Finished Basements or Unfinished: The Great Basement Question

When building a new home there are any number of decisions that you have to make:  what type of cabinets, what counters you want, flooring (oh the flooring!), and even whether or not to finish your basement.

The last one is one that a lot of people actually don’t think of. They either assume that their basement will be finished by the builder, or that it won’t and they’ll have a slab of concrete down there that will be suitable for storing old furniture and not much more.

But what if your builder does a good job of making you aware of your options? What if you’re just cognizant of the fact that you could, in fact, have a decision to make regarding your basement’s finished status. Which decision should you make?

Unfinished Basement

When going with an unfinished basement you’re essentially leaving yourself a blank canvas on which you can create the tapestry of your ideal room. Poetic enough for you? In reality you’re leaving yourself with a huge number of decisions to make after you’ve completed the house, including whether or not to leave it unfinished.

Let’s assume, for a moment, that you plan on finishing the basement, but decide to do it after the home is complete. That’s fine, but you have to remember that you’ll be hiring a separate contractor to come in and do the work, and you won’t be able to roll the cost of it into your mortgage like you could have with your home builder.

You’ll also be limited in what you can do by what the builder did. Now, a lot of builders will help you out if they know you plan to finish the space later by leaving things like rough-ins for a bathroom, but if they don’t know you plan to do this, you may be left with a flat slab in the basement that will require a lot of work to make useable. Working with your builder during initial construction is critical to saving yourself a lot of headache later.

Finished Basement

If you decide to have your builder finish the basement during initial construction you open up some possibilities, but also have to know that you may be limiting yourself in other areas. Many custom home builders will be able to work with you to create a space that suits your needs and budget.

Others, however, may not be able to work outside of a preset design, meaning that if you don’t like what they can build, you either have to leave it unfinished, accept it, or commit yourself to making costly changes to it later. You may want that elaborate downstairs man-cave, but your builder may only be able to build you a simple entertainment room with some pre-wired surround sound; not bad, but not what you envisioned.

Also, the cost savings from having the basement unfinished may not be that dramatic, so even if the basement isn’t exactly what you wanted, the money you’ll save by leaving it unfinished won’t be enough to offset the costs you’ll have to lay out to finish it to exactly what you want later on. Weigh these costs when deciding whether or not having that elaborate man-cave is worth it.

And The Winner Is

There really isn’t a winner when it comes to whether or not you should have your builder finish your basement for you. If your builder is willing to work with you to create your vision for the space, then the ability to roll the costs into your mortgage is appealing. However, if they don’t have the ability to give you what you want, there’s something to be said for investing in a home that you will be in for a while.

The only correct answer is to make sure that you get what you want. No matter what you do with the space, it’ll be a part of your home for years to come, so make sure it’s something that you’re comfortable with.