Why Won’t My Basement Contractor Pull a Permit?

We recently had a prospective client come back to us after choosing another contractor, only to realize they likely were making the wrong choice.


They said things “took a turn for the weird” and that this basement company “doesn’t pull permits” which immediately was a red flag for the homeowners. Their first question back to us was if we pulled permits and yes, yes we do.

But it may help to understand why some basement contractors don’t pull permits.

“Saves” You on Paying Taxes

Some basement finishing companies will say that by not pulling a permit, you’re saving on the cost of the permit (which actually isn’t much in the grand scheme of things) AND the square footage of your home isn’t updated in the assessor’s listing which will save you in taxes. Why does that feel wrong even typing it?

That’s because it is. Yes, many people have gotten away with finishing their basement and never having to pulled a permit but there are a lot of things wrong with that.

  • It’s illegal
  • If you get caught, the consequences are hefty for both the homeowner and basement contractor
  • It’s ultimately an integrity issue

We talked to the Chief Inspector at the City of Omaha and here’s what he had to say about filing permits.

They Can’t Actually Pull a Permit

There are some pre-requisites to pulling a permit including being a licensed contractor and also being bonded. Without furnishing proof of both of those things, a basement contractor can’t actually pull a permit.

Additionally, you have to be in good standing with the city (AKA no outstanding violations) so if your contractor doesn’t pull a permit, one of these issues may be the case.

They’re Shortcutting The Work to Avoid Inspection

A portion of the cost of a permit pays for the city to release inspectors during the basement finishing process to check that work is being done up to code.

This means the framing, electrician, and plumbing are inspected throughout the process to make sure everything is up to code. (Inadvertently, it means that the electrician and plumber you’re using are also licensed.)

A basement contractor trying to avoid inspection could be an indication that they might cut corners to save on costs or labor. Saving a buck seems appealing, but we all know that cutting corners in the short term often means someone has to pay for it later.


If you decide on a basement contractor that doesn’t pull permits or brushes off the idea of doing so, it’s important to ask them why. And if they can’t give you an answer that makes you feel comfortable, maybe you need to find another basement company.

As the saying goes: If you think it’s expensive to hire a professional to do the job, wait until you hire an amateur.

Call Hawthorne Finished Basements if you want things done right and done well- (402) 321-5260.

5 Questions to Ask a Basement Contractor BEFORE Signing a Contract

Finishing your basement can be a really exciting time!

You’ve probably dreamed of what you could do with the space and started looking at Pinterest or Houzz for design inspiration. But before you get going on the work, you need to find a trustworthy basement contractor who can do the job.

We have ALL had terrible experiences with contractors (including both Lindsay and I) so we want to help you avoid the headache if you can. Here are 5 important questions you should ask before hiring a basement finishing company:

1. Are you licensed, insured, and bonded?

Being bonded and insured is often a pre-requisite for a contractor to be licensed and being licensed means you’re able to pull permits. Insured is just as it sounds- a contractor has some sort of insurance against any potential liabilities. Bonded is more for the protection of the homeowner against incomplete work, failure to pay permits, or other financial obligations.

Sure, you can totally use an unlicensed basement contractor (such as your Uncle’s drinking buddy), but there is very little- legally speaking- you can do if the project goes awry.

2. Will you pull a permit?

We’ve all heard stories of contractors not pulling permits and getting away with it, but it helps to understand why we believe it’s important to pull a permit in the first place. The permit ensures that during inspections along the way (framing, plumbing, electrical, etc.) that your basement is up to code and meeting the safety standards governed by the city. This will help in the future if you ever plan to sell your home and get a home inspection and obviously, sets up future homeowners on the right path.

A basement contractor that refuses to pull a permit often does it to “save costs” (which it’s really not that expensive compared to overall finishing cost), but it will allow them to cut corners and for no one to hold them accountable. Want to understand more about permits? Check out this article we wrote.

3. How does payment work?

While our pricing and process model looks completely different than most Basement Contractors in Omaha (because we require very little upfront), we understand that other companies ask for more upfront.

We’re not saying that it’s necessarily wrong, however, we would caution you on someone who requires a very large sum upfront (say 50% or more of overall costs). That’s often a big check to be writing before any work has been done and unfortunately, some homeowners have been taken for a ride.

It helps to understand how payment works and if they do require a large amount (which can be totally legitimate), we encourage you to have them explain the need for so much.

4. Do you have a contract?

It’s important when you’re dealing with large sums of money and work to have legal contracts in place to protect both parties. Some basement contractors work off of oral agreements or their quote sheet as the legally binding factor. While acceptable, it really doesn’t divulge enough information to protect both parties.

In fact, a bid sheet often protects the interest of the basement company rather than the homeowner. We encourage that if you’re working with someone to ensure they have a contract in place, you’ve read the contract, and you understand all the terms.

5. Do you have references?

If everything else checks out, now it’s time to do the nitty gritty work of interviewing previous clients. Any basement company can show you finished work of a project they’ve worked on, but you never know the process it took to get there.

At Hawthorne, we believe that it’s important to not only build out a great basement but have a great process along the way. Check out references from social media (if they’ve tagged the homeowners) and ask specific questions such as:

  • Did you enjoy working with this company?
  • Did they stand by their work?
  • Did the timeline match your expectations?
  • Would you refer them and/or work with them again?

All of these questions will help you understand the type of company you’re working with before you even get started.

If you’ve gone through these questions and feel like Hawthorne Finished Basements would be a good fit then give us a call to get started at (402) 321-5260 or email

How Basement Contractors Should Pick Their Subs

You have many choices when it comes to Omaha Basement Contractors. But what many homeowners need to realize is that there is more going on behind the scenes.

Very few (if any) of these companies can fulfill the entire basement finishing on their own. Thus, they rely on subcontractors who are specifically licensed to do that very kind of work- such as electricians or plumbers.

Furthermore, there are other trades that don’t require licensing including framers, drywallers, tilers, cabinet makers, and carpet layers.

Here’s the important thing.

Your basement contractor should be discerning enough to know how to select the best ones to work on your basement.

Here’s how Hawthorne Finished Basements screens our crew

Knowledge and Expertise

This may be the most important factor we use to screen which subcontractors we choose for your basement. The company must be experienced and knowledgeable about their trade.

What this means is that they are able to do the job well, efficiently, and often consequently for the best price.

We often cross-check with other people within the industry about their reputation, especially when it comes to knowledge about the trade.

For the homeowner, this translates into a subcontractor that can understand long-term implications of the work they do on your home and code requirements (so we don’t encounter a violation during inspection).


Have you ever known anyone who’s remodeling project took way longer than expected?

Nothing can ruin a basement finishing timeline quite like an unreliable sub. The timeline of the project is often structured with contingencies so if subcontractor A doesn’t do his job then subcontractor B can’t do his/hers.

Part of this falls on the project manager to diligently communicate with all parties so everyone is working as efficiently as possible.

As a homeowner, this means your project will often get delayed. And often times, with very little reason or understanding why. We have selectively picked subcontractors that we know are reliable.

This means they show up when they say they will, respond to our messages (often urgent matters), and do the work that’s required of them. And this is exactly what all homeowners want.


This often is the first factor that many basement contractors use to select a subcontractor.

While price is important to consider, it’s not the end all, be all. At least we don’t think it should be.

When we are bidding out your basement remodeling, we’re looking for the best value. This means they are able to justify the cost- either way.

If they’re significantly cheaper than other subcontractors, we want to understand why. If there is any indication that they are cutting corners (inexperienced workers, cheaper products, shortcut methods) then we won’t use them.

On the other hand, if they are significantly more expensive than other subcontractors we will ask why. It may be that they’re shorthanded and need to “overprice” work in order not to get it or that they are inefficient and therefore need to charge more. Either way, this also doesn’t work for us.

We gauge price as a factor when ultimately choosing who works on your basement, but it comes with a  lot of thoughtful consideration on value.


Selecting the right basement contractor means trusting that they are select the right subcontractors. We hope you’ll take the time to diligently screen and understand how your basement company chooses subs.

The construction industry is riddled with horror stories. Our goal at Hawthorne is simply to give you the best experience and change your perceptions on how basement remodeling can be.

Give us a call at (402) 321-5260, email, or fill out our contact form to get started!


What Sets Us Apart From Other Omaha Basement Contractors?

When you’re researching Omaha basement contractors, it’s hard to tell what makes each company different.

Everyone says the same things, has the same types of picture and offers the same types of service.

At Hawthorne, we wanted to be very clear on what sets us apart. We’re not just another basement finishing company in Omaha and here’s what makes us different:

We’re Female Owned

Nothing against the fellas, but we think women bring a unique perspective that you won’t find with other basement contractors in Omaha.

Each of us contributes separate skills and knowledge to this industry. Our attention-to-detail, high level of communication, and use of technology will create a better experience for the homeowner.

Thoughtful Basement Plans

Each plan and layout is created with your family in mind. The way we see it, your basement is a blank slate and we work with you to help design it.

Entertain often? Let’s put in a drink fridge.

Like watching movies or sports? Let’s do a killer AV setup.

Lots of pets and kids? Let’s make sure to incorporate a stain-free carpet.

Is your Mother-in-Law moving in? Let’s make sure we set her up comfortably.

You tell us what’s important and we make sure to incorporate it.

Over Communication

Back to point #1, we’re women and we like knowing what’s going on. We assume the same of you.

You’ll often find that we respond to emails, calls, or texts within the same day (sometimes the same hour). We’re accessible, communicative, and might interject some sarcasm along the way.

We’re easy to reach during business hours. And even after you’ve sent in your last payment, we’re still easy to reach.

Total Transparency

We believe that trust thrives in transparency. This is partly why we use cost-plus pricing over fixed pricing and why we operate with “open book”.

But on top that, we believe in owning up to mistakes (we’re human!) and being truthful even if the news isn’t great. The basement finishing industry still has a long way to go, but we’re excited to be part of the change.


Does Hawthorne sound like a basement contractor you’d like to work with? Great! We’d love to chat.

Fill out our contact form or give us a ring at (402) 321-5260.

Advantages of Cost-Plus Basement Pricing

So let’s say you’re out looking at several Omaha basement contractors to get a bid on your basement finishing.

You’ll get numbers all over the place from the low end to the high end of pricing.

Most basement companies in Omaha will actually offer fixed pricing. Many homeowners don’t realize that there is an alternative through cost-plus pricing.

What exactly is cost-plus basement pricing?

In short, we charge a fixed percentage of the overall cost of the project. We will determine at the early stages the exact estimate of your project and calculate a management fee percentage on top of that. So whether you choose a $300 microwave or a $3000 microwave, we don’t stand to make any more.

So while fixed pricing is a good option, here’s why you should consider a cost-plus basement pricing:

More Control

As a homeowner, you always get to call the shots (outside from building code rules, etc.). This means that while you may have a certain budget allowance for lighting, you may find a better option at Wayfair. Great! You purchase those lights and then we can adjust scope accordingly.

This is especially advantageous for homeowners who are savvy shoppers and like to be involved in the process.

Complete Transparency

This is an open book process. You get to see what we pay the subcontractors or vendors and so you know that we’re not marking up pricing. This is what we mean if we ever talk about “true pricing.”

Plus, we get the builder pricing on most things and pass those savings directly to you.

Additionally, changes are a much more seamless process because you often know the price differences in any upgrades you make. So you’re negotiating with your spouse (and not us).


Interested in a refreshing basement contractor relationship? One with transparent pricing, proactive communication, and more flexibility.

Fill out our contact form or call us at (402) 321-5260 to get started!

Starting an Omaha Basement Finishing Company

Why Basements?

The construction industry has room for improvement. Homeowners are used to miscommunication, missed deadlines, and generally, having an unsavory experience.

But we realized it doesn’t have to be that way. So we decided to do something about it.

As fellow Elkhorn residents we came to the realization that with the boom of housing, there would rise a need for basement contractors. Some key players exited the market so it was a ripe opportunity to enter.

Lindsay + Cam

Lindsay and I have been friends for almost 9 years now. Our oldest kids were literally babies when we first met and now we have both added 2 more each. Yes, we’re busy, but we’re also passionate about making an impact in the professional world.

Lindsay has long had experience with construction and custom home building. As mentioned, she is a third generation builder so it’s been second hand for her. She knows the ins and outs of construction and has had her hand in all types of residential and commercial builds.

I, on the other hand, have limited experience with Construction BUT I know project management. I owned and operated a web design company for nearly 8 years. During that time, I was able to work on some complex projects and really hone in on my project management skills.

We both bring separate and unique strengths into Hawthorne Finished Basements, but we believe this to our advantage.

Oh yeah, and we believe our XX chromosomes will serve us well in a male-dominated industry.

Wanna Work With Us?

Head on over to our Contact page to give us a few more details of your project and we’ll get back to you lickety-split.