Many homeowners think their basement is one of the easiest rooms to remodel. However, finishing this part of the home is often more difficult than it seems because it’s below ground level and must meet certain requirements.

Some projects may even require them to get a permit and hire an inspector to ensure they comply with local regulations. All these moving parts mean costs can add up quickly, with the average basement remodeling costing about $20,000 overall.

Luckily, there are plenty of tips and tricks to help first-time remodelers stay within their budget and complete their project for less.

1. List Priorities

Homeowners who want to stick to a budget must create one first. How much are they willing to spend on the project overall? More importantly, which aspects of the basement remodel are most significant?

Listing their priorities will help them answer these questions and determine where their money should go throughout the process. For instance, if a nonessential part of the project becomes too expensive, they can remove it from their to-do list and increase their budget for more important features.

2. Keep an Open Floor Plan 

Drywall, electrical wiring, doors, studs, trim and other room-dividing materials can become quite expensive, causing homeowners to spend more than anticipated. Therefore, it may be more budget-friendly to stick with an open floor plan.

Homeowners can then choose to embrace the open, one-room feel or find cheaper, more creative solutions for dividing the room. Generally, bookshelf dividers, sliding barn doors, folding screens and curtains are much more affordable than paying a team to build walls.

3. Stick to Standard Sizes 

Often, cabinets and counters are fabricated in standard sizes. However, many homeowners like to customize things to suit their specific needs. Unfortunately, this decision can increase project costs and cause remodelers to go over budget.

Those who want to save a little money should stick to standard sizes and make additional cuts or add-ons themselves. Using cheaper, prefabricated materials the first time around also allows them to upgrade later on before they sell their home and move.

4. Choose Budget Flooring 

Basements are more prone to flooding than any other part of the home because they’re below ground level. Homeowners would be wise to choose budget-friendly flooring options rather than splurge on hardwood, luxurious carpet and other high-end options.

Homeowners who don’t mind hard floors can stain or paint their concrete or cover it in carpet squares to add insulation and shock absorption. Otherwise, vinyl, laminate and ceramic tile make for smart, inexpensive alternatives.

5. Find Affordable Materials 

Many first-time remodelers aren’t aware they can choose their own materials for a project. Instead, they trust the contractor to find affordable supplies. Of course, subcontractors should know where to go for the cheapest materials — including their stockyard. However, not all of them will be willing to put in the effort to source used or recycled items.

In this case, homeowners have to do the legwork themselves. Comb the aisles of home improvement stores and look for deals, clearance sales and discounts. Habitat for Humanity and other similar organizations may also have quality materials for a fraction of the price.

6. Make Decisions Early 

As the project progresses and homeowners’ visions start coming together, some may want to make additions or changes to the current plan. In this case, it’s up to the contractor to find a way to fulfill their requests without pushing back deadlines or spending more money.

However, if clients ask for last-minute modifications, there’s only so much contractors can do without breaking the timeline and budget. Therefore, homeowners must make decisions early on. Otherwise, they’ll have to go over budget or refrain from making adjustments.

7. Hire a Contractor Mentor 

First-time remodelers are all for DIYing if it allows them to stay within budget. However, finishing a basement is often more difficult than it looks, and most homeowners end up hiring a contractor to do the work anyway.

Many don’t realize they can hire a professional by the hour to teach them how to complete more complicated projects. These consulting and mentoring services are much more affordable than finding and paying for a general contractor and laborers and can save thousands of dollars in the long run.

Budgeting for the Unexpected

Basement remodels can come with lots of surprises — and not the good kind. Whether contractors run into mold under the floor or discover cracks in the walls, odds are the project will cost more than most homeowners intended.

Luckily, they can plan for these unexpected expenses by including a 5%-10% buffer within their budget. Then, when confronted with a surprise, they’ll have extra money available to cover it. This tip alone can help first-time remodelers keep their remodel on budget.

Bio: Emily Newton is the Editor-in-Chief of Revolutionized Magazine. She has over three years of experience writing industrial topics for the construction, manufacturing and supply chain industries.