Dear PoPville – General Contractor for “small” Basement Renovation

by Prince Of Petworth December 12, 2013 at 2:30 pm 17 Comments

Photo by PoPville flickr user clif_burns

“Dear PoPville,

My husband and I are looking to turn our already renovated basement into a rental unit. Although the basement is renovated, we would need to make a few adjustments like taking out an interior staircase and adding in plumbing/electrical for a kitchen area. Most of the general contractors we have talked to though said they wouldn’t take on a “small” job such as this, and they only work on jobs in the $50-$100K area. I’m wondering if anyone has worked with a good general contractor they can recommend, or know of any that would take on a job of this size.”

  • pcat

    i recommend Primos Construction ([email protected]). They have done two excellent jobs for me.

  • Anonymous

    If you’re going legit for a fully separate unit you also need to split the electric service panel, which is going to cost.

    • textdoc

      To make it a totally legal basement unit, you might also need to dig out the basement to achieve the minimum ceiling height.

      • textdoc

        BTW, my understanding is that digging out a basement costs like $30,000 or something. So if your basement is already finished but not the required minimum height, it’s probably better to rent it out as-is, even if it’s not a “legal” unit.

    • Anon

      I’m not sure this is completely accurate. On a website that’s no longer updated, DCRA states that you can have one panel as long as it’s accessible to both units.


      “There is really is no exception to this rule unless there is a public area accessible from both units where a single box could be located. In older homes, this “space” usually doesn’t exist and you’d have to move the current box. This is a major life safety issue. Hope this helps.”

      • Anonymous

        The OP is talking about removing the interior staircase, which would result in no common interior space. I just brought it up because the post made me think that the OP hadn’t considered all the inspection rules for a fully separate unit and separate COO.

        • Anonymous

          I’m not sure if they had played with all of the inspection rules either. But,

          can exterior access common space count? Like having a common space that hugs the back of the basement, accessible from the the interior by the apt and from the exterior by the main house?

  • textdoc

    Not sure you’d need a general contractor for a job this size anyway — you could probably get the electrical work done by an electrician, the plumbing work done by a plumber, and the other stuff by a kitchen contractor.
    See https://www.popville.com/2013/12/dear-popville-looking-for-advice-on-a-kitchen-renovation/.

  • I have a list on my website. Try them.

    Also Benny Chavez – 703-599-3489

  • Anonymous

    A bit of advice… DON’T REMOVE THE STAIRCASE!

    It changes your property into an investor property/multi-family home. This hurts you when it’s time to sell or refinance because the classification is different and requires a larger down payment. It is harder to get loans in that circumstance. If you can, leave it in but put secure doors on the staircase.

    It cost me around $30k to renovate my basement without lowering the floor, my basement unit is around 480sf and it’s classified as an in-law suite. Best move I made in the process was keeping the staircase in the house.

    • Anonymous

      I second this. I would never ever remove an existing staircase. Not only would it change your classification, it could limit potential buyers in the future who might want to use the space as their own rather than renting it out. If the staircase is not already enclosed, I’d suggest walling it in and putting a locking door at the bottom and top.
      You could even have a semi-permanent floor put in over the stairs so you can use it as a closet, but could someday remove it if you wanted access to the basement again.

  • Nathan


  • Juan

    Contact Mendez bros: at 202)679-9952
    They work in the are. They do remodeling, give them a call.

  • cookies

    My boss has these guys on speed dial. She has used them from bathroom renovation, to building a separate wall, to a complete basement renovation. They do good work. She highly recommends them

    Vincente Aquino: 301-938-9395

  • ET

    I am with Nathan like to try with urbanreferrals.com. It is local angies list type thing. Got referrals from them for several small projects and liked everyone I used that they referred.

  • Anonymous

    Mendez Brothers renovated two bathrooms and a kitchen in my house in Columbia Heights and did an excellent job. They also do other small scale renovations like your basement rehab. (202) 679-9952.

  • frickorfrack

    I had a MISERABLE experience with G&C Construction (Gerson Cruz) substandard work that he tried to hide…absolutely bad.


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