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Portland Design Build Remodeling Blog

How Much Does it Cost to Remodel Your Basement in Portland? [Plus: What to Consider Before Remodeling]

Posted by Lane Cooper on Aug 19, 2019 1:04:05 PM

A basement remodel can take any number of forms, from the relatively minor framing of a couple of walls for a spare bedroom to a full-on remake of the lower level of the home for luxury living and entertainment space. Obviously, then, the cost of basement remodeling in Portland will vary greatly. But here is a look at a midrange project, as laid out by Remodeling magazine’s Cost vs. Value Report.

Deciding on a Basement Remodel

Even before you talk to a builder and get price estimates, do some soul-searching and decide how much you want to dip into savings, how much equity you can borrow against, what kind of loan payments you can handle, and whether you’ll be able to recover the cost of the remodel when you sell your home. 

The specified basement remodel features a 20-by-30-foot entertaining area with a wet bar and a 5-by-8-foot bathroom. The project also includes 24 feet of wall to enclose the basement’s mechanical equipment—the water heater and furnace. The walls and ceilings would be painted drywall, and the exterior walls would be insulated. The cost includes five factory-painted six-panel hardboard doors and painted trim.


Main Room

The main room would have 15 recessed light fixtures in the ceiling and three surface-mounted lights. The floor would be a snap-together laminate system. The bar would feature 10 linear feet of raised-panel oak cabinets with laminate counter tops and an under-counter refrigerator, a stainless-steel bar sink with single-lever bar faucet, and vinyl floor tile.



The bathroom would be equipped with a standard white toilet, a vanity with a cultured-marble top, a two-piece fiberglass shower unit, vinyl flooring, a light with exhaust fan, a light fixture over the vanity, and a recessed medicine cabinet.


How Much Does it Cost to Remodel a Basement? 

The report lists an estimated cost in Portland of $75,496, which is lower than the Pacific region figure of $84,062 but higher than the national average of $71,115. If you have plans to move in the next few years, you’ll want to know how much of your basement remodel cost you can expect to recoup in the sale of your home. According to Remodeling’s report, the value of your home should increase by $61,341 with the completion of the outlined project, meaning you could get back about 81 percent of what you put into the remodel. It’s not the highest cost-to-value return on the report’s listed projects, but it’s higher than average. If you think you’ll be staying put, and you really need that extra living space now, the return on investment won’t be as important to you.

(The figures cited here are according to the Remodeling 2017 Cost vs. Value Report [www.costvsvalue.com] for the Portland, Oregon, area. © 2017 Hanley Wood Media Inc. Complete data from the Remodeling Cost vs. Value Report can be downloaded free at www.costvsvalue.com).


Rising Remodeling Costs

The project and cost listed above come from the 2017 Cost vs. Value Report because the 2018 report doesn’t list a basement remodel. By many experts’ calculations, building and remodeling costs will rise in 2018, fueled by ongoing labor shortages in the building trades, new duties on lumber imported from Canada and plywood from China, and increased demand caused by the hurricanes in the South and wildfires in California.

Additionally, the Cost vs. Value Report gives a fairly middle-of-the-road basement remodel example. For your needs, you might want to add a couple of bedrooms, spa-like amenities in the bathroom, a home theater, or seismic retrofits, thereby pushing the remodel into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.


Including an ADU

Further increasing the cost, you could consider constructing an accessory dwelling unit in that unfinished space under your home. The city of Portland has relaxed rules on ADUs to encourage their construction, but because such projects must follow certain rules and be self-contained homes with kitchens and bathrooms, they aren’t cheap. The cost of building an accessory dwelling unit in a Portland basement could start at $100,000 and easily run up past $250,000.


Preparing for a Basement Remodel

All major renovation jobs require significant advance planning, and a remodel of the basement in your Portland home is no different.As you prepare for this major undertaking, you first should find a focus for your basement remodel. Do you want more bedrooms and bathrooms for your family and for visitors, do the kids need room to play, are you hoping to add craft, workshop, and office space? Prioritizing your needs will lend clarity to your plan.

Thinking about turning your basement from a dark, shabby afterthought of a space into a valuable, cheery part of your home? Here are some important factors to keep in mind as you plan your Portland basement remodel.

Who Is it For?

Your impulse to remodel your basement might be driven by your family’s need for space, or by a desire to add value to your home for a resale in the near future, or by a plan to create an accessory dwelling unit that you can rent out for additional income. Each motivation carries with it different approaches to the remodel.

Let’s assume we’re talking about a major conversion of the lowest level of your home, not just the spiffing up of the space. The possibilities are almost endless and could include any combination of:

  •       Bedrooms and bathrooms for your growing family
  •       Guest suite for visiting family and friends
  •       Playroom for the kids, little or big
  •       Man cave for the biggest kids
  •       Craft room
  •       Exercise room
  •       Home office
  •       Laundry room
  •       Family room
  •       Home theater
  •       Bar

If the project would be for your immediate use, you don’t need to be as concerned about the payback when you sell the home; you’re making it more valuable for your family right now. But if you expect to put your house on the market in the near future and want to spend your money wisely, you should do some research into what types of remodel projects increase the resale value of homes in your market.

If your plan is to create an accessory dwelling unit, you should be aware that Portland has regulations to encourage such projects. But creating a new living unit, complete with bathroom and kitchen, also will trigger certain requirements that you wouldn’t need to meet if you were just finishing the space for your use.

But whatever your motivation, keeping these factors in mind will help you make smarter decisions about your basement remodel. Many of these issues are mandated by Portland’s building codes, and your Portland design-build company will be familiar with the law.

Take Notes

As your basement ideas take shape in your mind, write them down. Keep a list, tear out pages of magazines, bookmark websites, and stash examples in a Houzz Ideabook online. It’s OK to dream now; when you start counting the costs, you can decide which ideas you can afford and which ones you’ll have to let go.


Basement Fundamentals and Factors to Consider 

Think about basement-specific issues that will affect how you proceed. Battling moisture in a basement is a given: Think sealants, insulation, and sump pumps. Ceiling heights can be tricky, and the city of Portland has rules requiring a height of 6 feet, 8 inches in most places. If your ceiling is too low, you might have to dig out the floor to gain more height.

Let in the Light

Think about ways to bring in natural light through new or enlarged windows and plentiful light fixtures. Using warm paint colors can add the feel of sunlight to an underground space. Tricks such as recessed light fixtures into the ceiling can help make up for the lack of height. Speaking of light, basements need it, and your plan must maximize natural light sources, incorporate sufficient fixtures to avoid the cave feeling, and use color to enhance the light. Finally, know that you’ll need to provide egress windows or doors for safety.


A Way of Escape

To be considered living space, your basement needs at least one egress window or door through which people could escape in the event of an emergency. Portland’s city code details the dimensions of such a window or door.


Stand up Straight

Be sure your ceilings are high enough. Your ceiling must be 6 feet, 8 inches high, with certain exceptions. Assuming your remodel is a major project, you might consider raising your ceiling by lowering the floor — digging your basement deeper.


Take the Right Steps

The existing stairway to your basement might be inadequate — too narrow, steep, or constricted in other ways. Your project would be an opportunity to make major improvements.


Minimize Moisture

If you live in a flood hazard area, the city might not even allow you to remodel your basement. But if you’re clear on that score, you’ll still need to make sure the design of your project takes into account the moisture that comes with basements. Make sure your builder incorporates the proper precautions, including insulation, ventilation, moisture barriers, drains, and sump pumps. A good contractor will provide a warranty against flood damage.


Get Comfortable

Your designer will have experience dealing with retrofitting a basement with heating, ventilation, and air conditioning. Keep in mind, as you lay out the rooms, that it’s better to put beds against interior walls because exterior walls can be colder, even with insulation.


Health and Safety

As you work with your design professional, be sure to talk about radon and earthquakes. It’s a lot easier to install radon mitigation measures and to bolt your house to its foundation when your basement is pulled apart.

Basement Renovation in Portland Oregon

Follow the Rules

Most remodel projects require permits from the city of Portland and inspections of the work. Demolition, electrical, plumbing, mechanical, and structural work all require permits. Your contractor or design-build professional will be familiar with those requirements.


Who Will Do the Work?

Here’s another important bit of homework to do. The selection of the designer and contractor (who will turn your remodel dreams into reality) will be your most important decision. Talk to people who are happy with the companies that did major renovations at their homes and read online reviews. Call your top prospects; ask if they can take on a project such as yours, if they can provide references, and if they will allow you to visit a work site. Make sure they have the right licenses and insurance. Call the references they provide and visit the Better Business Bureau website to check for complaints. Then select a few and set up in-person meetings. By now, you should be armed with enough information to make your choice.



Then it will be time to share your vision with your architect, designer, contractor, or design-build company. Be honest from the start about your budget. Talk about how you envision using your “new” basement and how you want to feel when you’re in it. When you sit down with your designer, have at the ready the examples of what you’re talking about — the clippings, photographs, and Houzz Ideabook images. Pull out a pencil and paper and sketch what you have in mind, if necessary. Your contractor will give you cost estimates, and it will be time to make those hard choices about what you can and can’t afford. A contract will follow, and then the work can begin.

Cost to Remodel in Portland

Topics: Home Remodeling Cost [2018]