, utility room, and future bathroom. Putting unfinished drywall on one side of the walls created a private space for our guests. It also gave the kids a place to play and be rowdy and loud.
At this point I got a permit from the city just to make sure it would be an approved space. Here is the floor plan that I submitted to the city:
What to Hire Out to Finish the Basement:
Plumbing (Well Abandonment)
When our well pump died and we had to eliminate our well, that meant we could also eliminate the ugly well tank in the back corner along with some pipes that hung below the joists. This was an expensive project that we hired out because we didn’t know the first thing about abandoning a well.
Another project that we hired out has having two nice egress windows installed. The same company that installed the windows also added drain tile in the corner where the tank had been, eliminating the place that water had been getting into the basement. These guys also jackhammered and hauled away the massive fireplace hearth that was protruding into the room. I wrote all about installing egress windows in this post if this is something you’d like to DIY.
Finally we had to have a new furnace installed. Our existing furnace was from 1974 and was inefficient and also poorly placed. When we replaced it with a high efficiency furnace we had them move it a few feet towards our utility room, making it possible to enclose the furnace in the utility room.
Most houses where we live have high levels of radon, and currently we do not have a mitigation system. In the next few weeks we have someone coming to install one. This will give us piece of mind for our own safety, and eliminate an issue someday when it comes to resale.
We feel really comfortable wiring lights and outlets, but we didn’t feel comfortable hooking into the circuit breaker. Thankfully my husband’s cousin is an electrician and he came up for day to help up with the connections out of the breaker. He ran a few lines for us, and then we did all the rest of the electrical which I’ll share below.
If we wanted laminate flooring we’d be installing it ourselves, but we’re hoping to make the basement feel cozy and warm so we’re going with carpeting. I bought the carpet from Menards, and it will be getting installed next week!
We spent a LOT of money to get those things done. If your basement doesn’t have a well pump, or already has egress windows, a new furnace, or a mitigation system you’re going to save a LOT of money!
What to DIY to Finish the Basement:
**I am not a licensed contractor or a professional, please take these suggestions at your own risk and consult your local code before finishing your basement.**
Once Matt’s cousin ran the lines from the breaker, we were able to hook up all the recessed lights and outlets. We also needed to run a hardwired smoke detector in the bedroom and at the base of the stairs. We installed 12 recessed lights on two switches, and outlets approximately every 6′.
We bought all of the insulation for the ceiling from Menards on Black Friday with a huge rebate. We used R-15 faced insulation that we just stapled to the floor joists. This immediately created a huge sound barrier between the basement and upstairs. On the walls we used R-10 Polystyrene insulation which we attached with caulk made for polystyrene. We also used plastic tape to tape these seams to not allow any air to get through.
This framing nailer makes this job SO much easier. We ordered all of our studs and treated wood in one big delivery from Menards. It’s important to make sure that the studs are attached to both the floor joists, and the baseplates are secured into the concrete floor. For securing into concrete I like using these mushroom head spikes. I just pre-drill the treated board, then pre-drill the concrete, then use a hammer to drive the spike in. You actually feel it grabbing the concrete beneath your feet as you drive it in.
Framing the ductwork took some creativity, because I was trying to keep the ceiling clearance as high as possible. In order to gain a few inches I used 1×3’s instead of 2×4’s for this framing.
We also had all of our drywall delivered with the wood. We went with 12′ sheets to eliminate seams. Thankfully two friends helped us haul it all around the house and down the stairs which was a HUGE job. Then we hung all the drywall using a lift that we borrowed from my dad. One important thing to do when hanging drywall is to make sure EVERY seam is on a stud. We had to take down some drywall and add blocking to support some of our drywall that we messed up on the first time. I like using drywall screws with a square drive because they don’t strip as easy as Phillips screws. Also having an electric driver has more power than a battery drill.
Over the years I’ve had a lot of practice patching drywall, and doing small projects, but NEVER an entire room. My first entire room I did was the basement guest room and it turned out really good! Now I’m almost done with my final sanding in the great room! I’d say this is a job that anyone can DIY but be prepared to have sore arms and a LOT of patience. I like to use pre-mixed “Dust Control” mud, mesh tape, and this strait-flex for corner bead. This sanding pole is saving my arms and I use these sanding blocks for the harder spots.
I’m not quite at this step yet, but I’ll be doing all the painting down here. I’ll start with a primer that has a sand texture to match the stairwell and the rest of the house. In other homes I’ve done knockdown texture. Then I’ll finish the walls and ceiling in a satin and flat paint in Benjamin Moore “Chantilly Lace” which is the same color we have on our main level.
We’re going with a basic 3.5″ flat Primed Pine trim throughout our whole basement. Because I’m painting in the same color as the walls I’ll install it before painting it. If it were a different color than the walls I’d paint it before installation. In the finished guest room you can see how minimal and simple this white trim is. I am using the same trim to go around the doors and windows as well.
With the kids home 100% of the time right now, I’m super antsy to get this space back into use! We’re hoping to set up the fireplace end as a space to watch tv, and the rest of the room as a rec room with a dry bar. I’m not going to say that doing a DIY basement finish is simple, but if you take it one step at a time none of the steps are actually that complicated. Once this room is 100% done I’m going to share a cost breakdown of every penny we’ve spent down here!