Yes, I know I'm sort of interviewing myself here. This is a new type of post I'm trying out. Let me know what you think. Do you want to read more stories from other people who've finished their own basement? (leave a comment below)
Name and General Location:
Jason - Ashburn, Virginia
Basement Size :
Roughly 1300 square feet
Kids Play Room (future pool table area), Living Room, Office, Game Area (air hockey, pinball), Full Bathroom, Storage Area
What Phases Did You Do Yourself?
Permits, Framing, Electrical, Trim, Painting
Finishing my basement was.... A complete shock to me. I never expected I would do it and I surprised myself when I started. In the end I absolutely loved learning all of the trades and seeing progress each weekend.
Q: What is your normal day job?
I'm a former computer programmer who now manages digital marketing and media.
Q; What type of previous DIY experience did you have?
Well, I could sort of hang a picture straight. Honestly, not very much. I'd really never used a mitre saw or a nail gun. I once tried to replace a light switch in our dining room with a dimmer switch and I ended up knocking out the power to half the house. So.... not much.
Q: How much did it cost you to finish your basement yourself?:
About $13,120 all in.
Q: How much value do you think you added to your home:
Q: What made you want to start finishing your own basement?
The dead of winter and 3 kids made me want to start. Or at the very leastthey made me want to nail something into wood. Honestly my wife bought me a miter saw for my birthday (in Jan.) and I just started to mess around. I built a tool area and workbench in a corner of the basement - the project grew from there.
Q: When did you feel like, yes, I'm actually going to do this?
After I did my test wall I framed in a second wall about 20 feet long. Once I finished that and saw that it was straight and met the code requirements - I knew that at the very least I would frame my own basement.
Q: What was your favorite tool?
Hands down the framing gun. I also bought the braid nailer and a staple gun, those were fun as well. And a table saw - that was a very close second place. I became a bit of tool junkie. I ended up getting a concrete angle grinder, a door set jig, a new sump pump - all kinds of stuff.
Q: Man Up! Which part of finishing your basement made you feel like "dang, I'm feeling kinda manly right now" ?
One day in particular I remember wearing my leather tool belt weighted down with a hammer, tape measure, and some of those giant carpentry pencils (why in the world do those things look like they were made for Fred Flintstone?).
Anyway... The sun was streaming in and there was a lot of saw dust stuck to my arms because I was starting to sweat a bit. I was cutting and framing this long span of wall near the door. I had the nail gun in one hand when Jenn came downstairs and brought me a glass of ice tea - I'd say right about then, I felt pretty manly.
Just Doing It
Q: Tell us about wood
Did you know you can fit about 35 eight foot studs in a Honda pilot and still shut the door? I was scared to put wood on the roof rack at first because I wasn't confident that I could tie it down correctly? Is that crazy or what? I thought I just needed 1 shipment of wood, ended up eventually with 3, plus several Home Depot runs. You always need more than you think.
Q: What was the hardest thing to learn (for you) about finishing a basement?
Probably framing basement walls. Specifically framing around ductwork and framing in soffits. Now that I know how to do it, it would be easy, but I can distinctly remember banging my head against the wall trying to visualize how you're suppose to do it.
Q: Did you do your own electrical for your basement?
Yes. Honestly though, I really didn't think I could at first. In fact I had planned on hiring it out but my budget just couldn't support that. Plus I wasn't 100% sure what I wanted where. I started by just installing a few pot lights onto an existing circuit and from there I just learned a little bit more each weekend.
Q:Did you do your own drywall or hire someone? How did that go?
I hired a company to do my drywall. For me, this was the best decision of the project. They knocked it out in about 7 days, did a great job and did it for less than what I could have on my own. Mainly because they could buy drywall a lot cheaper than me.
Q: How long would you say it took you? When did you typically work?
From true start to finish I would say about a year. I mostly worked weekends but I would usually plan, read and buy supplies on the weeknights leading up to the weekend. I skipped a few weekends for family events, vacations. If were to do a second basement - I could do it in 6 months.
Q: Describe what it feels like to accomplish a project like this ?
It really surprised me. I felt great each week where I made progress. It was a real confidence booster. I didn't even realize that I needed a confidence boost but you get so caught up in your day to day world - you forget that you have these other skills inside of you that need to get out once in awhile. You're not just a computer. It felt great!
Q: Which room in your basement are you most proud of?
For me it would have to be the workshop. This was the first wall I framed and wired. I've always wanted a tucked away workshop. I can't wait to see how it evolves over the years as my family grows.
In my mind someday it's a cool, tucked away, guy hang out room or a guest bedroom where relatives stay and relax over Christmas break. Or it's just another storage room like it is right now!
Q: Who was most surprised that you had tackled something like this?
I would probably have to say my wife. I think she thought I was crazy or would seriously injure myself. I don't blame her though, given my lack of track record on home improvement projects - finishing a basement wasn't something I even expected to be doing.
Q: Is there anyone you want to thank for helping your along ? Family / friends?
My brother in law Brandon for helping me with the bathroom and teaching me how to frame soffits. Mark and Tom for stopping by to review my work and giving me the confidence to get started. AND! My wife Jenn, for putting with the noise and distractions despite our new baby boy Cameron.
Encouragement for Others
Q: What would you say to a complete stranger who was thinking of finishing their basement on their own?
I would say... don't think about it anymore. Go and do it. For this, don't be a spectator, don't wish, don't hope, don't dream and plot... just start. Resolve to only spend time actually making progress.
If you've finished your basement I'd really like to share your story on this blog. Leave a comment below or email me.
If this interview has inspired you to get started - subscribe the newsletter for a weekly email with great basement finishing content.
Cheers - Jason