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How to Renovate a Basement: Full Guide for Beginners

Renovating your basement can serve to add additional space for your family to enjoy, and also add extra value to your property. But it’s no secret that it’s a big job, and you might be wondering exactly what’s involved.

The basic steps for renovating a basement are as follows:

  1. Remove existing floor, wall and fixtures
  2. Install plumbing
  3. Install or move wiring for wall outlets & light fixtures
  4. Replace existing walls or install brand new walls
  5. Install new flooring if required
  6. Installing fixtures such as lights & countertops
  7. Moving in all the furniture & appliances

In this article, I’ll explain the steps required to completely renovate a basement, and dramatically improve its visual appeal. 

It’s great info if you’ve never done any DIY work before, and it’s also a great refresher if you’ve renovated a basement before, and need a quick reminder of what’s involved.

At the end of this article, I also provide a summary table with a total of all the costs involved, and some ways to cut costs. Let’s go through the steps in more detail…

Steps Involved in Renovating a Basement

Some of these steps are absolutely required, whereas, others are optional depending on how much time you want to dedicate, and what the existing layout of your basement is. For each of the steps, I’ll let you know how much it would cost to have it all done by professional contractors too.

Note: This post may contain affiliate links which will take you to online retailers that sell products and services. If you click on one and buy something, I may earn from qualifying purchases. See my Affiliate Disclosure for more details.

Step #1: Remove the Existing Floor, Walls, & Fixtures

In some cases, you may decide to replace all of the fixtures, floors, and walls. If your basement has a bathroom, laundry, and/or kitchen this can be a very big job.

Things like existing, carpet, tile, or linoleum, are fairly straightforward to remove. Existing drywall is also generally pretty easy but just requires a bit of muscle.

In other cases, you may just have a bare-bones basement with concrete floors. In which case, nothing needs to be done for this step, as it’s already gutted.

The average cost to remove existing fixtures in a basement is anywhere from $2,000 to $20,000 depending on what’s getting removed. For example, if you’re removing fixtures in an existing kitchen and an existing bathroom in your basement, it will be on the higher end. 

Whereas, if you’re just removing the existing flooring, and some or all of the walls it will be on the lower end of this price range.

This cost estimate is based on a reasonably small-sized basement that is 20 feet by 20 feet, (or 40 square feet in total).

If you have a full basement, which covers the entire bottom of your house, AND are removing the floors, walls, kitchen, and bathroom, the price can be quite a bit higher. Somewhere in the range of $30,000.

Step #2: Install Plumbing – Done Before the Walls & Floor

If you’re putting in a new kitchen or bathroom in your basement, plumbing needs to be installed. This includes:

  • water supply lines
  • sewage pipes for wastewater

In some cases, the floor may need to be cut to allow for the pipes to run through. 

For a toilet, a vent pipe also needs to be installed that goes all the way to the roof. But this doesn’t need to go through the interior of the house, which would add far too much work.

If you’re installing new plumbing in your basement, on the upper end of the price range, it will be under $4,000. This includes the plumbing for a bathroom and a kitchen. To give a general idea, the cost to install plumbing and buy all the new fixtures for a brand new bathroom is around $3,000.

Step #3: Install or Move Wiring for Wall Outlets & Light Fixtures

It’s possible you already have a few wall outlets in your basement, but you may require more for things like a kitchen, laundry room, or if you’re creating partition walls to create separate rooms. This is done before the new walls and flooring are installed/modified.

After both the electrical and plumbing work is done, you can rest assured you’ve got everything in place to begin installing or redoing the floor and walls.

The average cost to have an electrician install all of the wiring, including the cost of materials for a 100-square-foot basement is around $800 to $1,500.

Step #4: Replace Existing Walls or Install Brand New Walls

Some basement renovations will require installing brand new walls

After the walls have been removed, new walls are required. These provide a finish to a basement which makes it look like a room. When doing so, you may decide it’s a good idea to install some windows

Natural light always looks better than artificial light, but it’s not always possible to install windows. It will depend on:

  • how close your basement is to ground level
  • how practical it is to install a retaining wall
  • how practical it is to dig out a section of the ground

These are all limiting factors. If new windows are to be installed, they’ll need to be cut out from the sides of the basement. This is done before the parts of new walls are installed.

To install new walls, you need framing to attach the drywall to. In some cases, this framing will already be in place. In other cases, you’ll need to install new framing.

After the framing is in place, insulation is installed into the framing before the drywall is installed over the top. As you may know, insulation is about a half-foot of dense fiber that is put inside the framing. It keeps rooms cool in summer, and warm in winter.

Drywall is the actual ‘walls’, but is also used for the ceiling. It’s what is painted or wallpapered on when decorating.

Here’s a table that breaks down the cost for wall framing, installing insulation, drywall, and to paint or wallpaper the walls. Including the costs of materials and labor:

Materials or LaborCost (100 sq ft
Wall framing – materials and labor$1,500
Insulation – materials and labor$1,600
Drywall – materials and labor$1,850
Painting walls – materials and labor$1,800
Wallpaper walls – materials and labor$500
Total$5,450 to $6,750

The total varies depending on whether you wallpaper the walls, or paint the walls. Wallpaper is quite a bit more expensive and costs about $500, including labor. Whereas painting the walls, including labor, costs about 3 times less.

Step #5: Install New Flooring If Required

Many basements will have only a concrete floor, whereas others will already have tiles, carpet, or linoleum. In rare cases, they can also have hardwood floors. Certain types of flooring can be installed directly over these types of existing flooring. 

For example, carpet can be installed over tiles, linoleum, and hardwood floors. However, the other hard types of flooring such as tiles can’t be installed over carpet. And the carpet and underlay need to be removed first.

In most cases, at least some prep work needs to be done. Below is a table that shows:

  • how much it costs to remove existing flooring
  • how much it costs per square foot to install each of the different types of flooring:
Type of
Cost per square
foot (installation)
Cost Total
Floor (100 sq ft)
Ceramic or porcelain tile$8 $30$800 to $3,000
Vinyl or linoleum$3 to $10$300 to $1000
Polished concrete$3 to $15$300 to $1,500
Laminate$6 to $9$600 to $900
Hardwood$10 to $18$1,000 to 1,800
  • Hardwood and tile are the most expensive type of flooring to use.
  • Laminate, polished concrete, and vinyl/linoleum are the cheapest.

In general, the more expensive types of flooring to use are double to triple the price of the cheaper options.

Step #6: Installing Fixtures Such As Lights & Countertops

A basement is a great place to put a bar, but also a kitchen, or spare bathroom. Now that the walls and flooring are in place, it’s time to install everything that you’re putting in your basement, such as a sink, countertop, toilet, shower, and cabinets, as well as, the lighting fixtures.

This is simply done one by one. It’s often a good idea to start with fixtures that are in the area further away from the entrance. Doing so will maximize the space, which can make moving bulky fixtures easier.

A really cool way to make any part of a house look amazing is to install LED lights, especially LED strip lights. I’ve included the different considerations for installing LED lights in a bedroom in this article, but most of the same principles also apply to a lounge area.

Check out the full rundown, and some tips on how to make them look amazing in this article about installing LED lights in a bedroom

Cost To Install Lighting

Installing light in a basement

You need a minimum of 3 lights for a 10×10 basement.

  • On average a single light fixture costs $200.
  • Therefore 3 lights (the minimum) for a 10×10 basement = $600
  • The installation cost per fixture is $100 to $480

Adding all this together, the total to install all the lights for a basement is $900 to $2,040, depending on how good a deal you get on the installation, and the average price in your specific part of the country.

Hers’ a table summarizing the cost to install all fixtures (including countertops, shower, toilet, etc.):

Materials & LaborCost
Cabinets$2,000 to $6,500
Tile the backsplash$2,250 to $4,050
Countertop$1,810 to $14,500
New shower$3,118 – $9,944
New vanity$477 to $722
New toilet$250 to $750
Total$9,905 to $36,466

Step #7: Moving in All the Furniture & Appliances

Once all of the permanent fixtures are in place, it’s time to move in all the furniture such as sofas, beds, a fridge, TV, a sound system, etc.

As I mentioned earlier, it’s usually best to begin by installing the furniture and appliances in the areas of the space that are furthest from the entrance.

This’ll keep the most amount of room available for moving awkward and heavy pieces of furniture and appliances. This is also a good time to install pictures, art, and plants.

This can largely all be done yourself with the help of some strong friends. But in some cases, you may want to have a moving crew do it to save the hassle. The average cost to hire a professional move is $25 to $50 an hour per mover. 

If you’ve already got all of the furniture and appliances in your home, it would likely only take a morning or afternoon at the most. Which would cost about $150 for 3 people, times 4 hours, which is around $1500 total.

If you’re installing or renovating a new kitchen the total for all appliances you’ll need such as an oven, and fridge will be between $1,750 and $25,800. Here’s a table that shows the cost of each of the appliances you’ll need for a kitchen:

Stove top/gas cooker$400 to $5000
Oven$350 to $15,000
Microwave$100 to $600
Fridge freezer$500 to $2700
Electric chimney (above stove top cooker)$300 to $500
Total$1750 to $25,800

Ways To Reduce Costs When Renovating a Basement

Ideally, the amount of money you spend on renovating a basement should be kept as low as possible. There are a range of ways to reduce the costs of renovating a basement. These are:

  • Doing parts of the renovation that you can yourself
  • Buying furniture and appliances at a discount/second hand
  • Using paint you already have, or buying returned paint
  • Keep anything you already have and reuse it
  • Learn more about the costs involved (be proactive)

Many parts of a renovation can be done yourself. Whereas others are best done, and in some cases can only be done by a qualified technician. Such as plumbing, and electrical work

Other aspects, such as painting, demolition, and moving in appliances and furniture can be done yourself. With a little bit of research, you can know enough about things like the painting that you can easily do yourself.

This can be done as a side hobby on the weekends, or a few weekends during the week, and it’ll dramatically reduce the total cost.

Getting Some of the Materials & Furniture at a Discount


Many stores have clearance sales that you can take advantage of. They really need to get old furniture and appliances out of their store to make room for the next season’s items.

And some stores have a section where they sell goods that have minor imperfections. Take Ikea for example. They have an ‘As Is’ section, where you can pick up the furniture at a big discount because it’s not in perfect condition.

Oftentimes the imperfections can be so minor that you can repair them yourself, or just leave them as they are. As you may know, there are also many stores that specialize in second-hand furniture such as Habitat for Humanity and the Salvation Army.


Taking on some of the renovation tasks yourself, such as painting, can significantly reduce the total cost of the project.

Brand new paint isn’t too expensive, but it can be purchased cheaper. Particularly if you’re a bit flexible with the color.

Many paint stores have a returned paint section. This is where brand new paint has been returned because it wasn’t quite the color or finish a customer was looking for. These are discounted quite a lot, and so it’s a great way to get a really good quality paint for a fraction of the price.

If you’re creating a feature wall that is a different color from the rest of the walls, you can also buy smaller tins of paint. A whole can of paint is often far too much for a single wall.

Being Resourceful

When doing the demolition part, it’s best to keep as much of the pieces of timber you remove as you can. These can very often be reused for other parts of the renovation

Each part of a renovation requires buying things new such as drywall, timber framing, and fixtures such as lighting. The more you know about these things, such as where to buy them, and the average cost they go for, the more money you can save. 

For example, one contractor might quote you for the cost to install drywall, but the cost of the drywall materials may be marked up, or they might use more expensive drywall than what you need.

If you know ahead of time what these costs should be, and where to buy them, you can cut a deal with a contractor where you’ll supply the materials, and have them install them.

Making these minor cost savings here and there, and being savvy with the project will add up, and can take 10% to 50% off the total cost of materials.

Parts of Renovating a Basement You Can Do Yourself

A large amount of the work required to renovate a basement can be done yourself. Here’s a table that shows each of the different parts of a basement renovation, and whether it can be done yourself or not. And if so, how much of it can be done yourself.

Part of the
How Much Can be
Done Yourself
DemolitionA lot
Installing plumbingNone
Replacing walls/installing wallsSome or all
Installing new flooringSome
Installing fixtures (such as lighting, countertops)Some
Moving in furniture and decorAll

As you can see, apart from the plumbing and electrical work most of all the other parts of a renovation can be done yourself. (Unless you’re a licensed electrician or plumber). The other aspects have a small learning curve and can be learned by watching Youtube videos.

All of this does depend on how confident you are in your own abilities. For example, if you’ve never used a power tool before in your life, it might be a good idea to leave everything to professionals. But if you’ve done labor-type work before, or done a previous bit of DIY yourself, it’s very straightforward.

NOTE: If your’re looking to start up DIY yourself but not sure where to start, I’ve got a full guide here. You can take things step by step until you can do bigger tasks like renovating your own basement!

The Difference Between Finishing & Renovating a Basement

The overall process when it comes to finishing a basement and renovating a basement is virtually the same. The main difference is that when finishing a basement you very rarely need to remove or demolish anything. Whereas when renovating a basement, you can want to open up the space by removing walls.

In general, you can follow all of the steps explained above whether you’re renovating or finishing a basement.

Summary of Overall Costs of Each Part of the Renovation

Now that you’re aware of everything involved in renovating or finishing a basement, below is a handy table summarizing it all. It includes the average costs of all of the different aspects of renovating or finishing a basement, including the labor and materials.

Total of all costs involved in renovating a basement:

Materials, Labor,
Fixtures, Appliances
Wall framing – materials and labor$1,500
Insulation – materials and labor$1,600
Dry wall – materials and labor$1,850
Painting walls – materials and labor$1,800
Wallpaper walls – materials and labor$500
Flooring$300 to $3,000
Cabinets$2,000 to $6,500
Tile the backsplash$2,250 to $4,050
Countertop$1,810 to $14,500
New shower$3,118 – $9,944
New vanity$477 to $722
Moving crew to move in furniture$1500
New toilet$250 to $750
Appliances$1750 to $25,800
Total$18,905 to $73,516

This is the cost if you were to have everything done for you by contractors. The higher price range is for doing a renovation using the highest quality materials and paying the most for labor.