Tips for Finishing Your Basement

These days, a finished basement is in high demand. After all, this underground area could make up one-third of a home’s total square footage. And homeowners want to make the most of that space.

Gone are the days when the washer/dryer and water heater were the basement’s sole fixtures.  Today’s basements are guest bedrooms, man caves and playrooms.

They may have entertainment areas with stainless steel appliances and stone countertops — and they may even serve as an apartment for guests, mothers-in-law or paying tenants.

That’s why it’s important to think of the basement as extra living space; its own separate floor to design and furnish.  

People often think of basements as damp and dark, but they don’t have to be.

Things to Consider Before Finishing a Basement

Before you dive into finishing a basement, consider two things:

  • Moisture Problems: Basements are known for being damp and dark, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Moisture problems that get out of hand become pretty expensive to manage. Before remodeling, make sure your basement is dry and humidity is between 30% and 50%, the ideal range, according to Mayo Clinic. 
  • Access and Egress: Check local building codes to ensure you know the requirements for proper access and egress for doors, windows, and stairs in case of emergency.

Here are signs of moisture problems:

  1. Mold and mildew
  2. A white, powdery substance on the walls
  3. Peeling paint
  4. Discolored walls or ceiling
  5. Cracks in the walls
  6. Musty odors
  7. Rusty metal surfaces

If you notice a combination of these things, contact your local Home Builders Association for a list of contractors who specialize in waterproofing.

Next, you’ll need adequate insulation and drywall. The ground surrounding your basement walls will always be cooler than inside living space. If indoor air is warmer, when those two temperatures meet, condensation forms.

Proper insulation helps keep cooler temperatures from seeping into the walls, which, in turn, keeps away condensation.

Bilco window wells, as seen from inside a finished basement
Window wells — like BILCO’s ScapeWEL, pictured — let in natural light and provide emergency exits for basements.

Basement Window Wells and Doors

Like with any other part of your home, natural lighting and exits are important considerations when finishing a basement. If exterior doors aren’t available, you can install egress windows to provide light and emergency access.

Window wells let you have the best of both worlds: full-size windows for your finished basement. Creating them just requires digging out dirt, adding a retaining wall and installing a window. 

BILCO’s StakWEL Window Wells are among the least expensive code-compliant egress options for your basement. Just stack the modules to fit your foundation’s height and then install a window. Each module has a step.

Want a designer look? Consider BILCO’s ScapeWEL Window Wells with a planter design. Their steps serve two functions: easy climbing to ground level and display of plants or flowers.

Bilco basement doors, as seen from outside a wood home
Basement doors offer direct exterior access, which is convenient for everyday use and storing outdoor items underground before severe weather.

Windows enhance any space, but nothing’s more convenient — or essential — than direct basement access.

BILCO’s basement doors aren’t just a code-compliant safety feature; their wide openings are perfect for easily moving large items underground.

You can easily move game tables, furniture and pool supplies into the basement without having to travel through the rest of the house.

And if a storm is coming and you need to bring patio furniture inside, it couldn’t be easier with basement doors.

Basement, as seen from the inside with steps leading to the outdoors
A finished basement adds function and comfort to your home. Talk to a remodeling contractor about your needs and wants before you tackle this project

Planning a Finished Basement

Ready to move forward on a finished basement? Also, discuss these things with your remodeling contractor:

  • Ceiling height
  • Heating and cooling needs
  • Supporting walls and posts
  • Existing ductwork and whether you want to hide it
  • Location of the furnace or water heater
  • Existing wiring
  • Location of plumbing pipes and drains

It’s important also to consider the potential return on your investment.

According to Zillow, the average basement renovation in the U.S. may return 70% of the money invested when the house sells. Of course, that depends on the location, the basement’s amenities and the market.

Still, a finished basement is a big investment that may cost $60,000, so plan carefully and consider your needs and what future homeowners may want before you tackle it.


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