Skip to Content

What is a Finished Basement?

When you are buying a home, or even if you own one, having a finished basement is a definite asset. It can double the square footage of useable space in your house. We recently finished our basement, and when talking to a friend overseas, they asked, “What is a finished basement?” So here is everything you need to know about finished basements.

finished basement

The definition of a finished basement

What is the meaning of a “finished basement”? What constitutes a finished basement? It’s when the entire basement is completed in a manner that resembles the above-ground living space.

This means framing in the foundation walls and ensuring that the wiring, flooring, plumbing, finishing work (such as doors, window casings, cabinets, and trim work) have all been completed. For a basement to be considered finished, it needs to be a livable space and have the same qualities as the finished space in the rest of the house.


finished Basement

Can you finish an unfinished basement?

unfinished basement

Yes! You can transform a basement space into a whole new area of your house. Of course, there are steps to finishing a basement that you will need to follow, but it’s a great way to add space and make your home feel like a new place without having to move.

Some of the things that you will need to do to finish your basement are:

  • Cover the cold concrete floor (carpeting is a great way to add warmth to a cold basement, check out the cost with our carpeting calculator). Warm finished floors are a 
  • Close out the basement ceiling; you can drywall or install a drop ceiling, depending on your ceiling height (or you can do both as we did). Ceiling tiles are a great way to still have access to the floor joists, but you need more room. It’s a trade-off and a personal decision. Both types of level ceilings look nice! You can also do what we did which was a bulkhead using drywall and drop ceiling on both sides. 
  • Frame and close in the basement walls. To do this, you will start by framing the unfinished basement walls on your own or hiring a contractor. Then getting an electrician in to do the wiring. Plumber to do the plumbing and thinking about how you would like to design the basement as a whole. 


Is it worth finishing a basement?

Finishing a basement can be a great return on investment and an affordable way to add living space to a growing household and relieve the tight quarters you currently live in if you are wanting more space and don’t want to move. If you are selling your home, finishing your basement can be a value-added to prospective buyers and be a key selling point in a deal.

There is a multitude of finished basement ideas you can choose from. From a man cave or movie theater room, games room, or extra bedroom and bathroom to host guests or growing family members that need their own space. There are several different types of rooms in a basement you can add. The challenge will be picking the right ones for the light that you have and the layout of the space. 

empty finished basement


How does it cost to finish a 1000 sq. ft basement?

Depending on your needs and how much you want to be done, finishing a basement could cost anywhere from $25,000 to $200,000 or more. It depends on the area you live in and what you want to do with the space. The average cost per square foot to finish a basement is $25-$50; however,  you will still need to furnish the space and turn it into something that is livable, which will increase the cost.


Black & Decker The Complete Guide to Finishing Basements: Projects and Practical Solutions for Converting Basements into Livable Space (Black & Decker Complete Guide)

What qualifies a basement as a living space?

A basement qualifies as a living area when it is finished and matches the living conditions of the rest of the home (i.e., main floor and above).

finished basement ideas

Is basement square footage included in my home’s square footage?

Depending on where you are and the house you live in, it can be considered part of your square footage. A basement that is a walkout and has no substantial amount of home in the actual ground can be taken into account when totaling square footage. In most cases, the basement square footage is not considered part of the square footage when buying a house.


Does a finished basement raise your taxes?

Yes, a finished basement does raise your taxes. In many cases finishing a basement will be additional living space to your home, which means that when your house is assessed by a building inspector, it will increase in value. Which in turn raises your taxes.

So if you are worried about the extra ongoing cost with your finished basement idea, it’s good to know before you begin your basement renovation.  The easiest way to find out is to call the city planning department and ask what you can expect your taxes to be if you go ahead with the basement remodel you are thinking of. 


Does a basement count as a floor?

No, a basement doesn’t count as a floor. It is in its own class when it comes to floors of a home, it can still host several rooms in your house, but it’s not considered a floor. To be considered a floor, it needs to be above grade (i.e., ground level).


Remodeling a Basement: Revised Edition (Taunton's Build Like a Pro)

What is an unfinished basement?

An unfinished basement is an unfinished space basement that has not had any upgrades or work done to it since it was built. Typically you will find the furnace, hot water tank, washer, dryer, freezer, and perhaps a second cold fridge in the area. All of the ceilings are exposed so that you can see the ductwork and wiring, and the floor is cement or wood floor if the builder decided to do a raised wood floor.

Related: What Color to Paint a Basement Ceiling?


Finished vs. Unfinished Basement

A finished basement is when the lower area has been completed to look like a livable space similar or comparable to the main floor of a house. An unfinished basement is when the basement is missing the key components of finished space, such as walls, electricity, plumbing, flooring, ceiling, and heating.


What is a partially finished basement?

When you are looking at houses, your real estate agent may show you a partially finished basement. This is a basement that has a portion of the whole basement is complete. This can be from one room to a larger area, depending on the size of the basement.

A partially finished basement can also be a basement that has been taken to a certain stage (say framing or partition walls, wiring, plumbing pipes, and drywall) but does not have other things that would make the basement in a livable state, such as no flooring, ceiling or millwork.

These are great if you want extra space for a home gym, extra bedroom, and/or bathroom (like an in-law suite), or an office.


What is a semi-finished basement?

A semi-finished basement is a basement that has a partial area that is completely finished and another part that is unfinished. It is a much more affordable option if you are wanting to have extra space but don’t want to finish your basement in its entirety.


When is a basement considered finished?

A basement is considered finished when the space is livable, which means it has walls framed and wired, lighting, flooring, and ceilings completed. 


Do basement bedrooms count? 

Yes! But with a few conditions. The room needs to be over a certain size and there needs to be a window and the window needs to pass egress. Meaning that the window needs to be large enough to escape out in case of being trapped in the room in case of emergency. 

Final thoughts on finished basements

Finishing your basement can be a great way to improve your home value. It is considered a living space that can add to both your home equity and your quality of life by adding more space.

Of course, you could always leave the basement unfinished, but there is something spectacular about basement finishing and the process of going through a basement remodel.

The best part about finishing a basement is that you can improve your total living area and increase your property value. It is an easy home improvement job that you can do parts of yourself and hire a contractor for the parts you aren’t comfortable with.



Click here to find a professional for your basement. 


Related: Does a Finished Basement Need a Sump Pump?

This post may contain affiliate links which go towards keeping this site running. Please see our Disclaimer and Privacy Policy for more. We are a member in the Amazon Affiliate Program. Thank you for your support!