finishing a basement to add value to a home

Does A Finished Basement Count as Square Footage For Your Home?

Have you ever wondered, “does a finished basement count as square footage” in your home’s overall size? The answer to this question can significantly impact your property’s value and marketability, and may cause you to consider remodeling your basement. In this insightful blog post, we will explore the factors that determine if a basement should be included in your home’s square footage, regional and local regulations, and how finished basements impact home value. Read on to discover valuable tips for maximizing your basement’s value and appeal to potential buyers.

Key Takeaways

  • Basement square footage is typically only included in the total home value if it meets specific criteria, such as proper finishing and condition, adequate plumbing and electrical systems, egress windows/doors.

  • Finishing a basement can have a positive impact on the value of a home by increasing living space & attracting potential buyers.

  • Maximizing this increase requires proper lighting & ventilation. Functional design & layout. High quality finishes & materials.

Understanding Basement Square Footage

Determining whether a basement should be included in a home’s square footage depends on several factors, such as whether the basement is above or below grade and if it is finished or unfinished. Typically, only the finished and livable parts of the house constitute the gross living area.

Even with the basement excluded, the total square footage can still add value to the home and prove to be a significant advantage in terms of attracting potential purchasers.

Above Grade vs. Below Grade Basements

below grade basement remodel adding value to home

Above-grade basements may count as square footage, while below-grade basements are generally excluded. For a basement to be included in square footage calculations, it must be above grade and fully finished, with a direct exit to the exterior of the property. However, regional and local regulations can influence how a walkout basement is considered in your locality. Including a basement in the total square footage can enhance a home’s value by offering extra living space and making the property more attractive to potential buyers.

To further clarify, an above-grade basement is one that is constructed at ground level, while a below-grade basement is constructed below ground level. In some cases, only the above-grade square footage of a walk-out basement is taken into account in the home’s overall square footage. You should consult local regulations or a real estate agent to determine the perspective on walkout basements in your locality.

Finished vs. Unfinished Basements

Finished basements have a higher chance of being included in square footage compared to unfinished ones, making the basement count an important factor to consider, especially when a basement included property is desired. This is because the square foot measurement is often more accurate when basements are finished.

A finished basement is one that has:

  • Walls framed and wired

  • Lighting

  • Flooring

  • Ceilings

  • A functional staircase or entrance

  • Heat

  • An electrical system

In contrast, an unfinished basement is not considered in a home’s square footage and may still have exposed walls, floors, and ceilings.

Finishing a basement can positively impact a home’s value by providing extra living space, appealing to prospective buyers, and raising the estimated value of the home, especially if it is an above-grade room count. Thus, completing your basement could be a worthwhile consideration to boost its value and charm.

Criteria for Including Basement Square Footage

To be included in square footage, basements must meet certain criteria, such as proper finishing and condition, adequate plumbing and electrical systems, and the presence of egress windows and doors. However, keep in mind that these criteria may be subject to local laws and regulations.

In the subsequent subsections, we will examine these factors in more detail and their influence on the inclusion of basement square footage.

Proper Finishing and Condition

Basements must be finished and conditioned to match the quality of the rest of the house to be considered in square footage. Proper finishing involves:

  • Insulating walls

  • Selecting flooring

  • Installing a ceiling

  • Sealing any gaps between framing and masonry

Evaluating the current state of the basement is crucial to identify any potential issues that need addressing before finalizing the basement.

Minor modifications, such as painting, attaching trim, and fitting new fixtures, can be accomplished without extensive remodeling. Making sure your basement is well-finished and maintained can considerably boost the chances of its inclusion in your home’s square footage calculations.

Adequate Plumbing and Electrical Systems

Adequate plumbing and electrical systems are necessary for a basement to be included in a home’s square footage. Suitable plumbing systems for a basement may include the installation of a DWV (drain, waste, and vent) system, up-flushing systems, or sewage-ejector systems. It is essential to consider the depth of drainage lines and the ideal fall in the basement for gravity-fed plumbing.

Appropriate electrical systems for a basement should entail the installation of a dedicated circuit for each appliance, as well as a GFCI (ground fault circuit interrupter) outlet for safety.

Regular maintenance and supervision of basement plumbing and electrical systems are vital to ensure optimal and safe performance of these systems. This includes examining for leaks, scrutinizing wiring, and testing GFCI outlets.

Egress Windows and Doors

installing an egress window to add value to your basement

Egress windows and doors are essential for basement square footage inclusion, especially for walkout basements. They are generally larger than standard windows and doors and must adhere to specific safety regulations. Egress windows and doors provide an exit from the basement in the event of an emergency, as well as access to the outside, which is required for the basement to be included in the square footage of a home.

A walk-out basement is a basement featuring an exterior door at yard level on one side, with the square footage being calculated based on the portion of the basement that is above grade. It is a legal requirement to install egress windows and/or escape routes for below-grade living spaces to ensure the safety of occupants in the event of an emergency.

Regional and Local Regulations

Regional and local regulations play a significant role in determining if a basement is included in a home’s square footage. State-specific guidelines can vary, affecting whether a basement is counted in a home’s square footage. Additionally, local building codes and zoning laws can also impact the inclusion of basement square footage.

In the subsequent subsections, we will investigate these regulations thoroughly and their impact on basement square footage calculations.

State-Specific Guidelines

State-specific guidelines vary, affecting whether a basement is counted in a home’s square footage. These legal requirements pertaining to the inclusion of basement square footage in the overall home’s square footage differ by state. It is crucial to be aware of these state-specific guidelines in order to accurately calculate your home’s square footage and comply with regional regulations.

Comprehending and following these state-specific guidelines can help you determine if your basement is included or excluded from your home’s square footage calculations as per local regulations. This knowledge can help you avoid potential legal issues and ensure that your home is accurately valued on the market.

Local Building Codes and Zoning Laws

Local building codes and zoning laws can have an effect on the inclusion of basement square footage in a variety of ways. Some jurisdictions may include finished basements in the total square footage calculation, while others may not. It is essential to consult with your local building department or zoning authority to ascertain the specific regulations and requirements in your vicinity.

Examples of local building codes and zoning laws include requirements for satisfactory plumbing and electrical systems, egress windows and doors, and appropriate finishing and condition of the basement. Consultation with your local building department or zoning authority can help you ensure your basement meets all the required regulations and prerequisites for its inclusion in your home’s square footage.

Impact of Finished Basements on Home Value

Finished basements can positively impact a home’s value, even if not included in the square footage. They can increase living space, attract potential buyers, and raise the estimated value of the home.

In the subsequent subsections, we will examine how a finished basement can enhance living space, attract potential buyers, and result in a projected increase in value.

Increased Living Space

A finished basement increases living space, adding value to the home. Incorporating more inhabitable space, such as bedrooms and bathrooms, is greatly appreciated by purchasers and appraisers. Generally, augmenting living space can raise the median home value by 5.3%.

Augmenting the utilization of space in an existing residence can be a financially prudent decision, particularly in areas with a restricted amount of land. By making optimal use of your basement as extra living space, you can enhance your home’s value and make it more attractive to potential buyers.

Attracting Potential Buyers

Attractive and functional finished basements can draw in potential buyers, increasing the home’s marketability. The advantages of finished basements for prospective buyers include:

  • Providing a versatile space

  • Increasing home value

  • Offering energy efficiency

  • Providing storage and organization

  • Having the potential to expand living space as the family grows

When marketing your home, prioritize highlighting the amount of usable space and the associated value that can be gained. Showcasing an extra living space in the basement is an effective way of making up for the lack of included square footage in the advertisement. This strategy can draw more potential buyers, leading to a successful real estate deal.

Estimated Value Increase

The question of how much value a finished basement can add to a home often arises, with the estimated increase differing based on the quality of the work and the local market. Generally, a finished basement may add up to 10-20% of the home’s value. Factors that can influence the value increase of a finished basement include:

  • The caliber of the finishing

  • The state of the basement

  • The plumbing and electrical systems

  • The local building codes and zoning laws

In order to ensure the highest potential of value increase upon completion of a basement, it is recommended to ensure proper lighting and ventilation, functional design and layout, and high-quality finishes and materials. Considering these factors, you can enhance the value and charm of your finished basement, making it more appealing to potential buyers.

Tips for Maximizing Basement Value

To maximize the value of a finished basement, homeowners should focus on proper lighting, functional design, and high-quality finishes.

In the subsequent subsections, we will offer insightful tips to assist you in achieving maximum value for your basement renovation project.

Proper Lighting and Ventilation

improving lighting in your basement improves home value

Good lighting and ventilation can make a basement more appealing and comfortable, increasing its value. Ensure that the basement is receiving an adequate amount of natural light, utilize light and bright colors for walls and ceilings, and install task lighting for designated areas. Proper lighting options for a basement include recessed lighting, ceiling lights, sconce lighting, floor lamps, tray lights, and track lights. LED lights are often preferred due to their brightness and energy efficiency.

Ventilation is also crucial for maintaining a healthy and comfortable basement environment. Proper ventilation guarantees that the air is pure and free of moisture, mold, and mildew, reducing the risk of health concerns caused by inadequate air quality.

To ensure proper ventilation in your basement, follow these steps:

  1. Conduct regular inspections of the basement for signs of moisture or mold.

  2. Consider investing in a dehumidifier to remove excess moisture from the air.

  3. Use space heaters to maintain a comfortable temperature in the basement.

By implementing these measures, you can create a healthy and comfortable environment in your basement.

Functional Design and Layout

A functional design and layout can enhance the usability of a basement, making it more valuable to potential buyers. When designing a finished basement, take into account the layout of the area, utilize furniture and storage solutions to optimize the space, and create distinct zones for various activities. Designing your basement with functionality and aesthetics in mind can result in a space that appeals to potential buyers and maximizes its value.

In addition, consider the needs of the occupants and how the basement can best serve their lifestyle. This may include adding a bathroom or kitchenette, creating a home office or gym, or designing a cozy entertainment area. Personalizing the basement space to meet your family’s needs can result in a functional and enjoyable environment, thereby adding value to your home.

High-Quality Finishes and Materials

Using high-quality finishes and materials in a basement renovation can boost the overall value of the home. Examples of high-quality finishes for a basement include:

  • Durable and moisture-resistant flooring options such as luxury vinyl planks or porcelain tiles

  • High-quality paint or wallpaper for the walls

  • Energy-efficient and stylish lighting fixtures

  • Well-crafted trim and moldings

  • Upgraded doors and windows

  • Premium countertops and cabinetry for any built-in features

  • Comfortable and stylish furniture and decor

Employing high-quality finishes and materials in a basement renovation can increase the overall value of the home by:

  • Rendering the space more cozy and visually appealing

  • Ensuring that the basement is properly insulated and safeguarded from moisture

  • Investing in durable materials and finishes, which can withstand the test of time and amplify the overall aesthetics of your basement, can make it more appealing and valuable.


In conclusion, understanding the factors that determine whether a finished basement counts as square footage is crucial for homeowners looking to maximize their property’s value and appeal. By taking into account above/below grade, finished/unfinished status, proper finishing and condition, plumbing and electrical systems, egress windows and doors, and regional and local regulations, homeowners can make informed decisions about their basement renovations. By focusing on proper lighting, functional design, and high-quality finishes, homeowners can create a finished basement that not only adds value to their home but also serves as a comfortable and enjoyable living space for years to come.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why are finished basements not included in square footage?

Since some states don’t count anything below grade, even if it’s fully finished, and unfinished basements do not add to the livable space of a home, finished basements are not usually included in square footage.

This means that when you’re looking at a home’s square footage, you should be aware that it may not include the basement. This could be a significant difference in the amount of space you’re getting for your money.

What counts as square footage in a house?

Generally speaking, any enclosed space inside a home that has walls, a floor, a ceiling and heat is counted as part of the total square footage.

Unheated or unfinished spaces, such as closets in a basement, may not be included.

Does a finished basement count as square footage in Wisconsin?

In Minnesota and western Wisconsin, a finished basement with a floor, wall covering, ceiling and heat can be counted as part of the total finished square footage of the house.

This can be a great way to increase the value of a home, as buyers are often looking for more finished square footage. It can also be a great way to add more living space to a home without having to build an addition.

Do you count the basement as a story in a house?

Since a basement is not typically designed for human occupancy and is not typically included in elevator listings, it is not counted as a story in a house.

However, basements can still be used for storage, laundry, and other activities. They can also be used as living spaces, such as a home office or a playroom. Basements can also be used to add additional living space.

How can I maximize the value of my finished basement?

Maximizing the value of your finished basement requires proper lighting, functional design, and high-quality finishes to make it attractive and appealing.

Good lighting is essential for any basement. It should be bright enough to make the space feel inviting and comfortable, but not so bright that it becomes overwhelming. Consider adding task lighting, such as recessed lighting, to provide focused illumination.