Even though this website is all about finishing your basement with your own two hands of glory… I completely understand that not every wants to do this.
So I hope this will be the first of many "virtual basement tours" where you can learn first hand the good, the bad and the ugly in the world of basement finishing projects.
This first tour hits close to home because in a way, it is home! I've slept in this basement many times, it's my parent's basement!
Here's a tour of their basement. Hi Mom! Hi Dad!
They finished their 700 square foot basement for about $38,000. My parent's basement took about 8 weeks to complete. If that's sounds a little steep for just 700 square feet, hang with me till the end, they had some unique issues to deal with - one of which required a saw blade that was the size of an oven door.
1. How Did They Find Their Basement Contractor?
My Mom first saw the company they eventually used in the local paper and some of those advertising inserts. Their website had a lot of good reviews and they had finished thousands of basements in their local area (Newark, Delaware - Go Blue Hens!). The company had been in business for almost 25 years.
They did a great job on parents basement, they were very pleased and apparently just in the nick of time as about six months later they went bankrupt. I'll explain why at the bottom of this post.
If you are thinking of hiring a contractor be sure to read my 10 page mini-ebook "How to Hire a Contractor the Right Way". It comes as a free bonus download when you buy my ebook "Finish Your Basement"
2. Installing a Second Entrance
One of the first big hurdles was installing a second basement exit. The county would not issue a permit until they had one.
These "Wizard of Oz" style cellar doors was a big part of the cost.
Remember Dorothy banging to get in the storm cellar when that tornado came? What a bunch of jerk uncles, "pretending" they couldn't hear her.
They had excavate the ground around the foundation and then cut a big hole in the wall. Dad said the saw blade was as big as an oven door. Once the hole was cut they used a backhoe to lift the entire concrete staircase and door into place.
Then they bolted that to the concrete block foundation. BOOM! 24 hours later and you have a 2nd exit. Pretty freakin' cool.
3. Metal Framing Instead of Wood
Their company used metal framing instead of 2x4 wood framing. There's nothing wrong with metal framing. Some companies prefer to use it over wood.
Personally, I like wood studs because I can easily install shelves, pictures, and other heavy items without needing any specialty fasteners. If you're not sure here's a great article comparing metal versus wood framing.
4. Power Flush Plumbing System (aka Up Flushing Toilets)
The second big cost factor was their "up flushing sewer ejection system". Their basement did not have any sewage drainage built into the basement floor. They had to install a power flush system to handle the waste from the bathroom shower, sink and toilet.
This thing looks sort of like a sump pump with a garbage disposal in it. Completely gross but an adequate solution if you don't have rough-in plumbing. If you need more info on this there's a great article on "upflushing toilets and sewage ejection systems" over at the natural handy man. Very well written and funny!
The entire bathroom package, shower, toilet, sink and installing the up flushing setup and equipment ran about $8,900.
5. Two Separate Basement Floods
My parents house had French drains and a sump pump. Yet their basement still flooded...twice. The first time it was because two of the downspouts near the basement walls had not been extended away from the house.
The second time - the sump pump couldn't do it's job because the power was out.
In both cases the flooding was just enough to cover the floor maybe a quarter inch. So the walls, drywall, etc were fine. This is why you must use pressure treated bottom plates when framing your basement walls. Or, in their case, metal framing.
6. Great Looking Vinyl Wood Flooring
In both instances the flooding ruined the carpeting in the basement.
The first time they replaced it. The second time they decided to switch to a floating vinyl wood flooring that could withstand a small amount of flooding.
The flooring is called Alure, here's a video. This flooring looks and feels great. It has an authentic looking "distressed" finish. You can actually feel the character of the planks if you walk on it with bare feet or socks.
The floor snaps together and floats over the concrete. It is not a glue-down. My Dad and my brother in-law installed the flooring themselves. So that something you might want to consider in order to save a few bucks.
Fortunately they have not had a flood since installing the new "faux wood" floor, so it has not been tested. I'll let you know here if they ever have another flood, hopefully not.
7. A Closet Under the Stairs
They used the space under the stairs to create a closet in the guest bedroom. Great idea! Pretty simple really, they just framed and drywalled it, then added a door. Check it on in the first minute of the video above.
The basement only has one window, and that was in the bathroom, so having enough light was critical. They have 15 pot lights in the main area and four in the bedroom. To me this seems to be plenty. The basement feels well lit and comfortable.
My only additional suggestion would be to add some mid to lower level lighting such as a wall sconce, art niche lighting or table lamps. This way not all of the lighting is coming from the ceiling. Maybe I'll get them a couple of lava lamps for Christmas.
Yes, all of the lights have dimmers!
9. The Bathroom
Full bathroom, fairly standard. Single sink, toilet and a shower. Vinyl flooring and a vinyl shower stall insert, no tile. They really pimped out their master bathroom with all tile and a floor to ceiling glass shower, but the basement bathroom was kept fairly basic. Still, it looks fine.
The closet in the bathroom is actually the power flush (sewage ejection system), which you don't really notice until your flush the toilet or take a shower, even then its fairly quiet. I flush the toilet during the tour on the video above so you can hear what it sounds like.
10. Ceiling Height
Due to the air conditional ducts part of their basement ceiling sits lower than the rest. Their basement contractor gave them the design option of finishing the entire ceiling at the lower height or just going lower for that one area.
They choose to go with the higher ceiling wherever it was feasible. As a person of some considerable height myself at 6'3" tall, I think they made a great choice. :-)
- My mom has these sticky yellow strips in the unfinished areas of the basement. She say's they work great at catching spiders, crickets and other basement type bugs. I'm definitely going to try those.
- They use a small portable de-humidifier in the fall and spring to remove any excess moisture from the air. I didn't notice any mustiness at all when I was down there. In the winter and summer it's not an issue as the heating or A/C is usually running. This cycles the air in the rooms and keeps it from getting stale.
- The switch for the bathroom fan can be reached from the sitting position on the throne! Sweet!
Like Father Like Sons? (maybe not)
My parents basement contractor went bankrupt about 6 months after they finished their basement. Several people after them where left stranded with half-way finished basements because the companies could not pay it's subcontractors. What a huge mess and giant headache.
It seems the problem was that the ownership of the company had change hands from the father to his two sons. I guess they weren't as gifted as Dad at running the family business.
It's an important lesson to keep in mind. Even if a contractor has been around for 30 years and has a stellar record things can still go south. If you're investing 30 to 40 thousand dollars with a company you may want to find out who's steering the ship. Who, exactly, will be managing your specific basement? How many have they personally finished?
Okay, so let's here from you guys. What questions do you have about basement finishing? Leave them in the comments below.
If you have a basement story, email me, Jason@ifinishedmybasement.com, or leave a comment below. I'd love to swing by and doing a quick interview and take some video!
Cheers - Jason
More Basement Goodness: