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If you have a basement, you might be thinking about updating it to make it more modern and usable. A basement remodel can be a fun project that adds space to your home and increases its value, but it isn’t cheap.
A full basement remodel can cost an average of $21,391 with costs ranging from $30 to $75 a square foot, according to contractor-search service Angi. If you’re handy, you might be able to save money by doing the job — or at least the less-strenuous parts — yourself.
What’s involved in a basement remodel
It’s important to distinguish between remodeling a basement and finishing a basement. Homeowners often use the terms interchangeably but construction professionals know the difference.
Finishing a basement involves making an area that isn’t habitable into usable living space by adding flooring, plumbing, insulation and the like. Remodeling means taking an already finished basement and updating it. You could do an extensive remodel by gutting your basement and basically starting from scratch or a light one by replacing some flooring or adding light fixtures.
First decide what you want to use your basement for. If you want your basement to be a workshop for do-it-yourself projects, it necessitates very different features than making it into a man cave filled with sports memorabilia or an extra bedroom.
Once you know the goals for your basement remodel, you’ll know what you need to do during the remodel. Some common tasks include:
- Adjusting the location of walls and doors
- Adding light fixtures
- Adding windows, if possible
- Adding or adjusting plumbing
- Replacing insulation
- Replacing flooring or carpet
- Adding heating and cooling
- Making sure there are safe exits
- Installing furniture and decorations
Aspects of a basement remodel for DIY-ers
If you’re looking to save money, there are many things you can DIY during your basement remodel. A lot of what you can do depends on how handy you are and how much you’re willing to work to save.
For example, you might be willing to rip up carpet on your own. It doesn’t require a huge amount of skill but can take some effort. The average carpet removal costs $1 a square foot, so doing it yourself can easily save a few hundred dollars.
If you install the new flooring yourself, you can also save a good amount of money, with the average project costing about $2,500 for materials and labor, but it can require more expertise.
Painting is another relatively easy task to DIY. Hiring painters costs about $1,500 on average. Paint isn’t all that expensive on its own, meaning you’ll cut down your costs by a fair margin if you’re willing to put in the work.
Some tasks, such as moving new furniture into the basement and hanging decorations are something many homeowners can do. They also don’t take long and are can save a few hundred dollars.
Aspects of basement remodeling for the pros
Even if you’re relatively handy, there are some things that you should leave to the professionals.
“When doing a basement remodel, I recommend sticking to professionals for anything structural,” says Andre Kazimierski, CEO of Improovy, a home painting service. “I would also recommend letting professionals handle anything electrical or plumbing-related as well, unless a homeowner has professional experience.”
Though homeowners could handle some serious parts of the project on their own, it may not be worth it, says Jasen Edwards, a real estate professional with 25 years of experience. Homeowners could, for example, try “drywall finishing, but expect that this would really need hard work … It would take enormous time and effort.”
Drywall costs $12 to $35 a panel but labor costs boost that estimate to $60 to $90 a panel. For many homeowners, the significant effort might not be worth paying. It’s also quite difficult for beginners to get drywall to look smooth. What might take you many hours of labor could be done by a pro in a fraction of the time.
There are some other things to think about when deciding whether to DIY a home improvement project.
The No. 1 concern is safety. Some home improvement tasks, like removing flooring or hanging decorations are quite safe. Others, like installing or making changes to your home’s electrical wiring can be incredibly dangerous. Even some seemingly safe tasks like painting can have some dangers if you don’t take precautions like having proper ventilation.
Before taking on a project, assess your skills and whether you can truly finish a task safely. If it’s too dangerous, hire a professional.
Also think about the cost of fixing mistakes. If you take on a project and do it poorly, you might find yourself having to fix your mistakes down the road. Some problems are easy to fix or ignore but if you do something like install drywall improperly you might need to hire a professional to fix it, eliminating any cost savings.
Don’t forget that if you want to DIY a project, you don’t have to do the entire project on your own. You can hire contractors for the more difficult or specialized tasks and use your own labor for the easier work to still save money.
Depending on the contractor you hire and the work you want to do, some contractors might even let you split the work and provide you with some instruction. That can be a valuable way to gain some skills, though it might not save you much money.
The bottom line
If you want to remodel your basement, doing at least a part of the project yourself makes sense if you’re looking to save money. Painting and moving furniture are important parts of the process and don’t take a huge amount of expertise or skill.
Contractors charge $30 to $85 an hour for labor on average, meaning that doing some portions of the remodel yourself can save you a lot. But don’t be afraid to hire a pro for more difficult, specialized or dangerous work, such as work involving electrical or plumbing.