Renovating Your Basement? Here's What You Need to Know

What to expect in terms of timing, cost and insurance when tackling different types of basement projects

A peek inside a basement apartment furnished with white couches and a kitchen table and chairs

Finishing or redoing your basement is never a small project. Whether you’re upgrading the space for your own use or prepping your home for a sale, it’s important to know that some basement renovations are more involved than others.

What to expect if you’re: finishing a basement

How much it could cost: $35 to $45 per square foot.

“Without a bathroom, it’s on the lower end,” says Yan Margulis of Cap-Able Group Basement Renovation, with office locations based in Vaughan and Oakville.

“With a basic three-piece bathroom, it’s more expensive. And as soon as you start adding upgrades, like bedrooms, offices, a kitchenette, a bar or a fireplace, it increases the price.

Estimated timeline: Three to four weeks

Are permits needed: Sometimes. If the renovation involves plumbing or structural work, you’ll need a permit.

Impact on home insurance: Your premiums could go up after the renovation is complete if the value of your home has increased.

What to expect if you’re: putting in a basement apartment

How much it could cost: This type of reno starts at a minimum of $55 per square foot and can go as high as $65, $70 or even $80, Margulis says.

That’s because in legal basement apartments, “a lot of safety building codes come into play, which require a lot of extra materials that are not required for personal basements,” Margulis says. “The cost of the materials overall is quite a bit more expensive and same goes for the labour.”

For example, legal basement apartments must be fire-separated and soundproofed from the rest of the residence.

Estimated timeline: Six weeks, plus time for inspections. Unlike personal-use basements, which are usually inspected once, basement apartments must be inspected at each stage of the process: framing, insulation, HVAC and plumbing.

Are permits needed: Yes. This type of reno requires a second-dwelling permit, and it must be stamped by an engineer.

Impact on home insurance: It’s important to notify your insurance provider about your new tenants as they may impact your premium.

What to expect if you’re: waterproofing a basement

How much it could cost: Expect to pay $50 to $70 per linear foot if the contractor is waterproofing your basement from the inside, and 20 to 30 per cent more than that if they’ll be digging around the perimeter of your home to waterproof from the outside.

Estimated timeline: Two to four days for interior waterproofing and a week for exterior, depending on the weather.

Are permits needed: It depends. If there are excavations or structural changes a permit is required in Toronto.

Impact on home insurance:Your premiums will stay the same for waterproofing, however they may decrease if you install a backwater valve or sump pump with a battery. Purchasing CAA Water Coverage is a good idea if you need coverage for potential flood losses.

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Image credit: iStock.com/drewhadley

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