Finish a Basement: A DIY remodeling adventure!
Take all the steps to plan your basement remodeling project to get you started on a beautiful finished basement!

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Check here for information on the tasks you'll need to complete to finish your basement. Complete with the lessons we learned as we remodeled our basement, and tips to help you avoid some of the mistakes we made.
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>Home >Project Planning >Contractor or DIY?

Contractor or DIY remodeling project?

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Basement remodelingTake a long, hard look at your skill set before deciding to make this a do-it-yourself project. How much experience do you have in completing some of the tasks? Have you ever built a wall? Wired electrical outlets? Hammered a nail? Are you willing to put in the time and effort it takes to complete the project?

The good news is that many of the tasks aren't too difficult, and rely on common sense. Think of your basement as a blank canvas just waiting for your artistic touch!

If you do decide to make this a DIY project, remember there are still certain pieces you may want to leave to a professional. Unless you're experienced, you may opt to leave things like plumbing and electrical to the professionals.

Interviewing remodeling contractors

We interviewed three contractors before we decided to go it alone. We had a range of prices which seemed to relate directly to the level of professionalism of the companies.

When you interview contractors, pay careful attention to the way they treat you. If they arrive late, or seem unprofessional in any way, think twice. If they treat you poorly when they're trying to get your business, why would they treat you any better after they have your check in hand?

Here's a look at our contractor search...

Rermodeling blueprintsContractor 1: The first company we interviewed is a home improvement and remodeling company based in Canton, Michigan. An interior designer came out with a glossy brochure and an impressive portfolio with references. The company had done remodeling work for several doctors, athletes, and the like, with impressive (and expensive!) results.

It was a bit intimidating, and although it felt like being on "Designer's Challenge" on HGTV, we felt the company was a bit out of our league. Their basements started at $30,000 (for 1,000 sq feet), and went up from there. With some of the customization we would need, my wife and I expected the final cost would end up closer to $50,000. We opted to pass, and waited for contractor #2 who was coming the next day.

Contractor 2: This guy was to polar opposite of the designer who came the day before. He runs the business from his house, and subcontracts most of the work. He came highly recommended, so we had high hopes.


Remodeling contractorsHis 'portfolio' was a stack of snapshots taken over the past several years. Come on dude- invest $5 in a decent photo album! It would make a world of difference! He was very unprofessional, and a few times, suggested 'shortcuts' to finishing the basement that were not up to code, or maybe even illegal. (His reasoning was "who's gonna know?") He also made a few 'off color' comments that I found offensive.

To make matters worse, he never actually gave me an estimate! The day he was supposed to bring it over (he wouldn't tell me over the phone) he cancelled due to bad weather. When I asked him to e-mail the estimate details, he said "I don't really use a computer. But my wife can mail itbut my computer is brokenbut she can use the neighbor's." blah, blah, blah STILL waiting on that estimate! Any day now.

Contractor 3: This company is a local family-operated business run by brothers, and started by Grandpa. I found them on the Internet. They had a decent Web site, but nothing special.

Basement remodeling contractorOne of the owners came out. He showed up on time, was very professional, and put together a detailed competitive estimate. The only negative was he didn't bring any pictures of their work. (They were in his work van which was 'in the shop'.)

His estimate was about $23,000. This included most of what we need; however, it didn't include priming, painting, and/or carpeting (services they don't offer.) When I estimated my materials costs (about 12k) versus what they were providing, I decided to do it myself.

I figured it would be a good learning experience (plus I could use the money I saved to pay for my home theater!) One thing that surprised me is that neither of the two companies followed-up with me after the estimate. In one way it's great to not get a 'hard sell', but they may have been able to persuade me to use their services with the right approach. Hmm.

Anyway, my DIY project was now a GO!


Planning Topics

Getting started

Deciding what you want

Project planning tools

Establishing a budget

Hire a contractor? Or do it yourself?

Basement waterproofing

Clearing out the junk

Getting an education

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