A warning to the weak willed! A basement renovation can be trying to your patience, the patience of your co-dwellers, and that of your credit card! That said, it's also a whole lot of fun! After all, who wouldn't want to smash stuff with a giant hammer, fill a room with concrete dust, or paste huge sheets of styrofoam to the walls? Yeah, I couldn't think of anyone either.

This is a massive instructable, containing over 430 photos for your viewing pleasure. The different stages of the renovation will be separated by title pages, where you'll find a list of the tools you'll probably need, and materials you'll likely use. Feel free to use any or all of the different sections in your own renovation as required.

Now for the disclaimer: I am not a general contractor, nor do I have any construction training per se. However, I'm a very handy guy, I read a lot of books and how-to websites, and got plenty of help from my elders. The information presented in this instructable is as accurate as I could manage, and chances are nothing will go terribly wrong. If you're ever unsure of what you're doing, then stop, step back, and take a few minutes to think about it. Read instructions over again or find a second opinion.

Now, grab your sledge hammer and demolition saw, it's time to get started!


Planning and Permits
Foundation Inspection
Repairs and Waterproofing
Built-in shelving
Baseboards and Trim
Final Steps and Conclusion

Step 1: Planning

OK, put the sledge and saw back down, you won't need them for a while. Instead, grab a tape measure, some graph paper and a pencil. It's time to make some plans.

First, draw a scale drawing of the space you're planning to renovate. Include the outside walls, interior supporting walls, existing doors and windows, existing ductwork, plumbing fixtures, and any other immovable objects in the room. You likely won't be touching these (and I won't tell you how!) so you'll have to plan around them.

Next you have to consider what the new space will be used for. Are you going to put in a bathroom? An extra bedroom? Perhaps a workshop or office... Take your time to really think about what you want to build down there. After all, it will be more or less permanent, so you want it to be a useful space for a long time. You should also resist the urge to carve up a basement space into a lot of small rooms - it will end up feeling like a dungeon.

Also remember that each type of room will have a few requirements stipulated by your local building code that you must follow. For instance, a bedroom will probably need a large window for egress (emergency exit) if there is no secondary exit in the basement. Take these requirements into consideration as you make your plans so that you don't get stuck later on (or worse yet, receive a failing grade from the building inspector!)

In this instructable I will be using my own renovation as an example. I started with an 11x22 foot space that was divided into two rooms, a workshop and an empty room. Well, empty aside from a rather quaint toilet stall!
Hi..what laser level were you using? I've been looking for one that wont cost a fortune.
Extremely helpful! Hat off to you!
Looks nice! I was wondering how your floor is holding up after a few years. I've been doing some research on waterproofing my basement and I have not seen anyone else use that type of vapor barrier...just other (and much more expensive) options that I am hoping to avoid. Have you had any problems with moisture seeping through or causing problems underneath the flooring?
No moisture or mold issues as far as I can tell. But, we have a relatively dry basement. Before starting on a basement flooring project I'd suggest doing a moisture test - tape a 1 square meter piece of plastic to the floor and let it sit for a week or two. If no water condenses under the plastic in that time, then you're good to go!
Good to know, thanks! I just found out during the inspection that the house I'm buying has already been waterproofed, so at least that part is already taken care of :) Will still do a moisture test regardless.
Most likely, those are spaced like that (the staggered pieces between the studs) as a fire block. This is code in some areas. It prevents, or at the very least slows the spread of fire up the interior of the wall. Homes built without these in an exterior wall may find their attic on fire before they even know there is a fire in the wall.
Think I'd be wearing steel toe cap boots during the demolition. Nails through the instep are not nice....<br />
Agreed.&nbsp; And for most of the renovation, I did!&nbsp; Many of the pictures taken here were, *ahem*, posed a little...&nbsp; ;)<br />
Beautiful work, and a stunningly complete 'ible<br /> Well done. <br /> Steve<br />
Thanks.<br /> <br /> I have plans to do a bathroom this summer.&nbsp; Hopefully I'll find the time to do it!<br />
&nbsp;Did you have to use anything to hold the foamboards in place while the PL300 was curing or are they light enough not to require that? (The user manual that comes with it says you need to use some type of a fastener to keep things under pressure until cured. ) Also, how long did it take in your case to dry?<br /> <br />
Nothing in particular.&nbsp; I stuck the boards down, pulled them off for a minute or two, then stuck them back on as per instructions.&nbsp; After that, they stuck all by themselves quite nicely.&nbsp; The foam boards aren't heavy at all, and PL300 is very, very sticky.<br /> <br /> I'm not sure how long they took to dry.&nbsp; Unused glue squeezed from the tube and left in the open air took about a day to get rock hard.<br />
&nbsp;What would happen if/when adhesive eventually fails? Would &nbsp;you rely on the studs holding the foam and things remaining airtight?
Presumably the adhesive is intended to be permanent.&nbsp; But, in the unlikely event that it does fail, the second layer of insulation pasted on top, plus the tape, plus the studs on top should hold it in place.<br />
I love Roxul too, I'm planning to use it for my basement reno, as well.<br /> but dude, Roxul isn't fiberglass -- it's mineral fiber, so it doens't make you as itchy as fiberglass though.&nbsp; You still need the breathing / eye protection like you describe. :D<br />
Yeah, someone informed me of my mistake on a different step.&nbsp; Whoops!&nbsp; But, it doesn't really matter which you use; either fiberglass or mineral fiber (aka rock wool) will work here.<br />
Have you noticed a significant change in your energy bill from the fiberglass insulation? I'm debating on whether or not it's necessary with the foam panels...I am on a very limited budget...<br />
Hard to say how much more of a difference the fiberglass makes, since it was installed at the same time as the foam.&nbsp; The top of the wall feels *slightly* warmer than the bottom, but that may be because heat rises.<br /> <br /> Think about it this way:&nbsp; a basement renovation is something you're likely to do once.&nbsp; It'll cost a few hundred more to pack in more insulation, but in the long run it's worth doing really well.&nbsp; The foam panels will likely give you your minimum R-value to meet code, but I'm a fan of exceeding code where possible.<br />
amazing instructable!!
Thanks very much for putting this together. It has given me the confidence to attempt this huge task myself.
No problem! Breaking it into smaller parts, taking time to think things through, and asking lots of questions (and asking for help!) will help you get through it. Oh, and one other thing: Don't lose your momentum. Always do something every day, and don't do anything else until it's done. Make sure that everyone else in the household understands this as well.
That is excellent advise! I will definitely follow it. Thanks again! Eric
very thorough. lots of detail in lots of different trades. well done.
You say you used 1<em> thick foam board but under materials you say you need 2</em> thick foam board. Which one did you use? BTW this instructable is a lot of help!<br/>
Thanks for catching that! It is indeed 2" thick foam.
I have a question about the drywall... I read somewhere eles that the proper way to install wall drywall is to use the sheets HORIZONTALLY and to never butt a seam up against the edge of a door casement or window. Instead, you're supposed to cover OVER the door/window opening and overlap at least 14" and then "cut out" the opening. Putting the seam (I read) against the door is inviting a crack in the wall. You're also supposed to stagger the seams so that the sheetrock can never crack all th way up or down - only the width of a sheet. You, however, put the sheets in vertically which does seem amazingly easy - having the seams lone up every time on a stud is a wonderful time saver. How is this holding up for you? Any cracking? Are the "rules" (if they are in fact rules and not hearsay) different since these are not load bearing walls perhaps? Thanks so much for what I think is the BEST Instructable! I plan to do a basement now because of this!!
Well, according to what I've read you can do it either way. In my case, I had to actually cut a foot off the end of every piece of drywall before it would fit in the house (another poor renovation idea from the previous owner!) Every piece ended up being just a few inches taller than the height of the room. If I had put the drywall in horizontally, I would have ended up with a ton of scrap drywall. It's also true that having the tapered edges line up (instead of the butt ends) made for nice, smooth transitions when mudding the wall. But as I said before, you can do it either way, because either way is correct. Just make sure that the drywall is elevated about 1/4" off the concrete floor, to prevent moisture penetration (this is important for vertical or horizontal installation). Regarding cracks around the door, I guess the thought is that vibrations from slamming the door are transferred into the drywall. I did leave a small gap between the frame and the drywall (later covered by trim) so that shouldn't be a problem. Last, about the window. I see no reason why you can't cut the drywall to fit. I measured the stud wall behind to fit exactly, knowing ahead of time how the window box would attach. Perhaps leaving a bit of extra is a good idea if you're unsure about how a window will fit in, though. So far the walls remain flawless, despite being drilled into to support a large wall-supported desk (Instructable for that coming soon!) Best of luck on your own renovation!
Ah... that makes sense about the vibration into the wall. So the gap was covered by trim - that's a good way to do it - I'll keep that in mind. In my planned renovation there's only one door, leading to an unfinished storage area, so that sounds pretty simple. Thanks again for taking the time to document all this - it's VERY helpful. Before reading this I was just resigned to paying someone to do this, but seeing how you broke the large task up into a series of not-too-hard smaller steps has inspired me. Can't wait for the desk Instructable! Best of luck to you... -Matt
Yup, I think the key with a DIY renovation like this (and something I often hear repeated on many DIY TV shows) is to break up tasks into smaller pieces, and work on one room at a time. Don't start another project until you finish the first one! The desk is easy (and nearly finished); thanks for the encouragement. It should be exactly what I need, and hopefully exactly what a few others will need, too!
Can I ask you what laser level you ended up using? Most of the ones I'm seeing only say they draw a horizontal line... looks like that's a tool with a bazillion uses. Looking forward to the desk - thanks again.
I bought it at Canadian Tire, it is their own house brand (Mastercraft). I'm not sure where to get something similar in the States. Perhaps it could be the subject of a very useful Instructable - it's basically a laser module with a line-drawing lens attached to a short pendulum, with a weight on the end.
I see you left quite a space around the windows. Why? And also what about the water line. Will the fiberglass batt insulation in the stud wall be sufficient?
At the time, I had not yet replaced the windows. I decided to leave a bit of extra space around the window for the upcoming window replacement. The extra space was later filled with insulation. I'm not sure what you mean about the fiberglass insulation being sufficient...
Wow, a lot of details! I'll keep notes of these tricks. (The little girl on the picture is so cute! Is it your daughter?) I really like all your Instructables.. I'll try making nice pumpkin like your's next halloween. -Sam
Yes, she's my daughter - I'm doing my best to raiser her into a great Maker! Thanks for all the compliments. :)
Are you saying the floor should be moisture proofed as well as the wall?
Yes, that would be ideal. There are a number of different paints and epoxies that are designed for sealing bare concrete walls and floors.
What's the difference between the Foam Adhesive and the 'Great Stuff' insulating foam?
Foam adhesive is used to stick foam to other objects, ie. a concrete wall. It's special because it doesn't dissolve the foam like other construction adhesives do. "Great Stuff" is a spray-on expanding foam insulation that comes in an aerosol can. It's useful for spraying into small nooks and crannies that are difficult to insulate with pink foam or fiberglass.
Instructables like this make this website so great! Awesome! I have done 2 basements now, and I have run into various problems. I was unable to do anything like you did, as the floor was already finished with stamped concrete before I was to do framing, and the joists were 7' 10" above the floor. Thanks for the instructable!
Thanks! I bet your renos looked great when they were done... What did you end up doing with the stamped concrete floor?
The stamped concrete was irregular as you could imagine, but for fastening the bottom plate to the floor I used a masonry bit to drill through. It caused the floor to come up in chips and chunks, which were re attached using epoxy. It was decided to do the floor before the walls and such to ensure that the concrete wouldn't create a huge mess, which it did anyway. All in all, an enjoyable project!
What an absolutely stunning instructable! It's about twenty instructables in one. I feel empowered just from reading it. There area lot of great tips in there that could be used in all manner of other projects and you really have covered everything. This isn't the sort of DIY project I would have considered taking on but by being so thorough in your instructions you have made it very accessible and removed the fear factor of "how would I..." Very, very well done, and thanks.
I was a bit apprehensive myself. On a whole, a job like this is daunting. But, if you break it up into smaller parts it becomes far more manageable. I also got a lot of help from friends and family who had done this sort of thing before, which helped a whole lot. If you don't have a resource like that then I hope this instructable is a reasonable substitute. :)
Wow! Where to start?! This is an incredible instructable and certainly the most thorough (for such a large project) that I've ever seen. I rated it five stars, and I would vote for it twice in the contest if I could! I consider myself an advanced do-it-yourselfer, and still learned some good tidbits by reading through this thing. It's also inspiring and motivating to see how nice your basement looks now and to think about how nice it must be to hang out in. Mine is unfinished and raw - probably better than poorly finished but not very comfy. I'm interested in the research behind gluing the foam board directly to the concrete. I live in an older house (1928), and have a reasonably dry basement except when the gutters get backed up. I'm interested in insulating but not 100% finishing. (ie, leave the floors just painted concrete.) If water does get between the foam and foundation, would it leach back out okay or would that present a serious mold danger? Thanks for taking the time to document this and post it.
Thanks! The best thing to do in your case, if possible, is to insulate and seal from the outside of your house. There is a product that is like a thick plastic sheet (much thicker, sturdier, and resistant to moisture than vapor barrier) that wraps around the foundation of your house to seal out everything. You may apply it on top of foam insulation if you like. Another thing to look into is spray-on foam insulation. I've seen it used on a few DIY shows, and it is available at big box home renovation stores. You basically haul home a few tanks of this stuff along with a spraying wand (and respirator gear), and spray it directly onto the walls. It would provide the absolute best seal against moisture, with no air gap and nowhere for water to go. You will need to check that it can withstand the amount of seepage that you're contending with, though. Stud walls could then be built on top.
Kudos for having the patience and attention span requisite for Instructablifying a whole basement renovation. Now, with congratulations being congratulated, on with the nit-picking (or, if you will, constructive criticism). 1) The folks at Owens Corning will no doubt be glad that mineral fibre or rock wool insulation is referred to herein as "fiberglass". Please give the Roxul folks credit for their (in my opinion) superior product. 2) Your wall studs could easily be at 24" OC, as they are only holding up drywall and not any overhead loads. Would save a lot of wood. Anyhoo, nice job. Mike Holmes would probably approve. (If Mike saw what previous owners have done to my house, he'd likely choke on his Nescafé.)
LOL.. if Mike saw the "reno" that happened to be the polished turd I'm living in, you'd have to hide every means of "self harm" available. I did not renovate it, otherwise I'd probably have knocked down the building and built new!

About This Instructable




Bio: By day, Jeff is the Jack of All Robots at Clearpath Robotics. By night, a mad scientist / hacker / artist / industrial designer wannabe!
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