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How to Make the Most of Your Basement Renovation Budget: Our Value Guide and Tips for 2024

The reality of renovating a basement is that we have an upgrade wish list and a hard reality: our budget. When you take on a home improvement project, usually there’s two goals: creating a place you love to live and adding equity to your property.


The goal is to strike a balance between the two, without breaking the bank. We work with Calgary homeowners to find the best value for their budget.


What are the criteria for a great value renovation?

We have three:

  1. Upgrades should make your space more liveable

  2. There needs to be a return on your investment

  3. Features should hold their value over time


In other words, these aren’t about trends or finding the cheapest option. Instead, it’s about the fundamentals of good home building and responsible contracting. With that in mind, here’s our guide to three strategies to get great value for your renovation along with some tips to keep the cost of your remodel affordable.


A floor plan for a basement renovation completed by Sunurban Developments
A sensible layout goes a long way to making your basement truly useable.

Choose a Well-Designed Floor Plan!

You’ve probably been to a house with weird alcoves, stairs that run into walls, rooms that get no light. The kinds of a layout that makes you ask “What were they thinking?” The answer is that they probably weren’t. Without a good plan, the rest of your renovation doesn’t count for much. The fanciest finishes can’t cover up a lack of forethought.


To avoid this problem, good builders create a floorplan that considers how you’ll use the space and what it will be like to live in. At Sunurban Developments, for example, we work with professional designers and collaborate with our clients to decide on the final layout. That’s the first step in our process because a back-of-the-napkin drawing is a recipe for disaster


What makes a good floor plan great value?

Compared to the cost of correcting a mistake during your renovation, investing in a well-crafted floor plan costs almost nothing. Good floor plans allow for spaces to flow together: they’re designed with how people will use the space in mind. If you’re going to add downstairs bedrooms, then your floor plan consider the noise levels in the rest of the house. If you’re adding an extra bathroom, then it’s most practical to place that close to existing plumbing to avoid unnecessary renovation. And if you know you have a lot of stuff, then your floorplan should be designed to include additional storage.


TIP: Prioritize Multi-Use Rooms and Upgradeability

You’re building your basement today, but you’re going to use it for much longer. The best floor plans are ones that prioritize multiple-uses and allow for upgradeability. This lets your space grow with you! Including an egress window in a playroom means it can become a bedroom when the tykes have grown up, for example. Putting a more durable floor in your home office can let you convert it to a home gym when you retire. Thinking a few years ahead means your home will be ready for whatever life brings your way.


A mainfloor renovation showing design elements that can be used in a basement renovation.
Identify design elements from your home to reuse in your basement!

Integrate Your Downstairs Design with the Main Level!

We think that basements should be an extension of your living space, not an alien addition. Finding matching elements can go a long way towards making your new renovation look like part of a bigger home. This doesn’t mean that your downstairs style needs to be identical to your upstairs style, but a few key features can go a long way without changing your budget much.


What makes style great value?

Style is great value because small upgrades There’s three areas we consider when designing a space: layout, fixtures, and decor. A good layout (remember, get a professional floorplan!) considers how you move between levels and what will be visible from one to the other. Your stairwell is an especially important area for this!.


Matching fixtures can also create the sense that you’re in the same house regardless of the level. Things like consistent faucets, handles, or doors will help bring your home together and typically don't cost too much. They don’t have to be identical to your upstairs ones, but finding products with similar finishes or styles is a great affordable reno option.


Décor is your place to shine more than it is ours. Using your existing artwork and furniture to characterize your space means that not only does your style remain consistent, but you don't need to purchase anything new. Try bringing a few things downstairs to see if that builds your home’s identity. That rug? It really does tie the room together.


TIP: Use paint to create a cohesive style on a budget

Perhaps the least expensive and most impactful option is simply down to choosing what colour you’ll paint your walls. It’s usually best to aim for lighter tones in your basement, but don’t let that turn you off of colour entirely. Extending the upstairs colour into your basement will make those spaces flow together. And don’t neglect how much a accent wall that matches a bold upstairs colour might have!


A bedroom in a basement renovation that is bright and inviting thanks to a large window and great lighting.
A large window and gentle but filling lighting make this space brilliantly bright.

Add Extra Windows Let Light into Your Basement!

Let some light in! Wherever possible, you want your basement to feel like it’s the main floor. The best way to do that is to make it a bright space and to invite in natural light. Egress windows are already a requirement for any bedrooms, but we recommend placing them in every room that you’ll spend time in. Your other windows don’t have to open to function as emergency exits, but the minimum area of 0.35 square meters (or about 3.77 square feet), is a good size to brighten the space. Calgary is Canada's sunniest city and you should enjoy that even if you're downstairs.


Why are basement windows great value?

Big downstairs windows make you feel like you're upstairs. You’re more likely to use spaces you feel at home in. They also offer a great return on investment. Downstairs windows also appeal to tenants who value the feeling of being in a home, rather than in a subterranean space. To put it simply, you’re able to rent brighter spaces for more than dark ones because we all love light!


TIP: Affordable alternatives for bright basements

Basement windows can be a more expensive upgrade and depending on your home, they may not be an option at all. But they’re not the only way to make your basement feel like it’s above ground. One of our favourite ways to achieve a similar effect is to install lighting underneath shelving and cabinetry. These are cost effective ways to make your basement brighter without relying on overhead lighting. Try adding dimmer switches to adjust the ambiance throughout the day.

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