Finishing My Basement
(work in progress)

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All the basement pictures can be viewed by clicking here.


Several years ago I began to think about finishing my basement.  The need to do this project grew ever more apparent after our 3rd child, Jordan, and the realization that there were more toys in the house than there were places to store them.  So, I drew up some plans, the original you can see by clicking here. I chose a small, one-man contractor who has done several decks and a few basements in my neighborhood.  The quality of his work was high, and I knew that I could work with him as far as doing some of the work myself.  For example, I saved $1800 by doing the electrical work myself.  The money saved there will go toward the projector for the theater room.  I will outline the work below and try to include costs wherever possible.

Getting the Quotes:
It's always wise to obtain at least three quotes from different contractors to give yourself an idea of the cost involved with doing your project.  You must have a pretty clear idea of what you want done, making sure to explain it to each contractor, to ensure accurate quotes from all of them.  In our case, we looked at three different contractors, all local to our area.  The three quotes came in at approximately $15K, $10K and $6.5K.  I have to note that the quotes weren't apples to apples.  The highest quote included everything, the middle quote didn't include carpet, and the low bid didn't include the carpet, painting, or electrical.  We thought that money saved by doing the electrical and painting ourselves was worth going with the lowest bid, who was the contractor I was leaning toward anyway.  So, he drew up a plan and a contract, which we agreed to and work began on November 1st.  We also agreed to pay him in four installments, each representing a quarter of the total work performed.  Never pay the full amount up front and ALWAYS withhold the last payment until ALL the work is complete.  No matter what sob story they give you about feeding the kids or the house being foreclosed, don't pay the final payment until all work is complete!


Getting the permit:

Most townships require a permit to finish a basement.  Obtaining the permit yourself is cheaper that having the contractor do it, since he adds a little extra for his time and gas.  To apply for the permit simply stop into your local township building and request one.  You will be required to provide drawings, a rough drawing is really all that is required, and an estimated total cost.  Now, when I filed for my permit I said I was going to do the work myself, and only quoted material costs.  The permit cost was $30 for an estimated $2000 of materials.  There is nothing wrong with saying you'll do the work yourself, then having a contractor do it later.  Remember, the higher the dollar figure you quote, the more the permit.  I actually obtained the permit for our basement almost 2 years ago to escape a new law that requires an emergency exit out of the basement in the form of Bilco doors or a window.  The added cost for a fire exit, had I not gotten my permit be fore the law went into effect, would have been close to $4000 an escape window.  If there were a fire I am sure I could easily get my children out of the small windows that already exist, and even my fat ass too.

Work Begins /  Framing: (1st Week of November, 2005)
Before the contractor would begin work he stressed that the basement must be cleaned out.  Our basement had accumulated the toys and junk from the whole family over the 9 years that we have been in this house and thus a thorough cleaning was needed.  So, with the help of my wife we began the arduous journey.  About a week or two later the garage had been filled with the contents of the basement, minus about 10 Dell computer boxes full of trash and old toys.  So, in reality, we shifted the junk, which consisted mostly of children's toys.

The first thing to be done in the basement is the framing.  It is by far the easiest and quickest portion of the project.  Within a week he had already framed the entire basement and was asking for the second installment of $1600, which I gave him.

Electrical Installation: (2nd Week of November, 2005)
After the framing was completed the next step is the electrical rough-in.  In our township it was not necessary to pull an electrical permit to do the wiring, however, it is necessary to have an electrical underwriter inspect the work after the rough-in and after the sheetrock goes up.  The cost for this inspection was $110, or $55 for each inspection.  This cost was not included in the contractors bid.  If you are going to do any electrical wiring in a structure that requires a permit, check with your township for applicable permits, you will find that most townships are very helpful.  So, I began to wire the basement with no real plan in mind.  A few codes apply:

I ended up breaking it up into 5 new circuits, or breakers, that would be installed into the electrical panel.  The theater area and kids are outlets comprised two, the high hats in the kids area and wall sconces in the theater area counted toward another, the high hats in the theater area made up the forth and I ran a separate 20 amp breaker to the area where the audio equipment would be installed.

I mounted an ample amount of boxes for outlets, 15 in all.  You can never have enough outlets.  I had help from my friend Curt mounting all the high hats.  It was suggested by the contractor that we sheetrock half the ceiling in the basement and use drop ceiling on the other half.  This allowed for almost 8 feet of clearance throughout the basement except the area where the duct work runs, which was boxed in were to be boxed around.

Sheet Rock Installation (1st Week of December, 2005)
In early December we took delivery of 50 sheets of sheetrock.  Later that night it rained really hard.  The next morning when I went into the basement there was about an inch of water on the floor.  The sump pump was unplugged.  I plugged it back in and in about an hour the water was gone, but the damage was done.  The sheetrock was set on the bare floor, instead of on 2x4s, which is recommended.  The water wicked up into the rock and it was ruined, well at least about a foot of the 4 foot side was ruined.  Although I blamed the contractor for the mishap, he clearly showed me that his tools were plugged into another outlet.  So, to this day it is a mystery as to how the sump got unplugged.  I did eventually install a backup DC powered pump that runs off of a deep cycle marine battery.  I'll talk more about that later.

The contractor told me he could cut the damaged sheetrock up and use it, however, there would be taped horizontally instead of vertically and there would be much more sanding and taping required.  I decided to scrap the sheetrock and pay for a new delivery, at a cost of $550.  My brother and neighbor, Nick, carried all 50 sheets of the new sheetrock down while the contractor cut up and handed me the damaged sheetrock out the basement window.  MY brother and neighbor were spent after carrying all that rock.  Thanks guys!