Unfinished Basement

The Step by Step guide to finishing your basement.

Ahh. The good ole’ basement. The one place where you can create more living space without going through the hassles of building a bigger, brand-new house

The actual amount of useable space in your home.

Think about it. Whatever the footprint of your house is (the length times the width) on the main floor, that’s likely the total area of your basement too.

So if you have an 1800 square foot home with about 900 square feet on the main floor, you likely have an additional 900 square feet in the basement.

I don’t know if you knew this but with a bungalow, you get more space overall than a two storey. Let me explain. Your 1,800 square foot two-storey home usually would have 900 square feet on the main floor and 900 square feet on the second floor. Your basement would also be about 900 square feet giving you 2,700 square feet of living space in total.

If you have an 1,800 bungalow though, usually gives you 1800 square feet on the main floor, so that means you have a basement that is…1800 square feet too. This brings your total living space to 3,600 square feet! That’s 900 square feet (or 33%) more space!

Lol I just thought about when you go to the store and you buy something (say detergent) and it says, “New value size with 33% more wash”. Anyways I digress.

Imagine having stressed out over your family growing or having a family coming to stay. That alone may affect your enjoying your own space with your old friends in peace. All this time, you’ve had 1800 square feet (or whatever your size is) of extra space, waiting for you to develop at a much cheaper price tag than building a brand new 3,600 square foot home


What’s held you back all this time?

I remember one of my closest friends talking to me about his family and how his wife was thinking about moving into a newer home now that their family was growing.

After their discussion, they realized it would be cheaper to finish the basement than it would be to buy a house that was maybe about 200 – 300 square feet bigger.

What took them so long to start the project was that they didn’t really have a frame of reference for what a finished basement would cost them so, they assumed it would be somewhere around $70,000 or more. Maybe this, is you? You don’t really know what your space would cost you so because of that you’ve sort of put it off?

A common reason you might have also held off could be that you don’t even know what to expect while all this construction is going on beneath you. This is why we’re here today.

Wouldn’t it be nice even before you have strangers walking through your home with tools, to know what to expect through the entire basement finishing process? Have you ever hired a contractor who knew what they were doing, but you felt like you were always in the dark because they knew but you didn’t know from day to day?

The intention here is simple: Help you understand the entire process of basement finishing.  Let’s go through the process now

Step 1: Clarity

During this stage, your number one goal should be absolute clarity.

Before you call any other person, you and your partner (if you have one, and they’ll be involved in the decision process) need to sit down at the table and discuss some specific things about your project.

You want to talk about things from budget to who will do the work to what purpose the basement would serve when it’s done.

You even want to have some ideas on what different aspects of your basement would look like.  Going into the specific elements of planning your basement renovation is too long for this blog so go here for that.

You want to take time now for clarity for a few reasons:

  1. A reputable contractor will probably ask you what your budget is for the project and if you say you don’t know, that usually (notice I said usually) means you’re not ready for your project. Based on their past experience with similar callers, they could flag your request as a potential waste of time.
  1. Without being clear of what you want, you will throw yourself into full reaction mode during your project. Being in reaction mode is one of the main things that rob homeowners of peace of mind during a renovation. Trust me.

Step 2: Hiring A Contractor

Have you had a discussion about the “hire or Diy’er dilemma?” Basically the dilemma about whether you are doing the work yourself or hiring someone who knows how, to do it for you.

If you hire a contractor, you’ll want to make sure that the contractor among other things, is someone with whom you have a good vibe. What does that mean? It means that they give you the feeling that they listened to what your vision is and not just tried to keep up-selling you. Know what I mean?

Of course, you need to make sure to screen contractors for who can give you the two main ingredients to a successful home renovation. I’ll give a hint for one of them. It’s quality. The other one, well you’ll just have to check it out.

But yeah, hiring a contractor is a big deal: You’ll be entrusting not just your money but also your private space in your home. Shouldn’t you take the time to make sure it’s the right team?


During this time is when you would want to also potentially look into getting the permits for finishing your basement. The city’s requirements  could change over time but to pull a permit to finish your basement, you as the homeowner can pull the permits or you can sign a simple form to give your contractor the permission to pull it for you.

You’ll likely need to submit a plan layout of your basement so, you’ll need electrical, plumbing and construction permits. A plan layout is simply a clean sketch on drawing paper, of the layout of your space and dimensions. It should show where the windows, doors, electrical fixtures and plumbing fixtures will go inside that layout.

You want to do this now to allow the processing time the city usually takes for a permit application. They rarely want you starting any work until they’ve approved your application.  Now we get into the actual work.

Step 3: Demolition

If you have a previously unfinished basement, then you can just skip to the next step.

If you have an already finished basement, you’d want to take everything out but be very mindful of your electrical and plumbing fixtures: Shut off electrical breakers and plumbing shut off valves before you take these things out.

You don’t want to a surprise shower or get a nice electrical buzz. No seriously. Just be safe about it. It’s not all sledgehammers and such.

Step 4: Prep work

This is the step where the “skeleton” of your space gets put up. Depending on the specific function you decided in the planning phase, your framing will start to go up to create that space. Your bedroom(s), living room, bulkheads, bathroom(s) all that is framed out now.

Next, the electrician will come in and run his or her wires for the lights, switches,

plugs and other electrical components for safety.

If you will be adding new plumbing where none exists, and they have to break open the floor, now is when you’d want to have that done.

During this prep phase, most of the stuff going on will be called the “rough-in” stage. Usually, the trades are not allowed to close up any of the new work until its all been inspected and passed by the city’s inspector.

Step 5: Rough-in inspections

Depending on who pulled the permits, they’d want to call in for a rough-in inspection of the basement.

During the inspection, the city will look over all the new stuff that’s been done and make sure that they are up to today’s building codes.

As long as everything passes, you’d get a fluorescent green sticker from the inspector. If there are some things that need to be corrected, the inspector will usually give a red (more like orange, but whatever) sticker with the list of items that need to be corrected before they can pass the inspection.

Usually, when they give a deficiencies sticker, it usually means that you’d need to have those issues corrected and then call the city come out on a different day to inspect again.

One thing about inspections: If for some reason your project keeps deficiencies during inspections, the city will usually start charging you an additional fee for every visit after a few so pay attention to that. Once the inspection passes, its time for this basement to start taking shape.

Step 6: Wind Up Phase

Typically when the project gets to the rough-in inspection phase, everyone is sort of antsy because they’re waiting for the city to quickly come and inspect so that they can hopefully still keep their momentum. Once the rough in phase passes inspections, its go time again…sort of.

During this time is when the drywall starts to go up and the drywall mud and taping happens around this time. Also, the tub would usually go in around this time if there is a tub.

I call this the wind-up phase because this is the phase that often gets under the skin of homeowners who don’t know what to expect.

You see, whenever new drywall is installed there is a next step where a drywall taping specialist has to apply drywall mud to the joints, seams and corners a few times before it’s ready for final sanding.

The challenge there is that each coat has to dry before they apply a new coat. What can cause the frustration is that you may go by say today (Friday), and the walls look just the same today as they did on Monday. Now you’re wondering what the hell the contractor has been doing right?

Well it’s the drying time and the different coats of drywall mud that made it seem that way. Between coats, you might not notice much of a difference because all you might see is just drywall mud over drywall mud which looks just like…drywall mud.

If you have high humidity in your basement, that could slow down the drying time which would extend this mudding and taping process even longer. For that, just put a few fans in the space to move the air around.

Usually, this is the stage when both you and the renovation crew are itching to get this thing sped up because it’s on a “Hurry up and wait” pace.

Step 7: Finishing

Once the walls and ceilings are completed with the mudding and taping, they are sanded down and then primed and painted.

After paint would usually be the flooring followed by the doors and then the trim work.

This is when your basement really starts to come together. Once all that’s done is when all the final fancy fixtures and countertops (if any), start to go in.

Step 8: Final Inspections

I know you dealt with the city inspection once, but they need to come back and check out the finished work specifically pertaining to the items that were included in the permit. They need to come out to do a final inspection.

The main reason for this permit process is not just to collect money from you as some might think. It’s really for your safety.

Imagine you hire an electrician to come wire a basement. If you don’t have an independent eye check it out, how do you know whether the wires were installed properly or not? No need to chance a fire right?

So there. The final inspection usually goes by much more quickly than the rough-in inspection.  Once it’s completed, whoever pulled the permit should get a notification from the city verifying that it’s complete.

Step 9: Final Punchlist/ Deficiencies

On just about every renovation, there will be very little things here and there that need to be addressed. A newly built wall? You might have a small nick here. A new bathroom? Maybe, there’s a missing cover plate for a couple of the plugs.

The goal of this deficiencies phase is for you to go around with the contractor and create a list of all the little imperfections that once completed, would bring your vision to life. A common thing I’ve seen with homeowners is that they get uncomfortable with how long this list can get. With a newly installed basement, it shouldn’t be crazy but there might be lots of little things. You want to add them to the list.

By the time you get to this deficiencies phase, you should have a holdback amount from the total project cost. This would have been agreed to and signed off on prior to the work starting. This final payment should be released to the contractor only when the project is fully completed.

You may be surprised that one of the problems homeowners have with contractors is that they pay the full price before the project is done. After paying the contractor, now its much harder to get them on the phone because well, they disappear.

The deficiencies phase usually requires some attention to detail and by this time, not everyone wants to deal with those little things.

Step 10: Sign off

Once the deficiencies have been completed on your basement and the city has approved the final inspection, you can relax now. Its time for the contractor to be paid the final holdback amount.

Just make sure to get a document called a lien waiver release from them so that you don’t have workers coming to you saying they weren’t paid

Remodeling contractor with happy clients


Let’s quickly review the typical process that your finished basement would take from bare walls to additional, beautiful living space.  When you hire a remodeling contractor.

–         Clarity

–         Hiring a contractor

–         Demo

–         Prep work

–         Rough-in inspections

–         Wind up phase

–         Finishing

–         Final inspections

–         Deficiencies

–         Sign off

This has been a particularly long post today, but I hope you were able to see how your basement renovation flows to give you more confidence.

Also, don’t forget to check out the other posts about several other aspects to give you peace of mind during your basement (or other home) renovations. In the end, it is. Your House, Your Choice.


Don’t forget to share this with a homeowner in your life who would benefit from the information here. Finally, if you are interested in getting a renovation backed by an Exclusive TimeLOCK guarantee, click here.