Complete Guide to Upgrading Your Basement

 In Design, House, Remodeling

Having a basement can add to the value of your property significantly. Having a finished basement can add even more.

Everyone likes having a basement, even if it is unfinished. It is an extra space where you can store boxes, old furniture and other things that you need but don’t use every day. But if you finish your basement, you can turn it into much more than a storage space. It can become an extra bedroom, a space to entertain guests, or even a whole apartment under your home — perfect for an aging parent, a child who comes home after college, or a rental opportunity.

Upgrading your basement takes a lot of work, and it requires a lot more than just slapping up some drywall. It is essential that you work with a general contractor to learn about all the issues involved, ensuring that you meet code requirements and you make the space safe and inviting. A general contractor can also give you some design ideas you might not have considered.

Here are a few things you’ll want to talk about with your contractor when upgrading your basement:

Moisture Issues

Basements are notorious for experiencing moisture problems. They are, after all, sunk under the ground. Water surrounds the walls, and it will easily come inside if the basement is not properly water-proofed.

If you start hanging drywall under those conditions or laying down flooring, you’ll quickly have mold and mildew spreading throughout the room. You must work with a contractor to first solve any moisture issues before you can begin any of the work for the upgrade. This may include sealing the walls, installing strong moisture barriers and more.

Even after the basic moisture issues are addressed, you’ll still want to choose specialty materials for completing your finished basement. For example, instead of using traditional drywall, you may want to choose a treated drywall or specialty wall covering that is designed to resist moisture.


In addition to being damp, basements are also notorious for being cold. They are not well-insulated. Unless you want to dress for outdoor weather every time you go into your basement, you’ll need to have it properly insulated before you start finishing it.

It is important to choose insulating materials that will be resistant to moisture damage and mold. You’ll need to insulate the floor, ceiling, walls, and pipes.

Exposed Pipes and Joists

Pipes and ducts are often run through the basement, and covering these can prove challenging in some basement upgrades. In addition, you will likely have exposed joists for your home’s flooring on the ceiling of your basement.

You can cover some of these by putting up a ceiling or drywall on the walls. However, you may end up losing a lot of space in the room in doing so. You may also lose vital access to plumbing and ductwork in case you need to make repairs.

Many finished basements still have an unfinished ceiling. You can just hang recessed lighting above the joists, and stain the beams for a stylish, rustic look. You don’t have to finish the walls either. Painting the exposed brick can create a nice look that is very popular right now. You can also leave the brick natural and hang some strategic wall coverings for a nice design.


Adding flooring can create a nice, finished look for your basement, but it is not necessary. You can paint and coat the bare concrete to get a polished look that could be featured on the pages of a home magazine.

However, a bare concrete floor can also be cold. You may choose to add flooring for the insulation and comfort. If you are on a budget, you can just lay out a couple of area rugs and still get the protection you want for your feet on cold mornings.

Talk through your flooring choices with your contractor to see what best meets your needs and your budget.

Finishing your basement can add thousands of dollars to your home’s value, but it is definitely not a DIY project. You’ll need to work with an experienced contractor to ensure that you are addressing all the underlying issues in the space when you design the remodel, such as moisture control and insulation.

Working with a contractor can also help you come up with some better design ideas for the space. Your contractor can build new walls, install crown molding, and much more. Think of your unfinished basement like a blank canvas on which to create.

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