From Unfinished to Upgraded: A Guide to Transforming Your Basement into a Rentable Apartment

If you have a basement that you are planning to turn into a rental apartment, there are a number of steps you can take to make it more appealing to potential tenants.

From the number of rooms that you plan to rent to the furnishings, we will help you determine what will work best in your basement.

Minimum Room Size

When it comes to transforming your basement into a rentable apartment, it is important to consider the minimum room size requirements. According to the International Building Code (IBC), there must be at least 70 square feet of usable floor space for every occupant.

All habitable rooms must have ceiling heights of 7’6” or more and no less than 5’ in any portion of the room.

This means that a one bedroom apartment must have at least 70 square feet per occupant and 700 square feet overall, while a two bedroom apartment would require at least 840 square feet. It is important to remember that this does not include hallway space or closets, so these need to be taken into account when deciding the minimum room size requirements.

Ensure that all of the rooms have adequate ventilation and natural light. All habitable bedrooms must have at least one operable window or skylight with a total opening area of at least 8% of the floor area in that room.

All bathrooms must have a window that opens to the outdoors or an in-line mechanical ventilation system with at least 25 cubic feet per minute of air.

Furnishing Tips

When furnishing your basement as a rentable apartment, there are several things to consider.

Invest in quality furniture and appliances that will help make the space comfortable for tenants. Choose pieces that are long-lasting and durable, as they may need to stand up to regular use.

Opt for easy-to-clean furniture and choose materials such as leather or fabric that can be spot treated.

When it comes to appliances, you should purchase energy-efficient models that will help save on electricity costs. Consider getting a washer/dryer combo unit if space allows; this is typically more attractive to potential tenants than having two separate machines.

Consider adding a dishwasher or other convenience appliances that will make life easier for the tenant.

If your basement is short on natural light sources, be sure to install plenty of overhead lighting and additional lamps in key areas such as the living room and bedroom. You may also want to consider installing ceiling fans or air conditioning units to keep the space cool in warm weather.

Add a few homey touches like area rugs, artwork, and plants that will help make the space feel more inviting and cozy. With these tips, you can easily create a rentable apartment from your basement that is both comfortable and attractive to potential tenants.

Insulation Tips

Insulation is an important component of transforming your basement into a rentable apartment. It can help to keep the space comfortable and reduce energy costs for tenants. Here are some tips for insulating your basement:

Use spray foam insulation

Spray foam insulation is a great option if you’re looking for superior insulation in a short amount of time. It can be applied quickly, and is considered to be one of the most effective insulation materials on the market.

Use a foam board insulation

Foam board insulation is a great alternative to spray foam for sealing off gaps in walls and ceilings. It’s easy to install, comes in various sizes, and is also a great way to insulate around windows and doors.

Invest in high-grade insulation

If you want your basement rental to be energy efficient, invest in high-grade insulation materials. This includes rigid foam boards, blown-in cellulose insulation, and other types of specialty insulation that are designed to provide superior thermal resistance.

Consider additional insulation

Adding extra insulation to the floor can help to reduce energy costs and keep your basement rental comfortable year-round. You may want to consider using carpet or a rug over the insulated area in order to keep it warm during cooler months.

Air seal any cracks and gaps

Make sure all cracks and gaps in your basement walls and ceilings are properly sealed with insulation or caulk. This will help to prevent any warm air from escaping through these areas, resulting in lower energy costs for tenants.

If you’ve done all these correctly, you can ensure that your basement rental is well-insulated and comfortable for tenants all year round. You can heat the space with an efficient HVAC system and enjoy the peace of mind knowing that your energy costs will be lower.

Legality of Basement Dwellings

The legality of basement dwellings as rentable apartments is an issue of critical importance to tenants rights advocates.

Basement apartments are typically much less expensive than other types of apartments, and can offer a more affordable housing option. But many basement-owners lack the financial means to meet the legalization requirements. They also face ongoing discrimination in access to financing.

Many immigrants and low-income families own and live in cellar apartments. While these units are not illegal, they do have unsafe conditions that put tenants at risk of fire, floods and death.

For example, basement apartments may have unsafe gas or electrical systems. There is a high likelihood that a unit’s window is narrow or high, or that the windows don’t have adequate ventilation.

Tenants in these homes often don’t report these unsafe conditions, or insist on minimal improvements, because of a fear of losing their home. Many units are flooded during a storm. During Hurricane Ida, 11 people died in flooded basement units.

Despite these grave dangers, many basement-dwellers have no legal protections. A new law would provide tenant protections and affordable housing for basement units. However, it must prioritize safety for tenants and homeowners.

A new law would also need to provide funding to owners of basement units. Under a bill sponsored by State Senator Brian Kavanagh and Assembly Member Harvey Epstein, a city can offer amnesty to property owners whose units were deemed unsafe.

The bill does not mandate the construction of Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs), but it would still require that homeowners register their basement units. To obtain a subsidy, homeowners must contribute money to a fund.


Transforming a basement into a rentable apartment is an exciting and rewarding project that can add value to your home and provide you with additional income. With careful planning, the right materials, and a little bit of patience, you can create a beautiful rental space – a modern, comfortable and inviting space that will be the envy of all your friends.

The key is to have an eye for detail and use quality materials that will stand up to wear and tear over time.

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Libby Austin

Libby Austin, the creative force behind, is a dynamic and versatile writer known for her engaging and informative articles across various genres. With a flair for captivating storytelling, Libby's work resonates with a diverse audience, blending expertise with a relatable voice.
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