wikiHow to Make a Basement Apartment

Two Methods:Ensure the Legal Criteria are MetUndertake the Necessary Renovations

If your home has a basement level, it may be worthwhile to consider how often you use it. Chances are you'll find that your basement is being used primarily for storage. Consider instead putting your basement to work by converting it into an apartment; basement apartments allow you to supplement your income or host a family member that can't afford to live on their own. Learning how to make a basement apartment is largely a matter of ensuring that the legal criteria are met. The scope of renovations required to make the space attractive to tenants will depend on your basement's existing condition.

Method 1
Ensure the Legal Criteria are Met

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    Make sure that the basement apartment has a dedicated exit. Regulations regarding basement apartment requirements vary between jurisdictions, but it is very common that a separate entrance is required. This ensures ease of access but also serves as a method of emergency egress in case of a fire. If your basement already has a door to the outside, this requirement is likely fulfilled.
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    Ensure that the basement has enough light. Many building codes require separate dwellings to have a certain amount of natural light. Whether or not your unit has adequate sunlight can be tested by a local building inspector using special equipment. If you can't pass this requirement, you will have to have additional windows installed along an exterior wall in order to create a legal basement apartment.
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    Improve the sound and fire insulation between dwellings. Another major requirement concerns the amount of insulation between your main dwelling and the basement unit. You will almost certainly have to replace the door to the stairway separating the units with a fire door; these doors are usually made from steel and can withstand a burn for 2 hours or more before giving way. Additional insulation for soundproofing and fire resistance may also be required in the floor between the units. If your basement is currently unfinished, adding this insulation will be easy.

Method 2
Undertake the Necessary Renovations

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    Plan a bathroom and kitchen for the basement apartment. If your basement does not already have a bathroom and kitchen, you'll want to plan on adding them. A bathroom is a necessary requirement, and building codes should be kept in mind regarding aspects like head space over the toilet and GFCI electrical outlets. In a very small unit, you could consider adding a kitchenette rather than a full kitchen. To install a kitchen from scratch, you will need to run new plumbing lines, as well as gas lines for a gas stove and ductwork if you want to install a ducted range hood.
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    Add or remove any walls to optimize the floor plan. A basement that was not designed as a separate dwelling may not have a layout that will be attractive to tenants. When planning changes to the layout, consider whether the apartment will be a studio, a 1-bedroom, or a 2-bedroom. Remember that even in a small unit, partitioning off a separate space as a bedroom will usually allow you to command a higher rent.
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    Update the finishes and fixtures as necessary. The final step is to consider all the aspects that will make the unit more attractive to tenants than other rental properties. Unless you are trying to command a very high rent, finishes do not have to be top-quality, but they should not be worn and damaged. Painting the walls and installing inexpensive carpet are 2 economical methods for quickly freshening a basement space.


  • Renters cannot usually be expected to care for a property as diligently as owners. To accommodate this fact, take steps to make your rental unit as low-maintenance as possible. For example, wiring your bathroom fan to turn on any time the lights are on will ensure that the bathroom stays ventilated.
  • Market your rental unit as aggressively as possible. Being able to choose from a wide pool of prospective renters will allow you to choose a reliable, tidy, and respectful tenant.

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Categories: Build Design & Remodel Own Home