Basement Finishing

Basement projects will typically yield a 70% to 80% return on money spent to complete them. (Photo: Neil Podoll/Shuttertstock)


As the post-pandemic explosion in Colorado property values continues, homeowners are always trying to find the most efficient way to maximize the potential of their home’s worth. If you have an unfinished basement that you’ve considered renovating to add a family living space, an additional guest bathroom, a bedroom or even a full-blown suite, that’s a winning and completely customizable strategy to add value to a home – provided you understand some of the costs and potential hurdles you might face.

Chris Carter, owner and remodeling contractor at Refresh Renovations in Boulder County (, says basement projects will typically yield a 70% to 80% return on money spent to complete them. That investment is even better if you plan on actively using your new family space, rather than simply investing for a short-term sale.

“It’s still a pretty good rate of return if you’re looking to recoup what you’ve spent when selling a home, even better than upstairs kitchen or bathroom projects,” Carter says. “You’re providing additional living space that adds square footage to a home, which is seen as more valuable than many other renovations you can do.”

Better yet, because your basement is isolated from the rest of your home, a full renovation project can be completed with less impact on your daily life. There’s no need to move out while the big work is done, he adds.

Carter experienced that himself as he recently added a full suite at his own home to provide an on-site living unit to help take care of his father. That included a full one-bedroom apartment, complete with a kitchen, bathroom, living area and laundry room. Depending on which Boulder County community you live in, there’s also the potential of creating a full rental unit in your basement, should you so desire. 

“For other homeowners, a renovation has meant projects such as adding two or three bedrooms and a bathroom, or even building a full man cave,” he says. “One of our clients, in a new build that followed the Marshall fires, added a full golf simulator in his basement. You can do whatever you want to create family space, at the budget you can afford.” 

Carter says the most important decision for homeowners is to figure out the scope of their dream basement project. A simple finished family room addition offering a TV room or kids’ playroom, minus bathrooms, starts at about $50,000, and can expand from there, depending on bedrooms, bathrooms or other considerations.

“I would anticipate two to three months’ work for a basic project, including planning and permitting, and up to six months for a major job, such as the suite I built in my own home.”

First up, make sure that your existing unfinished basement space is in the right shape to allow renovation work in the first place, especially in older homes. A newer home with a well-poured concrete floor is easy, but some older homes may need foundation repairs or remediation work for drainage if there has been water leakage. Our dry Colorado climate also means fewer headaches than permanently damp basement projects in other parts of the county. Carter says naturally occurring radon gas can also be a problem, though testing and mitigation systems can easily alleviate that issue. 

Other issues that need to be factored into basement renovations include providing the required number of egress windows and exits, as well as making sure that stairs are up to code.

Besides rooms themselves, other value-adding basement ideas include new ventless dryer/washer combinations, which can be installed without adding external venting, as well as switching to a tankless water heater, which can free up valuable space and also provide a more environmentally efficient alternative than a constantly-heated, traditional 75-gallon tank.  

By Andy Stonehouse, Longmont Magazine