Basement Remodeling - Visualizing Your Space

A finished basement.
  • 1-3 hours
  • Beginner
  • 0-30
What You'll Need
Graph paper
3D room design software (optional)

Remodeling your basement will not only add more living space, but if done correctly, it will also increase the value of your home. A lot of homes built in the earlier decades were not meant to have a finished basement or living space, so ductwork, as well as water and sewage pipes, are often located in the basement.

It can be a frustrating task until you look at the living space from a different perspective. You aren't seeing an old furnace, washer, dryer, pipes, beams, and unfinished walls. What you see is a finished recreation room, entertainment center, or even a spare bedroom and bathroom.

If your basement is finished in either poured walls or cement block, you can make a lot of changes to upgrade the living space. Begin by sitting down with graph paper and designing the living space after taking measurements and deciding what you wish to accomplish. Here we will discuss ideas for a basement remodel.

Begin with an Idea

No matter what you do, define the space. Do you have children that will benefit from a play area? Do you need a family room, with a large entertainment area? Do you want to install a spare bedroom and bath for extended stays by your parents or in-laws?

All of that must be defined before you proceed. The reason is simple - you are at ground zero in your basement. There are certain things that cannot be changed. Your job will be to work around them.

Proceed with Planning

There are two ways you can approach the task. After carefully measuring your basement, use 0.25 inch graph paper to lay out your design, with 0.25-inches on paper equal to 1 foot of floor space. If you find you haven't got enough room on the paper because you have a large basement, simply tape together more graph paper to cover the entire area.

In your drawing, allow for the finished wall, which will include the stud and wallboard. It will be approximately 15-inches. Record the measurements as accurately as possible. You don't want to install a kitchen or pool table in your new basement remodel and find you that are 6 inches short on space.

The second approach is through the use of 3D software. A very basic program is the Ikea Home Planner. If you are unfamiliar with 3D programs, Ikea is a good place to start. Simplistic and interactive, it can help you lay out the basics of what your basement will look like. Use this to plan the location of electrical outlets, windows, doors, and interior walls. Placement of gas pipes, water pipes, and other obstructions can be mapped.

An even better 3D program is recommended by Dave Schrock of Basement Ideas. Mr. Schrock specializes in basement design and remodel. He recommends the use of Home and Gardens "Home Designer" by ART Advanced Relational Technology. Home Designer is powerful. It includes a complete set of Computer Aided Design (CAD) tools to detail designs; furthermore, it allows you to import colors, textures, and wall treatments to give you a good picture of what you want. It will guide you in determining materials you need, and generate a spreadsheet of these items, allowing you to figure budget. It can be purchased at Basement Ideas’ online store for $59.00.

A Caveat

When using 3D software to design a basement remodel, remember that it is merely a visualization, not actual floor plans. Although you can be very accurate with this software, scaling it to almost exact dimensions, there are too many other factors that are not being considered.

If you take a 3D rendering of a basement design to a contractor or builder, you are only asking for trouble. Use them only for visualization and to give you an idea of what your finished basement will look like. Never depend on these images to be an exact model of the finished product.

Considering a Budget

Once you have come up with your final design, determine your budget. It is always a good idea to have a figure in mind before starting, but when it gets down to figuring actual material, you will be surprised.

There are online calculators that will help you to determine the exact amount of drywall, 2x4-inch lumber, and paint to buy for your project. Keep in mind that all of these figures are ballpark estimates. The contractor who does the work for you will know exactly what you will need. Plan to spend between $30 and $40 per square foot to have this work done.