11 Tips for How to Finish a Basement From Floor to Ceiling (2023)

Transform your unfinished basement into an enjoyable space with these remodeling tips

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Learning how to finish a basement properly will promote you from home renovation novice straight to the pro leagues. But how do you get started, and in what order should you tackle your basement project? If you’re making a plan for your basement, follow these tips to keep your project running smoothly.

1. Assess Your Needs

Before getting your hands dirty, you need to think about how a basement renovation best serves you and your family. Maybe you have a child who will soon be a teenager and needs their own room, or perhaps you thrive on entertaining and want an extra space to host guests.

The easiest way to finish a basement begins with the most important part: identifying its primary function. If your basement is the media room, you won’t need much natural light beyond what is required. On the other hand, a craft room would be better suited for a finished basement that has multiple window banks or a well-lit interior.

2. Research Local Basement Codes and Permit Requirements

Your local code is one significant factor that could limit the extent of your basement remodel. Before ramping up your DIY plans, research common DIY construction code violations and check with your local codes office to ensure that your project stays in compliance (and within budget).

Adding an egress window, for example, can be pricey, and almost all codes departments in the U.S. require a way to safely exit a habitable area in the event of an emergency. The vast majority of communities across the country follow the guidelines outlined by the International Code Council if you need to look something up in a pinch.

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3. Clear Out the Junk

Even an unused, unfinished basement has likely accumulated dirt, debris, boxes, and who knows what else over the years. Rent a dumpster to clear out clutter and clean up the work area so that you can start your project in a clean space. This dumpster also will come in handy if you’re removing insulation, beams, rotted wood, or other large pieces.

4. Waterproof Your Basement

One of the first things to do when finishing the basement is address any moisture issues. Waterproofing your basement protects your renovation investment, particularly since you’ll be installing drywall and insulation, doing extensive electrical wiring, and furnishing the space. Waterproofing also helps eliminate conditions that can cause mold, which is useful if you live in an area that gets a lot of rain or has a high water table.

Sump pumps work as a back-up for emergency flooding issues in the basement, but they aren’t the only solution you’ll need if you’re turning your basement into a living area. Waterproofing the space entails several steps, from applying interior sealers to the walls, and sealing up pipes, to diverting outside water drainage away from the foundation. You’ll likely need a pro to help with these steps and might consider hiring a basement finishing professional to get it done.

5. Install Insulation

To transform a basement into a habitable area, it should have good insulation in the walls to help keep the space more efficient and climate-controlled. Spun-glass insulation is the traditional method of basement insulation, but there are other products like open- or closed-cell spray foam insulation to consider, as well. If you choose spray foam, consider hiring a professional insulation company since it’s not a DIY project due to the level of technical difficulty and equipment required.

6. Running Lines

One nice thing about a basement conversion is that all of the utilities—like electricity and plumbing—are readily accessible since they are already servicing your home. If you’d like to install a bathroom and the accompanying sewer systems, you’ll have readily available wiring and water to tie into.


A local electrician will be able to figure out load levels and design so that you’re able to efficiently tap into your existing system. An electrician can also help you with space planning if you’re unsure about tackling the addition of extra lights or power plugs for an entertainment system.

(Video) How to Paint an Exposed Ceiling | DIY Basement Renovation Part 1

It's important to note that the ceiling of your basement forms the basis for the utilities that run the length of your home, much like your electrical box that ties into the city grid. Therefore, things can get messy if the basement wasn't intended to be a habitable area. Finishing a basement presents the unique opportunity to clean up decades’ worth of haphazard additions and streamline your home’s electrical backbone.


Plumbing is located in the basement because water follows gravity and always goes down, and centralizing plumbing on a lower level minimizes the damage should slow leaks occur. Recognize that every toilet, sink, and shower in your home crisscrosses or—at the very least—is adjacent to your basement, and you'll need to accommodate the rest of your residence during the remodeling process.

While the ease of access to a water system benefits the addition of a bathroom or sink, you'll rarely want to try and pump your sewer waste up. For help with the plumbing in your basement, find a plumber near you to assist.

7. Add an Egress Window

If your basement does not have an outside access point and is going to be a functional living space, you'll need to install an egress window for safety purposes and to get it up to code. Since adding an egress window requires a high level of skill and has some structural foundation elements, you should consult with a local window installer instead of attempting a DIY. While it’s a bit of an investment, you’ll have the added benefit of added natural light through an egress window bank.

8. Frame the Walls

To install drywall and paneling and run electrical and plumbing lines, you typically need to install joists to frame out the concrete or rock foundation that comprises your basement walls. If you’re breaking up the area into separate rooms, you’ll also need to factor framing these spaces into the equation. Wall framing isn't a typical DIY project, so if you're planning on finishing the walls, consult with a carpenter.

9. Install Drywall

If you’re not into the industrial, raw look of an exposed foundation or just want added insulation, it’s time for drywall as part of the basement finishing project. Hanging up drywall is a lot like putting together a giant jigsaw puzzle and entails hanging up the pieces and attaching it to wall studs. Finishing out the seams and screw holes requires expert handling of drywall mud and trowels, so unless you’re ready to painstakingly sand layers of mud to smooth perfection, hire a professional drywall contractor to complete the room.

(Video) The Best Way To Finish Your Basement

10. Install Flooring

Consider your basement’s intended renovation purpose and what floor material is the best look and function for it. For example, you might use laminate flooring for a highly trafficked bonus room, while a quality hardwood floor is better suited for an executive home office.

You have a couple of options here: The first is to pour a concrete slab in the basement, which can be an expensive endeavor. If you've properly waterproofed the basement, the second option is to install stud framing and a subfloor before choosing to install tile, hardwood, or laminate. Ultimately, the type of flooring materials you choose will dictate what type of subflooring you’ll need to lay down first.

Laminate floors are easy enough to DIY if you’re handy with geometry and basic home renovation tools. For concrete floors, or if you intend to install hardwood on top of a freshly poured concrete floor, you’ll want to hire a flooring professional.

11. Install the Ceiling

Basement ceilings can be unsightly with tangles of wiring and plumbing crowded around the joists. A drop ceiling or drywall or paneling can effectively cover the ceiling area and give it a finished look. Just make sure to create access points in your basement for critical systems like drains and water lines is essential for the long-term maintenance of the rest of your home. Sealing in shut-off valves or junction boxes, while aesthetically pleasing, won’t allow you to service these systems in the future.

Not too into DIYing your basement remodel? Find a basement remodeler near you.


What should you not forget when finishing a basement? ›

10 Things You Won't Regret Doing When Finishing a Basement
  1. Waterproofing. ...
  2. Adding a Built In Dehumidifier. ...
  3. Removing Any Poles. ...
  4. Adding Egress Windows. ...
  5. Adding a Bathroom. ...
  6. Using Pocket and Barn Doors. ...
  7. Using a French Door Entrance. ...
  8. Adding Stair Lights.
Jun 23, 2020

Can you finish a basement with 7 foot ceiling? ›

What is the minimum height for a basement ceiling? Local codes for basement finishing vary, however, according to the International Residential Code (IRC), a basement living space must have a clear floor-to-ceiling height of at least 7 feet (6 feet for bathrooms).

What is the easiest way to finish a basement ceiling? ›

One of the fastest and most economical ways to finish a basement ceiling is to paint everything. A monochromatic ceiling disguises all the pipes and ductwork — it's a technique often used in urban spaces that are converted to coffee houses and shops.

What is the order of steps to finish a basement? ›

  1. Step 1 Decide How You Want to Use Your Basement. ...
  2. Step 2 Draft a Detailed Basement Floor Plan. ...
  3. Step 3 Look for Signs of Moisture in Your Basement. ...
  4. Step 4 Do a Basement Inspection. ...
  5. Step 5 Consider Your Electrical and Plumbing Needs. ...
  6. Step 6 Choose Your Basement Insulation. ...
  7. Step 7 Frame Walls & Choose Your Basement Drywall.

What should you not put in your basement? ›

  • Delicate fabrics. ...
  • Furniture and décor made from natural materials. ...
  • Important papers. ...
  • RELATED: The Safe Way to Store Important Papers »
  • Food (unless you store it carefully) ...
  • Electronics. ...
  • Candles. ...
  • Anything flammable (near heat sources)
Nov 24, 2014

What is the easiest ceiling to install in a basement? ›

A super easy DIY option for your basement ceiling is glue-on tiles. Typically made of polystyrene or fiberboard, these tiles come in a variety of colors, sizes, and styles, and are also paintable. You'll need to install a foundation, like plywood, to glue them to. But after that, it's as simple as glue and stick.

What is a good ceiling height for basement? ›

Building to Code

The International Residential Code (IRC) says a basement living space must have a clear, floor-to-ceiling height of at least 7 feet (6 feet for bathrooms).

What is the best ceiling height for a basement? ›

Habitable space, hallways and portions of basements containing these spaces shall have a ceiling height of not less than 7 feet (2134 mm).

What is the cheapest way to insulate a basement ceiling? ›

Foam board insulation comes in rigid sheets made of polystyrene or polyisocyanurate, and you can use it in both basement ceilings and walls. It's relatively inexpensive and easy to install —especially when installed before framing the walls—so it's a great option for DIYers on a budget.

Is it easy to finish a basement yourself? ›

If you have extensive DIY experience and can do the job safely, it may be worth finishing the basement yourself. But if you have a packed schedule that leaves you with little time to break out the tools and hardware, hiring a pro is the way to go. It's also safer to hire a contractor to manage the project.

What can I use instead of drywall on ceiling? ›

Trusscore Wall&CeilingBoard is an alternative to drywall for ceilings. An eight-foot length of Wall&CeilingBoard weighs in at under eight pounds, which means it can be installed by just one person.

How long does it take for one person to finish a basement? ›

An average custom finished basement project usually ranges anywhere from 12-16 weeks. The plans for your specific basement remodel could be reflected in the timeline.

What do I need to know before finishing my basement? ›

10 Crucial Things to Consider Before Finishing a Basement
  • Expect a Payback. Finishing a basement can be a good investment. ...
  • Flex Your DIY Muscle. ...
  • Add Light Sources. ...
  • Put Safety First in Stairwells. ...
  • Make Moisture Worries Evaporate. ...
  • Find the Right Flooring Option. ...
  • Decide How to Finish the Ceiling. ...
  • Check Your Heating Capabilities.
May 31, 2022

How long does it take to finish a 1000 sq ft basement? ›

Average Basement Remodeling Length

An average of 1000 square feet basement takes around four weeks to finish. To get a better sense of your basement remodeling length, we will put down each step of the remodeling project, along with the time frame for each phase of the project.

What costs the most when finishing a basement? ›

An unfinished basement rarely has insulation, drywall, or finished flooring, but it may have plumbing. Transforming a completely unfinished basement by adding these features is the most costly type of basement finishing project.

What is the easiest way to finish a basement wall? ›

Attach wood furring strips, Z-shape channels, or 2x4 studs to flat, dry masonry walls, then add insulation and cover the strips or studs with drywall. Such treatments give basement walls a smooth, even surface that accepts finish materials such as paint, wallpaper, or paneling.

Why living in the basement is not healthy? ›

Hazards commonly found in basements include toxic chemicals, pests, mold, indoor air quality issues (such as dangerous gases) and fire hazards that can affect all rooms of the home.

What every basement needs? ›

7 Things Every Basement Needs
  • Waterproofing.
  • Sound Proofing.
  • Egress Windows.
  • Quality Lighting.
  • Insulation.
  • Air Circulation.
  • Direct Mount Ceiling.
Nov 21, 2019

How thick should drywall be for basement ceiling? ›

Drywall Thickness

Therefore, the choice is left to the construction needs. For basement walls, you can stick with the standard half-inch drywall thickness. You can go with ⅝ inch thick drywall panels to cover the ceiling.

What is the best insulation for basement ceiling? ›

Best Insulation for a Basement Ceiling: Closed-Cell Spray Foam. The best tip to keep in mind when it comes to basement insulation is moisture control. To this end, a material such as closed-cell spray foam, which helps provide a water vapor barrier.

Can you finish a basement with 6 ft ceilings? ›

To get a construction permit to finish a basement, the ceiling must be at least 6'8”. If it is shorter than this minimum requirement, then you have to raise the ceiling before finishing the basement. A finished basement can dramatically increase the livable space of a home.

What is normal floor to ceiling height? ›

According to the National Building Code (NBC), the standard ceiling height is ninety-six inches, or eight feet; for suspended ceilings; the minimum height is ninety inches, or seven and a half feet. But nine- and ten-foot ceilings are now common, not only in living rooms and kitchens, but also in bedrooms.

Can you finish a basement with 8 foot ceilings? ›

Having a lower ceiling height does not mean you cannot finish your basement. You may just need to be a little creative to create a design that works best for your specific space. While you create the design of your basement keeps the ceiling height in mind for every space.

What is benching a basement? ›

“Benching” is the term used to describe a concrete bench which is constructed over top of a stable excavation slope when a basement floor is being lowered without extending the foundation wall footings to a lower level. Thus leaving the existing footings as is and undisturbed.

What is a comfortable ceiling height? ›

Most people choose either eight or nine feet but there is no wrong way to do it. What is this? If the ceilings are a minimum of eight feet, you won't have many problems because this is a standard ceiling height. After this, have some fun designing the interior of your home.

Do tall ceilings add value? ›

High ceilings can increase a home's value by five to 25 percent. In fact, raising the height of a ceiling added an average of $4,000 to home values, according to a survey by the National Association of Home Builders. That said, high ceilings remain more common in high-end homes than in low- to mid-range homes.

Do you really need insulation in basement ceiling? ›

Insulation in the basement ceiling helps keep your home more energy-efficient and can even reduce noise levels. In addition to insulation, the best way to keep your home comfortable is through careful maintenance of your heating and cooling systems.

What R-value insulation do I need for basement ceiling? ›

Depending on where you live and the part of your home you're insulating (walls, crawlspace, attic, etc.), you'll need a different R-Value. Typical recommendations for exterior walls are R-13 to R-23, while R-30, R-38 and R-49 are common for ceilings and attic spaces.

Does basement ceiling insulation need a vapor barrier? ›

Most climates require a vapor barrier to cover ceiling insulation, but not all insulation requires a vapor barrier. It's always important to refer to your state's building codes.

Does finishing basement increase home value? ›

In the US, finishing a basement will give you a return of 70 to 75% of your investment. That means if you spend $10,000 on improvements, the value of your property will increase by about $7,000. Although you may not recoup 100 percent of your expenses, that's a good return on investment for most home sellers.

Is it a good time to finish a basement? ›

The truth is that the winter months are the best time to put time and effort into a basement renovation. A winter basement remodel transforms unused space into additional bedrooms, bathrooms, and common rooms to gather with the family.

Should I drylock my basement walls? ›

Drylok is an indoor waterproofing paint, and while that has been mentioned several times, it is a crucial detail. Waterproofing your basement from the inside may be cheap, but it is by far the least effective way of waterproofing your basement, and this is because it never stops the source of the water.

What is a cheap alternative to drywall? ›

Plywood, medium-density fiberboard (MDF) and oriented strand board (OSB) are expedient and low-cost solutions for garage walls. They can be attached over studs quickly with framing screws and, unlike drywall, wood doesn't require any taping, mud, or sanding.

What is the cheapest way to cover a ceiling? ›

Skim coating is likely the cheapest option for covering popcorn ceilings. A skim coat acts like a primer to give the ceiling a fresh, smooth surface for a new coat of paint.

What should I put between wall and ceiling? ›

Here's how to do so seamlessly to conceal the gap and create a flush look throughout.
  1. Step 1: Mesh drywall tape. ...
  2. Step 2: Apply joint compound. ...
  3. Step 3: Paper tape. ...
  4. Step 4: More mud. ...
  5. Step 5: Let the mud dry. ...
  6. Step 6: Sand. ...
  7. Step 7: Paint.
Sep 25, 2019

What does 1/2 finished basement mean? ›

The main difference between a partially finished basement and a finished and unfinished basement is that it is entirely unmodified. You may find furniture, gym equipment or recreational appliances in a partially finished basement.

Is it cheaper to finish a basement or add a second story? ›

Generally speaking, building up tends to be less expensive than a basement. That said, not too long ago, lumber was at an all-time high and basements were the better option. Check with your builder and they can advise you on the pros, cons, and cost of each.

Is a finished basement considered living space? ›

While a finished basement is considered living space where your property value is concerned, it's only in rare instances that this living space is counted towards the square footage. Even if your basement is not an exception to the rule, a finished basement is an asset to your property value.

What is the first thing to do when finishing a basement? ›

Prepare Your Space
  1. Apply for a Permit. Getting a permit is essential to the job. ...
  2. Take Care of Dampness. You never want to install drywall in your basement before checking for water or high humidity. ...
  3. Pick Your Materials. Drywall or plaster? ...
  4. Gather Your Tools. ...
  5. Install Insulation. ...
  6. Frame the Walls. ...
  7. Install Utilities. ...
  8. Mount Drywall.
Feb 15, 2023

What time of year is best to finish a basement? ›

Fall seems to be one of the best seasons to work on your finished basement. With fall comes amazing, cooler weather and rarely do you need to worry about, rain, snow, or extreme heat. Contractors are usually very busy in the summer months and tend to slow down during the fall.

What makes a basement count as finished? ›

A basement is finished when the entire level is complete and similar to the upstairs living areas. It generally includes an electrical system, heat, finished floors, an accessible entrance/stairway, level ceilings, and finished walls.

How do you plan a basement finish? ›

  1. Step 1 Decide How You Want to Use Your Basement. ...
  2. Step 2 Draft a Detailed Basement Floor Plan. ...
  3. Step 3 Look for Signs of Moisture in Your Basement. ...
  4. Step 4 Do a Basement Inspection. ...
  5. Step 5 Consider Your Electrical and Plumbing Needs. ...
  6. Step 6 Choose Your Basement Insulation. ...
  7. Step 7 Frame Walls & Choose Your Basement Drywall.

What adds the most value when finishing a basement? ›

8 Ways a Finished Basement Adds Value to Your Property
  1. Additional Bedroom. ...
  2. Additional Bathroom. ...
  3. Great Return on Investment. ...
  4. Way to Add Space if Zoning Codes Don't Allow Other Additions. ...
  5. Income Property. ...
  6. Add Recreation/Storage/Guest Space to Home. ...
  7. Sweat Equity. ...
  8. Don't Have to Use High End Materials.
Jun 25, 2019

Is it worth the investment to finish a basement? ›

In the US, finishing a basement will give you a return of 70 to 75% of your investment. That means if you spend $10,000 on improvements, the value of your property will increase by about $7,000. Although you may not recoup 100 percent of your expenses, that's a good return on investment for most home sellers.

Does adding a bathroom in the basement add value? ›

Adding a bathroom to your basement makes it livable space, which increases the overall market value of your home. A bathroom in your basement can also be a huge selling point for buyers if you are ever looking to sell. When a basement is unfinished with no bathroom, buyers look at the basement as wasted space.

How can I save money to finish my basement? ›

7 ways to save on your basement remodel
  1. Opt for an inexpensive, prefabricated egress window and well. ...
  2. Test exterior walls for moisture before finishing. ...
  3. Cut out some studs. ...
  4. Install drop ceilings. ...
  5. Skip the carpet and install luxury vinyl tile instead. ...
  6. Add a bathroom (or at least a half bath) near existing plumbing.
Dec 31, 2020

Does adding a bedroom in the basement increase home value? ›

Because basement bedrooms are not accounted for in the gross living area space, they are valued separately as an additional line item on an appraisal. As such, you can expect the value of a basement bedroom to be in the range of 50%-70% of the value of a traditional above ground bedroom.

What to consider before finishing a basement? ›

10 Crucial Things to Consider Before Finishing a Basement
  1. Expect a Payback. Finishing a basement can be a good investment. ...
  2. Flex Your DIY Muscle. ...
  3. Add Light Sources. ...
  4. Put Safety First in Stairwells. ...
  5. Make Moisture Worries Evaporate. ...
  6. Find the Right Flooring Option. ...
  7. Decide How to Finish the Ceiling. ...
  8. Check Your Heating Capabilities.
May 31, 2022

What is a Yankee basement? ›

They call it a “Yankee basement” or, well, sometimes a “root cellar,” where basically you take the interior perimeter of the foundation wall, move in about 2½, 3 feet and then dig down there. So you leave this sort of berm of soil to support the foundation that's under the footing.

Should you put carpet in basement yes or no? ›

Carpeting is one of the best flooring materials to use in basements. Besides making cold basements feel warmer and more welcoming, carpeting actually can dry out quickly, even when flooded. Like any other basement flooring, vigilance is crucial to maintaining the product over the long-term.

What makes a basement living space? ›

Basements and usable square footage

It's not usable, so don't include it in square footage. To be considered “living area,” a home's rooms must meet certain criteria — including the basement. Height clearances, whether it's heated, and the presence of windows: all of these make a space livable.

What adds the most value to a home? ›

Projects That Boost Your Home's Value
  • Remodel the kitchen. Updates to the kitchen pay off. ...
  • Upgrade the appliances. ...
  • Boost the bathrooms. ...
  • Remodel the attic or basement. ...
  • Get decked out. ...
  • Boost curb appeal. ...
  • Improve energy efficiency.

What things increase home value? ›

6 Ways to Increase the Value of Your Home
  • Update your home's finishes. ...
  • Upgrade to energy-efficient features and appliances. ...
  • Freshen up your curb appeal. ...
  • Put your money into your kitchen and bathroom. ...
  • Finish off your basement or other unfinished spaces. ...
  • Clean and declutter before showing your home.
Mar 8, 2022

Does a finished basement add value to appraisal? ›

The appraised value of finished basement space is generally 50% to 60% of the value of the main level square footage. To maximize the cost/value ratio, the market experts recommend keeping the basement budget below 10% of the existing home's value. Staying between 5-10% is a good plan.


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