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Best Basements Before and Afters 2015

The editors of This Old House pick the best basement remodels from this year's annual Search for America's Best Remodel Contest

Underground But Not Forgotten

If the hundreds of photos and stories submitted to this year's annual Search for America's Best Remodel Contest prove one thing, it's that you love flipping the idea of what a basement can be. With a little work, these once dark, desolate spaces can become bonus rooms for entertaining family and friends or getting some work done. Here, the editors of This Old House pick the best basement remodels.

See all the winners and finalists from the Search for America's Best Remodel 2015

It Was All Worth It: Before

Who: Brian B.

Where: Portland, OR

"This was an awesome reclamation of space. We now have a family room, guest bedroom, bathroom, and wine cellar to enjoy. The dream was to have a place to spend time with the family and friends without sharing it with spiders and dust."

It Was All Worth It: After

Who: Brian B.

Where: Portland, OR

"Living in the home through the demolition was the hardest part. But now it's a joy to watch a movie with the kids, sit in the cellar with the music on while enjoying a glass of wine, or visit with out-of-town family staying."

Who did the work: "I did all the work myself, except for the drywall installation and finishing."

Cost: $50,000 to $100,000

See all the images from this entry.

Take the guesswork out of a similar overhaul with our guide, read this before you refinish your basement.

A Warm Family Space: Before

Who: Elizabeth H.

Where: Westfield, IN

"We've learned along the way that renovations don't have to cost a lot of money if you're willing to put in a little hard work yourself. My husband and I look back on our basement project and are so proud that we tackled it together—and still loved each other at the end."

A Warm Family Space: After

Who: Elizabeth H.

Where: Westfield, IN

"The drywall work is tough! This project sure took up more time (and money) than we planned on, but we did almost everything ourselves with a little help from YouTube. We bought the furniture and decor on clearance and at garage sales."

Who did the work: "We did most of the work ourselves."

Cost: $5,000 to $10,000

See all the images from this entry.

Draw more inspiration for your own redo from our favorite basement bonus rooms.

A New, Light-Filled Basement: Before

Who: Heather T.

Where: Washington, D.C.

"This basement had issues with mold, termites—you name it. It was in bad shape and wasn't a safe, functional space for our family."

A New, Light-Filled Basement: After

Who: Heather T.

Where: Washington, D.C.

"It's always easy to save money if you are willing to put in some sweat equity. Tackling the mold and termite damage was so disheartening and disgusting, but we survived, and the room is now safe, livable, and functional for our family. It's a great family recreation room. We keep our toys and games down here, and there is plenty of storage, so everything has a place. Despite not having a ton of natural light, this place still feels cozy and inviting to us."

Who did the work: "We did all the work ourselves."

Cost: $5,000 to $10,000

Get tips for dealing with termites.

More Space, Same Footprint: Before

Who: James D.

Where: Beaverton, OR

"The basement was in bad shape. Dirt made up the laundry-room floor."

More Space, Same Footprint: After

Who: James D.

Where: Beaverton, OR

"Now the space feels cozy, warm, and inviting—not like a basement at all. The work involved was extensive, from the subfloor to new molding. We used Habitat for Humanity ReStore for the doors."

Who did the work: "I did most of the work myself."

Cost: $1,000 to $5,000

See all the images from this entry.

Keep your remodeled space in check with these tips for preventing basement leaks.

A Family of Six Doubles Their Home's Square Footage: Before

Who: Kettig M.

Where: Fisherville, KY

"We needed more space. The unfinished basement had good bones, but we had to turn it from a place for boxes into a space for our family."

A Family of Six Doubles Their Home's Square Footage: After

Who: Kettig M.

Where: Fisherville, KY

"We love that the basement now has a cozy feel yet is very on-trend and modern. It has doubled our square footage with very usable space and given us an additional bedroom and full bathroom. We used a beautiful door from the 1800s to line the wall behind the urinal in the bathroom, and we burned the cabinets in the dry bar and the bathroom countertop with a blowtorch to achieve a unique look. We lightly etched the concrete floors and then used a urethane, making a mirror-like finish that reflects light."

Who did the work: "We did all the work ourselves."

Cost: $10,000 to $25,000

See all the images from this entry.

Recreate the style of this basement hangout with our video on how to build a bar.

Space for a Boy Living With Four Sisters: Before

Who: Ryan M.

Where: Tumwater, WA

"This house has been in my family for three generations now. But it was empty for almost 10 years. When we moved in, my son needed his own space."

Space for a Boy Living With Four Sisters: After

Who: Ryan M.

Where: Tumwater, WA

"I have found many of my ideas reading your magazine. I cut out pages and put them in a folder. When I first moved in, I didn't even have a TV, so I would just sit, read, and picture the house and basement finished. It now looks just as I pictured it. I saved by using recycled material: The rusty tin was from an old building that was being demolished; barn boards were from an old barn near my parents' farm. The barn door came off another old barn of a friend who said it was from an old boxcar they cut up in the 1940s. My grandfather built the house in 1927 and hand-dug the basement with my grandmother. Now my kids will have great memories of the house—and my grandparents, I know, would be happy."

Who did the work: "I did all the work myself."

Cost: $5,000 to $10,000

See all the images from this entry.

Get more ideas for your man cave from an unfinished basement with a masculine makeover.

A Polished Basement Conversion Welcomes Friends and Family: Before

Who: Steven W.

Where: Scranton, PA

"We needed more space and a separate half bath on the main floor for when mom and grandparents visit so that they don't have to walk up or down steps."

A Polished Basement Conversion Welcomes Friends and Family: After

Who: Steven W.

Where: Scranton, PA

"Though we had to live with the mess of gutting the entire basement, it was worth it to add a full bathroom, foyer area, office and family room. What was once storage has become a private area for friends and family who are in town, but we also use it when guests are not staying with us."

Cost: $25,000 to $50,000

Who did the work: "I did all the work myself."

See all the images from this entry.

Make space for more quality time with ideas from a basement-turned-family room transformation.