Does A Finished Basement Count As A Story In A House?

Rosemarie Rich Written By:
Rosemarie Rich
Anthony Phillip Edited By:
Anthony Phillip
Does A Basement Count As A Story

Wondering if that cozy finished basement in your home counts as a story? It’s confusing, right? This one fact may surprise you: only floors above ground level typically tally up as stories.

In this blog post, we’ll unpack the truths behind basements and stories to clear your doubts once and for all. Read on; clarity awaits!

Core Concepts

  • A story usually means a part of the house above ground. Most places don’t count basements as stories.
  • Finished basements might be counted in square footage if they have things like windows, an outside door, and meet local rules.
  • Walkout basements add value because they often feel like more living space, but they’re not always counted as a separate story.
  • Appraisers look at how much basement is above ground and if it meets certain conditions to decide if it adds to home value.
  • Having a finished basement can make your house worth more when you sell it because buyers like extra space.

Defining a Story in a House

Role of Basements in Architectural Story Counts

When we talk about a home’s architecture, the term “story” often pops up—but what does it actually mean? Let’s dive into the nitty gritty of how a story is defined, from traditional views to an assessor’s technical lens, and unravel this layered concept.

Traditional definition

A story in a house usually means any level of the building with a floor and ceiling. Long ago, people said that each level of a home that was above ground could be called a story. If you look back, most would agree that basements weren’t part of this count.

They were just seen as extra space for things like storage or laundry, not really places where people spent much time living or working.

Nowadays, some folks think differently about basements. If the basement has lights, ways to get fresh air, and exits for safety, it might be considered a story. This is especially true if the basement is finished and feels just like another room in the house where someone could hang out or even sleep.

Assessors’ definition

Assessors look closely at a basement. They want to see if it matches the rest of the house in quality and use. If it does, they often count it as part of the total square footage. Local rules and building codes play a big role in this decision too.

Sometimes appraisers have to follow special standards like ANSI rules when they decide about basements. They check things like how much light comes in, if there are ways out for safety, and if you can stand up without hitting your head.

These checks help them say if a basement is livable space or not.

Factors that Determine if a Basement Counts as a Story

Deciphering Whether a Basement Counts as a Story

When it comes down to whether your basement elevates your home’s profile to that of a multi-level dwelling, there are a few key elements at play. It’s not just about having finished walls and ceilings; things like how much of the space is above ground, if it meets specific living conditions, and ticking off minimum height boxes – these details can make or break the story status of your basement sanctuary.

Above or below ground level

A basement is a big deal in a house. But to count as a story, it needs to be above ground level. If the whole or even part of the basement has its windows peeking out and people can walk straight outside, then you’ve got something special – like extra space for your home’s square footage.

Now, if your basement is tucked under the earth with no view of the sky, that’s different. Appraisers often say “no” to counting these basements when they figure out how big your home is.

Still, don’t worry too much; even below-ground basements can make your home worth more because they give you extra room for all kinds of things!

Livable space requirements

For a basement to count as livable space, it must hit the same marks of quality found through the rest of your home. This means having finished floors, walls, and ceilings. Plus, someone should be able to live there comfortably.

Imagine walking from your living room down into the basement – there shouldn’t be a big drop in how nice things look or feel.

It’s all about making sure this part of your house is just as good for hanging out or even sleeping in as any other room upstairs. If you can step into the basement and forget that you’re below ground because it’s cozy and well-built, then you’ve probably got yourself some extra square footage to brag about!

Minimum height regulations

Rooms in a house, including basements, must have enough height to be safe and comfortable. Basements need to meet this rule too. They often must be at least seven feet tall from floor to ceiling.

If the basement is shorter, it might not count as livable space. It could be used for storage instead.

Some places say that if half of the basement height is above ground level, then it can count as part of your home when you sell it. This means if you look outside your basement window and see more than just dirt or a window well, your basement may add more value to your home because it’s like an extra floor.

But remember, even a tall and nice-looking basement won’t always get added into the total square footage unless local rules say so.

Does a Walkout Basement Count as a Story?

When it comes to classifying a walkout basement as an official story, things get interesting—these unique basements with direct outdoor access stir up quite the conversation in real estate circles.

Let’s dive into what sets them apart and whether they can truly be considered an equal player in the count of a home’s stories.

Difference from traditional basements

A walkout basement is special because one side is above ground. This lets in natural light and has a door to go outside. It’s different from basements all under the earth, which usually don’t have these things.

People like walkout basements more because they feel like part of the house you can live in.

They can also raise your home’s worth. Since walkout basements are easy to get into and bright, they’re great for extra rooms or places to hang out. They make your house seem bigger too, even though they’re not counted as a separate story on their own.

Impact on property value

Having a finished basement can shine up your home’s value. Buyers often like more space, and that extra room down below could catch their eye. If the basement is pretty and all fixed up to live in, your house might be worth more money.

Even better if it has doors to the outside – this type of basement feels just like another floor!

Now, what gets tricky is how people count basements when they sell a house. In some places, only the part you see above ground makes it into the square footage total. But even then, having that bonus area can make buyers happy and ready to pay for that extra useful space.

The bottom line: A nice basement could mean more cash when you decide to sell your spot!

Legal Considerations for Including Basements in Square Footage

Navigating the legal maze of whether to include a basement in your home’s square footage can feel daunting—local regulations set the stage, shaping how assessors view this below-ground puzzle piece.

Peel back layers of the appraisal process and you’ll uncover that basements may not always play a starring role in tallying up that overall square footage, particularly when they’re unfinished or lurk entirely beneath grade..

Ready to dig deeper? Let’s dive into what makes a basement count—or not—in the official numbers game.

Local regulations

Local regulations play a big role in whether you can say your basement adds to the square footage of your home. Rules change from one state to another. You must know these laws when you sell or appraise a house.

Some places might let finished basements count toward the overall square footage, while others may not.

If your basement meets certain conditions, it might add value to your property according to local rules. For example, if it has windows or an outside door, some areas will include this space in the total size of the house.

Always check with local building authorities so that you list your home correctly and get a fair appraisal.

Appraisal process

Appraisers look at your home to decide its worth. They check many things, including size, condition, and features. Basements get special attention. If your basement is finished with things like walls, floors, and a ceiling, appraisers may include it in the total area of your house.

But they usually don’t count it as living space.

Every place has rules about what counts in an appraisal. Some places say a basement must be partly above ground to add to the value of your house. Appraisers also make sure basements meet local laws before saying they are part of the home’s total square footage.

This helps keep things fair when selling or buying homes.

Exclusions for below-grade or unfinished basements

Basements that are below ground level often don’t count towards a home’s official square footage. Most of the time, appraisers and listing agents look at above-ground space when they measure a house.

If your basement is unfinished, it’s usually not included in the total. This means no carpet, walls, or proper windows – these spaces are more like storage areas than part of your home.

Local laws have their own rules about basements and square footage. Sometimes finished basements can be added if they meet specific requirements. But even then, buyers may still see them differently from the rest of the house.

It’s important to know what your city or town says about including basements in your home’s size before you sell it.

Does a Finished Basement Add Value to a Home?

Lets see how transforming your basement into a polished and functional space, along with insights on the Typical Garage Depth of a standard garage, can enhance not just your living experience but potentially elevate the market appeal of your home—stay tuned to find out more about the real impact on value

Perception of buyers

Buyers often see a finished basement as a big plus. Finished basement count as a story in a house, adding to its appeal and potential use. They might dream of having an extra place for guests, a gym, or a playroom for kids in that space. When they look at homes, the ones with finished basements stand out.

This extra room feels like more home to enjoy. Even if it doesn’t officially count as another story, it sure adds to the appeal.

A nice basement can also make people think the house is worth more. Sure, they know it’s not the same as a bedroom upstairs. But when they’re ready to buy, having that bonus area done and ready may sway them to pick your home over others without one.

Sellers take note – a polished basement isn’t just storage; it’s smart marketing too.

Tangible impact on property value

Having a finished basement boosts your home’s value. It gives you extra space that can be used in many ways—like a family room, an office, or a gym. People like having more space, and this makes them want to pay more for a house with a finished basement.

Appraisers often say the worth of this added space is about half to three-fifths of what the rest of the house per square foot is valued at.

Selling your home with a revamped basement could pull in more buyers. They see it as getting more living area without building new parts to the house. This additional part of your home can help set it apart from other homes on sale, making it easier for you to sell at a good price.

Remember, prices vary by type of basements and location but investing in finishing your basement tends to pay off well in the property market.


So, does a finished basement count as a story? It really depends. Each place has its own rules. Most of the time, stories are only the parts above ground. Yet, if your basement is all fixed up and ready to live in, some may say it’s like an extra floor.

When you sell your home, this could make a big difference!


1. Is my basement included when I count the stories in my house?

Not always! A basement is often not counted as a story, especially if it’s mainly below ground. But, if most of it sits above the ground level, some may consider it a story.

2. Does having a finished basement change whether it’s considered a full story?

Yes and no… If your finished basement has features like egress windows and meets certain conditions for living space, then some folks—like realtors or appraisers—might count it when they look at your home’s total square footage.

3. Will including my basement add to the square footage of my home?

Sure thing! A finished basement may heighten your home’s value by adding to the gross living area—as long as it complies with what qualifies as livable space.

4. Can I sell my ranch home with a basement as a two-story house?

Well, that depends… It usually won’t be marketed as two-story since basements are generally not seen quite like an upper floor is—even if built into a hill with walking access outside!

5. When does a realtor consider counting the number of floors in your house – do basements ever make the cut?

Realtors might include the basin their counts—if parts peek above ground or curb level and meet specific guidelines making them cozy for day-to-day life.

6. So, can you tell me more about whether my walkout basement could qualify as being part of how many stories my house has?

For sure! If one side of your walkout basin opens up on grade to let light flood in—and looks much like another floor—then hey, someone might just count that space when talking about floors above ground.

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