10 Spending Mistakes To Avoid When Updating Your Basement
For years, your basement has simply been a storage space, but you’re ready to transform it into a more habitable part of your home. Whether you’re planning to add another living area, a guest suite or a workout room, you want to get the most from your investment.
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The average cost to remodel or renovate a basement is $12,229 to $33,240, according to HomeAdvisor. This might seem like a high price tag, but if done properly, upgrades can increase the value of your home by 70% of your investment.
Before getting started, take a look at 10 spending mistakes you don’t want to make on your basement upgrade project.
Making sure your basement renovation meets your needs is important, but Tomas Satas, founder and CEO at Windy City HomeBuyer, said getting too specific with tailoring is one of the biggest mistakes people make.
“Just because you spent countless thousands of dollars on what you have dreamed about since you were a little kid doesn’t mean that anybody else will have the same tastes, nor will most people care about what you spent,” he said. “Your dream man cave may look like a gut job to the rest of the world.”
He advised against both acquiring debt and going overboard with the renovations.
“The whole point of upgrading your home should be to get the money back when you sell and ultimately more,” he said. “I’ve seen people spend anywhere from $20k to $150K on their basements.”
The last thing you want is for your newly renovated basement to flood, but Satas said homeowners don’t always take the proper precautions.
“The first thing you should do is have an experienced contractor search the whole basement interior — if it is not finished — and look for cracks,” he said. “If the basement is finished then you can usually see them outside slightly above grade level, but you really need somebody with that eagle eye.”
If you’re planning to spend a lot of money on your basement update, he said you should also add drain tile and a flood control system.
He said flood-proofing will cost around $5,000 to $20,000, but it can keep your basement from going under water during a massive storm. If your entire finished basement floods, he said the damage can total $10,000 to $60,000.
Installing Laminate or Hardwood Flooring
Laminate flooring is moisture-resistant, but not waterproof, said Ralph Severson, a licensed contractor and owner of Flooring Masters & Professional Remodelers, Inc., based in New Albany, Indiana, so using it in your basement is a big mistake. He also advised against hardwood floors.
He said this is an incredibly costly mistake, as laminate flooring costs about $5 per square foot to install and installing hardwood flooring costs approximately $6 to $12 per square foot.
“Then you have the cost of demo, and laying a new floor if it gets water damaged,” he said. “Be sure to go with tile or vinyl in the basement.”
Not Soundproofing the Ceiling
You don’t want noisy footsteps from the first floor of your home to ruin the calm oasis that is your new finished basement. Severson said his company helps clients soundproof the basement ceiling when finishing or remodeling their basements.
“If there is a bedroom in the basement this needs to be done,” he said. “However, when installing a drop ceiling, homeowners should also be careful not to set the ceiling too low.”
The average cost to soundproof a room is $1,857, according to HomeAdvisor.
Not Getting Proper Permits
“The number one mistake by far that I see with people who remodel their basements is not pulling the proper permits,” said Bill Gassett, a realtor with Maximum Real Estate Exposure, based in Hopkinton, Massachusetts. “Not pulling permits is a huge mistake that will eventually come back to bite you.”
In most cases, he said this issue will surface when you sell your home and the buyer’s real estate agent does research on the permits for work completed on the property.
“Believe it or not, there are some communities that have become so fed up with homeowners trying to skirt the permitting process they will make you rip out everything you have done,” he said.
Beyond selling your home, Gassett said a lack of proper permits can cause your homeowner’s insurance to reject claims in the basement.
A building permit to finish a basement typically costs around $1,200 to $2,000, according to Angi.
See: 5 Affordable Ways To Make Over Every Room in Your House
Doing Complex DIY Updates
“It’s normal for homeowners to want to save money by completing projects themselves,” said Glenn Wiseman, RASDT, RHDT, sales manager at Top Hat Home Comfort Services, based in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. “However, many individuals end up spending more money because of unplanned expenses, such as replacing materials that weren’t installed correctly or buying tools they don’t have on hand.”
If you’re planning a major project for your basement — i.e., installing new flooring or wiring electrical outlets — he said it’s best to hire a contractor who specializes in those services.
“These contractors have the experience and tools necessary to complete the job right the first time around,” he said. “Another reason this is a poor financial decision is when it comes to resale value, if potential buyers notice that your renovations look homemade and shoddy, they will decide your home is worth less than if you had simply hired a pro.”
Using Vapor Barriers Improperly
Vapor retarders — i.e., vapor barriers — lower the rate that water vapor can move through a material. This material should be part of your home’s moisture control strategy, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.
“A basement is a place where you get less ventilation compared to other parts of your house,” said Dino DiNenna, realtor and owner of Hilton Head Realty Sales in South Carolina. “That’s why the basement walls and floors should be evaporated properly and dried to the interior.”
He said mold will grow if you don’t use the vapor barrier correctly.
The cost to remove mold and toxic materials is $10 to $25 per square foot, according to HomeAdvisor.
Not Having a Backup Sump Pump
“Most of the homeowners are at risk for a basement flood,” DiNenna said. “Even though they
have a well-working sump pump, a heavy storm or a huge flood can damage the basement.”
He said many homeowners aren’t prepared for these adverse weather events and are ultimately forced to spend thousands of dollars to repair flood damage. Therefore, he recommended having a battery-operated backup sump pump on hand.
Home Depot sells a Basement Watchdog brand Emergency Battery Backup Sump Pump System for $154. Lowe’s also offers a Superior Pump brand thermoplastic battery-powered sump pump for $223.58.
Not Installing Proper Lighting
You might think you can get away with using a few lamps to light your basement, but it might get pretty dark — especially if there’s no windows. Failing to budget for an electrician to install lighting can hinder your enjoyment of the space.
Recessed lighting is often used to give darker rooms a warm and inviting glow. The average cost to install recessed lights is $360 per fixture — including the cost of the materials and labor — according to Angi.
Taking Out Load-Bearing Walls
Wanting to remove walls to open up your basement makes sense, but checking to make sure it’s not a load-bearing wall is essential. Accidentally making this mistake can cause structural damage, such as sagging ceilings, drywall cracks and unleveled floors.
The average cost to remove a load-bearing wall in a multilevel home is $3,200 to $10,000, according to HomeAdvisor — and that’s just the beginning of the costs you’ll incur.
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