DIY Basement Renovation Checklist for Beginners

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Leaky faucet. Broken tiles. Barely-there wallpaper. Rodent hideouts. Doorless cupboards. So your basement has gone rogue? That’s definitely big news – so what will you do next? Let the place be, or take up the mammoth task of renovating the entire basement?

Let’s be clear: neither is easy, so you have to choose one path. Will you let the basement stay as it is until it’s time for an emergency evacuation? Will you hand it over to fussy contractors? Or, will you DIY it, and turn it into the most perfect basement to date?

The last one seems a bit more plausible, right? Then why wait? Here’s our guide to a foolproof DIY basement renovation checklist for beginners!

DIY Basement Renovation Checklist for Beginners

There are two main components in a basement renovation checklist: 

  1. a) Budget
  2. b) Requirements

Obviously, the two are intertwined. Your budget will give you an idea of the renovation you can afford. Your renovation requirements, in return, will probably prompt you to either expand or squeeze the budget. So how can you figure out the specifications for both of these components? Here, let us help.

The Budget

Beforehand you kick off your renovation, the first thought that occurs is your bank balance. One thing’s for sure: your basement does need a renovation. But how much you spend on that renovation is totally your call. 

The Assets You Use

First, you’ll create an Excel spreadsheet of all the resources you can use to fund your basement renovation. You can create two columns and list the name and amount of assets you have. This can include both cash and the monetary equivalent of noncash assets. So you may have:

  • The cash you have at home
  • Bank savings
  • Investments
  • Prize bonds
  • Loans you can avail

And much more. 

Setting the Budget

From the Excel spreadsheet, you can then calculate the total amount you have at hand. Of course, you won’t be spending all that money, but this will give you an idea of how much you can extract. 

Once you have compiled an asset list, you can determine the tiniest portion of the total amount you can take out from any certain asset and leave behind the rest for other purposes. You can also fix a specific budget and then distribute its weight in percentages to different assets. 

So, if you have a 100% budget to distribute, you may assign 20% of it to your bonds if you feel like the worth of bonds left behind isn’t too small. Similarly, if there’s an asset you are not willing to spend, you can mark a red ‘X’ in front of it to remind you that the asset is untouched.

The Repairs and Remodeling

This part revolves around your existing basement structure and furniture. It concerns bringing necessary changes and repairs to what already exists.

The Basement Structure

Are you comfortable with how your basement is currently built? Is it habitable or not? If it isn’t, then do you want to turn it into a livable space, or do you want to retain the structure? Maybe you’d like to upgrade the crawlspace into a spare bedroom, a recording studio etc. 

The Furniture

If you already have your basement decked with old sofa sets or wardrobes, you may think about changing it. This also depends on what purposes you want your basement to serve. 

The best way to plan your basement’s furniture is to categorize it into lists (yes, lists – again). You can distribute it into three parts: 

  1. mint condition – you won’t be changing it; 
  2. not in perfect condition, but can be sold or exchanged for better furniture; 
  3. completely useless and will only be picked by garbage collectors. 

The Interior and Exterior

This comprises all the peripheral concerns regarding your basement. 

  • What’s the situation with your basement waterproofing and insulation? Is it fully insulated, or is it just the walls, or floor, or ceiling? Are the walls painted, covered with wallpaper, or are they completely bare?
  • How’s the flooring? Wooden, marbled, carpeted?
  • Are there windows and doors? Are all of them functional or not?
  • What kind of electric appliances do you have there? Is it just an HVAC system, is there a spare fridge and TV, or is there nothing remotely operated by electricity, let alone a single bulb?

The purpose of this part is to help you memorize your basement’s current state. As you compile the list, you’ll also discover exactly which parts are problematic and which ones are doing just fine! 

The Changes

Now that you have the entire situation jotted down in sections, it’s time to get thinking: what do you need to change in your basement’s current structure? 

For this purpose, we’ll go for a separate checklist to help you organize and execute the renovation as smoothly and as smartly as possible. So here’s what you have to decide:

The Intent

What do you need to renovate your basement for? How does the environment need to be different from the current one? We’re clear on the fact that the basement needs to be renovated, but renovated into what? In other words, what is your idea of a new basement? 

  • Does it need to be habitable for someone staying over? Such as a guest room? 
  • Does it need to be comfortable enough to spend your free time in? Maybe like a well-lit art studio?
  • Or do you want to turn it into a storage area? Or perhaps a fully-equipped HVAC facility? 

Depending on your intent behind the renovation, you can choose what to do next.

The To-Do List

Usually, for a complete renovation, DIY-ers go for the following areas. Of course, you may not follow the entire lead, but having all your options in front of you will simplify matters.

Renovate, Add, Extend

So, do you want to renovate the basement while it still holds the same structure and serves the same purpose? Do you want to tear down some walls and extend one room’s area? Or do you want to make the current structure multipurpose? Say, a home theatre plus a living space? 

A renovation often includes new structural additions, so, before you decide to renovate your basement, decide if you want to extend the space and make any permanent changes, such as tearing down walls.

Major Changes

What about windows, lighting, stairways, and sliding doors? What does the plan for your new basement look like? 


Lastly, you may list down all the new appliances, furniture, and décor for your new basement, such as:

  • Cabinets, counters, wardrobes, storage areas
  • Stoves and chimneys (for a basement kitchen)
  • HVAC system
  • Basement waterproofing
  • TV screen, speakers, etc.
  • Smart security system
  • Wi-Fi access points
  • Power, water, and heat connections
  • Ventilation system

Final Words

Basement renovation is a big fat headache, but it’s also just as rewarding. We understand that DIY-ing as a beginner can be a real challenge, but it isn’t impossible, either. With our full-coverage checklist, you’ll be able to draw a map of exactly what you want from your renovation. We wish you the best of luck!

About The Author: Jim Lucas has been specializing in wet basement repair and foundation crack repair for over 30 years. Jim loves what he does because his work ensures the foundation of his clients’ homes are safe and sound. In his free time, Jim loves writing about foundation repair, and provides helpful advice to people looking for foundation and web basement solutions.
Photo by Curtis Adams from Pexels

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