Start Here to Finish Your Own Basement - It's easier than you think.

Charlotte and Christian are ready to get started. If only they didn't run away when the air compressor kicks in.

The toughest part about finishing your basement is just getting started. 

Thinking about how you could use that extra space, all the fun you could have down there, what great shape you'll be in and how you might design your basement.  That 's the easy part.

Trust me though.  As fun as it is to dream and cut out pictures of your ultimate basement, it's even more fun to build it yourself. 

If you finish your own basement you will never look at another basement or even another house for that matter the same way again.

7 posts to help you get started:

Finishing a Basement  - There a 8 major phases to finishing your own basement. This article will give you an overview of each and links to detailed posts. Plus, the one secret skill that you'll need to complete the job. Hint: You used to have it when you were a kid!

Imagine the benefits - Increasing your home's value by thousands.   Complete design flexibility.

Basement Permits and Inspections - Don't let the permit process scare you.  Read through this post to put your mind at ease.

Design Time -  I loved the design phase.  Once I learned how to do the design and how helpful it was to have a design I spent tons of time planning my new basement space.

HVAC - Will you need to expand your heating and cooling to make sure your basement is comfortable? How do you do that? What does it cost? I'm still writing this section but there's a start at least. 3 options for heating your basement.

Working Solo -  Tips and tricks for literally finishing on your own.  As in 1 person.  As in, my wife is upstairs pregnant and watching movies.

One Small Wall - Get going already.  Forget all the stuff above and just build a wall for kicks.  You can hang some pegboard on there and have a spot for some tools - here's how.

Perfect Basement Finishing Weekend - What's that you say...?  You can only work on the weekends?  Welcome to the club. No problem, if you follow some of these tips you can still finish your own basement even if you only work on it on the weekends.

Once you get started and gain some confidence in your ability you'll be ready to tackle the other major basement phases electrical, plumbing, and finishing.

2 Areas People Always Ask About

Here are two things I was worried about before I got started with my basement project. These really kept me up at night and prevented me from getting started. Put your mind at ease, these are not hard to solve. Here's everything I know.

Basement Waterproofing - Does your sump pump go off a lot?  Have you had a basement flood before? Does your basement smell like a gym locker sometimes? I had all of the above and solved them. HOW I solved them may surprise you.

Radon Gas Testing - Are you freaked out about Radon gas? Don't worry... well, worry a little. Radon can cause cancer. Even if you're not ready to finish your basement you should test your house for radon. I researched the inter-webs for 4 days and boiled it all down to these key points.

basement finishing jasonThe only big phase that I contracted out was the drywall phase.  When I priced it out I just couldn't do the work for less and I knew I could save months and  months of time by letting the pros do that step.  It took them about a week and they did a fantastic job.

Cheers - Jason

Not quite ready to start?  But you'd still love to get some inspiration, some ideas and some money saving tips?  Signup for the email newsletter.  I usually only send about 1 email a week and it's chock-full of home improvement and basement goodness.

Your Best Email >> *

Questions and Comments

Click here to ask a question or leave a comment.

  1. Anne-Marie says

    I desperately want to finish my basement. The ceilings have exposed plumbing and seem low to begin with. (I have a small Cape). Any suggestions for a low ceiling?

    • says

      Anne-Marie - Yes! I do have a suggestion... I would consider spray painting the ceiling. All of it! There's a picture of one on my Pinterest page. I'll keep a look out for more photos of that technique and post them to Pinterest if I find them. It looks really cool, I kinda wish I had tried that. -Jason

  2. says

    This is a great web site! Great ideas and planning. That first demo or remodeling job is always scary but with proper planning and the right tools it gets done fabulously! Love reusing materials and the wood pallet wall is an awesome idea!

  3. David says

    So glad I found this sight! I built my house 8 years ago; and STILL have not closed in my basement! I am going to get started! My basement is shared with my garage; so it will only be about 500 sq ft. I want a full bath; but don't know how to configure the floor plan? Thanks for the great ideas!

    • says

      Thanks for commenting David. Good luck with your project. The key is to focus on progress not perfection. Don't give up on it if you get stuck, just take a few days break, then come back and give it another shot, you will get it! -Jason

  4. David says

    Luv the great advice; but I have another problem??? Heating and air! I live in the South and the humidity alone will kill you! I am considering the mitsubishi mini split. Do you know of anyone who has used this product; and been very pleased with the results?

    • says

      I don't know anyone whose used that. Hopefully it helps, basements can be great for beating the heat as they are usually insulated by being underground. -Jason

    • says

      What sweet pictures! Oh, those chunky painted legs...don't ya just want to bite 'em? I have a six month old boy who hasn't been doused in paint yet. I think it's time!

  5. John Murray says

    I had been kicking the idea around in my head about finishing our basement, but couldn't seem to find any good resources on framing, etc. Then I found your website! I'm totally sold on the idea, have my plan drawn up and I'm going to get my building permit this week. Thank you for the encouragement and expertise!

    • says

      BOOYAH! I totally know how you feel. You've got an inkling of an idea and you're like "do people really do this?" And then you get just little push and some place to go for "real" answers and you feel awesome because you knew all along that it's something you could do. And you can and will. Suddenly something out of reach financially and seeming out of your control is right there in the palm of your hands. Let me know if you need any help. Have fun! - Jason

  6. Leah says

    So, here is a question: what if the basement is dry and all, but it is just, legit concrete walls and floor? Am I supposed to do something to the concrete (like...paint it with something?) to insulate before framing it? What about a sump pump, what heck do people do with those when refinishing? Any advice is enormously appreciated...

    • says

      Leah - With the exception of the insulation my basement was also just concrete floor and cinder block walls. Like you I did not have any moisture issues. Basement was dry! So no, I don't think you need to paint the walls with drylock or anything like that. I made the area holding my sump pump a storage area, other than that, I didn't touch it. Good luck! - Jason

  7. Tina says

    How about if the basement does not currently have any egress windows? Any good, cost saving ways to address? Thanks

    • says

      Tina - Wish I had some more content on this topic as I know they're expensive. But... I don't, at least not right now. Anyone else have some egress window tips? Please chime in. - Jason

  8. Lori says

    I have a "finished" basement that was done by the previous owners when they had the house built to save money. Problem is, they really had no idea what they were doing and never finished. I can work with the framing and drywall as is, but I would like do redo the ceiling, add an exterior door next to the one car garage, finish the roughed in bathroom, and add carpet and tile. There is already electric throughout. Do you have a rough idea how much we can expect to spend? Everything I am reading is based on a complete finish. Thanks for the great website!

  9. Joe Wilson says

    Quick question.....about to buy the "book" as it looks really good, but needed to know if I would be able to access it from multiple devices (if i download it on my laptop, will I also be able to download on my iPad?)

    • says

      Hi Joe. Yes, you can access it from multiple devices. The book is a .pdf, so you can put it anywhere. You're login will work from any device, so you can login to the members site and download 1 or 100 times, it's up to you. Videos also work across 99% of devices. It works great on iPad, absolutely. - Jason

  10. Josh Astbury says

    Jason, great site and awesome book. I need a designer program for my MacBook, got any suggestions? Also, you should do a sequel and build a garage with a finished second floor. Thanks!

    • says

      Josh - Wish I had an easy answer for you. I just did about 30 minutes of serious searching and found ZERO Mac compatible basement design software programs that I would recommend. (if you had a PC I'd highly recommend buying this one)

      There are two different MAC options on Amazon but they both rank 2.5 stars and the reviews are horrible. Soooo... I recommend using Microsoft Visio - which you can get for Mac, or Sketchup (which is hard to learn) or paper and pencil, which sounds like a cop-out but is actually a pretty good option.

      Good luck! - Jason

  11. Mike says

    I am looking for some opinions on a basement room with recessed can lights. The room is 22 X 15. I currently have 6 can lights in the space...spaced evenly, but I am concerned that this is not enough. One of the cans is an eye that will be pointing at a fireplace. The other 5 will be split between two switches. I am considering going to 8 lights. I have been trying to find a number for lumens for a room this size online, and most have this room around 7 65W led floods. Any thoughts on the number of lights in a room this size?

    • says

      Hi Mike - My basement family is about the same size it's 15 x 20. I currently have 5 recessed lights and one sconce light in there but there's also one of those tiny windows and my double walk-up doors are on one side. At night - 6 lights doesn't seem to be quite enough.

      However, I planned all along to add some up-lighting behind some crown molding to really add some cool light when I turn it more into a theater room. To prep for that I install a switched plug into the ceiling - close to where my uplighting will start.

      Hopefully that helps you out. Good luck on your basement! - Jason

    • says

      Hi Matt -

      Yes, absolutely. The height is a little challenging but there are ways around it. I recommend using sconce lighting or (wall) lighting versus a lot of recessed lights.

      Adding crown moulding will help the room feel taller than it is. When you furnish it, go with low couches and chairs (thing Ikea) style and white or very light furniture. Other than that you finish it just like any other basement. I think you'd be surprised how fun it can be.


  12. Coach B says

    I purchased my home in 2009, We have not had the money to invest in finishng our basement, wanted to get your ideas on doing it little by little as we can? I am not very handy, and I would rather pay someone to do it but that has not worked out so far. I have a neighbor who is preety handy and he wants to help me finish it, just wanted to get your thoughts

  13. Codes says

    What's your advice on starting from scratch iv got enough room to comando crawl under my house where we live used to be a river hundreds of years ago so stones for miles but I want to dig it out myself house is on 5x5 piles i think 1.8m long with I'd say around 2 to 5 ft deep what used to be a box frame from the concrete to set the foundations to the house so ill have to dig around them and i wanted to reinforce it and put in new foundations 4 1 each corner and get rid of those big bulky concrete foundation, I've done carpentry built a few houses but we live on a major fault line being new Zealand and all was also wondering about earthquakes idea was to dig out around 4 by 4 meter by say 2.8 high ceiling just a basic big box for storage maybe bit of a work shop on one side but all in all any feedback is welcome

    • says

      Hi Codes - I'm afraid the digging out portion of finishing your basement isn't something I can give advice on. My caution would be that safety and security should come first and digging big holes under your house and around your foundation is probably best left to a professional firm. Cheers - Jason

  14. Shawn Harper says

    Blocking from rim joist to first joist for framing a wall in my basement, these are engineered joist. My mind thinks two 2x4s one from flange to flange second one from web to web? Is that the correct way? Thanks

  15. Nick says

    Hey Jason, what do I do with a finished baesmeng that is not insulated . Been here 7 yrs no moisture problems but basement is cold. Looks great but not comfortable
    Do have a duraflame infrared heater does ok. Advice????

  16. Cynthia Houghton says

    I recently had my basement waterproofed by a firm that installed a sump pump. We have had two storms and my basement has failed both times.
    During the first storm it ran for one cycle and stopped. Water than began seeping out of my basement floor,where it meets the wall. The sump pump was fill of leaves and other storm debris. The firm sent someone to clean it out.

    Several days there was a second storm and the sump pump again failed. It stopped pumping and sewage began to pour out as well as debris. I called the city sewage department and they discovered that the firm had broken a sewage pipe that allowed sewage and debris to enter the trench that flows into the sump pump.

    The company cleaned out the basement trench and sump,pump, but yesterday I noticed there is still some debris at the bottom of the pump including chips of cement that came from their cementing around the sump pump barrel. Shouldn't this be cleaned out as well? I was given no paperwork from this company concerning the sump pump and I have no idea what brand of sump pump it is.

    • says

      Hi Cynthia - There shouldn't be any debris in your sump pump bin. The company you worked with to have this stuff installed seems a bit sloppy in their work. Hopefully they will make this right. - Jason

Leave a Question or Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *