That extra square footage in your basement beckons you to make it something special. Sure, you have managed to store all your chemistry textbooks from college 10 years ago down there, but what about making it into a livable, value-added area for guests, family and friends?
“It’s the most cost effective way to add living space, bar none,” says Darren Chrisop, owner of DRC Basements in Oswego, Ill. “You don’t have to add an addition or add a story, plus you don’t have to hire an engineer.”
Chrisop concentrates his business mostly on basement remodels. Lately, he is seeing a lot of his clients requesting in-law suites in the basement with a bedroom, bathroom with a zero-depth shower and a small kitchenette.
“It used to be that people just wanted a recreation room plus a bedroom and bathroom for a teenager,” he adds. “There is still a big calling for that. But now children are taking their parents in.”
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What was one of the most unique basements you have done?
Usually, Chrisop likes to start with a blank canvas in the basement. That way he knows what he’s starting with from the foundation up to the ceiling. But last year, a client had already installed a 300-gallon saltwater fish tank on concrete cinder blocks.
“He wanted us to build the basement around the fish tank. We couldn’t move it anyways,” he says.
So, they framed the walls around the tank, which was delicate work with pressure hammers and other power tools. Anything could have set it off and ruined it.
“It turned out beautiful with the fish tank coming out of the wall. It gives a great glow at night. We put a bar, bathroom and family room in,” he says.
What are the first things you ask when meeting clients?
“The first questions I have when I counsel a homeowner is how long have they lived there, and have you had any water problems? I need those upfront,” he adds.
He looks at the past to predict the future. If they have lived there five years and never saw any water in the basement, then 99 percent of the time they won’t ever have water.
How much value does a remodeled basement add to a home?
Right now, basement refinishing is about third or fourth on the list behind kitchens and bathroom remodeling for recouping the most money if you sell the house, he says. “If you spend $30,000 on a basement remodel, you probably won’t get $30,000 back. You’ll get between 70-75 percent back.”
However, you get salability. Chrisop says he had re-finished his neighbor’s basement a few years ago. When he sold his house recently, he got his asking price because the basement was done. The buyer remarked that they had a teenager and it was a no-brainer to buy the house that had the basement already completed.
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Should you do it yourself?
There is a misconception about how easy it looks to remodel from the HGTV shows, Chrisop says.
“Those shows are not reality. You watch those shows and think that you can put the drywall up in one day and the floors the next day,” he says.
He and his team have done plenty of projects where people have given up after starting the remodel. “Halfway through the framing, they want us to come over and take over. They get to a stopping point where they are spending way too much time and money, and it’s beyond their expertise. Sometimes the remodel was done incorrectly, so we have to do demolition and that takes more time and money,” he states.
Top things a homeowner should do when finishing out their basement:
Do come up with a wish list
Write down a big wish list as far what family members want and what you want the finished product to look like. Many of Chrisop’s clients show him ideas from Houzz.com and Pinterest.
Do come up with what money is available
Figure out where you can get the money. Home equity loans, savings, other financing, inheritance or selling things are all good places to start. Chrisop estimates that the median price of a 1,000 square foot basement remodel with a bathroom, bedroom and recreational area is in the upper $20,000 range.
Of course, the area of the country and the products selected can make that number higher or lower.
Do research to find the right builder
“I say builder and not a general contractor,” Chrisop adds. “That’s what I am, a builder. I own the business, and I’m on site. A generation contractor hires out the work. But with a builder, you have one person to contact and to go to with questions.”
You need to trust this person because they are the person you give your garage code to or a key to get in when you are away at work, he says.
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Do add a bedroom and bathroom
By putting a closet in the space you want to use as an office in the basement, you can truly help yourself down the road when you sell the home. Chrisop said the cost of that $200 to build a closet, you could be adding $5,000 to $6,000 to the selling price because you can add a bedroom to your listing.
Do add a lot of lighting
Chrisop says it’s pretty obvious that you won’t get much natural light in the basement unless it’s a walk-out basement. So, by adding a lot of artificial lighting such as canned lighting and lamps everywhere, it will add better illumination.
Tops things a homeowner shouldn’t do when finishing out their basement:
Don’t ignore evidence of water
Calcium calcification spots or a cracked foundation on the concrete floor can mean there are water problems. Call someone that can make your basement completely dry before any remodeling happens, or get a foundation expert to figure out solutions.
Don’t let a bad sump pump ruin your remodel
Chrisop says homeowners should make sure their sump pumps work or put one in if you don’t have one.
Don’t do the work yourself if you aren’t handy
If you have no experience with power tools, it might be too dangerous to take on a remodeling project this big. Plus, you shouldn’t attempt electrical modifications or plumbing projects if you don’t have the experience. Hire it done from an expert who has references and is licensed and insured.
Don’t put a drop ceiling if you don’t have to
People think that a drop ceiling is the only option they have for a basement. But Chrisop says that he can put up a drywall ceiling for half the price of a drop ceiling.
“Acoustic tiles can be expensive, you lose height in the ceiling and the tiles droop over time. I like to put up drywall just like the rest of the house which makes it look a lot sharper. has so it has a great flow,” he adds.
The builder can make access points for gas or water shutoffs.