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How to Convert Your Basement into a Legal Apartment?

Elizabeth Windler
How to Convert Your Basement into a Legal Apartment?

Subletting your home is usually a good idea for people who are short of cash and have an excess of space. However, you can’t just decide to rent out a part of your home. You need to come up with a plan that will make you sacrifice as little of your lifestyle as possible, generate enough revenue to make a difference, and stay within the confines of the law.

The key thing you need to address here is the importance of converting your basement into a legal apartment. Still, what does this entail? Also, keep in mind that, outside of just satisfying the law, you also need to ensure that your potential tenants are satisfied, as well. They’re screening potential apartments just as much as you are, so make sure to add the elements that will ensure that you pass the checklist in question.

While making a basement livable isn’t that difficult of a feat, making it lease-worthy is something different. With all of this in mind and without further ado, here’s a brief checklist to help you out.

Start With the Assessment

The first question you need to ask is whether this is a feasible goal to begin with. So, you can start by investigating with your municipality – what are the rules and regulations in your area? Some areas allow basement conversions, while others don’t. The last thing you want is to start the work only to realize that this isn’t legal.

Second, it’s not enough that you just turn it into an apartment-looking area. It needs to pass various inspections, as well. Also, keep in mind that while a family member may move in, the amount of space needed for an actual tenant might not be sufficient. So, be realistic and even do some research on basement apartments in your area. How do you fare against them?

Start With a Proper Ventilation

Is there enough air in the basement? Well, of course, there is. However, what happens when the tenant starts cooking, frying, and brewing in the basement? What about the fumes and excess heat produced by these day-to-day processes?

First of all, basement windows need to be large enough, but they also need to be positioned so that they provide enough privacy. Second, you need to understand that foundation protection and drainage can only do so much if your basement windows aren’t installed properly. In other words, the moisture is just as big of an issue, and you need to find the middle ground.

Either way, investing some time and effort into proper ventilation is a priority. One might argue that the issue is so complex that it requires a professional. This is always the safest choice.

Check for Pests and Rot

If you’re about to have pests and mold anywhere in your home, it’s in the basement. Why do pests love basements? Well, they can nest in the gaps around utility lines, cracks in the foundation, holes in insulation, and openings near ground-level windows. In other words, there’s plenty of space where they can breed uninterrupted.

Basements are also naturally humid areas. You see, to grow, mold needs moisture. It can come through the walls and floor, especially during seasons in which the humidity in your home may increase. When it spawns, it’s not just unaesthetic. It’s also a potential health hazard.

Lastly, with so many wooden elements in the basement, both rot and termites are likely. They’re likely to appear together. The problem is that if there’s no one already living in the basement (which is likely in this scenario), chances are that it might develop for weeks and months unnoticed. The sooner you start doing something about it, the better, and to start, you need to notice it first.

Improve Flooring

There are a lot of great flooring options for your basement flooring, however, the cheapest methods of just fixing the concrete, painting the floor, or going for the epoxy are not good enough. You see, 2-part coating is great to fix the appearance of the basement that you intend to use as storage. On the other hand, when you decide to turn it into a home, it will prove to be cold, hard to maintain, and quite uncomfortable for foot traffic.

Ideally, you want to go with vinyl. This can be done either inexpensively (vinyl planks or tiles), or more expensively, with sheet vinyl. Engineered wood is another great option.

Just keep in mind a couple of things. First, there’s no one below, which is why loud foot traffic is not as big of a consideration. At the same time, the temperature in the room and the maintenance are huge factors if you’re to turn it into a legal apartment. Lastly, it’s important that you approach this rationally and don’t overspend. After all, for a rental place, it needs to be cheap to fix, so that you reach a high ROI as soon as possible.

Soundproofing and Fireproofing

The problem with soundproofing your basement is that you don’t have much, to begin with. You see, it’s not like windows are covering huge surfaces of your home and that hanging drapes will fix everything. So, you need to insulate a basement ceiling as your priority. You see, the majority of the noise will escape the basement via the ceiling, and the majority of noise in the ceiling will come from above.

Second, while the basement is supposed to be fireproof, to begin with, the truth is that, while designing the home in question, no one expected you to cook there. Chances are that someone will have an electric heater on in the basement, that there will be several appliances plugged in at all times, and that there will be flammable materials everywhere. What we’re suggesting is that you merely adjust your basement to these new living conditions.

Chances are that several pipes and wires are traveling through your basement, and you want to make sure that it’s all in proper order before moving people in. even if it’s just a stain, it’s avoidable property damage. Just remember that these conditions are slightly different from what you would have in the rest of your home, so be ready.

Consult a Contractor

Believe it or not, the idea of converting your basement into an apartment is not nearly as rare or uncommon as you might expect it to be. This is why there are a lot of contractors out there specializing in this type of renovation. The simplest way to proceed with this would be to consult one of these contractors.

Before you do this, you need to know exactly what you want. For starters, settle on your budget. Second, consider what exactly you want out of your bedroom, kitchen, and bathroom capacities. If you are to sublet this area as an independent apartment unit, it must have all of this so that they don’t have to rely on the main house for these services.

Sometimes, however, you won’t have to go out on a limb to hire a contractor. Instead, you can just hire a consultant and have them review some of your plans. A tip or two can make all the difference, especially for someone who has already done it before. You see, renovating a basement is different from renovating a standard room. In other words, you’re facing the unknown.


The last thing you need to do is furnish the basement to the best of your abilities. Just remember that you don’t want to overspend. When buying furniture for a rental apartment, you need to look at this as a business investment. The more expensive it is, the higher the ROI you’ll need to reach the break-even point. At the same time, going for too low a furniture quality will force you to lower rent or make it harder to find tenants.

Then, there’s the issue of furnishing a basement apartment specifically. Regardless of what you believe, this isn’t necessarily as simple as furnishing a traditional living space. From the standpoint of design, you want to accentuate the height, seeing as how this is often a problem in a confined space like a basement. Then again, you also want to pick the right artificial lighting options. Going for accent lights is often the best idea.

When it comes to the size of individual furniture pieces and the layout, you need to orient it towards the entrance, the outside light, and the available space. In other words, not all basements are made the same.

Wrap Up

In the end, when it comes to the legal aspect of turning a basement into an apartment, all you need to do is check legal requirements and make sure that the basement in question passes a minimum. However, this shouldn’t be enough. With basement apartments, you either want your kid to move in to try and live semi-independently or you want to sublet it. Either way, you want it to be in a decent living condition. This is just one of many reasons why abiding by several points in this article can make such a difference.

Elizabeth Windler
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