How to Estimate the Cost to Finish a Basement

finished basement with carpet and painted walls
  • 2-8 hours
  • Intermediate
  • 5-20
What You'll Need
Tape measure
Paper or spreadsheet
What You'll Need
Tape measure
Paper or spreadsheet

Calculating the cost to finish a basement can seem like a big job. It actually depends on a number of factors, including the square footage and choice of materials. Most homeowners don’t know where to start when estimating a project of this size. Sometimes they forget to include a crucial piece. Both of these variables can ruin your budget. By carefully estimating every step of the project, you can ensure it will be a success. To keep things simple, separate the estimating into three steps: utilities, framing, and finishes. Consider the following factors in your line item budget.

Step 1 - Utilities

water dripping from a faucet

Utilities can be simply classified as work behind the wall and include everything from electrical, plumbing, and heating expenses. These portions of the project are a major component when estimating the cost to finish a basement. You’ll have to figure in the cost for some basic electrical work, such as new lighting, switches, and receptacles.

The size of the basement and design of the project will determine the number of circuit breakers you’ll have to add to your panel. Some basic heating work will also have to be factored into your budget. It will either consist of some additional ductwork and vents for a forced-air system, or additional sections of fin tube for hot water based systems. Although a great feature, adding a bathroom to your basement can add quite a bit to your costs due to the need to install a sewer ejector pump.

Step 2 - Framing

There are only two types of framing you’ll have to account for when estimating the cost to finish a basement. The first type will need to be performed along the foundation walls of the basement; the second type will consist of any partition walls.

You can use either wood or metal for the framing or a combination of both. A common method is to use metal tracking for the top and bottom wall plate and wood for the studs. Metal studs are typically more expensive than their wood counterparts. By using the metal tracking in combination with wood studs, you can greatly reduce the labor.

Step 3 - Finishes

soundproofing a ceiling

One of the biggest decisions regarding basement finishing projects is whether to install a drywall or an acoustic ceiling. The material cost for a drywall ceiling is cheaper than that of an acoustic one; however, installing a drywall ceiling is much more labor intensive. Plus, installing an acoustic ceiling allows instant access to the utilities between floors.

Factoring in floor finishes is also important when estimating the cost to finish a basement. Some of the more popular choices are ceramic tile, pre-finished laminate wood flooring, and carpeting. Tile is an ideal choice to use for bathrooms. Their prices can range anywhere from $2.00 per sq-foot to $8.00 per sq-foot.

Carpeting and pre-finished laminate flooring are more cost effective alternatives for floor finishes; however, they aren’t as moisture resistant as ceramic tile, which is important to consider when finishing a basement. There really isn’t much difference in base molding costs; you can probably safely estimate about $.75 to $1.00 per linear foot for this material.

Although it seems like a lot to factor for, estimating the cost to finish a basement is a relatively easy task if you lay out each step in advance.