Home renovations made simple
A finished basement is a wonderful thing. It can offer an immediate feeling of comfort that’s hard to beat and create much-needed space in a cramped home, whether for a growing family, a cool home theatre or just to create a designated home office. So, the decision to update the basement is often an easy one.
There are so many reasons (from practical to pretty) for finishing a basement. Adding decorative oomph and extra square footage lean to the fun side, while practical issues, like dealing with dampness, basement flooding and insulation, tick the functional boxes. Now, for the big question, how much does it cost to finish a basement? Here’s a breakdown you’ll want to read.
Average cost of finishing your basement
Trevor Sean, GM of Bakerhill Renovations in Ontario’s GTA, notes there are many factors involved in determining the average cost of finishing a basement. “You can keep it simple and finish a basement as one large space for around $45,000,” he says. “If you plan to add specific rooms, such as a bathroom, bedroom, or kitchen, costs can quickly climb to over $100,000 and, of course, the scope, square footage, and material choices will all have a direct impact on the basement renovation cost.”
Factors affecting the cost to finish a basement
Underpinning, which basically means digging down to create more ceiling height, can greatly increase the budget, though it isn’t always mandatory. “Underpinning is an expensive and invasive process that’s not a fit for everyone,” says Trevor. “However, with the stress of finding the right home upgrade in the current housing market, underpinning has become a popular option that helps create more usable living space in your current home.”
He adds that many older homes have a basement that was never intended to be lived in, thus the low ceiling height. “If your home is older, and zoning/by-laws make increasing your home footprint difficult, then looking to underpin the basement for higher ceiling height and more living space can make a lot of sense. For an average home, underpinning can range from $60,000 to $90,000, plus the cost of finishing the space. Often an underpinned, finished basement can be $250 to $350 per square foot, depending on how you finish it.”
When adding up the cost to finish a basement, don’t forget lighting since most basements are naturally dark. Pot lights are a great solution and, as all lighting requires a qualified residential electrician, let Smart Reno help you find an expert electrician whose services are within your budget.
Labour costs vary across the country and depend on the contractor’s level of expertise, but Trevor offers a simple way to determine what’s fair when finishing a basement. “A rough guide to labour costs is to equate it with the cost of materials,” he says. “For example, if your total material cost is $15,000, you can expect the labour to be about $15,000. However, as soon as you add in things like a kitchen, bathroom, or laundry room and upgraded floor drains, the cost of labour will increase.”
Trevor says that a framer and drywall installer will usually charge about $45 per hour, but a plumber and electrician will charge $75+ per hour because they are licensed trades and need to charge more for their labour. He adds, “On average for Toronto, I would say the labour component, including some licensed trades and their specialized materials, will be about $25,000.”
Remember to obtain quotes from trusted contractors experienced with basement renovations. Next, narrow your list of contractors by asking to see previous similar projects they have completed. If you like the customer testimonials and the look of the final renovations, put the contractor on your shortlist and ask them questions about their business practices, licensure, and professional history before signing a contract.
With Smart Reno’s renovation project planning tool, you’ll receive up to three free, no-obligation quotes from contractors in our area when you share the details of your basement renovation.
In some instances, permits may be required for a basement renovation. Not obtaining a permit means you may miss out on resale value and safety inspections. Realtors will not list a house at its full value if the seller made major renovations without a permit. Moreover, the inspections required after you file your permit can catch flaws in your building plan and provide you with tools and strategies to improve the safety of your home.
According to Sean, building permit requirements are enforced by municipalities. He says, “Most municipalities in Canada require a permit when modifying a home’s structural aspect or adding plumbing. Electrical alterations and related permits are governed by each province.”
It’s important to note that changes to how you use your basement can also drive the need for permits. For example, if you wish to create a basement apartment or bedroom space, municipalities will want to ensure it’s safe for occupants. “With all that said, it’s generally accepted that if you’re creating a recreation room or an office, and not adding plumbing, a building permit is not required in Ontario (but don’t forgo the electrical permit through your electrician).”
Jean-Sébastien Houde, President of Constructions Ho-Me in Canton de Hatley, QC, says, “In Quebec, any modification to a building requires a permit. I recommend inquiring about your municipality’s regulations to be certain.”
The materials you choose for your basement remodel should fit within your renovation budget. If carpet seems like an economical option, remember that it will require a subfloor, which adds additional expenses; given that, vinyl planks or laminate floors are a standard option.
A thousand-square-foot finished basement will run you between $15,000 and $20,000, assuming the use of standard materials. Adding in a kitchen or bathroom can bump the price up another $15,000 to $30,000. If you are looking to supplement your income by renting out a basement living space, this additional investment can pay for itself.
Read more: How to budget for a home renovation
While hardwood and engineered wood flooring are good-looking go-tos for main and upper floors, they aren’t recommended for moisture-prone areas, such as basements. Houde prefers vinyl plank flooring. “Vinyl planks are very easy to install, require little maintenance and are available at a reasonable cost, ranging from $2.00 to $4.50 per square foot, plus an additional $1.25 per square foot for the installation.” Aesthetic bonus: many new styles of vinyl plank floors mimic the look of hardwood.
Drywall and painting
“An average Toronto basement has about 1,800 to 2,200 square feet of drywall surface to install,” says Trevor. “This includes the walls and ceiling.” Based on these numbers, drywall materials come in at about $2,000. “Labour to install these materials will be about $1.75 to $2.50 per square foot, depending on the drywall crew and who manages them.” With these amounts in mind, you can expect the total drywall cost to be about $5,500 to $6,500, and then you will be ready to prime and paint.
The cost to paint a basement is determined by province (The average cost in Toronto, for example, is more expensive than Edmonton), the type of paint used and the square footage covered. It’s not only important to know your desired room colour, but also the conditions of the walls, and layout of the room (are there many hard to reach areas?). Rooms with dents, scrapes, and damaged walls will cost more than rooms with smooth and even walls. Overall, a standard interior paint job will cost $1,000-$2,000.
Whether you’re looking to install a few new light fixtures or to rewire your entire basement, start by making a list of all the electrical installations, repairs, and upgrades you’d like to complete.
The cost of your electrical project will be based on how extensive the work is. Replacing light fixtures is much easier than upgrading your entire electrical panel.
“I always suggest working with a licensed electrician,” says Sean. “This will cost more, but will result in the safest electrical installation possible with an Electrical Safety Authority permit for your records. If your panel does not need upgrading, you should budget between $4,000 to $6,000 for electrical labour and materials for an average basement.”
Plumbing may be a major cost when finishing a basement, even when adding additional plumbing is not being added. Why? The demolition part of the renovation can expose cracked clay pipes, blocked drains and other damages and insufficiencies that will need to be repaired before new floors are laid and drywall added. When adding plumbing to any basement, it is a two-part process. “Firstly, there is the ‘rough-in’ stage that often involves drain work below the concrete to allow hot- and cold-water lines to be brought into the space,” says Trevor. “Then, we cover the rough-in piping with finishes like drywall, tile, concrete patching, cabinetry, etc. After that, things like shower valve controls, a toilet, millwork and faucets go in. For both the rough-in and finish plumbing work, you should budget $2,500 to $4,500 or about $700 to $900 per fixture. The price range depends on how much the drain work in the floor needs rearranging, how complicated the shower valve is, how many fixtures you want, etc. Plumbing rates will also vary based on the experience of the plumber. Be sure to check for licensing and insurance!”
Framing and insulation
As with any basement renovation element, the cost of framing and insulation can fluctuate based on materials used.The recent post-pandemic swings in lumber and steel pricing has had a dramatic effect on framing costs, as well. “For typical lumber, you can expect to spend about $2,500 to $3,000 in lumber with standard wood-screw fasteners,” says Sean. “ A proficient framing crew will spend about three days framing a basement and their labour cost will be about the same as the material. Framing with steel studs will increase the price by about 25 per cent. Your municipality may require steel studs depending on what the intended use of the basement will be, so check with the city first.”
Insulation is available in two distinct products – spray foam and batts. Trevor says, “Spray foam creates a superior air barrier and moisture seal that negates the need for a vapour barrier, and will cost around $3,500 for a typical basement. Working with batts (Roxul mineral wool or fibreglass) will cost about $1,000 to $1,500 less than spray foam, but if it’s not installed correctly, it can create a number of pockets where condensation can form. A good middle ground to consider is to spray foam the pockets at the top of the walls where the floor joists are supported at the foundation, and then use batts and vapour barrier on the larger wall areas. The spots where the floor joists meet the foundation wall is a problem area for air and moisture infiltration, so pay close attention when insulating these areas.”
“The ideal height for a basement ceiling is 90 inches or more,” says Houde. Drywalling is the most economical way to finish a ceiling and Trevor estimates the cost of the ceiling alone, in Toronto, is between $1,500 and $2,500 depending on the labour costs of the drywall crew.
Basement waterproofing cost
According to the Government of Canada, repairing a flooded basement costs, on average, over $40,000. This takes into account the extent of the water damage, the type of water in the basement flooding (whether it’s hazardous with detergent chemicals or contains sewage), its professional removal and the removal of any mould and mildew growth.
Most cities have a Basement Flooding Protection Subsidy Program that offers homeowners a maximum-amount subsidy to install a sump pump and disconnect foundation drains from floor drains. There are some exclusions, but these programs cover most of the plumbing required for repairs and ensure the work is done by licensed professionals. Google it in your city to see the maximum eligible subsidy limit for your property and find out exactly what’s covered.
Cost of remodelling a basement vs finishing a basement
The average cost of finishing a basement in Canada can range from $38,000 to $98,000. This is dependent on your location, preferred materials, and desired improvements. Remodelling is ideal for updating an existing finished basement with new finishes, such as new flooring and paint, while finishing a basement requires more work depending on the state of the space – is it framed out already? Does it have drywall already in place? These sorts of factors will affect the price. Houde says, “The average price for remodelling a basement in Quebec is around $50 to $85 per square foot, and this includes new vinyl flooring and painting. To finish a complete basement, it costs about $90 to $145 per square foot depending on the material choices.”
Calculate estimate cost for basement renovation
If you’re ready to add up the numbers and kickstart your project, the Smart Reno Basement Cost Estimator can help you determine the actual cost of your basement renovation project with ease. Just submit the details of your proposed reno (the more info the better) and let Smart Reno match your needs to insured, qualified contractors. All you have to do is choose the quote and contractor that works best for you, then formalize the agreement.
How to finance a basement renovation
Renovations are expensive these days, and you may not have the cash on hand required to finance your basement reno. The good news is that there are options for financing the cost of a basement renovation such as securing a line of credit or a personal loan. These allow you to pay off the cost of the renovation over time rather than pay with cash up front. You could also consider a second mortgage and/or using your home’s equity to secure financing. According to the Government of Canada, you may be eligible to borrow up to 80 per cent of your home’s appraised value, minus the balance of your current mortgage and any liens on your home (You must go through an approval process with your financial institution before you can borrow against your home equity). To choose the best way to finance your basement reno, consult a financial advisor who can help make your new basement vision a reality.
Smart Reno helps you find trusted basement contractors
With so much to think about when it comes to renovating and finishing a basement, it’s important to find a contractor you can trust. Get up to three free quotes from trusted local basement professionals, learn more about basement renovations, and talk to an expert about renovation financing.
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This article offers general information only and is not intended as legal, financial or other professional advice. A professional advisor should be consulted regarding your specific situation. While the information presented is believed to be factual and current, its accuracy is not guaranteed and it should not be regarded as a complete analysis of the subjects discussed. All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the author(s) as of the date of publication and are subject to change. No endorsement of any third parties or their advice, opinions, information, products or services is expressly given or implied by Royal Bank of Canada or its affiliates.