Basement renovation question

Question Icon
1/28/2017 at 8:08:14 AM

Hi Everyone,

A couple of questions on basement renovations - does anyone have any experience with using the basement reno guys that "claim" they can finish a basement in 3 weeks. My understanding is generally speaking for "most" jobs 6-8 weeks is the "normal" start to finish timeline.

The other thing I've heard is you don't need permits - my understanding for a basement if you are adding electrical (need a permit), changing structure (need a permit), adding a bedroom (need a permit), adding an egress window (need a permit).

One final question - I've seen quotes all over the place - I know this varies and depends on alot of factors - but generally speaking - I would think your average basement cost should be in the range of $60K-$70K?

Thanks in advance.


User Icon
Date/Time1/28/2017 at 9:15:03 AM

Hi Ron,

Abosolutley 100% you need a permit to finish a basement. You will also need an electrical permit. Codes have changed over the last five years regarding HVAC supply runs and smoke/CO/strobe placements in rooms. Also ensuring the egress for bedrooms. An appropriate timeline would be minimum 4 weeks. And an average starting cost of $30 per sq/ft of finished space, and it can go up from there.

Hope this helps.

User Icon
Stuart from Brolly Renos in Collingwood
Date/Time1/28/2017 at 9:31:28 AM

Hi Ron.

Basement costs depend on finish. $20-$40/sq ft.

Electrical is a different authority than building. So you can have an Electrical permit done and not a building permit.

In short, if you would like it done properly, get both permits. Which your contractor will take care of, if you hire the right company. This also depends on budget.

As a good contractor myself, it's frustrating to hear stories of complaints from clients who don't want to pay to have it done right.

They just want cheap and then to complain.

As for 3 weeks!! Seems unlikely if you are adding a bathroom or customs built ins.


User Icon
Date/Time1/28/2017 at 9:57:39 AM

Hi Ron!

If You ask the City, when do I need building permit the answer is always except when You do painting. We all know this is money grabbing intend,all this could be simple and building code to be reinforced. City inspectors are not busy and dirtiest think You can do is waiting for Contractor at Home Depot, follow Him to the job site and shot the project down. As for the cost to finish the Basement apt.I would be very coshes from contractor who tells me He can finish the Basement apt.for 4 weeks and for $20.00 per sq.ft. Most important is to have structural engineer and ESA approval rest of it is mony grabbing.

User Icon
Robert from ElecTriLight Ltd. in Oakville
Date/Time1/28/2017 at 10:01:38 AM

Costs depend greatly on your materials installed and the labour quality. 100% sure, you get what you pay for. 100% an electrical permit is required and can only be supplied by the electrical contractor doing the install, not the home owner nor the general contractor. Any gas lines run need a pemit, any structure needs a permit, any floors being broken for plumbing needs a permit. Costs also depending greatly on square footage. All electrical outlets must be supplied by a new AFCI breaker which are no longer $10 for a breaker but now up to $150 each, which also drives costs up.

Electrical costs could run from $2000 to $12000 alone. Again it depends on current conditions, time for removals of existing layout, and what you need in the end.

I recently completely a 1500 square foot basement and the electrical alone was $17,000. But that was high end everything. 95 pot lights, accent lights, home theatre wiring ( no equipment supplied or installed by us),tub, steam shower, gym, wet bars, full bedrooms and ensuites, basically a full floor of rental space.

On the other hand, $2000 would complete a simple few rooms with basic needs.

User Icon
Frank from Reno Force in Princeton
Date/Time1/28/2017 at 10:02:18 AM

Hello Ron,

As a contractor we highly advised to apply for a building permit, this will determine that all work completed complies with all building codes, your electrician will automatically apply for his own ESA inspection wheather you apply for permit or not, 3 weeks sounds unlikely when considering quality workmanship is a must on average 5 - 6 weeks you should be looking at, your average estimate per sq ft would be $30 - $40 and again this is determined with your finishes. Hope this gives you a better perspective as to what to be expecting, here to help with any further questions or concerns that you may have.


User Icon
Thomas from Trusted Trades in Cambridge
Date/Time1/28/2017 at 10:23:45 AM

Hey Ron,

Reading the comments. I'm inclined to agree with Frank here. The reality is the city requires it for an abundance of reasons. The ability to escape from an egress window, to the sq/ft size minimum for a room, smoke and co2. There is an abundance of things to be checked over on a project like that.especially with adding a bathroom or moving a structual wall.

Even a great contractor, that knows these codes should be willing to put their work to the test with a city inspector. Its not a money grab,they are there to make sure a job is done right and if it is done right these inspectors give you no trouble at all.

Most people that hate city inspectors have a history of failed inspections, so permits become something they avoid. Noone is perfect, you maybe be extremely knowledgable in renovations but if you aren't up to date with code changes and devlopments-you can always miss something. They are that safety net.

You can consult your cities building department webpage and they will likely list things that are require a permit. Or better yet, call them. They would be glad to educate you on the proper needs for your project.

As for a contractor saying a 3 week timeline. Even with a large crew, you meed to break or electrical install and inspections, likely 3 city inspections. These generate delays as the city scheduling can be hectic. I've seen small basements done on small timelines. But to me it doesnt sound like realistic or respectable timeline.

I would thank him for his time and move on to the next contractor.



User Icon
Date/Time1/28/2017 at 10:34:24 AM

Hi Ron,

Yes, cost can vary quite a bit and that variable cost is entirely up to you. Do your homework. Write down Exactly what you want on paper (" Scope of Work"), so everyone gets the same story. The more details you get on a Estimate the better. If things are not written down in detail that you talked about, they could be considered "Extra" later on. You could save a bit if you act as your own contractor. Hire your own contractor to do the bulk of the work but then shop around and bring in your own Electrician and Plumber , If you have a good idea of what you want, you will have separate estimates from them in advance and they will work in concert with your main contractor as required. Timing all depends on what you require. All will take care of there own permits. If you had drawings done up, this would save some headaches.

User Icon
Date/Time1/28/2017 at 10:41:10 AM

Hi Ron,

I'm a licenced general contractor in Calgary Alberta."All-In RENOVATIONS" 403-554-7029 The codes are in place for a reason that is to protect you. You need a building permit electrical permit and a plumbing permit if there is a bathroom or kitchen. If there is a bedroom you will need an egress window which is included in the building permit. It is well worth the minimal fee for these permits which your contractor should Supply in his cost. Concerning having it done in 3 weeks it is possible but highly unlikely if you have more than a thousand square feet with a bathroom. 4-8 weeks would be an average timeline start to finish. Concerning costs it really does depend on what finishes and material you are using. My average price for a thousand square foot basement with a complete bathroom custom shower would be around $45,000 All In "complete" However for $70,000 I could get it done in 3 weeks, I would just have to hire more good sub trades.

Jeff Shea

PS people who do not want a building permit generally pay for that decision down the road.

User Icon
Ro in Oshawa
Date/Time1/28/2017 at 11:07:31 AM

Thanks for all the quick replies - I was doubtful on the "3 week" claim - there is a company that has plastered flyers all over our neighbourhood.

So if I was putting in electrical (need a permit?), egress window (need a permit?), plumbing (need a permit). We were only looking at a basic basement - leaving it mostly open concept but likely a 3 piece bath, wet bar, potential media room.

User Icon
Date/Time1/28/2017 at 11:11:27 AM


Thank you for posting your thoughtful questions on TrustedPros website.

Concerning the electrical portion of your renovation, know that a permit is not only required but beneficial. It will give you peace of mind knowing that the work was completed by a reputable electrical company and that the space is safe for its occupants. Lastly, with a final certificate of inspection, your property will have a much smoother and profitable resale.

Cost of an electrical permit varies; it is based on how many devices are installed and also whether electrical service is upgraded. Choose and electrical company that pulls the permit for you and schedules any required inspection(s).

As you likely know, turnaround time of a renovation project is always balanced against cost. If you are willing to pay more and put more effort in screening/hiring/overseeing your contractors, then you likely will be able have the basement renovation project completed in less time.

You want contractors that are committed to being on site and doing their work when they say they will. We have witnessed that it is the unreliability of tradesmen that often holds up projects and frustrates customers.

I encourage you to sit down and create a detailed timeline with the input of either your general contractor OR the contractors your hire from the individual trades. Stick to this timeline as diligently as possible but have a buffer of time for the high likelihood of a few setbacks.

Remember scheduling permits and inspections can also hold up the timing of project completion. However with lead notice of the construction work, your Electrician should be able to book a rough-in inspection before work begins. The final is sometime a little more tricky to schedule long in advance because it is dependent on the timing of other trades finishing their work on time.

Without knowing the specs for your basement, I would say the average cost range you have in mind is good for a budget. My recommendation for you is to get some detailed free quotes from general contractors AND from trade specific contractors. Then you can firm up your budget and choose between hiring a general contractor or overseeing the project and trades specific contractors yourself.

We hope this general information is somewhat helpful and we wish you the best on the planning of your basement renovation project.

User Icon
Joseph from DesignBuild in Oshawa
Date/Time1/28/2017 at 6:18:19 PM

Hello Ron,

By comparison if a bathroom renovation (gutting a room and starting anew) can easily take up to two weeks for completion, three weeks for an entire basement is a pretty aggressive (and optimistic) timeline. Another example is Mudding and finishing...that can (and should take) up four days for dry time so yes 21 days is not likely unless it's a significantly substandard job being done. As far as permitting goes I would have been at the front of the line waving a flag saying MUST get permits...from the perspective that the inspector is 'part of the team'...until you run into an inspector that does nothing but cause delays when,literally, you have done exactly what he asked for on a previous visit and then CHANGES the requirements at will upon inspection of said work. After a litany of these delays I had to get the CBO involved to finally resolve the problem. So in other words caution on all fronts not only with the contractors you select but also know you may be one of the unfortunate souls that ends up with this particular inspector in our city.

As far as electrical work only a master electrician can pull a permit and that's well advised particularly for an income unit. However I'm not so certain any longer about the rest. Caution caution and more caution I guess.

(As an aside: a great majority of my business had been in the area of legal two family dwellings and legal duplexes. I have since focused my business elsewhere. Working now on two projects with full permitting, have no problems with permits, but NOT in the city of Oshawa. Sorry Oshawa)

User Icon
Date/Time1/29/2017 at 12:21:17 PM

You might need a ESA for electrical inspection instead of a complete building permits but that's all depend on what you are looking to do

3 weeks time frame it could happen in case it's just a small basement without bathroom and has a good crew of 3-4 guys to work everyday otherwise definitely will take longer as long as you are looking for a good workmanship. Cost vary depend on quality of labor and materials.

Roughly we could say $30 / sq ft and you add another $6000 for a 3 pcs bathroom and extra 5-10k in case you want to add a good kitchen.

User Icon
Date/Time1/29/2017 at 12:36:44 PM


I would like to say that 3 weeks 21 days is too little for a good job to be done. You should give minimum start to finish with complete clean up at least 5 to 6 weeks. ( considering Saturday 1/2 day and Sunday full day off).

Permits are highly recommended for Electrical, Plumbing (mainly for basement) HVAC if you are touching gas line and duct work. If you are removing any structural walls or making any changes on structural walls highly recommend to have it reviewed by structural engineer.

Means of Egress if you are making it as a bed room in basement, its a safety issue.

Things are OK when everything runs smooth - what if some one complaints? What if any accident during construction? What if there is an accident after you start using it? Insurance finds out that cause of accident was due to faulty construction? Will they pay? Liabilities if some one is badly injured or dies.

Cost wise its like starting from 50K then all depends on so many factors of Quality of construction.

Dual floor, Safe and sound insulation with resilient channel in ceiling, what kind of washroom and what quality it can be 7000 or 20 and even up. Heated floor? What are the finishes etc....

Is it a basic Pontiac or Tesla fully loaded. One readily available and other in spite of the highest cost you still wait for the car to come. Same way cost and time to finish depends on quality and how much you spend.

To get the best comparable quotes you prepare your plan what you want, prepare specifications how you want and then give all contractors to bid on one design and one specification list. Then only you will get numbers in +- of 5% variations that would give you exact time line, best quote and level ground for all to compete.

Hope that helps.

User Icon
Date/Time2/1/2017 at 2:30:35 PM

This is Todd from Hasaca Construction in Ottawa. I think about 6-8 weeks is a more realistic time frame for a 1200 sqf basement. People watch a 30 minute show and poof! Finished basement. The reality is that renovations and basements take a bit of time to be done properly. The finishing, number of rooms and closets and other detailed work all add up to additional costs. A simple way to think about a lot of construction work is 1/3 materials, 2/3 labor. If the materials to finish a basement cost $20,000 the total job is going to be in the area of $60,000. This is an imperfect science but it often gives a rough idea of where pricing will come in. Permits are a must and despite the expense of permits and headache to the contractor they are there to protect the home owner. Assume you need a permit for everything touched unless otherwise instructed by the city.

User Icon
Ro in Oshawa
Date/Time2/3/2017 at 6:46:23 AM

Quick update.

Thanks for all the advice. Would tend to agree with everyone....I don't think you can do a basement in 3 weeks, especially a large one like ours, but these guys who "claim" they can do a basement in "3 weeks" are coming out to do an estimate. As most people said on this forum, I think realistically for a whole host of reasons, a 6-8 week timeline is more realistic.

User Icon
Robert from Accent Interieur in Val David
Date/Time2/15/2017 at 8:27:43 PM

Hi Ron,

Some basements are already roughed in for plumbing electrical etc...when the home was built in a housing development, and in this case it could be done in 3 weeks, but even then drywall taping itself takes about a week, so it would really depend on the scope of work being done. Also a large part of the cost of any construction is the choices of finishings and whether you have a bathroom and a kitchen, or just a bathroom etc...another factor would be the footprint size of your space, many contractors can give a price based on that, again depends on your choices of finishings.

Good Luck!

Search the TrustedPros directory and discover the best contractors in your area.

Find your home service pro
Great renovations start with a great contractor.

Since 2004, TrustedPros has been helping homeowners find the right contractor for their home improvements and repairs.

Post Your Project

Within hours you'll be comparing offers from top-rated professionals. It's free to post and you're under no obligation to hire.

Trustedpros Inc. does not warrant the accuracy, completeness, safety, legality or usefulness of any Content, or Whether Content is Current and up-to-date, and TrustedPros Inc. Shall have no liability whatsoever with respect to your use or reliance upon any content or for content being removed or otherwise ceasing to be available. Please refer to the terms and conditions of use of this websites for more details.

Get quotes from top-rated contractors