Finishing your basement and maximizing the return on your investment

Home improvements are usually done to increase your home satisfaction, but unless you plan on living in the same house forever you should also consider how they affect your home’s overall value.

Finishing your basement can yield up to a 70% return on your investment at resale according to Remodeling Magazine’s 2013 Cost vs.Value Report.

These tips will help you plan for your basement renovation needs with a focus on resale value:

  • Increase Space – Finishing your basement is a cost-effective way to get more usable square footage without having to build an addition on your home. A finished basement utilizes a large unused space in your home.
  • Increase Functionality Determine how to finish your basement to best address your needs. This might be adding more bedrooms, bathrooms, storage area, a home theatre, or a rental. Be sure to check with your municipality to ensure what you have planned is allowed.
  • Plan Ahead – Get a few professional quotations to help you determine what is possible within your budget.  This may include an architect or draftsman to design the job and provide drawings, a contractor to build it and an interior designer to make your dreams become reality. If you are a do- it-yourselfer look online, in magazines and price out various finishes and products.
  • Start with a Solid Structure – Fix any foundation problems first and any structural issues with your home. Professional engineering help will be required for assessing load capacity, excavating and fixing foundation issues.

Comfort Control  – Address any potential dampness issues before your renovation starts. A dehumidifier or air conditioner may be required in summer months. Ensure you have proper heating and cooling distribution which may mean installing or relocating registers and/or adding cold air returns. See my blog post ‘Dealing with Dampness’.

  • Insulation – Fixing moisture issues before you begin will increase the thermal performance of your insulation. Apply waterproof paint to masonry walls and ensure exterior walls contain a proper vapour barrier. Research the various insulation types and look at upgrading existing insulation to a higher R-value before you finish the interior. Consider conducting a before and after energy audit to have to present to any future buyers to show you have made improvements to have an energy efficient home.
  • Lighting – Adding extra lighting or increasing the natural light in your basement by adding or enlarging windows is a great investment. An engineer should ensure the surrounding walls can support the increased structural load.  Recessed lighting (potlights) are a popular choice in today’s homes.
  • Flooring – Choose appropriate materials for your flooring. Carpeting, hardwood and some laminates are generally not recommended due to higher moisture in basements. Consider installing a vapour barrier and a product which acts as an insulator below the flooring. Research the product you want to use to ensure it can be used below grade.
  • Ceilings – Consider a suspended ceiling to allow easy access to the plumbing, electricity and ductwork. Drywall doesn’t offer these benefits, but is often chosen for it’s more clean and polished appearance. If drywall is chosen include access panels for water and gas shutoffs.
  • Drawings and Permits – Work with an Architect or Draftsman to draw up a plan that outlines your vision. Complete any applications for required permits and inspections. Check first with your municipality for requirements and restrictions.

Interview a few contractors, ensuring they are licensed and insured. Ask for past references and examples of work they have previously done.  Compare quotes and pick someone that you feel comfortable dealing with. Your completed basement renovation will not only increase the resale of your home but will add new useable space for you to enjoy.

If you are interested in more home improvements to increase you home value you can request my Free “Room by Room Review” booklet which includes ‘101 Quick & Easy Ways to Make Your Home Show like A Model Home’

Renovating your bathroom can increase your home’s resale potential

If you are a homeowner planning renovations to your home you should consider upgrades that will increase your home’s resale potential.  A renovation to a bathroom generally provides a solid return on your investment. A recent House Staging Report found that 73 per cent of potential buyers would be willing to pay a premium for a home that featured a renovated bathroom.

Start by measuring the space and sketching out a layout for your new bathroom. Remember that the layout of the new bathroom doesn’t necessarily have to be the same as the old one. A new approach is to not make the toilet a focal point. A partial wall will give a sense of privacy and block the eye, without chopping up the space the way a full wall might.

When it comes to lighting, think versatility. You will want brilliant illumination by the mirror and the option of more subdued ambience when soaking in the tub.

If you have an old linen closet, consider converting the façade to resemble a cabinet and perhaps take it right to the ceiling.

Bathrooms are heavy traffic areas, so remember to choose tough, easy to clean surfaces, moisture-resistant paint and non-slip flooring. Ensure you have a bathroom fan that meets your humility requirements. If you install a whirlpool tub for example you may need to upgrade to a more powerful fan to expel the extra steam and moisture.

Take design cues from your fixtures. The soft lines of oval shapes and the curves of pedestal sinks will feel very different from the artsy, ultra-modern look created by angular choices.

Before you buy a bathtub, try it out by sitting in it. Based on your height and the space available, you may want a longer or deeper tub than is standard. Or you may decide that you’ll do without one entirely, in favor of a large open shower space.

Keep in mind your budget when doing any renovations.  A concern when upgrading rooms to increase your home’s resale value is not to overspend.  There is a ceiling to how much your home can be worth. If you live in a $200,000 townhome for example and you install a $10,000 shower and granite counter tops your home is now worth the cost of an executive detached home and there is no buyer out there who will pay that much for a town home.

Choose your own personal styles and preferences but keep in mind the market you are likely to attract when you sell your home; 1st time homebuyers, families, singles or couple with no kids.  Choose fixtures and finishes that would be attractive to that potential buyer.

Are you dreaming of a new bathroom, but don’t have the time, money or space for radical changes? Don’t underestimate your current bathroom’s potential for improvements. A wall-to-wall scrubbing, including a clearing out of old and used items can be rejuvenating, as can a fresh coat of paint. Add some new towels and a shower curtain, a basket or two for storage, a change in wall décor, a plant (it will love the humidity!) and possibly an upgrade to your mirror, lighting, fan cover or faucets, and you can create a beautiful new space for a fraction of the cost.


Prior to becoming a real estate agent, Chantal Nephin graduated with an interior design degree and worked for various interior design firms in Ottawa. If you have any design questions please call her at 613-371-6024.