How much does it cost to finish a basement and make it a rental?

Asked by Chris, Washington, DC Tue May 29, 2007

My basement is already finished but I need to dig out a front door and dig down about three feet to make the ceilings higher. I already have a full bath that I would not have to dig down but I would need to put in a kitchen. Any ideas on how much something like this would cost?

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Jason, Home Owner, Virginia
Mon Mar 12, 2012
Chris -

A finished basement can run from 8k to 15k if you do the work yourself. If you hire a contractor I'd put the estimate at 20 to 35k. Tack on another 5k to decorate and add security, to make it easier to rent and maintain.

I finished my 1800 sq. ft. basement for 12,500 in under a year on the weekends. Check out the website below, it's got some cool articles about doing it yourself. It's not for everyone but it was great for me.

1 vote
I would imagine it would get pretty costly if you need to completely finish your basement and you're planning on putting in a kitchen. It will probably cost more depending on what materials you use. I agree with this answer though. It might be on the higher end.
Flag Tue May 12, 2015
Jay, Both Buyer And Seller, Captiol Hill
Wed Feb 20, 2008
You can get a basic font entrance put in for $8000 or possibly a bit less, but it could cost you as much as $15k depending on loactions of utilities and the amount of digging required. If you need 3' then you will likely be doing under-pinning, and that will cost you $40 a foot of perimeter wall, on top of your excavation costs. If you go down 3' you could also have to use a pump to make your basement bath remove waste because you may make your floor below the sewer grade. You could also look into bench-pinning, a cheaper way of underpinning that allows you to avoid underpinnning. This would only work if you need to go down say a foot or less. DC requires a 7' minimum ceiling height. My current project needs 2 inches of height to make the unit legal. I plan to dig down a foot, pour a bench footing and then repour my floor. Hopefully I will get to about 7'-6" and I will only lose about six inches of floor space on every wall. From what I have found a general basement dig and renovation can run from $50k to $150k depending on depth of dig, square footage and level of features. I am planning the most basic of basement digs at my house and I expect it to cost $50k minimum.
1 vote
Lanre Folayan, Agent, Washington, DC
Sun Feb 17, 2008
Can't give you a price on that -Sorry. However,please go to and you will find a list of contractors in your area. Some I am sure will give you a free estimate. Good luck to you.
1 vote
djennifer009, , Salt Lake City, UT
Tue Mar 17, 2015
This is something you need to talk to a professional about. For such a specific structural renovation, you'll want to get quotes and find a licensed contractor. Then they can answer your questions directly. This isn't a project I would recommend attempting alone.
0 votes
Susan Isaacs, Agent, Washington, DC
Thu Mar 15, 2012
It depends on the house and what's already in place. For a legal rental with a CofO (Certificate of Occupancy), you'll need to comply with DC codes for basement rentals. If you pay a visit to DC's building dept., you can get some valuable advice and instructions (including updates) after reading the link Jason provided below. Sometimes it can cost more to convert to a legal rental than it would be worth. Run the numbers. Factor in the length of time you intend to keep the property, rent amount(s), maintenance, carry costs for times when the unit isn't rented, etc.
Be sure to get the DC business license required for landlords as well.
Good luck!
0 votes
Alan Thompson, Both Buyer And Seller, 20001
Fri Sep 28, 2007
I've heard quotes for up to 80K for a dig, re-pour, then furring out the walls, putting in sheetrock, plumbing, and electrical wiring. It depends too what you mean by not having to dig down for the bathroom - if the rest of the floor is 3' lower, I'm not sure I follow you. Kitchen costs vary wildly - depends on the quality of the cabinets, which can run from 3k to 15k, the countertops, for granite, think $35 per sq. foot, plus about 4k for appliances.

Good luck.
0 votes
Jim, , Washington, DC
Thu Sep 27, 2007
As you dig down, be careful not go below the old foundation or undermine the foundation or you may collapse your house, and possibly your neighbor's also if you share a common wall.

If you find that you will need to eventually go below your old foundation to get the required ceiling height, get bids from an experienced contractor who has done underpinning in the past. And get a permit.
0 votes
Trulia Roger, Home Buyer, Alameda, CA
Tue May 29, 2007
It all depends on how nice you want to make your improvements. The must-have granite countertops can be pricey, as are the trendy stainless steel appliances (I just saw a pretty ordinary stainless steel fridge at Home Depot listed at $1500). I'd say budget $3000 for basic appliances, for starters.
As far as demo or construction work goes, it pays to do everything by the book, with permits. This is because when you sell your house, you can actually claim the legal improvements in the listing.
If you're tempted to do everything yourself, I read somewhere (This Old House Magazine, I think) a convincing argument against being your own general contractor and in favor of hiring one. If you're the general contractor, all the liability is on you. If anyone working on your property gets injured, you and your homeowner's insurance are liable. Instead, get a construction attorney, all the permits and a general contractor, and let the pros do what they're good at.
Of course if you are a licensed contractor that's a different story.
0 votes
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