How to Start Your Basement Renovation

The best place to start your renovation! This article has lots of great starting points and tips for remodeling projects

Well, things are drawing to a close on our basement remodeling saga. We are moving in and just waiting on the cash to get the details covered. It’s pretty exciting and I feel like we have so much to be proud of! We went from an empty cinderblock room to a four-room, drywalled, insulated, floored room in just a few months! I’ve learned so much from my dad and other family members, and it’d be a shame not to pass it on to you, so here are my tips on how to start a basement renovation.

Local Codes

We worked with a great code inspector, and if you can find a guy like ours, you’ll be great! Make sure to ask all sorts of questions before you get started. Here are some things to ask about:

  • How large do bedroom (egress) windows need to be?
  • What type of insulation is required?
  • What is the minimum distance required between outlets?
  • Do stairs need fireproofing?
  • Do walls/ceiling need fire or waterproofing?
  • What inspections are needed?
  • When does my remodeling permit expire?

We have a rather relaxed renovation code where I live, so if you know of/ran into other questions, be sure to let me know in the comments below & we’ll add them in!

Create a Floorplan

I struggled for weeks and weeks and weeks with this floorplan—this is why people hire interior designers—because it is nearly impossible to plan your own space. In the end this is what we came up with:

Basement Floor Plan

We have a daylight basement, so we’ve placed two bedrooms on the side that has larger windows. One will serve as my office and the other will be a guest room. Looking into the future, we might both have our offices downstairs, but we’ll see! We had to work around an existing washer and dryer, so there’s a long, skinny laundry room with a door to the outside. We added a stove to the laundry room so that I have a space to do my canning! There was also a (huge) existing fireplace, so we chose to create a long family room and future play room. You can see all the details along with some great floorplan tips in my post about Basement Floorplan Advice!

Create a Budget

The budget is usually based on your floorplan, or whatever cash you’ve been squirreling away for a big reno like this! Make sure that everything is in order as far as heating, cooling, plumbing, etc. before you set your budget in stone. We were thrown off when we decided that the heat/cooling system needed removed and replaced before we could get our basement started. I have dedicated an entire page of my site to the best online tools for renovating—be sure to check them out, on my remodeling tools pageYou want to budget for all of your materials (from framing to the light fixtures, to the paint on the walls) before starting, so that you know what kind of wiggle room you have during each phase, I would say that budgeting is the most important step of the renovation and can save you the most stress if you do it correctly. You can learn about my budget tools on my Budget Tools post.

Fabian Blank

Ask for a Favor


Labor costs more than anything else in a renovation. If you can avoid paying for it, avoid it! I’m lucky enough to have been born into and married into a very handy family: I have an HVAC technician, plumber, electrician, builder, and cement guy at arms length all the time—that doesn’t even include the unofficial handy people that have been helping me too! I realize that I’ve totally lucked out, so if you don’t have those kinds of connections, be sure to account for labor costs.

Get Started

After all the planning, scheming, and dreaming it’s going to feel very surreal. But you’ve got to get started eventually! And once you start, you’ll try to rush to get everything done. My advice: start slow and don’t rush everything, for three reasons: (1) You want it to be done right the first time, (2) you don’t want to burn yourself (or your helpers) out, and (3) the time you spend with your loved ones and friends during this project is irreplaceable. I’m sad that things are drawing to a close in our basement, because it got the people I loved over here more often than not! Don’t just use the time your spending together to get the basement done: be sure to cherish that time with your loved ones, learn and take on this new experience together. I can’t explain to you how great these past few months have been with my family, but especially my Dad—what an amazing guy! I’m making up excuses to work on projects like this with him because it’s created some incredibly wonderful memories for us.

Family Construction Project

I’d love to hear your comments below, make sure to stay tuned for great tools, tutorials, and the final product! We are getting close my friends!

Coming Soon:

Codes, Codes, Codes!

Creating a Basement Floorplan

Creating a Renovation Budget

Framing 101

The Grand Finale: My Basement: Before and After

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