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Basement stairs leading up to the main foor of a family home. Wooden ceilings and a decorative backboard with child's chalk drawings.

The Best Basement Finishing Systems (2024 Guide)

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Author Icon By Angela Bunt Updated 01/14/2024

Transforming a dull basement into a cozy living space can be easier than you think with the help of a basement finishing system. Basement finishing systems typically include ready-to-install wall panels, insulation, and ceilings to help simplify this home improvement project. In this guide, we’ll explore three popular basement finishing systems to help you determine which is right for you.

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Basement Finishing Systems vs. Custom Finished Basement

You can choose either a basement finishing system or custom finishing when renovating your basement. The custom route allows you to create a unique space but requires more time. A basement finishing system is a more streamlined approach that uses predesigned building materials but often has a higher up-front cost.

Consider your priorities when deciding between the two basement renovation options. A basement finishing system may be best if you want fast installation, while a custom finish may be better if you want more design flexibility and the potential for do-it-yourself (DIY) work.

AspectBasement Finishing SystemCustom Finished Basement

Cost

Higher up-front cost of $55–$72.50* per square foot

Lower up-front cost of $7–$23 per square foot

Customization

Limited customization

Full customization

Design flexibility

Limited design options

Unlimited possibilities

Ease of installation

DIY installation isn’t possible

Allows for DIY work

Installation time

Faster installation (2 weeks on average)

Longer construction (5 weeks on average)

Material quality

Fewer options

Ample options

Moisture resistance

Built-in moisture resistance

Custom solutions needed


Basement finishing systems include distinctive features made for the unique challenges of basement environments, such as moisture and insulation needs. This proactive approach sets them apart from traditional custom-built basements. Below are the features that separate a basement finishing system from a custom remodel.

Basement finishing systems include walls with fiberglass panels and built-in insulation properties, prioritizing energy efficiency and temperature control. Standard drywall basement walls don’t have insulation in most cases.

Basement finishing systems primarily include wall paneling and ceilings. Flooring isn’t always included, so you may have to find and pay for basement flooring separately. Expect to pay between $1,500–$4,500 for basement flooring.

Basement finishing systems include wall panels constructed from nonorganic materials rather than traditional drywall. They’re engineered to withstand moisture and deter mold in case of flooding or normal basement humidity.

Basement finishing systems typically require professional installation. A DIY approach is rarely an option.

Basement finishing systems include suspended ceilings to preserve access to wiring and plumbing. These secondary ceilings are hung below the main structural ceiling and typically include a grid framework and removable ceiling tiles.

*All cost data in this section is from Angi.


Basement Finishing Companies

We’ve reviewed some of the industry’s most popular basement finishing companies, researching each brand’s pricing, process, and features while taking into account customer feedback and concerns. Our findings are listed below to provide perspective and aid in your decision-making process.

Total Basement Finishing

Cost: $60–$75 per square foot*

Time to completion: About two weeks

Wall panel insulation: R-13

Ceiling options: Two styles of basement ceiling tiles are available. The Linen Ceiling Tiles provide a bright and sophisticated look that is perfect for family rooms and home theaters. The Prestige Ceiling Tiles are textured, making them ideal for children’s play areas and home gyms. Both ceiling tiles are made of mineral fiber and are water- and mold-resistant. They’re also backed by a 30-year warranty and offer easy access to wiring and utilities.

Flooring options: A Total Basement Finishing system includes multiple flooring options, such as subfloor tiles, carpeted tiles, and vinyl-faced tiles that mimic the appearance of ceramic tile flooring.

Overview: Total Basement Finishing, often referred to as TBF, has more than three decades of industry experience. It uses a network of contractors to provide basement finishing systems across the U.S. and Canada. The company has received mixed reviews, with many people reporting positive outcomes and others mentioning occasional project delays and limited communication.

However, we still recommend TBF due to its competitive pricing, versatile ceiling options, and long warranties. The company also offers various flooring options, which is a rarity for basement finishing systems. Additionally, TBF’s wall panels are available with or without integral rigid foam insulation and a textured vinyl surface, offering functional and aesthetic appeal.

*Price data in this section is from HomeGuide.

Owens Corning Basement Finishing System

Cost: $50–$70* per square foot, though some estimates suggest costs could be as low as $25 per square foot

Time to completion: About two weeks

Wall panel insulation: R-11

Ceiling options: Two types of suspended ceiling options with acoustic panels

Flooring options: None

Overview: Owens Corning Basement Finishing System is one of the most recognized names in the basement renovations industry. Customer reviews often highlight the company’s efficient installation process, as well as the system’s acoustic benefits and energy efficiency. However, it doesn’t offer any flooring options with its systems, meaning additional steps and costs will be necessary to complete your basement finishing project.

We recommend Owens Corning based on its reputation for quality and positive customer feedback. The biggest drawback is that the company doesn’t offer flooring, but its other system components are cost-effective, mold-resistant, and aesthetically pleasing.

*Cost data in this section is from Handyman Services of Omaha.

Matrix Basement Systems Inc.

Cost: Varies, though financing options can be as low as $149* per month

Time to completion: One month

Wall panel insulation: Not specified, though reviews commend an extremely high R-value

Ceiling options: Rockfon drop ceilings

Flooring options: Tyroc subflooring that combats moisture, mold, and mildew

Overview: Matrix Basement Systems Inc. made our list of basement finishing system recommendations due to consistent positive customer feedback. Some clients have praised the company’s quality, efficient work, and attention to detail.

Matrix Basement Systems also has a reputation for transparency and a low-pressure approach during the quote process. Some reviews mention occasionally needing to follow up with the team to ensure they’re sticking to the initial agreement, but most reviews are overwhelmingly positive.

*Cost figure in this section is from Matrix Basement Systems Inc.


Key Steps in a Basement Finishing Project

Here are some steps to take when completing a basement finishing project:
Address any moisture or water issues, checking foundation walls for cracks or gaps. A waterproof basement is key before finishing.
Once the waterproofing is complete, plan your finished basement and create a detailed floor plan.
Check building codes and secure the proper permits.
Install moisture-resistant insulation and build the framework for the walls.
Plan and install electrical wiring, outlets, lighting, and plumbing fixtures.
Select moisture-resistant flooring.
Decide on wall finishing, whether it’s drywall or a finishing system.
Address ceiling and HVAC requirements.
Paint walls if paintable, add trim, and decorate the new space.

Our Conclusion

Renovating your basement can provide more livable space and boost your home value. Consider your timeline, basement needs, and budget when deciding between a basement finishing system or a DIY-friendly custom renovation. We recommend requesting quotes from at least three contractors and comparing pricing and services if you want to hire a professional.

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FAQ About Basement Finishing Systems

What is the best and cheapest way to finish a basement?

The best and cheapest way to finish a basement depends on your specific needs. Basement finishing systems offer convenience but can be pricier. Custom approaches involve more labor but can be budget-friendly.

What is the most expensive part of finishing a basement?

The most expensive part of finishing a basement varies by project. In most cases, plumbing, luxury upgrades, egress window installation, and flooring are the most expensive parts of finishing a basement. Waterproofing is another costly component.

What R-value should I look for in a basement finishing system?

The R-value you should look for in a basement finishing system depends on your climate zone. You should also consider insulation type and moisture control. In general, basement ceilings should have an R-value of at least R-10.

Can I buy parts of multiple basement finishing systems and use them in one project?

Yes, you can buy parts of multiple basement finishing systems and use them in one project, but make sure the different parts are compatible. Consult with a basement finishing professional to ensure a seamless integration.

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