Semi Finished Basement: Pros and Cons to Consider

Semi Finished Basement: Pros and Cons to Consider

Semi Finished Basement: Pros and Cons to Consider

A semi-finished basement is one that has incomplete finishing works in terms of walls, ceilings, and floors in some of its areas. For instance, it can have a bedroom and a bathroom with proper floor and wall finishing, but another utility room might have an incomplete floor and wall finish.

There are three types of basements in terms of finishing- fully finished, semi-finished and unfinished.

Basements offer a variety of advantages to homeowners and add value to their houses if designed properly.

However, some people choose to leave their basements semi-finished due to budget reasons.

A basement can function even without proper finishing.

In addition, the general aesthetic appeal of a house is not affected much by basements, because no one except the homeowners tends to see them much.

There are building codes and local codes that a basement must meet in order to be categorized as finished.

Otherwise, it will be considered as semi-finished or unfinished and will not add to the sale value of your home.

This article aims to discuss the factors that deem a basement as a semi-finished one and compares it to a finished and an unfinished basement.

What is Considered a Semi-Finished Basement?

A semi-finished basement is one that has finished floors, walls, and ceilings in some areas, whereas other parts may only have an incomplete finish.

The bedroom, living room, and bathroom in the basement may be finished with wooden flooring or tiles.

But a work or study space may be left incomplete, with only a concrete finishing.

Semi-finished basements also have functioning electrical, plumbing, and HVAC works, making them fully habitable.

It is due to this habitability, that homeowners don’t usually find a need to spend extra money on finishing unimportant areas in a basement.

Semi Finished Basement
Semi Finished Basement

What is Considered an Unfinished Basement?

Unfinished Basements have incomplete finishing on walls, ceilings, floors, and unfinished utilities such as electrical, plumbing, and HVAC works.

Usually, the unfinished work is left so on purpose to save expenses.

Unfinished basements do not add any real value to a house, whereas finished basements do increase the total worth of a house.

Unfinished Basement
Unfinished Basement

What is Considered a Finished Basement?

A basement is considered to be finished when the whole area is properly floored, has fully finished walls and ceiling, and is completely insulated and painted.

A finished basement must also have all the utilities including the electrical, plumbing, and HVAC ducts properly installed and fully functional.

It is completely habitable and can be used as a living room, a private room, or a recreational room.

When you finish a basement you can also consider making it a walkout basement, which can bring a lot of light and fresh air.

To deem a basement finished, it has to meet strict guidelines set up by the building codes and local realtors.

Finished Basement
Finished Basement

How Do You Make a Semi-Finished Basement Livable?

There are several ways by which you can make a semi-finished basement more attractive and habitable.

First of all, hide all the wires and ducts to make it safer and cleaner to live in.     

The next thing you should do is install electrical outlets to give inhabitants more accessibility.

Since the basement is usually quite dark and you should install an overheard light to make it bright.

It is also important to regularly clean the basement and keep it dry to avoid moisture damage.

A good structural solution is a basement knee wall that can prevent damage due to water seepage.

Drying the joists with low-pressure fans in conjunction with dehumidification is another option for preventing moisture damage.

The cheapest method to make a basement more presentable is to paint over the walls, ceilings, and floors.

What is the Cheapest Way to Partially Finish a Basement?

Painting unfinished areas of a semi-finished basement is the best way to make it aesthetically more pleasant.

Paint is inexpensive and gives a major overhaul to the dull concrete ceilings, walls, and floors.

If drywalling is out of the budget then paint is a suitable option to partially finish a basement.

Usually, white paint is often used in the basement to make it glow more by reflecting more light.

Should You Finish Your Basement?

Adds Value to a House

Finishing a basement has a lot of advantages attached to it.

First, the biggest advantage of finishing a basement is that it adds value to a home.

This is done in both the literal monetary sense as well as in terms of personal value.

Finishing a basement raises the resale value of a house.

Thus, for people who are keen on selling their houses, a finished basement fetches a higher offer for their houses.

Homeowners in the United States can expect a 70-75% return on their investments spent on a finished basement.

On the other hand, a finished basement can also be utilized in multiple ways, such as it could be made into a workplace, a gaming zone, etc.

It can be rented as well if it has access to an egress.

Finished Basement
Finished Basement

Offers Ways to Increase House Space

Zoning restrictions may stop you from making additions to your house.

These restrictions stop you from expanding your houses to avoid getting close to your neighbor’s property.

Expanding upwards may also not be an option if the house is already two stories long.

In zones with such restrictions, finished basements are a great way to increase the capacity and functionality of your house.

Therefore, this basement space becomes very valuable. It allows you to add functional space to the home without interfering with any zoning restrictions. 

Additional Bedrooms and Bathrooms

A finished basement allows for extra bedrooms to be set up in it and increase the size of your house.

This is especially important for large families. You may even be able to have up to two bedrooms depending on the basement design.

In the United States, a space can be regarded as a bedroom if it has two points of egress.

In addition to a door, a window can also be counted as an egress if a firefighter can climb in through it.

A closet is another condition for a bedroom.

You can also add an additional bathroom in the basement making it more suitable to live in.

However, adding a bathroom will bring up more costs in terms of plumbing, tiling, etc.

The initial cost can become an issue, but the functionality that bathrooms offer is a good investment.

It also adds value to a house and helps in selling a property more quickly.

All these factors do cost more than a semi-finished basement but increase the appeal of your house and make it more accessible.

Ways to Use a Finished Basement

Finished basements can also be used as recreational spaces.

You can turn them into a gym, a spa, a gaming zone, etc.

You can even set it up as a guest space when you have relatives or friends over.

A finished basement also provides more storage space.

No Need of High-End Materials

You do not need to use expensive materials for finishing your basement.

In fact, some wooden finishes, like hardwood, are a terrible choice for floor and wall finishing as they are susceptible to water damage.

There are a variety of materials that can be used for finishing basement components and are also cheap.

Examples include drywall paneling, carpeting, vinyl flooring, and even paint to make a basement functional.

Cost to Finish a Basement

Finishing a basement can cost anywhere between $20,000 to $80,000 depending on the size and work required in the basement.

Making a basement livable, waterproofing it, providing egression windows, and finishing ceilings, walls, and floors all add to the cost of completion.

But the more you invest in a basement the greater the value to your house.

The overall cost may increase if load-bearing members such as basement beams need to be replaced or reinforced.

Does A Finished Basement Increase Property Tax?

A finished basement is considered to be a proper living space. It adds to the value of your home and as such increases the tax on the property as well.

If you have taken appropriate permits for finishing your basement, then your local government/authority will count your basement as a living space and will tax it so.

To avoid this tax, people often leave their basements semi-finished and just make them functional and livable without completing them.

Unfinished Basement
Unfinished Basement

Finished Vs Semi-Finished Basements

There are a lot of merits to having a finished basement.

A finished basement increases the total living space of a house, whereas a semi-finished basement is not habitable.

The value of a house increases significantly if it has a finished basement.

Additional bathrooms and bedrooms can be made functional in a finished basement as well.

Moreover, a finished basement improves energy efficiency thanks to the insulation provided in its components.

A basement can be set up separately and can even be rented as such.

While there are a lot of advantages to having a finished basement, semi-finished basements also have some merits that make them more feasible.

A semi-finished basement saves up the total cost of a house because it can function even without the finishings.

It reduces the property tax of a house as it is not considered as a livable space.

It acts as an excellent storage space, where there is minimum to no danger of damaging the stored items.

A semi-finished basement makes it easier to spot leaks and damages in the basement.

How to know if a Basement is Finished or Semi Finished

Floors and Ceilings

A finished basement is one that has covered floors. The covering can be of different materials.

Floors can be covered with tiles, flooring sheets, or even a carpet.

The ceilings should also have fire-resistant drywall covering.

If a basement does not have these coverings in all its areas, then it is categorized as an unfinished basement.

If only some rooms and areas of a basement have floor and ceiling coverings, then it is termed a semi-finished basement.


The walls of a finished basement must have proper insulation and wall finishing.

Having insulation in concrete walls saves a lot of energy and reduces expenses.

Drywall finishing is a common covering applied to walls in a basement.

Other finishing materials include cement boards, tiles, plastic paneling, wooden planks, etc.

If the walls do not have proper insulation and covering, then the basement is an unfinished one.

If it only has insulation and covering in some of its walls, then it is a partially finished basement.


In finished basements, interior stairs going up to the upper floor are required.

These stairs must be covered with tiles, carpet, or other coverings for them to be complete.

Trap doors and ladders cannot be used as a replacement for stairs in a finished basement.

Not having stairs with proper finishing makes a basement incomplete.


A finished basement should have properly installed electrical, plumbing, and HVAC systems.

The utilities in the basement should function just like they would on the upper floors to be considered a finished basement.

Depending upon the homeowner’s choice you can have a false ceiling to cover the different ducts and wiring or leave it open for more accessibility.

Finished basements also have proper lighting in accordance with the building codes.

The number of rooms in a basement is not set but the components of each room should be finished in a complete basement.


A semi-finished basement is one that has finishing in some of its walls, ceilings, and floors but not all of them.

A basement is often left unfinished to reduce tax and reduce the cost of construction.

Even in a semi-finished state, a basement can be made functional using the different ways mentioned above.

Although a semi-finished basement does not add any real value to a house, it is still a good option if you are not looking to sell your house in the future.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Do I Need a Permit to Finish my Basement?

Yes, you require a permit for finishing an unfinished basement.

Converting your unfinished basement into a recreational space, or livable space, or making any repairs to it requires a permit.

Permits may also be needed for electrical, plumbing, and HVAC works.

Does an Unfinished Basement Add to the Value of a House?

An unfinished basement does not add to the value of a house.

But it also does not add to the property tax of a house, because it is not considered a livable space.

Therefore, most people tend to leave their basements semi-finished or unfinished.

What Should Not be Stored in a Basement?

Delicate items should never be stored in a basement as basements are dark and are prone to cause many accidents and mishaps.

Moreover, food items should also not be stored in the basement because basements absorb and retain moisture which can spoil the food stored.

About V Susan

Hi! I'm Susan. I am passionate about woodworking, general DIY and home improvement. If you'd like to connect with me or talk about something you like at mellowpine, drop me a mail at susan@mellowpine.com

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V Susan

Hi! I'm Susan. I am passionate about woodworking, general DIY and home improvement. If you'd like to connect with me or talk about something you like at mellowpine, drop me a mail at susan@mellowpine.com

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