How We Renovated Our Basement For Under $1,000 // The Story of Our First Home

Almost exactly a year ago, I flew into Kansas City from Phoenix and spent about four days looking at 20+ homes to find “the one.”  We were going to be first-time homeowners, and we were in for a steep learning curve with the housing market and the loan/mortgage process.

Thankfully, we got connected to a really awesome real-estate agency in the area and started looking at hundreds of homes through the MLS listing.  This is how our conversations went as we would talk on an almost daily basis to narrow down the search –

“Did you see the new house that popped up on the listing today?  What do you think?”

“It’s okay…”

“I checked out the details and it has a brand new roof, a new heater, no foundation issues, and a history of clean ownership.  And it has the 2+ full baths that we want and it even has three bedrooms.  It looks great!”

“Yeah, but…I just don’t like the kitchen that much.  And the paint all over the house…what were those owners thinking when they painted each room a different color?”

Can you tell who was saying what in the conversation? 😉

After realizing that walls can be painted and minor renovations are a part of the home buying process, we narrowed it down to a couple of factors that were absolute “must’s” on our list – (1) located within a few zip codes that we loved and had that safe, cozy feel, (2) 2+ bedrooms and 2+ bathrooms, (3) most major renovations already done as we needed to drive halfway across the country after we got married to move in right away, and (4) within our budget, of course!

Turns out, the whole home search thing is not as easy as it looks.  In the first two days, we had gone through all of the homes we had starred and none of them were the right fit.  We went through the MLS listing again and decided to look at several more homes that I had initially written off of our list.

Our home was the second to last one I saw.  As soon as we pulled in to the driveway, the feeling of disappointment and uncertainty started to lift.  As we walked through the house, we realized it had everything we wanted on our list and much, much more.  But beyond that, it just had that “home” feel and I couldn’t shake it off.  This was “the one.”

On December 30th, we closed on our first house.  With keys in hand, we excitedly began the process of unpacking and making the place our own.

There were a couple of projects we wanted to tackle in the first year – (1) refinish the doors and change the doorknobs (the house still had its original doors from the late 50’s), (2) install ventilation systems into the two main floor bathrooms, and (3) repaint our basement walls and lay down laminate flooring in the basement.

The first project was tackled this past spring, and for the most part, it turned out well.  It was a good small project to start with as it really takes trial and error to learn the best tools and techniques to renovating a home.

A few weeks ago we started on our biggest project yet – our basement.  We were blessed to have most of the major work done with the third bathroom fully installed and enclosed properly and all the walls/doors put in place to section off the basement and utilize the space well.

But those walls…those burnt orange, two-toned walls…

The basement had a lot of potential to be separate guest quarters, an entertainment room, etc. but I just didn’t want to be in there because it was so drab and dreary.  The only thing that kept constant residence in that space was our little dehumidifer…and my weights…

The concrete floor was painted to look like there was some kind of flooring, but nevertheless, it was still a cold slab of concrete that would gather lots of moisture in the humid, summer months.  Humid basement = mold = bad news.

We knew we wanted to keep this project under $1,000, so we decided to do all the work ourselves.  Thankfully, my husband is truly a handyman and has the perfect temperament for this kind of work – patient, detail-oriented, a problem-solver, etc.  Let’s just say my part was to do the research, keep track of the budget, and keep the project “on schedule.” 🙂

First step – paint the walls.  This is much easier said than done.  This required that we first sand and patch all of the walls and surfaces to be painted.  We didn’t invest in a sander tool, but chose to sand everything by hand.  After spending way too many hours on this, here’s our word of advice – if you have a lot of sanding to do, get a sander.  The really sleek professional ones cost upwards of $2,000, but for a home project, you could really get away with some of the $30 models out there.

Another word of advice on painting…invest in good paint.  Or at least use really good primer.  We learned the importance of this when we painted our doors.  Even if your colored paint is a primer+paint in one can, I would still advise to do one nice layer of primer, especially if your original walls are darker than the new color.

It’s also critical to let each layer dry thoroughly.  We literally did one layer and let it dry overnight each time.  With this project being in our basement, we didn’t want to risk any “sticky painted wall” situations in the future.  We also chose to do two layers of the colored paint as it really takes two layers to get a solid, even color (once I figured out it was like painting your nails IT ALL MADE SENSE).

Here we are with the “Crisp Linen,” off-white finish!  I wanted to stick with an off-white color as it would really make the room look brighter and bigger (which was critical since we were working with a low-ceiling basement that had only a couple of small windows).

Total cost for all sanding, patching, painting, etc. = about $95.00.

Next up – flooring.  The biggest amount of effort and money was put into the flooring.  After lots of searching and going into showrooms, we landed on Lumber Liquidators.  They have some of the best prices for the best quality and they are superbly easy to work with.  They also have tons of locations across the country.

We also scored big as one of our friends in the area already had a miter saw and many of the other tools we would need to cut and install the laminate ourselves.  We ended up purchasing a $30 jig saw to do some of the cuts that the miter saw could not.  One of our friends who had already done this kind of project before told us that as long as we have the right tools, almost any home renovation is a piece of cake.  She was right.

Hubby loved his new toys!  I preferred to do the measuring instead of working with the loud, giant spinning saw.  Teamwork! 🙂

This was after the first full day of installing the laminate…about halfway done.

Some of the hardest areas were around the pillar and under the door frames.  But it was totally worth it to get that perfectly measured, clean cut so that everything looked seamless.

The thing to remember at about the halfway mark of any home renovation project is this – “You’ve already invested blood, sweat, and tears (most likely) into this project…do it well and finish it well!  Every detail is going to be worth it!”

We did a little victory dance when we got to the end of our basement!

Already a huge improvement from our original basement!

Total cost for all tools, laminate flooring, and miscellaneous expenses = about $565.00.

Lastly – all the finishing touches.  The hardest work was done, but we still needed to install the baseboards and quarter rounders, put caulking around all the open seams, and paint them a semi-glossy, ultra-white (I wanted an ever so slight contrast with the off-white walls).

I can now say that I am an expert at taping off what needs to be painted.

All that blue tape reminds me – the Kansas City Royals baseball team won the World Series this year!  We may have also gotten delayed in our renovation project due to several nights of watching the Royals play some really exciting baseball.

Total cost for all baseboards, quarter rounders, caulking, crown molding, etc. = about $245.00.

FINALLY…after several weeks of some majorly sore muscles, numerous trips to our local Home Depot and Lowe’s, a couple of “heated discussions,” and lots of high-fives later…



Grand total cost for entire basement renovation project = about $905.00.

Just take a look at these before and after shots…

Fire place:  
Pillar and corner:

Space by bathroom:

Space by fireplace:

Now that the holiday season is around the corner (as well as lower temperatures and snowy weather), we’re excited to roast some chestnuts and marshmallows in the fireplace and spend some time in our new basement!

It was a LOT of work…but it was totally worth it! 🙂

5 thoughts on “How We Renovated Our Basement For Under $1,000 // The Story of Our First Home

  1. Judy says:

    Beautiful… Remodeling is my favorite therapy… It either makes you so frustrated that you forget all your other troubles or so happy that you do the same. And then you have a product at the end that you can look at with satisfaction… Love your photos… Congratulations…


  2. Debra says:

    I love to see your process and the before and after photos! What great space! I watch so many of the shows on HGTV and always admire the basement space. I’ve never lived in a home with that “bonus” space and I think it would be so great to have! That you did all of this for under $1,000 is really impressive, Stacey! You guys did good! 🙂


    • Stacey says:

      Thanks Debra! It is definitely a “bonus” space! We’re excited to have an empty slate to start working with and I’m sure the room will change as we go through various seasons in our family. Since most of the basic remodeling was already done with our house, it was fun to redo the basement and leave our mark on the house, too. 🙂


  3. Catherine Wade says:

    Not a doubt in my mind that you two can tackle just about anything. I can definitely see your hand in the detail work. Looks wonderful and so so so much brighter. As always, you do amazing work!


    • Stacey says:

      Aww thanks, Catherine! It was fun…but we definitely won’t be doing another renovation project anytime soon! Haha! For now, we will just enjoy the fruits of our labor 🙂


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