Finishing Our Unfinished Basement for Less Than $20,000

After living in the same house for 10 years, we were feeling a bit crowded. The 3-bedroom, 2-bath single-level home that felt spacious when we moved in as a couple with three small children was now bursting at the seams for our now family of six. We love our neighborhood and had no desire to move. The time had come to tackle the task of finishing our large, unfinished basement, giving us some much-needed living space and sparing us the hassle and expense of moving. Besides, who doesn’t want to test the strength of a nearly 20-year marriage by throwing in a nice big remodel project? Oh, and we would not incur any debt to complete it.

Following discussions with our neighbor the contractor, we decided to finish approximately half of the basement (600 square feet), leaving the other half for storage. We would add a bedroom with a walk-in closet, a bathroom, and a large space for a pool table and small home theater. With plans drawn up by an architect friend, hubby went to city hall for the necessary permits. Hubby and his brothers then began the endless trips to the home improvement store for supplies.

To further test the fortitude of our relationship, hubby decided to invite two of his out-of-state brothers for Thanksgiving, putting a short three-month timeline on the entire project, because, without the added space, we had nowhere to house four more adults and a toddler for a holiday visit.


-Be clear about expectations up-front. You will need to be flexible.

-When unforeseen issues come up, it’s not the end of the world, or even the project. Work together. Resolve it. Be flexible.

-Don’t cut corners. Construction should be solid. If you don’t know what you’re doing, find someone who does. You will be surprised by how many people you know with some construction experience who can help you problem-solve.

-When framing, look up. Remember when designing your space that there are pipes and obstacles in a basement ceiling.

-Think through the project from start to finish. This is essential for scheduling the steps of the project.

-If you have friends or relatives helping, the relationship comes first. Don’t sacrifice friendship for a finished project.

-Contracting for plumbing, electrical, and heating can prevent stress. Using licensed professionals for these tasks ensured we would not have any surprises during permit inspections.

-Take breaks for family time. You’re building this to benefit your family, not tear it apart.

This project cost about $18,000 including all supplies, professionals, and payment to “the brothers” for their time. The bathroom accounted for about 60 percent of the cost. Plumbing = money.

We now have a beautiful master retreat, the kids have more space upstairs, and hubby has a dedicated office. We have a great place for both family and couple time. The marriage, family, and wallet survived.

Leave a Reply

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

− four = 5