When Can You Call It A Finished Basement?

When Can You Call It A Finished Basement?

As real estate appraisers, we get questions about basements all the time- but just the other day, we were asked what is required for a basement to be considered a finished basement.  After a little searching, we found all sorts of DIY guides and forms across the net, but no definitive post or webpage answering this question.


We already know that basement space is not included in a properties Gross Living Area.  This begs the question,  “Well what is included?”  The parameters for above-grade living space are almost identical when defining finished below-grade space, with a few additional or locational rules here and there.


So what makes living space, above or below?


Here’s what you need to remember according to the ANSI voluntary Standard Z765-1996…


“Living space needs to be “suitable for year round living- requires permanently installed heat with a continuous power source (electricity, natural gas, permanently installed propane tank, or heating oil).  

Through-the-wall heating units and permanently installed baseboard heaters meet the requirement, but window units and portable space heaters do not.
“The floors must be completely covered with an installed covering (carpet, vinyl, wood, tile, laminate or stamped or stained concrete). 

Exposed or painted concrete, or exposed or painted plywood is not considered a finished floor.” 


The finished space must be contiguous and directly accessible from the balance of the living area.  Finished space that lack permanent stairs or direct access, such as plant shelves, are not considered living area. 

Finished spaces only accessed by ladders, such as lofts, are not considered living area. “
Level ceilings must be at least 7 feet high, and at least 6 feet 4 inches under beams, ducts and other obstructions.

There is no height restriction under stairs.”

As long as your basement meets these standards, feel free to call it a finished basement.  



Washington Appraiser

Jonathan Montgomery Founder and President of the The Real Estate Appraisal Group.He has been a real estate professional since 1998. He’s been a broker, and investor and now serves as an appraiser.  He currently works as an appraiser, doing real estate appraisals in Washington D.C., Southern Maryland, and Northern Virginia.

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