Even if you work fulltime and only have spare time during the weekend, you can progressively finish your basement and turn it into a cozy, relaxing space for friends and family or even into that Mancave you've been craving eversince your kids finally took over that spare room upstairs.
Other than the electrical, plumbing and flooring jobs that typically require a professional, you can complete the rest of the project on your own.
The magic is in the tool belt
Since you will be entering 'carpenter territory', you will have to think like one and work like one too. As any crafty professional will gladly confirm: crappy tools equal mediocre results!
Below is a breakdown of the essential tool kit every aspiring basement rennovator should have in his/her arsenal. Aside from that, we've put together a great amount of tool reviews to put you on the right track on your way to mancave domination!
Some of the basic tools you require to get started include:
For cutting framing lumber. We recently reviewed them here.
To drive in nails fast. See which model is the best fit for you.
Chisel and Hammer
The mighty hole puncher. Find our review here.
The right tool for all that framing work
For accurate framing
For proper alignment of frames
For electrical jobs
Lay out a basic plan
This should be your first step before starting out all the construction work. You know what you need in your basement— this could include a bathroom, theater section, a gaming area with your pool table and darts wall if you like.
Just draw up a basic plan of how you envision your complete basement.
For the digital tool-savy, consider a software for some serious computer-based mancave planning work.
Now, dear mancave maven - it's time to dive in to the details! Below is a list of 8 steps to finish your basement.
If you have been putting off your project wondering where to start, building the frames of the basement walls is a perfect starting point. Framing a wall is simply creating a ‘skeleton’ outline that will help when installing a new wall. It makes the walls strong and durable.
Typically, 2 by 4 inch frames are used to set up the wall frame. Take care of the basement wall insulation before framing. Framing requires you to actually do solid planning before you set up the frame; refer to the basement plan ideas. It is usually recommended that you start to lay out your electrical plan before fully completing the framing. This will give you a clear picture about how to lay out your electrical wiring within the walls.
2. Electrical work
You do not have to hire someone to do all the electrical work for your basement. This is a skill you can learn in just a couple of days and you can complete up to 95% of the work on your own. It is true that you will probably need an electrical contractor to help with installing a sub-panel that will allow you to complete most of the electrical wiring job.
If you are in a big rush to just finish your basement, this wiring step will likely prolong your project. Of course, in this case, hiring an electrical contractor can help to shorten the project curve.
Between 20% and 30% of your budget will go toward the cost of installing a bathroom in the basement. Again, start first with a design of how you want this to look and then work with the rough-in to fit. The exact steps involved in installing a bathroom will really depend on all the features you want to install in there, which might include this unique and sexy bathroom sink. But the basic steps include:
a) Framing the bathroom
This part should be quite easy by now since you have already framed the basement walls. What you need to be keen on is choosing the right dimensions for the bathroom depending on what is going in there.
b) plumbing work
If you do not want to hire someone to do your plumbing, you need to learn how to do it. The learning curve is roughly as long as the time needed to learn about electrical wiring.
c) Electrical work
Just like the electrical set up in other areas of the basement, you require a circuit for the Ground Fault Interrupt. This needs to be on an electrical circuit of its own as required by local municipal laws. Lighting is definitely included in the electrical installation phase.
Setting up the home theatre is perhaps the most exciting part of finishing your basement. Whether you want to dedicate the entire basement space to a home theater or you just need a small cozy space for this, here are some things to consider:
- Choose a wall to install your screen
- Allocate antenna wiring for HDTV and cable
- Assign a cable for internet
- A dedicated electrical circuit is a must-have
- Fix a wire for the surround sound speaker
- Install a conduit and ceiling plug for the projector
5. installing the drywall
If you’ve passed the electrical and framing inspections, you can jump straight into the drywall. While you could do the drywall on your own, it is a grueling task and to be honest, there is not much of cost-saving compared to hiring someone to do it for you.
Hiring a contractor has several advantages: the contractor will likely get drywall sheets at a much better price than you would. If you do not have the requisite tools, you may have to purchase them—this is a one-off job and you really do not want to stretch your budget with buying extra tools.
Regardless whether you have already decided for DIY or contractor, looking into different drywall systems is probably on your list. Here is some information on a system that will keep your man cave mold-free.
Just like setting up the home theatre, painting should be fun too, especially if you get friends or family to help over a weekend. So the first step professional painting is learning how to cut-in.
This simply means painting the topmost part of the wall that is really difficult to reach with a roller. A 3’’ angled brush is perfect for cutting in while a 12’’ roller brush is great for the rest of the wall area.
Lighting is crucial when painting to ensure the walls are painted nice and smoothly. A lot of light is especially important if you are painting at night. Something that will make the difference between a perfect paint job and a mediocre one is primer. A lot of people ignore this especially when painting a new drywall but you should not overlook it—it just makes your job so much easier and prettier to the eye.
7. Setting up the door
There is no way around this: you need to seriously plan out where your door will go even before you start the renovation process. Do not wait to do it later after everything is in place. Some important things to consider include:
a) Placement of the door handle
Should your door push in or out? Should it open right or left? These are questions you want to ask when thinking about where the door handles should go.
B) Door size
Doors are usually a standard 32’’ but a 36’’ one is much better aesthetically and in terms of strength and durability. Just remember that the door framing needs to be 2’’ larger than the actual width of the door to allow for expansion during warmer months when wood tends to expand. It is highly recommended that you buy a solid core door—these are high quality and longer lasting than the other types of cheap, non-solid core doors.
If you thought plumbing and wiring had a steep learning curve, try flooring. A lot goes into it—from choosing the most appropriate type of floor material, durability, comfort to installation. You will probably need a contractor to do a good flooring job; it will save you a lot of backbreaking effort.
Side note: Permits
Let’s talk about permits. After you draw up a simple basement plan indicating the kind of features you want to install, the next step is to check with the local municipality to determine the permits you need. If you are doing any electrical and plumbing work, you certainly require a permit.
So there you are, transforming your basement into a cozy entertainment getaway is no easy task but it is completely doable. What’s really important is to get started and just keep learning.