Ways to Improve an Unfinished Basement

To get more out of your basement space, you might decide that you want to remodel it. Whether you do it yourself or have a contractor handle some or all of the task, it can be a bit daunting and expensive. You don’t have to do a full remodel to get more use out of the space either. In fact, there are some fairly simple and inexpensive tweaks that you can do that will make the area more functional and at least a bit more pleasant no matter how you plan to use it.

Freshen Things Up

Most basements are dark and dreary affairs at best, so a good defense is to lighten and brighten the area as much as possible.

  • Add paint. Whether you paint walls or cabinets in the whole basement or just in certain areas, choose cheery, easy-to-care-for paints in bright, light-reflecting colors. Look for paints with mildewcide added to stop mildew from growing.
  • Choose counters and tables in white or light colors. Adding a table in a small laundry area allows you the space to fold, sort, or even do mending tasks but does not pigeonhole the area. Look for an easy folding, lightweight table that can be moved to other areas or even placed against the wall when not in use.
  • Update your lighting fixtures to make more sense for how the area is used. You want bright, neutral lighting for the laundry area so that you are not seeing weird stains that are not really there. Stick with overhead lighting so that you do not add clutter to the floor and to prevent issues if the basement has flooding problems.

Let in More Light

Most basements have at least one window, but they tend to be fairly useless, tiny things that do little to improve the area in any real way. With the addition of better basement windows and a window well, you can add more light, ventilation, and even an emergency exit.

  • Look for strong windows that are energy efficient and designed to be used in basements.
  • You will likely need to have a window professionally installed, and it is typically cheaper to have several installed at the same time rather than just one for the basement.
  • Adding a window well can add extra protection for the window itself without interfering with the light, air, and function of the window.
  • Most homeowners can handle installation of the window well on their own. It is a simple process involving picking the right material, doing some digging, and then screwing the well into the foundation.
  • Make sure that you add drainage to the window well so that you don’t cause flooding in that area. The draining water should be directed away from the house.
  • You can add a cover to the top of the window well so that you do not have to deal with leaves, dirt, and other debris. A cover may also keep out rodents, birds, and other unwanted animal guests.

Paint the Floor

You might be tempted to carpet or tile the basement floor, but before you do, consider the condition of the floor and the condition of the area. Do you really need carpet in an area that is just used for laundry and little else? How long will a carpet last in the overly damp basement? Tile can buckle and carpet can mold or mildew even in a basement that never actually floods. Concrete floors are durable, but they tend to look a little industrial. There are ways, however, to remedy that.

  • Painting concrete floors is a simple and straightforward task. Choose the right paint for the job, and make sure that you have plenty, including some leftover paint for any touchups you may have to do from time to time.
  • Do fill in or repair work for badly damaged areas before painting because those flaws will show through the new paint job.
  • If you are a little creative, you can make intricate patterns, including patterns that resemble tile with the concrete paint. There are stencils that you can use if you are less creative but still want something more than just the basic paint job.
  • Add a finish coating of sealant to keep the paint from peeling or chipping. You can choose one that adds a bit of sheen to the floor, which brightens the room up a bit as well, or you can use a flat sealant.

Extra Touches

There are always small ways to freshen up any area—and none of them have to be expensive.

  • Use a nice curtain to block off one area from another or to hide piles of laundry that you haven’t had time to tackle. Fabric curtains are durable and can be washed frequently so that mold and mildew do not build up. You can also change them to fit the season if you wish.
  • Add some heavy duty shelves to hold supplies depending on how you are using the basement. For instance, a set of shelves in the laundry area can hold your detergent, softeners, and stain removers in one spot.
  • If your basement window gets good light (and that is the goal of the new window and window well), add a shelf or ledge, and plant some easy-to-care-for plants there. Not only do plants help brighten the area but they also serve a serious and important purpose by purifying the air. Make sure that you are looking for a plant that can go a day or so between watering, especially if you are not down in the basement on a daily basis.
  • Add some colorful strip lights along the stairway to provide safety with a little bit of fun as well. There are strips that are easily installed and come with a number of programmable options for the color and actions of the lights. Make sure that there are no loose cords or anything that can be tripped over on the stairs though.


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