How to Finish a Basement Yourself?

A finished basement can add much needed space and storage to your home, as well as increase its overall resale value. A finished basement can act as a game room, home office, workshop, bedroom, or even add rental income if you plan on leasing out the space. Even doing part of the job yourself will save money, so even if you choose to hire a contractor for essentials like wiring and plumbing, the overall cost will be much lower than outsourcing the entire project. While a contractor may be necessary for more complex jobs, many basement finishing projects can be completed by homeowners with some extra time and knowledge of do it yourself basics.

1) Plan the Design

Deciding how you’ll want to use your finished basement will have a big impact on how you’ll choose to construct it. A downstairs apartment, for example, might require the addition of walls, plumbing for a bathroom and kitchen, as well as compliance with local building codes. A simple workroom or game room can be substantially less work. Figure out the design and measurements of the room you’d like to achieve for your basement finishing project.
In the design drawing, include measurements as well as the locations of windows, doors, outlets, plumbing fixtures, and ceiling height. Note the insulation, if any, as well as any existing fixtures that could be re-purposed.

2) Clean the Existing Basement

Make sure the basement is free of clutter and debris before you begin working. Remove any potential obstructions that could get in the way of your project. Ensure there are no problems with dampness or moisture before you go further.

3) Add Insulation and Frame the Walls

Using high R-value insulation, use adhesive to adhere the slabs of insulation to the masonry walls. Cut around any potential obstructions, working carefully to ensure an even and tight fit. In some areas, adding fiberglass insulation may be recommended.Once the insulation is in place, add wall studs (if needed) , carefully measuring so that the drywall will eventually lie on the center of the studs. Take note of any ductwork and plumbing before you add the drywall.

4) Install the Drywall

After the walls are insulated and studs are in place, carefully lay the drywall and anchor to the studs and slab using long drywall screws. If possible, screw into place at each available wall stud. Cut around any outlets or plumbing fixtures you will need to access later. Nail a metal corner bead around any door frames, and ensure screws are driven in flush with the drywall surface.

5) Apply Drywall Compound

After the drywall is installed, apply a drywall compound to create a flawless canvas for paint. Seal any seams, joints, gaps, or holes with smooth compound in thin layers. After the compound is dry, sand the surface to ensure a flawless finish.

6) Paint the Floors/Install Flooring

Whether you’ll be staining the floor, painting the floor, or installing new flooring altogether, now is the time to do so. Clean the surface and install the floor of your choice.

7) Cover and Caulk Outlets and Windows

Locate outlet cutouts previously made in the drywall and apply outlet covers. Caulk around the surface carefully and let dry. Do the same for any phone jacks or windows that need caulking around the drywall to ensure the walls are seamless.

8) Paint the Walls

By now, the basement should be almost done. Choose a primer, a high quality paint, and paint the walls the color of your choice. Let dry.

Further Reading: Family Handyman – Basement Finishing


Allan Thomes has been a professional writer for 1 &1/2 years. He joined the THF Team in May, 2011. Along with the numerous other hobbies he enjoys, Allan spends many hours doing home remodeling projects, entertaining family and friends, and gardening.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. My husband and I recently finished our basement to get it ready for basketball season when my sons friends flood our home. We are on a budget since our income has changed since my job was downsized. Anyway we have a modest home with a 1375 sq ft. We finished off only 1000 sq ft in the basement and the best part was we did it fast and for only $5700! We didn’t have to go to the bank for a loan. We only have the walls up no drop ceiling yet, we would like the wood trac ceiling system I see above as I type this. Anyway, our walls were found from a DIY basewment website they are made in MI which was a bit of a drive but we saved on the shipping which would have ran $400 to Sandusky OH. We had questions on the instructions because they weren’t super detailed and we aren’t really very handy, but the man who helped us was very good at explaining some of the thing like putting in an elctrical box. Our friend wired it for us. He liked the ease of wiring but said it took more wire to do it the way the walls have wire holes in them for putting the wire through. We are thrilled with this and feel so proud that we could do it.

    1. Hi, Handy Annie! Doing the work yourself can save quite a bit of money, as well as the frustration of trying to make a stranger understand just what you’re wanting to do. I think one of the hardest tasks to do in finishing any room is placing the breaker box, wall outlets and light switches and then connecting all the wiring. Fortunately, I have a husband who can literally build a house from the ground up, including doing the plumbing and the wiring. He mostly taught himself how to do it all. Even more fortunately, we live in an unincorporated rural area, where there aren’t any enforced building codes yet.

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