How Much Is A Basement Contractor?

After 20 years in the construction industry, I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve heard this question: “How much is a basement contractor?” Such a viable question and an important one to ask yourself when considering a project like finishing a basement. The truth is there are many unknown factors related to any construction project and basements are no exception.

There are many variables to consider such as the existing conditions of the basement, overall layout & design, material selections, and municipality requirements – depending on the size and scope, each variable has an associated cost.

Sometimes people will ask: “What’s the price per square foot?” And my response is: “Well, how much does it cost for a bag of groceries?” And of course, the typical response is: “Not sure. I guess it depends on what you put in it”. The truth of the matter is that the same goes for basement finishing and many other remodeling projects. Much of the cost is dependent on what you put in the basement. In our experience, the cost of a basement contractor comes down to a number of factors:

Existing Conditions

Take for example a basement finishing project we did this year. The home was built in the early 1900s and had an old flagstone foundation (much different than the modern concrete poured foundation). The issue with these types of foundations is the mortar joints between the stone – over time, the mortar deteriorates and water can begin to seep through those joints. Not a good idea to build new walls against a weeping foundation. That’s an invitation for mold and water problems.

Luckily a previous homeowner had recently installed interior drain tile and a sump pump to help prevent any water from coming into the basement floor through hydrostatic pressure. However, the foundation walls still needed treatment. So our simple solution was to install an anti-microbial waterproofing membrane onto the flagstone walls, running floor to ceiling, and tucking into a corrugated flange in the floor that connected to the drain tile beneath the concrete floor.

This was a simple and effective solution to help direct any other water that came through the foundation walls and ensure that it made it into the drain tile system. And for this basement, it cost the client just under $3,000 to do. A worthy investment to keep the basement dry, preventing costly problems down the road.

Overall Layout & Design

Another price-driving factor is going to be the overall layout and design of the basement project. Finishing a basement can be extremely exciting because it’s essentially a blank canvas to do just about whatever you want. However, certain design elements drive cost.

For example, if you are thinking about adding a bathroom (a great idea to add overall value to your home), but there are no rough-ins for the plumbing, that can increase the overall cost by quite a bit – potentially an additional 10% just for the rough work. Typically, there are only a couple of options to make way for the sanitary draining the bathroom will need.

In some cases, based on the layout, we may be able to tie into the existing sanitary line that runs out to the city sewer or your septic tank. In most cases, we are installing an ejector pit and pump that captures all the wastewater from the toilet, sink and shower – at which point that ejector pit pumps the wastewater up and into a sanitary drain line that connects to the main sanitary line that runs out of the home. In either case, it typically requires saw cutting the concrete floor and additional time and material for a plumber to install all the necessary components.

Adding a bathroom is just one of a few layouts and design options that can be accomplished when finishing a basement. But maybe you’re thinking about adding a kitchenette or wet bar (will have to do similar work as we would a bathroom). Or maybe you’re thinking about an entertainment area or a home gym. What kind of finish do you want on your ceiling? Will it be open and painted black? A drop ceiling? Or will it be drywall? Each one of these layout & design elements has its own implications that will drive cost.

Material Selections

Selecting what materials you want to finish your basement with is one of the more exciting parts of the process. Again, with a blank canvas of a basement, there’s a world of options regarding how to make it look when it’s finished. Since there are so many options for flooring, wall coverings, lighting, plumbing fixtures (for bathrooms or kitchenettes/wet bars), doors & millwork, etc. – there’s a varying cost depending on what you like. The good news – this is where you are in the driver’s seat in terms of a good portion of the cost.

Let’s take flooring for example. In every basement we have ever finished, there’s always flooring work to be done. We have done carpet, luxury vinyl planking, tile, and epoxy. Each one of these types of finishes can vary in cost as well. It really comes down to what’s going to suit your needs and your budget.

The carpet is nice because it’s warm and feels nice on the feet. However, I’ve discouraged it because it’s still a basement and even though there are waterproofing systems in place, there’s always a small chance of water backup. Bad news for the carpet because at that point it would have to be replaced.

Luxury vinyl planking is a great option, and the most popular. We do LVT on just about every basement finishing job. There are lots of colors, it looks great, and it’s designed to withstand moisture and water. A great combination for a basement floor.

Tile is a great material – it looks elegant and there are many different colors, styles, and installation patterns that can be had. However, the prep work for tile can be a bit arduous, increasing the cost of installation (floor leveling for example). Also, depending on what kind of tile you want to go with, you can spend $3 per square foot or $30 per square foot. That’s quite a price variance just for the material. However, it does look great and can be a great option for a basement floor if the budget allows it.

Epoxy floors are another great way to finish a basement floor. The technology of concrete coatings has dramatically advanced in recent years and just like any other material selection, there’s a world of options and opportunities. You don’t just have to go with industrial gray anymore. There are all sorts of colors, designs, styles, and textures. Take Metallic Epoxy Flooring for example. Its artwork is displayed on concrete. A beautiful way to finish a concrete floor – however, can get very costly very quickly.

Again, flooring is just one of the many selections that go into finishing a basement. I know the selection list may be daunting, but it should be an exciting time as you begin to dream about what the space could look like. This is where it’s important to find a contractor who is going to work with you and help you figure it all out.

What to do now?

As you can see, there are many things to consider regarding a basement finishing project and what a basement contractor will cost. Unless you work in the construction industry, the process may be confusing and scary. However, here at Red Cloud Contracting, we have a process that helps solve this problem of not knowing what to do or how to move forward. It’s called the 3D Experience, and it’s something to get excited about.

The 3D Experience stands for Dream, Design, Deliver. Each step intentionally walks you through the process – considering your dream for the space, your budget, all the considerations mentioned above, and more. The main goal is to make it easy for you and lay out a path to move forward.

Since there’s a lot of planning and design work required for a basement finishing project, we do charge a pre-construction fee. Based on your overall needs for planning and designing the project, there are 3 different options ranging from $500 – $8,000. Take a look at our Bookings page for more information. The first call is always free. We’d love to help walk you through your next basement project!

So, how much does a basement contractor cost? The answer is: It depends! However, here at Red Cloud, we are committed to walking you through the process so that you can have peace of mind and can be sure that the bottom line number matches your dream and your budget.