Homeowner’s buying guide to finishing the basement

Homeowner’s buying guide to finishing the basement

Homeowner’s Buying Guide to Finishing the Basement

You can use the following questions to qualify the basement builders that you’re receiving bids from.  ElkStone’s answers are included below…

Homeowner’s Buying Guide

Question 1 – “On what day does trim carpentry start?”

Answer – For ElkStone it’s always the third Wednesday after we start. We know this because we have a standard schedule for every job. In fact, we can tell you what’s happening every single day – who’s going to be there and what they’ll be doing. This question gets after the builder’s schedule: Do they have one? A schedule window like “8-10 weeks” is really not a schedule – it’s a guess. I know because I used to do this myself! Typically in this practice they’ll call their subs just prior to starting in hopes they’ll be available. With ElkStone, all our workers know weeks ahead of time what day they need to start your job, what day they need to finish your job, and exactly what to bring to complete your job. This is one of the reasons ElkStone consistently completes quality basements in less than four weeks with happy customers. ElkStone has been doing this since January 2008 so we’re really good at it.  Cutting the completion time by 66% makes a huge impact towards a very pleasant construction experience.  Just think, you can be enjoying your new space, watching the movie on the big screen and getting drinks from the bar – but with other contractors you’d have two more months of noise & dust.

ElkStone consistently completes quality basements in less than four weeks with happy customers.


Question 2 – “How many studs are you planning to use to frame my basement and long are they?”

Answer – This question gets after how detailed is the builder’s estimate. ElkStone will give you an answer something like 323 studs 92-5/8” long. We calculate exactly what it takes to build your basement. We can even tell you how many sheets of drywall and linear feet of baseboard we’ll need specifically for your project. ElkStone measures the wall length from the plan and inputs that data into our worksheet, which uses a formula to calculate exactly how many studs are required. This means two things:

  1. We won’t charging too much or too little for the materials
  2. We won’t cover our mistakes with change/add orders or cutting corners. If the builder doesn’t estimate your job correctly, you become a liability and they’ll prioritize other jobs over yours or compromise the quality and service of your project.


Question 3 – “Will my basement receive the attention it deserves during construction?”

Answer – This question will allow you to get an idea of how experienced your builder is and what resources they’ll allocate for your job. ElkStone has a full-time Project Manager who is assigned to your job and runs your basement from start to finish. Our Project Managers are pros at their job and critical to our operation.  Kind of like an orchestra conductor, our Managers keep the work site humming and makes sure you’re in-the-know and satisfied. With our proprietary scheduling timeline we are able to stagger our start dates which allow us to build your basement in 5 weeks and still give you and your basement all the attention they deserve.


Question 4 – “How long have you been working with your dry waller & electrician?”

Answer – This question gets at the relationship with trade partners. Our answer is 12 & 13 years respectively. Our relationships mean everything to us. Our philosophy is that once we find a trade partner who shares our values in terms of service, quality and reliability, we hold onto them! And because we pay fairly and promptly (every Friday) they demonstrate extreme loyalty to ElkStone.


Question 5 – “How much tile do I need to purchase, where do I purchase it, how much will it cost, and when do I need it by?”

Answer – This question addresses what we call the ‘Project List’.  This is a document we generate specifically for your project and it includes everything you need to know as it relates to items you are personally responsible for selecting such as tile, carpet, & electric/plumbing fixtures. We provide you with three tile vendors with seven locations throughout the metro area that we recommend. We also let you know what quantity to purchase for each area being tiled, who provides ElkStone discounts, how much you can expect to spend on your tile, and the date you need to have it purchased.  We do this not only for tile but every item you need to purchase.


Question 6 – “What is your pay schedule?”

Answer – We require no money down, no money to start, no money to schedule, and no design fee. In fact, the first invoice isn’t due until three days after we start. ElkStone has a very equitable pay schedule because neither you nor ElkStone is too extended at any one point in time. Our pay schedule is based on progress payments:

1st payment: Due three days after we start, so you know we’re committed to the job and we’ve allocated all our resources in terms of materials, labor & scheduling.

2nd payment: Due after drywall completion.

3rd and final payment: Imagine walking into your basement and you smell the fragrance of new carpet and Pine Sol cleaner. The windows are almost invisible because they’ve been Windexed and the whole basement looks and feels like a brand new model home. It’s only at this point when we’re totally complete and you’re completely satisfied that final payment is due.  So I would think twice about paying a contractor before work has begun and settling up before your basement complete.

Question 7 – “How many basements did you finish last year?”

Answer – ElkStone finished exactly 200 basements 2015.  This question addresses a company’s serviceability and reputation. ElkStone has a lot of satisfied customers because we deliver what we promise. We don’t charge extra for the benefit to move into your basement two months early, but that feature is unique to ElkStone and is a significant value to you. One of our company core values is: ‘All of our customers refer us always’ and this is only possible because your satisfaction is our number one goal.

Question 8 – “Have you finished every job you’ve started?”

Answer – Yes!  ElkStone is proud of our reputation and we take it very seriously because it means to world to us. Not only have we finished every job we’ve started, but ElkStone also has paid out in full to all our subs and vendors.  In fact, we pay our subs in full every Friday.


Question 9 – “Will you be on time and promptly return my calls?”

Answer – Keep in mind, the other contractors bidding on your basement are on their best behavior trying to make a good impression. If they’re slow in getting back to you now, how are they going to act after they deposit your first check? I always ask my clients if they’ve already received other bids and I can’t tell you how many times their answer is, “I’ve left messages, but you’re the first one I’ve talked to.”  ElkStone’s responsiveness up front is indicative of our service throughout the project. It’s our way of life evident in our work.

Reasons To Finish Your Basement in Denver

Reasons To Finish Your Basement in Denver

Reasons To Finish Your Basement in Denver


To finish, or, not to finish? This IS the question many homeowners are asking these days.

Life doesn’t come with an itinerary and so the home that you bought ten years ago, when it was just the two of you lovebirds, was more than enough room.

But now you have acquired 2.5 kids and a dog named Spot and it seems as though you are all living right on top of one another. You need more space so obviously the first thought that comes to mind is: MOVING.


I know, it makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up. People enjoy moving about as much as they enjoy root canals. Instead of moving, have you ever considered renovating that dreary, useless stuff-filled, space below your house? Some people refer to them as dungeons or “storage” but it’s really a basement, and it can be used for so much more than hiding old, embarrassing family photos and the sweaters grandma sends in the mail every Christmas!

So now that you are seriously pondering this, here are some really good reasons to finish your basement INSTEAD of moving into a new home.

1. Money, money, money. Depending on what you want to do with your unfinished basement space, renovations could cost considerably less than relocating your life entirely. The current average cost for a basic basement renovation is around $35 per square foot. So this would equate to about $35,000. Obviously the more amenities you include the more your price will increase, but it will still cost less than a new home.

2. Again, with the money. Finished basement areas are a desirable feature to prospective homebuyers. If you decide to finish your basement and create a useable and versatile space, this could mean a decent return on your investment if or when you decide to sell your home. The key is to make your basement functional and somewhat neutral. Obviously, if you decide to create a floor-to-ceiling replica of the moon landing in your basement, this might not appeal to many buyers, if any. Just try to think ahead!

3. Wait, you mean there’s MORE money? As lonely as an empty nest can be, every parent can find a reason to enjoy an empty home. The question is; what to do with all of that space? Well, why not make money off of it? That’s right. Many homeowners rent out their unused basement space and, according to Remodel Magazine, many basements can be rented out at anywhere between 50-75% of the monthly mortgage cost if zoned for multi-tenant use.

4. SPACE. That is what you are looking for, right? Think about all of the amazing things you could do with it! A well-constructed basement space can be used for so many things. Obviously the most popular choice is a space for the kids. Whether it is a movie room, a play room or a room or a room used specifically for arts and crafts, you will finally be able to reclaim your living room! Or, you could go the other direction and create a LARGER family room in your basement and save the space on the main level for grown-up entertainment. The options really are limitless!

5. Designed space. Yes, there is a difference. Most basement spaces in homes do come equipped with the necessary plumbing and electrical outlets to create additional living space. So, if you are thinking about expanding your family, whether you’re thinking of a brand new addition or a comfy space for your mother-in-law, if you have the space then you definitely have the option of creating more bedrooms and bathrooms.

6. Yard sale! A basement renovation will finally give you an excuse to clean it out! How much storage do you really need? Your home should be a LIVING space not a storage space. If you find yourself in a position where you need space to accommodate inanimate objects in place of people or family, then you should consider adjusting your priorities.

7. An unused space is a haven for unwanted guests! A dark, damp and unoccupied basement is precisely the type of environment in which insects, rodents and mold thrive. And if you’re never down there, with your vast amounts of stuff, then how would you know you even had these unwanted guests? No, you are not in any mortal danger from suffering a spider bite or a run-in with a mouse, but these creatures aren’t exactly pleasant. Some can cause mild illnesses and if you get an infestation, they can be costly to remove as well.

8. And lastly… MONEY. According to the 2010 U.S. Employment Census the average, annual income for a “full-service” mover is about $60,000. There is a reason for that and it is because moving is a loathsome and stressful experience. Oh, not to mention, EXPENSIVE. After acquiring three different estimates it was discovered that the average cost for a full service move, for a 2,100 square foot, 4 bedroom home, with 4 occupants, is about $7,000-$10,000. So, if you add up the cost of moving expenses (which doesn’t include your preparation expenses), mortgage and loan fees, closing costs and realtor fees, you could be close to spending the same amount on a move to a new location that you would on a basement renovation.

Convinced yet? If this has sparked your interest and you want to take a basement addition or renovation into consideration, contact us to start your free estimate. You might just be surprised how much basement you can get for your buck!

How To Choose A Denver Basement Contractor (part 1)

How To Choose A Denver Basement Contractor (part 1)

No doubt there are plenty of contractors out there, and choosing the right one for your basement finish project is a question everyone wants answered. If there could only be a way to just know you’re choosing the right basement finisher, then that would be so much easier and give you peace of mind.

How to Choose a Denver Basement Contractor

The task of finishing your basement is huge.  Next to the cost of your home or vehicle, turning your unfinished basement into extra finished living space is a huge expense – not to mention the time commitment needed on your part and the amount of time it takes for the basement project to be completed. It can be a daunting task.

Back to the car analogy, how do you know if you’re getting a Kia at a Mercedes price? Wouldn’t it be great to buy a BMW at a Chevrolet price? I’ll give you some pointers and an easy basement contractor qualifying system.

Categories to consider when choosing a Denver basement Finishing Company:

  1. Service
  2. Quality
  3. Timeline
  4. Price


You might arrange those differently and that’s totally fine depending on your particular priorities. Service tends be underrated but it’s a major component, particularly when you consider the cost of the project and how long it takes. It’s quite dissimilar from life insurance, for example.  Working with someone you can trust and who cares about your opinion can make the difference between a fun experience and a living nightmare. Imagine making a check out for the largest amount you’ve ever written, and not hearing again from your basement contractor for days on end.  That can be downright scary even if they did eventually come back. This is not worth the stress if you chose someone because price was your top priority.

Basement Finishing Tip: ElkStone’s pay schedule is based upon our progress in your basement. The first payment is due three (3) days after we start your project, so you know we are committed to your basement.


Close up of tile joints

Trim detail

Close up of wood-to-tile floor transition

ElkStone assigns a full-time Project Manager to your job, like an orchestra conductor who keeps everything flowing smoothly. He’ll be your point of contact and he runs the project every step of the way. One of the criteria we look for when hiring a basement Project Manager is a sense of ownership. We want them to act like it’s their business and even their own personal basement. ElkStone’s Project Managers are the single most important person to ElkStone as it relates to the customer’s image of ElkStone. If our customers love our Managers, then they’ll love our company! So we only hire the best and maintain high expectations because our reputation as a basement finisher means everything to us.

Basement Finishing Quality

Quality cannot usually be judged by photographs. You may see something that looks incredible in a photo, but in reality the walls are not plumb, straight, or square. The best way to determine this for you is to visit a job yourself. It’s a chore for sure, but you just can’t rely on photos or even someone else’s  opinion such as another satisfied client. They may have completely different standards than you. This task is best done when you’ve narrowed your project down to one or two basement finishers. This also gives you an opportunity to see how willing a basement contractor is to show his work. Be sure to arrange a time with the homeowner in person and maybe without the basement builder present so you can get an objective opinion from them.

There are three things to look for to determine quality basement finishing; drywall finish, trim carpentry, and painting. If one of those three areas is compromised it’ll ruin the entire project.



For drywall, the place to look is the transition from the existing stair wall into the new wall. A good drywaller will finish this so you can’t tell where the old stops and the new begins. The other drywall standard is the consistency of the texture. First, does it match the upstairs with the same heaviness or thickness of texture? Secondly, is the texture pattern consistent? It shouldn’t change from the top of the wall to the bottom of the wall. This happens because of how the drywaller is holding the applicator as he applies it.

Trim Carpentry

Trim carpentry for basement finishing is the same for new home construction. Look to see that doors open and close properly. Does the door rub against the jamb and does the door make full contact all the way up and down the jamb when it’s closed? The tell tail sign is if the door touches the bottom or top of the jamb first.  It should make contact with the jamb all at once. Another item to check is mitered corners on the baseboard. As the basement baseboard wraps around an outside corner inside corner it should keep tight to the wall. The joints should be tight with no gaps or very little gaps. We often say our basements are tight and we mean this quite literally! It should be well put together with no gaps in the trim or anything else.


Paint is probably the easiest of these three to judge. Here, you’re looking for where the walls meet the trim and the ceiling. The line transitioning the two surfaces together should be crisp, straight, and clean. It shouldn’t wander or have dips. Also the patch work, whether its staining or painting the nail holes, should almost be invisible or barely noticeable. Lastly, check for any flashing. Flashing is when the wall surface receives the paint differently and will show up in a splotchy pattern. It will look as though parts of the wall are painted with a different sheen. This is a little tricky to spot sometimes and may be easier to discover with the lights off and only the natural light from the windows coming in.  ElkStone prevents flashing by back rolling the wall surface. This is where the painter sprays the paint on and then rolls over it. too. This also makes for great touch-up because when a wall is back rolled, touch-up is not noticeable.


Paint transition and trim miter joint

Close up of vanity faucet

Granite joint

Quality Standards

We’ve had some very particular customers with very high standards – and that’s okay, because we’re up for the challenge and are perfectionist with high standards ourselves. We’ve seen people crawl around on their hands and knees, twelve inches from the wall. And again, that’s okay but maybe not necessary. One of our mottoes is ‘Uncompromising Craftsmanship’, so our standards are higher than yours most of the time. I will say, however, that when you’re doing a quality check, the industry standard is from an observation distance from three to five feet as you walk around the room. If you have to get closer than that to detect a problem, then it shouldn’t concern you too much.  Granite and plumbing could be exceptions to that guideline.

Basement Tip: ElkStone recommends flat or eggshell paint for your walls & ceiling. If the sheen of paint is too glossy, it may appear institutional much like a school or hospital. The trim and doors should be gloss or semi-gloss.

Contact us if you’d like a free quote or have any questions about what to look for in a basement contractor.

How much does a basement finish cost?

How much does a basement finish cost?

The answer is… it depends – but let me explain.

When an estimator from ElkStone visits your home for a free comprehensive consultation for a basement finish (sometimes referred to as a basement remodel or basement refinish) they’ll ask you a number of questions. What they want to find out is exactly what you want and need for the new finished basement space. Then your estimator will walk the unfinished basement with you to see what you have in mind; they’ll also provide suggestions based on hundreds of basement designs they’ve drawn previously.

How much does a basement finish cost

Interestingly, a medium sized basement of about 1000 square feet is usually pretty simple to plan for because there are only so many places to locate the bedroom and bathroom. The basement bedroom has to be located next to an egress window, or a new egress window has to be cut in. We like to “go with the flow” to keep it simple and keep costs down. Typically a basement finish will include a bedroom, bath, and rec area. There are a plethora of other items you can add like a wet bar, fireplace, theater, billiards area, and the list goes on.

To see photos of a variety of basement options, please visit our Gallery.

Ironically, small basements and large unfinished basements are more of a challenge to design. With large unfinished basements, there are so many options that it can become a little overwhelming. However, what we like to do is a design a rough draft for your basement plan and see what you think. Most of the time when you’re considering a basement plan, it’s an ongoing process. Occasionally we’ll get it right the first time but oftentimes we go back and forth with you to discover exactly the plan you’ll be satisfied with.

The design is one of the most important issues to consider when finishing your basement. Make sure you’re comfortable with that before building because you’re the one who has to live with it and see it every day. ElkStone can render your basement design plan in 3D so we can fly over it and walk through it to help you conceptualize the basement space. ElkStone’s basement estimators have designed hundreds of basement plans so they’re experts and have clever ways to design around challenging features in the basement such as structural posts and furnaces.

Once you approve a rough draft, they’ll complete the estimate which is a 400-line item basement cost worksheet. This is ElkStone’s way of determining exactly what it will cost to build your basement. We can tell you how many linear feet of baseboard we’ll need, the exact number of light switches, and even how many sheets of drywall it’ll take for us to build your basement. We like to be precise when it comes to pricing your basement! Once we give you a price to finish your basement, that price won’t change. Our basement proposal priced is fixed and won’t change.

Once we give you a price to finish your basement, that price won’t change.

Our comprehensive basement estimate does two important things for us. First, since we know exactly what it will cost to build your basement, we can be more competitive since we don’t have to add in more margin because of uncertainty. Second, we know we’ll always be profitable as a business which allows us to provide the full level of service which you deserve.

When contractors don’t do their homework and find out during construction that they aren’t making any money on your job, they’ll switch priorities to other jobs and leave your basement project neglected and you frustrated. In extreme cases, they’ll cut corners and or walk off your job. I know, because we’ve finished basements where another basement contractor started the job and then went missing. The appeal of their low price they offer can be irresistible, and if they have references that’ll seal the deal – and the unfortunate circumstances that will follow. But since ElkStone knows exactly what it will cost to build your basement we can competently complete the basement project while making the job mutually satisfying.

Now, back to the original question:
“How much does a basement finish cost?”

Okay, so now you know how we get to our pricing – but here are some guidelines that will further explain basement prices. A price per square, or PSF, is a common means of quoting a basement price. The only problem with this is that it’s not accurate. It’s merely a ballpark price. ElkStone does, however, track PSF – but only after we have completed our comprehensive worksheet, then we look backwards to see what is the basement PSF. We use PSF as a point of reference and not a means to price a basement. The smaller the basement, the higher the PSF cost because of large fixed costs such as a bathroom, fireplace, or wet bar for example. Regardless of size, the price for these items doesn’t change so if you put them in a small basement there will be a high PSF and inversely with a large basement. There might be a linear equation if all basement costs weren’t fixed but that’s simply not the case. Take the cost of a basement bathroom for example. It’s a large fixed cost that will be same whether it’s in a 2500 square foot basement or a 500 square foot basement so that’ll throw off the PSF formula.

If you receive a basement estimate price in the $20.00 PSF range – beware! It is possible, but you’ll need to do your due diligence and there’ll be a few items you’ll have to compromise on. Check for licensing and insurance. If a contractor offers you a cheap basement finish price then asks you to pull the permit or put the basement finish permit under your name, then they’re not licensed. This could also mean they’ll be doing work only licensed contractors are permitted to do such as electrical wiring and plumbing.

You wouldn’t believe some of the safety hazards and absurd building methods we’ve seen over the years!

We ask ourselves, “What was this guy thinking when he built this?” Just ridiculous stuff! It would seem an electrical fire and plumbing flood would be imminent with some of the stuff we’ve seen. What is compromised is the timeline and maybe the quality, too. Usually the low price guys do all the work themselves which may seem appealing at first because you’re only working with one or two guys, but that also means your basement will take forever – six month or more.

The one unique feature that makes ElkStone special and stand out from the one guy who does it all as well as all basement contractors in Denver is that ElkStone will finish your basement in FIVE (5) WEEKS. This is three times faster than normal! The others typically take 8 – 12 weeks. So you get to move in two months early with ElkStone, and we don’t charge extra for that, either. Three months is a long time to have contractors coming in and out of your house, making noise and dust. You will be so ready for that to be over that it often makes for a bad experience.

ElkStone will finish your basement in FIVE (5) WEEKS.

This brings me to another side note, the “ElkStone Experience.” We provide uncompromising craftsmanship at a great price, and we try and make the construction a good experience as well. What other contractor has that as one of their top priories? We can’t guarantee a pleasant experience because when you’er working with people and dealing with construction – things can go wrong. But we pride ourselves on how we handle that. I’ll cover this in another basement and remodeling blog.

Back to pricing; the other end of basement cost is upwards of $80 PSF. This price could be from a really small basement with a lot of features or a high end custom basement. You would typically see a high price like this from a basement contractor who has a showroom with full time architects and interior designers or a basement finisher who’s taking advantage of you because they think you have unlimited money. Our basements simply don’t get this high because our pricing is fixed based on cost plus markup. Regardless of the home you live in or your budget amount, our price “is what it is.” ElkStone believes in offering you our “best price first” so there won’t be any gimmicks to get you to “sign up with us today” or a “sale, today only”.

So in conclusion, you should expect to pay between $45 and $65 per square foot – but it totally depends on how many square feet you’ll be finishing in your basement and how many features you choose to include.

If you’re interested in having a free basement finish estimate then please feel free to email me at info@elkstone.com or call 303-656-9006, or contact us today.

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