Basement Buildout: Planning


June 19, 2013 by drandmrso

Our current abode is a split-entry with an unfinished basement. While the “stairs-in-your-face” layout wasn’t what I had in mind when we were house shopping, it’s nearly unavoidable in our area, especially in our price range. And since we already know that we’ll only be in this house for five years (for Dr. O’s residency), the priorities of resale and budget beat out the aesthetic of a split-entry. Here’s a lovely example of a split-entry from This Sorta Old Life in case you don’t know what I’m rambling about:

Split Entry from This Sorta Old Life

In our case the stairs are carpeted and there are actually two doors on the teeny-weeny landing (one goes outside, one to the garage). The stairs going up lead to our living room, kitchen, bathroom, and two bedrooms; the stairs going down lead to nothing but concrete.

And we’re going to change that.

You heard right: we’re finishing our basement! I’m really excited to tackle this project. Not only will it up the resale value of our house, it will provide double the finished square footage to enjoy. We’re hopefully going to DIY a lot of it (as in almost all of it). But it all needs to start with a plan.

We currently have three main options (plus tons of little detail choices within each), and two that are actually reasonable to me. I created a free account with to draw out our ideas (note: these are pretty close to the actual measurements, but certainly aren’t exact), and I used the same bed, couch, and desk in each drawing to provide context for the size of the rooms. Here we go!

Option 1: Two Too Small Rooms

That was not a typo. This first plan would up us from 2 to 4 bedrooms total, but both of the new ones in the basement would be super tiny. I’m not even sure the top one in the diagram would meet building code for square footage in a bedroom. This choice is all but crossed off the list.

Itty bitty

Itty bitty

Option 2: Ensuite Kinda Sour

This is the first of two choices in which the master bedroom is relocated from the current location (upstairs, no walk-in closet, no ensuite bathroom) to the basement. In Option 2, the master would be on the right when you come downstairs and it calls for an ensuite bathroom (also accessible from a hallway door) accessed via a little bonus space after passing through a walk-through closet. This layout utilizes the two windows on that half of the basement, but is it just too much space? Do people shopping in this price point want or need an ensuite bathroom if it means having a sitting room in the master as well?

Yes, that's a chaise lounge. Because what else would you put in a master bedroom sitting area?

Yes, that’s a chaise lounge. Because what else would you put in a master bedroom sitting area?

Option 3: I Like Big Storage and I Cannot Lie

This option also moves the master bedroom from upstairs to down, but doesn’t allow for a connection to the bathroom. What is does have is storage, baby, and lots of it. The laundry room area would remain unfinished, and I’ve drawn out not one but TWO closets in the master. The one under the stairs would have a hefty angle in the ceiling.

Two closets! Squee!

Two closets! Squee!

Before you share all of your wonderful ideas that I haven’t thought of yet (and please do!), let me clarify a few points:

  • The bathroom has to stay where it is in these drawings. It’s already plumbed and we are not made of money.
  • Similarly, the utilities need to stay where they are.
  • We need access to that white circle under the stairs in the drawings (it’s a sump pump). Hence the weird, shadowy-looking door in the third option.
  • All of the windows in the basement meet egress code so any of them can be in a bedroom.
  • The furniture I put in the drawings is approximately to scale (king size bed, standard 72″ tub, etc.).
  • We were blessed with 8′ basement ceilings. Holla!

So what do you think, guys? Keep in mind we’ve only got four years left in this house and resale is our priority for all of these decisions. I want to hear all of your basement finishing experiences/thoughts/dreams/advice!

3 thoughts on “Basement Buildout: Planning

  1. Gail Cook says:

    Making the main bedromm down stairs may be good for you but it may make it hard to sell. Parents don’t like to be that far away from there babies/young children. My friend has that in her house and that is one of the biggest deterents to selling it. While storage is a big thing if you do make 2 bedrooms down stairs you always can use one for storage and still have the option to make it a bedroom or computer room. Do you know any real estate agents to consult?

  2. Diana says:

    Actually, I think I like the first option the best. Yeah, it may be a little boring, but I think you will get the most bang for your bucks. If you are only going to be in this house another 4 years, I would do the 2 bedrooms versus 1 (although I love the sitting area!) You would be able to list your house as a 4-bed 2-bath house for resale instead of 3 bedrooms. I like the chaise near the large set of windows, because I think it would be better to have more natural light in a family room versus a bedroom.

  3. Steph says:

    4 years is a long time! I would go #2 so you have a big room and then you can still have a big closet and a place to read or relax! You could shorten the living room and add another big closet/storage area towards the laundry side of room! Another thought: walk out door to the beer garden!

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