I get it having your basement finished while you are living in the home isn't an overly fun thing to do.  Actually getting your basement finished is only awesome when the project is completed, until then it is kind of a giant pain in the backside.  I have gone through the estimating and finishing process a couple of times and now I have figured out exactly what to do and not to do which is great because I'll probably never have to do it again.  I decided to write this blog just in case anyone is considering hiring the project out so this is just a resource.

I have learned to value honesty and I've found contractors have a way of skimping on honest to land a job.  Now not all contractors are that way but some of them are for sure.  Here are a couple of things to be weary of:

  • If your contractor says "I need you the homeowner to pull the permit for this job".  Please, just run away if you hear this, because I can almost guarantee that the contractor you are considering isn't licensed.  You really want to hire someone that is licensed because they work hard to do the right things since they are protecting their license.  Guys who aren't licensed don't care so they just do whatever they want and go to the next fool to scam.
  • Time to completion this is a huge deal.  I have found this ranges substantially smaller contractors can give timing estimates that are three months or longer.  High quality professionals can get your job finished in 5 - 8 weeks.  This range is acceptable and it shows you are dealing with a basement finishing contractor that knows what he is doing.  I really believe if you hear a quote of over 8 weeks you should run away because this means that you are probably dealing with a smaller contractor that is over booked or they haven't done enough basements to warrant your business.
  • Take the time to check the contractors insurance.  I actually ask for the insurance certificate, this is important because if anything goes wrong you want to make sure that you are covered.  Once again if your contractor isn't licensed then just turn and run away.  
  • Pricing is always a consideration as well.  Price per square foot can be a misleading deal because if you have a huge basement of 1,500 square feet or more then the price per square foot can be lower, but if you have a smaller basement with high end finishes the price can be astronomically higher.  In order to keep this simple I want you to turn and run away if you hear any contractor quote you a price of $20 - $30 per square foot.  This might be an attempt to land your business and jack up the cost later or they will be taking a wide variety of short cuts and the quality of your basement will be shoddy at best.  For a quality job on a basement around 800 - 1,000 square feet you should assume the cost is going to be $40 per square foot on the low end but probably closer to $45 per square foot just to get in the door.  I get it everyone wants a deal but in the end are you really getting a deal if the whole job goes sideways and you have to hire a real professional to finish it?  Or are you getting a deal if they estimate the cost at $25 per square foot but then after all the addbacks they get to $45 per square foot anyways?  I would really rather you be straight up with me and let me know a reasonable range.  Don't tell me the price will be $25 per square foot but that doesn't include paint, doors, baseboard, plumbing fixtures, etc.  

I believe there are other things to watch out for as well but I think these are the top areas of concern for me.  I have worked with other general contractors but I will say my last and hopefully final experience, I found a winner in Dustin Baker of Baker Basements.  They did high quality work and were honest throughout the entire process.  If anyone has other suggestions to look out for please leave them in the comment section below.  Thanks for reading and have fun with having your basement being out of commission for 5-8 weeks, contractors greeting you in the morning and the sounds of saws and hammers.  After it is done you will be happy but just find a way to get through the whole building phase.