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How To Finish A Basement–From Floor to Ceiling

finished basement


Finishing A Basement Without Breaking the Bank

If you're considering finishing your basement with professional help or as a DIY project, it's important to have a plan in place. This plan should include a budget and a timeline for the project, as well as a design for your finished basement. You should also determine what projects to DIY and when you'll need to get professional help.

There are many steps to finish a basement, which are laid out in this article. 

How to Prepare Your Basement for Finishing: 

1. Get a permit 

Getting a permit from your local building department is the first step you must take before finishing your basement. Doing major home remodeling work without a permit can result in hefty fines from your local government. It can also cause issues if you try and sell your home without documentation of the work that was done. 

2. Resolve dampness issues

Before you start construction in your basement, take care of any potential water or dampness issues. Dampness from humidity or water leaks can lead to mold growth, musty odors, and even structural damage if left unaddressed. Here is what water damage can look like in your basement: 

There are several ways to fix damp basements, from using a dehumidifier to full basement waterproofing. The best method depends on the extent of the issue. For minor issues, a dehumidifier should work and will run you $250-600, while professional waterproofing should cost between $1900-6400.

3. Choose Your Materials 

Before starting your project, you should know what materials you'll need so you can factor them into your budget. There are several things to consider while building your material list, including:

1. Insulation type

3. Ceiling Style

4. Flooring style

5. Utility locations

6. Paint colors

Insulation Type 

Basement insulation is crucial for keeping temperatures in the basement comfortable. Without insulation or with poor insulation, your basement can become unbearably hot in the summer and uncomfortably cold in the winter. Insulating your basement can also lead to energy savings, as it reduces the workload on your HVAC system. 

Types of Standard Insulation: 

spray foam insulation in basement

Spray Foam: 

Spray foam insulation is a type of insulation that is sprayed into the walls, floors, and ceilings of your home. Spray foam insulation is highly effective at reducing energy consumption and can also improve indoor air quality by sealing out allergens and pollutants.

Spray foam insulation can also be a money-saving option, as you can do it yourself without professional equipment at home, but it can get messy. 

bubble foil insulation in basement

Bubble Foil: 

Bubble foil insulation, also known as radiant barrier insulation, is a type of insulation that uses reflective material to reduce heat transfer. It is made up of layers of aluminum foil, plastic bubbles, and other materials.

One of the main advantages of bubble foil insulation is that it is easy to install. This makes it a popular choice among homeowners who don't want to spend a lot of money on professional installation.

foam board insulation in basement

Foam Board: 

Foam board insulation comes in rigid boards or sheets made from various materials, such as polystyrene, polyurethane, or polyisocyanurate. Foam board insulation is a popular type of insulation for its efficiency and durability. One of the drawbacks of foam board insulation is that it can be more expensive than other types of insulation.

Fiberglass insulation for basement


Fiberglass insulation is one of the most common types of insulation used in residential and commercial buildings because it is easy to install. It can be installed in walls, ceilings, and floors and is less expensive than other insulation types, making it a popular choice for homeowners who are looking to improve their homes on a budget.

One drawback of fiberglass insulation is that it can be irritating to the skin and lungs if not installed properly or handled with care. 

Other Types of Insulation

There are also several sustainable insulation options that are becoming increasingly popular in the construction industry. Here are some examples of these sustainable insulation options:

Sheep's wool insulation is made from the wool of sheep and is a renewable and biodegradable material. It is naturally fire-resistant, moisture-resistant, and hypoallergenic and can be used on walls, roofs, and floors.

Cotton insulation, also known as denim insulation, is made from recycled cotton fibers and is free of harmful chemicals. Cotton is also effective at reducing energy consumption and improving indoor air quality.

ThermaCork insulation is made from the bark of the cork oak tree and is a sustainable, renewable, and carbon-neutral material. It is naturally fire-resistant, waterproof, and has excellent thermal properties. ThermaCork is a popular choice for walls, roofs, and even floors in eco-friendly buildings.

Aerogel insulation is a high-performance insulation material that is made from silica aerogel. It is one of the most effective insulation materials available. Aerogel is also lightweight, waterproof, and fire-resistant. It is also one of the more expensive sustainable options. 

Ceiling Style

When it comes to finishing a basement, homeowners often focus on the walls and flooring, but the ceiling can also play a crucial role in making the space liveable.

Here are some basement ceiling styles to consider:

exposed ductowrk ceiling in basement

Exposed ductwork:

For an industrial or modern look, consider leaving the ductwork and pipes exposed and painting them in a contrasting color. This style can also help save money and headroom in the basement.

suspended ceiling for basement

Suspended ceiling:

A suspended ceiling, also known as a drop ceiling, is a grid system of lightweight tiles or panels that are suspended from the ceiling joists. This style allows for easy access to wiring and plumbing in the ceiling, and the tiles can be replaced individually if damaged.

tin tile ceiling

Tin tiles:

For a vintage or ornate look, consider installing tin tiles on the ceiling. These tiles come in a variety of styles and finishes and can add character to the space.

Paint Colors

When finishing a basement, choosing the right paint and color can make a big impact on the space. Here are some tips for selecting the right paint and color for your basement:

Choose a paint that is designed for basements: Basements are prone to moisture, so it is important to choose paints that are specifically designed for basements.

Opt for light colors: Basements often have limited natural light, so choosing a light color can help brighten the space and make it feel more inviting. Light colors can also help make the basement feel more spacious and open.

Use accent walls:

If you want to add some interest and color to the space, consider using an accent wall. Choose a bold or vibrant color for one wall, and then paint the remaining walls a more neutral color. This can create a focal point in the room and add visual appeal.

Tools and Materials You'll Need

Tools Materials
Masonry drillInsulation adhesive
Safety glassesInsulation type of choice
SawhorsesDuct tape
Utility knifeCaulk or foam filler
Masonry drill bit set 2 x 4 boards
Hearing protectionCement nails
LevelFraming nails
Tape measureWall screws
Drywall jackDrywall
Dust maskCeiling tiles or drop ceiling installation kit
HammerFlooring of choice
Nail gunWire cutters
Caulk gun Drywall
Cleaning suppliesPaint

Builder's Tip

Finishing a basement DIY is an advanced and difficult project, and is not necessarily meant for beginners. If you are trying to finish a basement as a beginner, make sure to follow the instructions closely and get guidance from someone with more renovation experience.

Steps to Finishing a Basement

It is important to finish a basement in an order that makes sense. Installing insulation and framing the walls are important first steps to ensure that the space is comfortable and energy-efficient. By following the necessary steps for installing insulation and framing basement walls, homeowners can create a functional and inviting living area in their basement.

Step 1: Install Insulation

insulation installation

1. Measure the space from your floor to your ceiling, then subtract ¼ of inch. Cut your insulation with a utility knife to that length.

2. Hold your cut sheet against the wall to make sure it fits.

3. Apply adhesive to the back.

4. Press the insulation against the wall for the time recommended. 

5. Repeat steps 1-4 until all the walls are covered

6. Fill the seams between the insulation boards, ceiling, floor, and corners with caulk.

Step 2: Frame the Walls

framing basement walls

To begin framing a wall, start by marking a line on the floor parallel to the walls, four inches away from them, making sure to intersect any walls at a 90-degree angle. Next, measure your wall and cut two pieces of 2x4 lumber to that length, which will serve as the top and bottom plates of the wall. Repeat this process for each wall you will be framing. 

Once you have your plates, mark them every 16 inches to indicate where the center of each stud will be placed. To make sure the marks are visible after the studs are placed, extend the lines to the sides of the plates. These marks will serve as a guide for the placement of the studs, ensuring that they are evenly spaced and aligned properly.

1. Lay your bottom plate to align with the line drawn 

2. Secure the bottom plate using nails and a masonry drill

3. Install the top plate by following the same instructions for the bottom plate

4. Check that your plates are level

5. Measure the space between the plates

6. Cut your stud to the proper lengths

7. Install the studs by aligning them with the 16-inch marks. Insert nails on each side of the stud at a 45-degree angle

8. Repeat until walls have been framed 

Step 3: Install Any Utilities

utility installation in basement

To finish a basement, it's important to consider the installation of utilities such as electrical wiring, plumbing, and air ductwork that will be in the new walls. This highly regulated work has to be done by a professional to ensure safety and proper functioning. 

Step 4: Mount Drywall 

dry wall installation for basement

1. Decide whether to hang the drywall horizontally or vertically 

2. Measure and cut sections of drywall to end on a stud.

3. Mark and remove any sections of drywall where utilities need to be exposed, such as for an outlet or plumbing. 

4. Secure the drywall to the stud using drywall screws.

5. Fill in seams and hide screw heads with drywall mud. 

6. Lay drywall tape over seams to ensure a smooth finish. 

Step 5: Paint the Walls 

painting walls in basement

1. Choosing a paint color that fits your basement design–brighter colors will open up your space, while darker colors will create a more cozy atmosphere. 

2. Sandpaper the new walls to fix any bumps in the drywall 

3. Apply paint primer to the walls and let it dry

4. Apply 1-2 coats of paint, letting the previous coat dry before adding a new one. 

Step 6: Finish the Basement Ceiling 

install basement ceiling

There are three common ways people finish their ceilings–building a drop-ceiling, using drywall, or leaving it open. 

Option 1–Drop ceiling installation: 

Drop ceilings are preferred because they allow you to easily access utilities, as the ceiling acts as a second ceiling that hangs below the structural basement ceiling. Drop ceilings can be installed using an installation kit. 

1. Buy an installation kit of your choosing 

2. Install L-channel frames on the walls

3. Install T-channel frames along floor joists, connecting to the L-channel frames

4. Snap the T-channel cross frames into place between the full T-channels

5. Place tiles in the frame

Option 2–Drywalled ceiling:

Drywall is another popular ceiling option that is very similar to installing dry-walled walls.

1. Make holes in the drywall sheets for any utilities such as light fixtures or plumbing

2. Start in a corner and apply adhesive to the joists to hang the drywall

3. Press the drywall sheets to the adhesive

4. Attach drywall with nails or screws to the joists in 7-inch increments.

5. Repeat until the entire ceiling is covered with drywall

6. Use drywall mud to fill in gaps and seams

7. Apply drywall paint to the seams

8. Paint once the mud has finished drying

Option 3–Open ceiling:

The simplest and most budget-friendly ceiling style is the open ceiling because you don't have to do much if anything to it. If you do not like the way the utilities or wood beams look exposed, you can paint them. 

Step 7: Finishing the Basement Floor

basement floor finishing

The last step to complete after finishing your basement walls and ceiling is to finish the flooring, which is a pretty easy DIY project. Although this step is easier than some of the others, installing flooring is typically the most expensive part of finishing a basement. It can run between $1,500 and $4,500 on average, with the cost of 500 square feet of flooring typically running $3,000. There are a few ways to finish the flooring, from painting it to installing laminate or carpeting. 

Option 1–Paint the concrete floor: 

1. Clean the floor of debris from the other projects

2. Prep the floor with a paint primer 

3. Choose a paint for concrete and paint 2 layers over the entire floor

4. Seal the flooring with a concrete sealer 

Option 2–Install laminate flooring or carpet:

1. Install subflooring 

a. Fill dips with self-leveling underlayment until the floor is even

b. Use adhesive to attach polystyrene insulation to the cement 

c. Lay plywood on top of the insulation and install it with concrete screws. 

2. Follow the installation instructions on the laminate flooring, carpeting, or tile packaging. 

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FAQ About Finishing A Basement DIY

Almost all of these basement projects can be completed DIY, and a DIY finished basement is the best way to save money when finishing your basement. If you feel unsure about how to finish your basement properly, reach out to a professional. DIY methods will help you save money in the present, but if installations and builds are done improperly, it could cost you money in the future.

Here are some frequently asked questions about finishing a basement DIY:

When designing your new basement, keep in mind that adding additional bathrooms, bedrooms, or family living space are the basement renovations that add the most value to a home. 

Finishing your basement by yourself can help save a lot of money, so if your budget is tight, DIY basement finishing is a smart investment. However, keep in mind that there are some things that must be done by professionals, such as utility installation. 

It's very important to not forget about fixing any water issues before you start your basement renovation. Additionally, remember that you need clearance and permission from your local building authorities before completing a basement renovation. 

Cleaning Up After A Basement Remodeling

The final step of finishing a basement is cleaning up the renovation debris. Renting a roll off dumpster for home renovation projects can help you avoid fees for disposing of your debris the wrong way, and they make the cleaning process faster by collecting your waste in one place. These dumpsters can be delivered right to your home, making it easy to dispose of the debris in one place.

Rent a Dumpster Today

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