Cost to Finish a Basement: DIY vs Professional

Basement rec room with carpet and bar area.

jim kruger / E+ / Getty Images

Below your feet lies a great expanse of enclosed space just waiting to be turned into finished, conditioned, and habitable rooms. It's the basement. For homeowners in need of more space, the basement offers the prospect of more space without the huge costs of constructing a full-size addition, adding a second floor, or building an ADU in the yard. Major elements like the walls, floor, and ceiling are already in place. How difficult and expensive is it to refinish the basement?

Basic Basement Finishing Costs

If you are handy and can do most of the work yourself, it's possible to do a basic finish job for as little as $5,000 to $7,000. With the cost of the labor essentially being free, you only have to pay for the cost of materials. Basements are rich with mechanical elements such as ductwork, wiring, water supply pipes, drainage, and more. Unless the DIYer is highly experienced at working with all trades, those low-end DIY remodel costs won't be applicable.

When hiring professionals to finish the basement, costs rise sharply. On average, expect to spend in the six figures for a full-scale remodeling project with all the amenities and extras. At the very top end, a large, 3,000-square-foot basement professionally constructed and finished can run upwards of $150,000. 

There is no real agreement on what constitutes an average basement remodel and its cost. Opinions from remodeling media range from $10,000 to $71,000:

  • A Cost vs. Value report from Remodeling magazine indicates that the average cost of a midrange basement conversion job was just over $71,000. These estimates are from general contractors (GCs) who are hiring subcontractors to perform different tasks. 
  • A similar survey by contractor-matching service Angi gives the average cost as around $32,000 for professional installation. The typical Angi user is hiring individual contractors to do the work, rather than using a general contractor.
  • An HGTV survey found that typical DIY basement makeovers run from $10,000 to $27,000.

DIY Basement Finishing Cost

A DIY basement finishing project takes a basement that is already in place but entirely unfinished, then adds the framing, sheetrock, and other elements to turn it into a finished living space. It surprises many people to learn that this is actually a cheaper option than a full-scale remodeling of a basement that is already finished. The reason for this is that it cost more to demolish and rebuild than it does to start from scratch. 

A basement refinish involves framing, running whatever mechanicals are necessary, installing wall, ceiling, and floor finishes, and painting or wallpapering. On average, the cost for a basic finish job falls anywhere from $5,000 to $7,000, ranging up to $20,000 if you are hiring a carpenter to assist. But costs can go much higher for larger spaces.

Note that these average costs do not include major plumbing or electrical work. If your space will include a new bathroom or other special features, these costs will need to be added separately.

  • Framing walls and insulating the stud cavities
  • Framing for egress windows if rooms will be used as sleeping areas
  • Hanging and finishing drywall
  • Upgrading electrical service for lighting and receptacle outlets
  • Boxing in ductwork or routing new ductwork
  • Installing a finishing ceiling
  • Performing any moisture-proofing necessary on a slab floor
  • Major plumbing work if a bathroom is to be added
Man installing drywall in new house
Wilkosz & Way/Corbis/VCG / Getty Images

Full Basement Remodeling Cost

A full basement remodel takes a basement space that is already in place but not finished and alters the layout of the space and finishes it to make it habitable. This type of remodeling project typically costs between $20,000 and $30,000 for basic labor and materials costs, not counting any extras. It may involve creating spaces such as playrooms, recreation rooms, additional bedrooms, or home offices. 

If you are willing to do the demolition of existing walls before calling in contractors, you can save as much as $2,000 to $5,000 on the overall cost. 

Remodeling work on a basement usually involves some upgrades to wiring and HVAC systems as part of the basic cost package. Adding new plumbing—such as when a new bathroom or wet bar is being installed, will add to the basic cost.

Unfinished Staircase And Living Room In An Upscale Residential Home
Perry Mastrovito / Design Pics / Getty Images

Basement Finishing System Cost

A finishing system basement remodel means hiring a local company to install prefabricated wall panels and other components.

Basement finishing systems do not use wood or metal studs and drywall. Instead, the walls are typically made of lightweight R-11 foam or fiberglass panels inserted in PVC or metal frames. Plastic covers snap into place between the panels to cover up the seams.

To eliminate the cost and hassle of building ceilings around various ceiling obstacles, usually a drop-down ceiling is installed, with the ceiling as high as the lowest obstacle in the ceiling. Basement finishing companies will not change wiring, plumbing, or HVAC ducting to help raise the ceiling. But homeowners always have the option of having that work done separately, in advance.

The advantage of basement finishing systems is that you are guaranteed a tight, dry, warm space, as the systems place heavy emphasis on controlling moisture. Finishing systems can be completed quite quickly.

The drawback is that there is no way to do any of the work yourself since the materials for basement finishing systems are sold only to franchised installers that use proprietary materials. For some homeowners, basement finishing systems have a uniform, sterile look that isn't appearling.

Costs of basement finishing systems are about $40 to $50 per square foot, which means that a 1,500-square-foot basement could run you as much as $75,000 for a top-of-the-line system. And costs can, of course, go higher if there is substantial wiring and plumbing work done by other contractors as part of your overall project.  

Man on ladder in new house
Wilkosz & Way/Corbis/VCG / Getty Images

Basement Finishing Cost Breakdown

If you want to estimate with more precision, it is possible to estimate in a line item fashion, using these ballpark estimates of costs for various elements of a basement finishing project. These estimates assume professional installation in a region with average labor costs. 

  • Permits: Building permits vary greatly from region to region, with typical costs running between $100 and $1,500, depending on the level of basement remodeling.
  • Framing: Framing the basement costs about $1 to $2 per square foot.
  • Drywall: Installing and finishing drywall costs about $2 per square foot
  • Ceiling: Basement ceilings range from $1 to $6 per square foot, depending on complexity. At the low end are ceilings that simply must be covered with wallboard and finished. But often there is framing work that needs to be done in order to box in heat ducts or to lower the ceiling in certain areas for hiding the mechanicals. 
  • Floors: The cost of basement floors can range from $500 for simple vinyl flooring in a basement bathroom to $20,000 to $30,000 for engineered wood flooring on subfloor panels in a 2,000-square-foot basement. If the basement is dry enough for carpeting flooring, a carpeting floor costs about $4,000 to $8,000. 
  • Bathroom: Adding a bathroom can add $20,000 to $40,000 to the cost of finishing a basement. If you're able to do some of the work by yourself, you may be able to cut the project costs in half.
  • Foundation: Basement foundation work can run around $10,000 to $30,000 if substantial repairs are needed. 
  • Moisture control: Sealing a basement and foundation against water infiltration costs around $4,000 to $8,000.
  • Sump pump: Installing a sump pump to help keep a basement dry comes with an average cost of $1,100. 
  • Egress window: An egress window, where it is required, costs, on average, $3,500. Egress windows may be required if any room in the basement is used as a bedroom. 
  • Wet bar or kitchen: A wet/bar or kitchenette of modest size can cost between $1,000 and $5,000. For a more full-featured guest apartment kitchen, plan to spend $15,000 to $25,000. 
  • Guest suite: This special version of a basement remodel involves adding or remodeling a bathroom and installing a kitchenette with cabinetry and necessary electrical upgrades. Expect to pay anywhere from $20,000 to $60,000 for this type of remodeling project. A guest suite is an attractive option for homeowners who may want to move a family member into the home or rent out the basement.
  • Closet: A closet, which is a necessary feature if a basement room is to qualify as a bedroom, costs from $1,000, for a simple boxed-in section of the basement with bi-fold doors, to $5,000 to $15,000 for a full-scale walk-in closet with shelving.
  • Fireplace: A gas fireplace costs, on average, about $2,000 to $6,000. A plumber is required to install new gas lines to the fireplace location.
downstairs modern house
laughingmango / Getty Images