Learn how to finish a basement from start to finish with this guide to DIY basement finishing. DIY home improvement for your basement is simple, just follow these steps to finish your basement.

Finishing a basement is something that is on many a homeowner’s to-do list. The only problem is that there’s a million other things on that to-do list, and there’s only so much time to get to everything. But that doesn’t mean your basement must be a damp, concrete bunker forever. Here is a quick outline of the steps to take to get your basement finished as efficiently as humanly possible, starting with those bare walls.

How to Finish Your Basement Walls

If the walls of your basement are currently nothing more than bare concrete, this should be the first place to start. Finished basement walls will not only make the space look complete, but also warm and inviting – especially once the heating ducts are added. Here are the steps to take to finish your basement walls:

Step #1: Banish Moisture From Your Basement

If your basement is damp, or regularly puddles after a storm, you must waterproof the entire room before finishing it. Otherwise, your hard work will be ruined literally overnight. Here are some quick ways to waterproof your basement:

  • Redirect downspouts away from your foundation.
  • Regrade the slope of your lawn to drain water away from the basement.
  • Use dampproof or waterproof coatings on interior walls.
  • Add a drain that leads to the storm drain or a pit with a sump pump.

Step #2: Install Insulation and Drywall

Assuming you already have your wall frames constructed, the next step will be to install insulation in the spaces between each stud. There are three choices of insulation:

Finishing a basement

Batts are cheap and easy to install. Image: Basement Set CC by 2.0

  • Batts: Large blankets of insulating material, generally the cheapest insulation option.
Finishing a Basement

Rigid foam boards are a better option for basement wall insulation. Insulation Boards CC by 2.0

  • Rigid foam: Rigid sheets of extruded polystyrene that are applied to the wall with adhesive. More effective, and more expensive, than batts.
Finishing a basement

The most expensive, yet effective, option is to use spray foam insulation. Spraying Foam CC by 2.0

  • Spray-in-place foam: The most effective, but costly, method of insulation that most experts agree is the best way to insulate a basement wall.

After installing your insulation, you can begin hanging your drywall. If you’ve hung drywall before, then the process should come easily to you. You will secure the drywall to each stud using drywall screws and a drill, making sure not to tear the drywall paper surface. You shouldn’t see any plaster around the nail head. You can choose whether to hang your drywall vertically or horizontally, though in most cases hanging drywall horizontally is the way to go.

Finishing a basement

Attaching drywall to your joists is best done with help to speed up the process. Basement Being Finished CC by 2.0

Step #3: Account for Outlets and Windows

Trace the outline of your outlets into the drywall sheet that will cover the segment of wall with an outlet. Using a drywall knife, cut out the material and install using the method above. For windows, measure out the dimensions and cut the appropriate shape out of the drywall only after you’ve secured the sheet to the wall.

How to Finish Your Basement Floor

Finishing a Basement

Unless you want a warm, dry basement floor, you can simply paint over the bare concrete. Basement Floor Paint CC by 2.0

After the basement walls are finished, it’s time to turn your attention to your floors and ceiling. For flooring, its best to use waterproof materials to prevent damage from the inevitable flood or leak that will occur. Here are some popular basement flooring options to consider:

Step #1: Choose a New Flooring Material

A popular basement flooring option is laminate, though it’s better to use laminate flooring that snaps together so that if the subfloor warps, you won’t have to tear them up.

Using wood flooring may seem like a bad idea for a basement. However, as long as you properly insulate the subfloor and account for expansion of the wood during humid weather, you can get away with a hardwood floor in your basement. Though a leak from upstairs could still spell doom for your new hardwood floor.

Installing tile flooring in your basement gives you the best of both worlds. Tiles will make it easy to clean up after a flood or leak while still giving your finished basement a floor that looks just as good as the other options.

Step #2: Determine the Best Way to Install Your Flooring

If you are using laminate flooring that snaps together, you can install directly onto the concrete subfloor. However, most other flooring options will require building a new subfloor using plywood and polystyrene sheets, or at the very least will require installing a moisture barrier.

Installing a new basement subfloor is as simple as laying down sheets of polystryene insulation and then laying plywood on top. You will secure the new subfloor using concrete screws driven into pre-drilled holes in the concrete floor. After the plywood is installed, you can use it as a base for installing virtually any kind of flooring you’d like. Here is a quick guide explaining the various methods of installation for flooring options that require a new subfloor.

How to Finish Your Basement Ceiling:

When it comes to your basement ceiling, there are two potential paths you can take:

Finishing a basement

Drop-ceilings are really easy to install and allow quick access to wiring and pipes. Image: Ceiling Light CC by 3.0

This is the cheap and easy option that you’ll find in a lot of homes. It accomplishes the job of covering exposed pipes and floor joists, but regular ceiling tiles may look a little blasé. However, there are some different design options out there, such as Mio’s FoldScapes ceiling tiles that add a sculptural element to drop-ceilings.

Installation can be done with minimal tooling. All that’s required is a hammer, nails and wire cutters. The materials themselves can be purchased together from a kit, making this option even easier. From there, its just a matter of following the instructions included with by the manufacturer. Popular Mechanics also has an excellent guide you can reference for drop-ceiling installation.

Finishing a basement

Attaching drywall to your ceiling joists requires extra help to secure each panel. Image: Ceiling Drywall CC by 2.0

Drywall Ceiling:
Hanging drywall on your ceiling follows roughly the same procedure as hanging drywall in any other room. The only difference is that you’ll need either a drywall jack or a friend to help you secure the drywall sheets in place while you screw them in. Otherwise, you’ll be following roughly the same process as finishing your basement walls. Here’s a quick guide to follow when installing drywall on your basement ceiling.

Learning how to finish your basement is the first step to creating a big, beautiful subterranean dwelling where your kids can play, watch TV or simply leave you alone for a few minutes before you go crazy. It can also significantly boost the value of your home, with a 69% return according to House Logic. So the next time you walk down the basement stairs and flip on the light, just remember that you are sitting on a potential home improvement goldmine.