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The process of finishing a basement

The process of finishing our basement, it started with cinderblock walls!

First off because I do not want to sugar coat this, finishing a basement is HARD WORK (even if your not DIYing it!). Why do I say this? Well, it’s because everything has to be done in a certain order and if one thing takes longer, EVERYTHING gets pushed back. Plus you have to be thinking 3-4 weeks in advance (I will explain this in the post). My goal with this post is to share the process of finishing a basement so that you have an idea of what to expect.

boy's basement bedroom
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Now I am hoping that your basement is basically ready (needs some walls, electrical, and finishing touches) but if it’s anything like ours I have some posts to give you insight on those processes because they need to be addressed first.

OK, now you should have a basement ready for framing (AKA: the walls)!

FINISHING A BASEMENT

Please note that every basement is different and codes can be different so please do your research!

Before starting the project decide what you can complete yourself and what you will hire out. Need help deciding, be sure to visit my post DIY or HIRE?

Here’s a basic breakdown of the steps:

  1. insulation of outside walls (this could be done for you)
  2. framing walls
  3. electrical and water lines
  4. more insulation
  5. drywall
  6. install doors (the frame of the door needs to be in place)
  7. paint
  8. trim and baseboards (this could be in a different step depending on the flooring)
  9. install lighting and outlets
  10. flooring
  11. finishing touches

If you are hiring any part of the project, be sure to think about the time frame. For example, we decided to hire drywall and flooring. We had companies come out about 3 weeks before we planned on needing that item to give us bids and schedule when they would start (most companies were about 2 weeks out but sometimes longer so plan ahead).

Now let’s go through the steps.

FRAMING, INSULATION, AND ELECTRICAL

We decided to complete all of this ourselves and it took us about 3 weeks to complete (we were working weekday nights and Saturdays only). If you want to see more details on these steps be sure to visit our insulation and framing a basement post.

foamular insulation and framing in basement

SIDE NOTE about lights: We debated using recessed lights but we used regular lightboxes because of our air vents in the rooms being in the way. But the lights we used are amazing, more on that in a minute.

Also during this time, we had a plumber come to do our shower valve install (this was our only plumbing left). And this checks off steps 1-4 so let’s move to step 5.

DRYWALL

Next was drywall and like I said before we decided to hire this part out to save us on time. I had issues with making sure someone came but it was all done in a week and a half. This took longer then what was planned but it all worked out.

To give you an idea of the cost it was about $5.25 per square foot.

drywall installed in basement

INSTALLING INTERIOR DOORS

After drywall, interior doors are installed. You can see how to easily install your own interior doors on this post. But the key is using these quick door hanger.

easier way to install an interior door

PAINTING

We decided we wanted our walls and trim/baseboards the same color. So I did install the bedroom and closet trim/baseboards before painting because the carpet would be in these rooms. But the hall and bathroom had to be added after flooring.

I decide to purchase a bigger paint sprayer for this job, I purchased the Graco LTS 15 Airless paint sprayer which is the same as the Graco Magnum X5 Paint Sprayer (the one I purchased was on sale at the time). I really liked this sprayer because it was very easy to use and clean.

This part I did not like (well priming was NOT fun). Plus a basement is dark and I did have some paint runs because it was hard to see. But overall the walls turned out great.

SIDE NOTE: I set up my garage as a painting station for the doors and other trim. This way I was painting everything at one time.

painted mudroom white
painted bedroom in basement white
painted bathroom white

TRIM AND BASEBOARDS

Remember for me this happened before paint and after flooring, it just depends on your flooring and paint colors. But I wanted to share a tip about installing baseboards before carpet.

But before that, I did trim out the windows, plus one doorway. I used 3/4″ plywood, cut to size, for the window jambs. Then trimmed out with 4″ boards.

casing between rooms
install closet casing
install a simple trim
install window casing
framing windows with trim

OK now for the tip.

TIP for baseboards before carpet: A baseboard should be 3/8″ above the floor so that carpet can be tucked under. To do this cut a 3/8″ dowel into 2″-3″ pieces.

tip to add baseboard before carpet

Place the dowel between the floor and the baseboard to give you your space, then remove after nailing the baseboard into place.

trick to add baseboards before carpet

TIP about trim casing around door: This trim can go almost to the floor, 1/8″.

After fill in all the nail holes with spackling paste and sand smooth once it has dried.

Then caulk all the seams of the baseboard and trim (where the wall meets the board). Caulk is the magical piece that makes the trim work look seamless.

You now want to touch up the nail holes and caulk with paint. But don’t put the paint away yet, you will probably have to touch up again after the flooring is installed.

INSTALLING LIGHTS, OUTLETS, AND SMOKE DETECTORS

SIDE NOTE: This could be done right after painting!

Things are now starting to come together. We decided to use these LED flush mount lights. These are similar to canned lights but can be used in a regular lightbox, they are my FAVORITE!!

LED flush mount light fixture

Also, something to consider is what type of outlet you want. We decided to have some outlets with a USB, we purchased two kinds one with one outlet plug plus two USB and the other was two outlet plugs plus two USB.

Something I was not planning on spending more than $50 on was smoke detectors but have you seen the Nest Protect? They are a smoke, carbon monoxide, and night light. I am surprised how much I like these! I even added them to my upstairs too!

nest protect

FLOORING

Next is flooring. We had carpet put into the bedrooms and a luxury vinyl plank for the hall/bathroom. And don’t worry we will be installing the vinyl plank in our kitchen so I will have a tutorial sharing how this is done.

But I am LOVING this floor. Its completely waterproof and was very easy to install (why we will be doing it ourselves).

mudroom

SIDE NOTE: See the list of projects for our mudroom on this page

TOUCH-UPS AND FINISHES

After the flooring is installed, you will need to touch-up some paint and possibly add some more trim/baseboards. And then add all the other finishes (ours was the bathroom), see our bathroom before and after plus the list of projects here.

downstairs bathroom makeover

And that sums up the process of finishing a basement. It’s a lot of work and cost some money but the finished product is amazing!

Hope this will help you know the steps to take to finish your basement.

the process of finishing a basement