Five reasons to upgrade your basement

Feb 2022

upgrade your basement

Wondering if you should upgrade your basement by adding a suite, an office or other space? Depending on your circumstances, it could be an excellent investment, with both immediate and long-term paybacks.

Not that a major basement upgrade is cheap: depending on what you do and the condition of your existing space, you could spend anywhere from $30,000 to $80,000 or more. On the other hand, along with enjoying the renovated space, a homeowner can expect a roughly 70% return on the costs of a basement renovation when an average home is sold, according to Canadian Real Estate Wealth.

Here are five ways to maximize your basement.

Home office

The pandemic will end, but many of us will continue working from home at least part of the time. The beauty of a basement office is its privacy and distance from daily household distractions, which makes it easier to actually get in a good day’s work. A lower-level office also lets you literally walk away from work when the day is done.

Because many basements are big, open spaces, you can configure it as you wish and have lots of room for office equipment, a mini-kitchen and even a lounge area for that essential break. Remember, you’ll need to have good lighting and internet access to maximize productivity.

Rental suite

This has become a popular option among some homeowners because of its revenue opportunities. While you will have to spend the money to install a suite that includes a kitchen and bathroom, you’ll also have a steady revenue stream to pay for the upgrade and, eventually, help defray mortgage and other household costs. A rental suite with its steady revenue may also appeal to some buyers when you sell your home.

Because a full suite will cost more than a simple home office, you’ll need to stick to your budget; on the other hand, investing in a few higher-end finishes will increase the appeal to prospective tenants. The average one-bedroom apartment in Ottawa rented for $1,618 in December, 2021, according to, although rates vary by neighbourhood, type of space and other factors.

In-law, guest or adult child suite

This can be the perfect solution when you want to be close to family or friends while still retaining your privacy (and theirs!). A guest suite won’t normally have a kitchen, but a space for aging parents or even an adult child may, so costs and complexity for this kind of renovation vary quite a bit.

As with a rental suite, you’ll need to conform to city zoning and other requirements when you upgrade your basement, and you should contact your insurance company before signing with a contractor to ensure changes to your home won’t cause problems with your coverage.

Family room

The basement has been called a “buried treasure” and that’s especially true when you turn the space into a family room. Cosy and quiet, it’s perfect for a night at home playing games, watching a favourite TV show or just catching up on everyone’s news.

Furnish it with comfy, informal furniture, add some bright artwork, and make sure it’s well-lit, warm in the winter and cool but dry in the summer. Plants add a splash of colour and nature, though you may need to use plant lights because natural daylight is scarce down below. To make the family room even homier, ask your renovator about adding a kitchenette, even if it’s just a fridge and microwave.

Media room

Unlike a home theatre, where all the seats face forward in rows, a media room is a looser arrangement of chairs and couches that all have a good view of the big screen but also let everyone see each other and chat about what they’re watching or the digital game they’re playing.  Make sure your media room has a good sound system, not just because it enhances movies but because these spaces are also great for streaming music. When it’s time to sell your home, a multi-function media room will probably interest more buyers than a sole-purpose theatre room.


No matter what kind of basement makeover you settle on, make sure your municipal permits are in order and that you’ve checked out your renovator thoroughly, including talking to references and asking for proof of Workers’ Compensation and liability coverage. This website is a comprehensive source when you’re looking for Ottawa renovators and ideas on home improvement.