How many of us are sitting on top of square footage gold, literally? For many homeowners, the dim and dusty space below their feet goes widely unused. An unfinished basement, or a semi-finished one, is often used for laundry and a general catch-all for your leftover junk. As we spend more and more time at home, this space can open up endless possibilities…if you are willing to roll up your sleeves!
Finishing a basement can quickly become expensive, however. Installing sheetrock, laying down a floor, and installing a drop ceiling can quickly drain many family’s savings. There are other ways to make the most of the extra space, though.
If you are ready to turn your bottom floor into a place you want to spend all your time (on the cheap) keep on reading!
Below, we have 15 affordable ways to give your basement a facelift. Starting with some basic projects, we will also share some ideas for different space functions. Plus, we added plenty of design tips, as well!
1. Declutter, Clean, and Organize
Though it’s no one’s favorite, the first thing you have to do to utilize your basement more effectively is clean, declutter, and organize. Start by throwing everything out that you have not used in more than a year. Once you have more space, it’s time to clean and organize. Giving the space a good scrubbing plus getting rid of junk, can do wonders for a basement. Once you are down to the important items, it will be easy to organize them on shelves, in crates, and along the walls.
One of the greatest things about basements are all the nooks and crannies you can use to store your items. Try adding some grating along your rafters to store shoe boxes, photo albums, and other smaller yet important memorabilia. Not only will it give you more space, but it will keep those items safe from potential water damage.
2. Add Lighting
One of the biggest problems with a basement is the gloomy lighting. Thankfully, there are a lot of inexpensive ways you can go about brightening the place up. Depending on your style, you can add flare and personality with some simple fixtures. For example, a popular option is to add industrial-type ceiling lamps that look great if you have exposed beams or rafters. Old chandeliers found at outlet stores or on sites like Facebook Marketplace also work great creating a rustic-glam aesthetic. Another option is a floor lamp. They are typically inexpensive, but they can highlight specific areas of the space.
Want to go with the rustic industrial look? Pick up some inexpensive clamp lights from your local hardware store. A quick coat of textured spray paint can go a long way to customizing the lamps. Using the clamps, they are easy to hang from rafters, grating, and other fixtures.
It is amazing the difference a coat of paint can make in your basement. While sheetrocking the walls is an expensive renovation, painting can make just as big of an impact at a fraction of the cost. Try going with a light color to open up and brighten the area. Also, don’t stop at just the walls. Doing a slightly darker shade on the floor and ceiling will complete the space giving it a more finished look.
- To add a focal point, pick a bright color for the floor or on one wall. This can cheer up a darker space and make it more inviting. It will also add personality, and give the room a modern feel.
- If you have your heart set on finishing your walls, try oriented strand board (OSB). OSB is a type of wood paneling that is made of “strands” of wood that are compressed together with an adhesive. Typically, it’s cheaper than sheetrock, but you will get the same effect. Another cost-efficient option is to only finish/cover one wall while leaving the exposed brick or concrete blocks in their natural form. This will give it a modern, rustic appeal.
4. Transform the Basement Floor
One of the biggest issues with basements is the accumulation of moisture. Some homeowners battle flooding, but the majority do have some kind of water issues. While we did mention painting the floor, we would suggest going for something more water-resistant if your budget allows. Some of the popular choices include epoxy and floating floors. Both are great at keeping moisture at bay and keeping it from destroying your stuff. While epoxy will give you a glossy finish, floating floors are usually done with carpet squares that can add an element of warmth (literally and figuratively) to the space.
- Although some homeowners opt for laminate and other faux-flooring, it is important to keep water damage in mind. Over time, even small amounts of condensation can warp a faux wood floor. If you have had flooding (or the potential for it) you will also need to keep the drainage areas clear.
- Rugs. Rugs, rugs, and rugs. Whether you decide to paint, epoxy, or leave your basement floor in its raw state, we highly suggest a few well-placed throw rugs. This is another way to add some comfort to the room. You can go for something bright and bold or go with one that is dark and moody. Even placing a vibrant throw on top of rug squares is a great way to add some character and depth to the area. Just keep in mind, you will be better off going with a hardy indoor/outdoor option.
5. Furnishing Your Basement
Once you have a nice, clean, organized, and painted basement, it’s time to decide (if you have not already) what you are going to do with the space. While we will get into more specifics shortly, right now we wanted to talk about the actual furniture. Buying all new stuff can blow your budget quickly. Instead, go with the extra furniture you already have. Start slowly with the items you own, then add pieces as you go. A great place to find inexpensive and unique furniture is at yard sales, thrift stores, discount stores. Don’t forget Facebook Marketplace, too.
Many people find it difficult to make a space look cohesive with random pieces of furniture. Luckily, there are easy ways to tie everything together. First, start by picking one color you want to focus on. Painting some of your wooden pieces and adding throw blankets, pillows, lamps, etc in that color will quickly create a well-put-together decor. You can slowly add other colors as you go until you find the right blend for your tastes.
One of the most overlooked parts of a basement renovation is the stairs. When all is said and done, not giving the steps some love can bring down the entire look. Adding a coat of paint is a great place to start. It will brighten up the entrance, plus make them easier to climb. You can also add some rug treads to add a feeling of warmth. If you have unfinished stairs, add risers to give them a more finished look. Doing so can also help insulate the area.
Don’t be afraid to add some color or patterns to your stairs. If they are a focal point of the space, play it up by adding a design to the steps. Another great idea is to install light strips. This will cut down on missteps and add a modern touch.
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7. Creating Different Spaces
If you have a large square footage below deck, sectioning off areas can make the area more efficient. This is also a good idea if you want to hide the unsightly appliances such as your furnace, washer and dryer, and water heaters. Thankfully, you can easily accomplish this without having to add actual walls. One of the most common ways is to hang curtains or sheets. Using room dividers or sliding barn doors will give your basement a farmhouse look. You can also combine storage and room divisions by using egg crates to build a wall. Bookcases, old entertainment centers, and other shelving units work just as well to create the areas you need.
The most cost-effective way to separate the space (unless you have a lot of unused bookcases, etc) is to use curtains. Sheer, light-colored curtains will allow you to divide up the room while still giving the space an airy and bright feeling. On the other hand, darker and heavier drapes can add a warm and dramatic feel. Typically, darker colors are better when you have high ceilings. Semi-transparent material works better when your ceilings are low.
8. Heating the Space
In the majority of homes, the heating system is designed to heat the upper levels leaving the basement to be one of the colder areas. It can get downright frigid if you live in a colder climate. If that is the case, heating the space becomes necessary if you plan to spend any amount of time down there. Many people go for a space heater, but as hot air rises, they are not very effective. Radiant wall heaters, on the other hand, can warm the space by targeting the objects in the room versus the air. While they are a bit more expensive than a portable heater, they are far more efficient and cheaper to run.
Wood burning stoves are another way to not only heat your basement but to also create a cozy and livable area. It is important, however, that you check with your county’s guidelines regarding wood-burning stoves to ensure you have enough space and the correct materials for the project.
9. Creating More Light
While adding lamps and light fixtures to a dark basement is important, nothing compares to natural light. Unfortunately, most basements are saddled with tiny ground-level windows and bulkheads that don’t allow for the sun. If you are lucky enough to have an exterior basement door, replacing it with a glass-paneled one is a great cure. You can also swap out your solid interior door for a glass or french option. Both of these items can easily be found at garage and yard sales.
Ground level windows can be unsightly and not give the best view. To add some interest to your space, you can turn those windows into stained glass. Most craft stores sell DIY glass staining kits, or you can purchase glass paint from any hardware store. You can also add strip lights to alcoves and other similar areas that will give the illusion of a window. Add a large mirror, as well, to really open up the space.
10. Family Room
A family room is not only one of the most popular refinished basement projects, but also one of the most functional. This is a great option for farmhouse chic, industrial modern, and boho styles as the natural aesthetic of your basement will go well with these design concepts. Of course, you can do any type of decor that tickles your fancy, plus add elements that work best for you.
A family room is a great option if you plan to have dual purposes for the area. Add a white sheet to the wall, and your family room becomes a movie theatre. Place a few bookcases in a corner to create a library nook, or add a bar for company, game day, and holiday celebrations.
11. Home Office
Another popular option is the home office. With more and more of us working from home, a dedicated space for work can be beneficial. With many color and design options, you can create a functional and attractive basement office. Adding a desk, love seat, and some shelves are a great start. Put a throw rug down, plus add a small side table with a coffee maker. There are no ends to the possibilities.
Need an affordable desk? One great DIY work table idea is to take a leftover flat surface and use two bookshelves on each side to support it. The beauty of this idea is you can use anything from a salvaged piece of marble, an old chopping block, or pretty much any sturdy flat surface. Another option is to construct a suspended desk. For this to work, you will need either exposed beams or metal rafters that are secure. Again, using a flat surface of your choice (wood or something that can be drilled is preferable), use a drill and hole saw to make a hole in each corner of the surface. You can suspend it from the ceiling using swing set chain, rope, or cables.
Just as a lot of people are now working from home, a lot of kids are also taking part in remote learning. A great and affordable basement refinish is a playroom/school for the kids. The fun part about this option is you can really let your imagination go. What’s more, you can get the kids involved, too. A small table and chairs with a chalkboard and shelves would be a great start. You can also add mats for play, a playhouse that fits under the stairs, and even a tv. If you want to take it to the next level, consider adding some swings that are suspended from the rafters. Again, just be sure that your home is structurally sound before hanging anything from the ceiling.
When it comes to a place for the kids to kick up their heels, you want to stick with durable and washable materials and fabrics. Using epoxy on the floor while adding some bright outdoor throw rugs will help keep things neat. Also, consider dedicating one corner of the space where they can paint and draw. A light background with pastel or primary colors is a great choice to make the space inviting for little ones.
13. Recreational Room/Home Gym
Keeping fit and active is not always easy. Dedicating your basement to games, fitness, and recreation is a great way to use the space. There are endless possibilities in this category, but it can depend on your budget. Pool tables, gym equipment, and arcade games can be pricey, but looking for gently used items can save you a bundle. Adding mirrors to the wall and installing mats on the floor is great for a home gym. Dartboards, a bar island with stools, and some video games are other options. Whatever your hobby or interest, you can dedicate a space right below your feet.
Recessed or strip lighting is best for an active area. You can also purchase horse stall mats instead of gym mats. Not only are they as comfortable and long-lasting as the latter, but they are far less expensive. If you are going the gym route, also consider buying all of your equipment at once. While buying everything upfront can be expensive (hint Black Friday), the cost of shipping on individual, heavy items will cost you a lot more in the long run.
14. Meditation Space
Usually, meditation and basement are not two words you hear together. With the right decor, however, you can create a relaxing and peaceful spot right below your feet. As another bonus, mediation spaces can be very affordable to create. Although designing the perfect spot is a very individual process, starting with some good lighting, light colors, and plants (real or fake) will get you going in the right direction. From there, you can add and design as you see fit.
This is another space where horse stall mats would work wonders. To add a flowy vibe to a somewhat rigid basement, drape curtains or sheets through the rafters creating a makeshift ceiling. Securing some hanging lanterns and painting meaningful words on the walls throughout the space will invite positive energy, as well. You can find stencils at any craft store or on Amazon. Scan them into your computer and enlarge them before printing them out. You can use the enlarged stencils on the walls to add words of wisdom.
15. Spare Bedroom
If you have limited space in your home, it can be difficult to find sufficient accommodations for overnight guests. If you entertain often, creating a spare bedroom in the basement is a great solution. Over time, many people also expand the space to an open concept mini-apartment complete with a sitting area, kitchenette, and full bath. The important thing is to go slow, however, as the cost can get out of hand quickly. Start by creating a warm and inviting sleeping space for your guest. There are many used bed frames you can find online that are unique and inexpensive. Combine it with a set of drawers, a comfortable chair, and a tv to complete the area.
The number one thing you want to concentrate on here is comfortability and a sense of coziness whether you are doing a masculine or glam space. A great way to accomplish this is by using several different types of material to add texture. Soft shag carpets with a velvet-lined overstuffed chair and a fur throw would be one example. You can also add earth and dramatic tones to create an intimate feeling while still leaving a light shade on the walls for an airy effect. Go for soft, warm creams with rich wood tones, as well.
Coming up with a game plan for refinishing your basement is an exciting time. One of the biggest mistakes we see people make, however, is rushing the final result. You can create a beautiful and functional space on a budget, but allow yourself the time to find the perfect pieces you need. For starters, though, a good cleaning, fresh coat of paint, and some good lighting choices can make a world of difference!
We hope that you have found some inspiration from the ideas above, and you are well on your way to utilizing the extra space that has gone to waste in your home.
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