Refinishing a basement is a major project that requires a lot of skill.
DIYing can save you money and give you a more custom design.
Hiring a pro is safer and more efficient.
The best decision depends on your refinishing project and your own DIY experience.
While any basement space—finished or not—is handy to have for storage, a finished basement gives you more room for hosting movie nights, having overnight guests, or simply doing laundry in a more attractive space. But if you’re considering finishing a basement, you may be wondering whether it’s worth it to hire a pro or handle the project yourself.
Like with any project, there are pros and cons to DIYing vs. hiring a pro for basement refinishing. From cost to safety to the project timeline, here are some things to consider before finishing a basement.
Benefits of DIY Basement Finishing
If you have some serious DIY skills, you may want to consider finishing your basement on your own. Some major benefits include the cost and customization, plus you can move on your own timeline, working around family schedules to get things done.
Low Upfront Costs
Depending on the materials and tools you buy, you may spend less upfront to DIY compared to working with a pro, which will cost more for labor plus the materials. The cost to finish a basement can range from $2,800 and $34,500, including up to $2,000 to pull building permits. You may save about 20% of upfront costs compared to hiring a contractor.
With a little more money in your pocket from DIY basement finishing, you can spend more on customizations for things like flooring and wall paneling or new furnishings or laundry appliances. You also have more flexibility on the design choices without having to weigh opinions of others.
Set Your Own Pace
When you’re handling a basement finishing project on your own, you can complete it on your own timeline. Of course, the project will likely take longer than if you hire a pro, but you don’t have to listen to hammering while you work from home. If you want a break from the construction, you can take one.
Disadvantages of Finishing a Basement Yourself
Finishing a basement is a massive undertaking, especially if you need to install plumbing or electrical wiring. This can be a long, dangerous, and costly project, especially when you decide to go it alone.
Working on your own timeline can be good—or bad. Even those with good time management skills may find it difficult to know how to juggle multiple components of this overall job at once. Would it be more efficient to work on wall paneling first, or should you start with the floors? A pro knows the best, most efficient order to do these tasks, but it can be harder to know where to start when you DIY.
High Level of Responsibility
When you decide to finish a basement yourself, you’ll be responsible for everything from pulling building permits to keeping others who you recruit to help you safe. You’ll need to make some tough decisions and handle the project budget all on your own.
Contractors have likely worked on many similar projects in the past, so they know what to expect and can estimate any potential issues or customizations in their pricing. When you DIY, you may come across a leaky pipe that needs fixed before you move forward, or you may experience some sticker shock when choosing moisture-resistant floors for the basement.
Pros of Hiring a Contractor to Finish Your Basement
There are many benefits to hiring contractors to finish your basement. While you might spend a little more upfront, you’re less likely to face surprise costs along the way and blow your budget. Plus, the project will get done safely and quickly.
Less Management Responsibility
When you hire a contractor to finish a basement, that person takes charge of the project. They can oversee the work, leaving you off the hook for tracking down materials, pulling building permits from the city, or keeping everyone safe.
One of the biggest, most important benefits to hiring a professional is safety. A good contractor will be certified and insured, so they will know how to do difficult tasks safely. Even if you decide to tackle some of the basement project yourself, it’s worth hiring pros for dangerous tasks like electrical work.
When you hire a pro, you don’t have to wait until evenings and weekends to work toward your new basement. Instead, the work is being completed while you’re at the office, so the project timeline moves faster. A team of professionals also know the best order to complete the project tasks, and there’s no time spent backtracking as there can be when you DIY and make mistakes.
Stay on Budget
Any project completed on your own or by a pro can accrue unexpected costs, but you’re likely to see more of that when you DIY. A contractor will be able to keep the project in line with the budget you outlined in the contract, and they can help you make choices to save money or splurge along the way depending on your budget and vision for the space.
Disadvantages of Hiring a Pro for Basement Finishing
There are plenty of benefits to hiring a pro, but there are a couple of things to keep in mind before you sign any contracts.
Higher Upfront Costs
Hiring a contractor may add 10% to 25% more to the upfront cost of the project, with many basement finishing projects costing about 20% more for labor. If you’re on a very tight budget, it may be more cost-effective to DIY. Just keep in mind that while the upfront cost can be higher when hiring a pro, they are better able to manage any unexpected costs along the way, which could save you money down the line.
Most contractors will be communicative, show up to work on time each day, and stick to the budget and the project timeline. But keep an eye out for basement remodeler red flags before you hire someone to finish your basement. Make sure the person you hire is insured, licensed, and bonded and comes with positive reviews and strong testimonials from former clients to minimize the risk of working with someone unreliable.
Which One is the Better Option?
Ultimately, choosing to DIY or hire a contractor depends on your project. If you have extensive DIY experience and can do the job safely, it may be worth finishing the basement yourself. But if you have a packed schedule that leaves you with little time to break out the tools and hardware, hiring a pro is the way to go. It’s also safer to hire a contractor to manage the project.
If you’re still unsure which direction to take, you can also consider a hybrid approach: hire a contractor for the parts you don’t know how to do or don’t have time to tackle, but save money by doing some tasks, like painting the walls or hooking up a new washer and dryer, yourself.