Your basement is most likely the most untapped space in the house. Sadly, basements are relegated to dumping things that don’t fit anywhere else. But the truth is – remodelling and finishing your basement can be an excellent way to not only increase your home’s habitable and functional space but also add value to your property. Whether you’re making small renovations or major basement remodels, here are some tips to breathe life into your dead basement.
If spending all that time at home during the pandemic got you thinking about how your basement isn’t being used to its fullest potential, there’s a good chance you’re giving that long-overdue basement finishing idea a real thought this time. Imagine what all it could be – a home office, playroom, movie theater, home gym – even an extension of your living room! It’s time to put on some gloves, give your creative juices a swirl and bring out that DIY spirit.
The problem is, dealing with basements isn’t easy. Converting that dark, dingy, musty cellar into a warm, habitable space can be a tricky affair. You need to consider everything from moisture and lighting to flooring, storage and whatnot. We’ve collected a list of smart tips that’ll come handy in making your basement finishing project a big success.
1. Address the moisture issue
Before you make any other investments in your basement, first check for any cracks, leaks and other signs of moisture. If you see any, it’ll be worthwhile getting professional help to waterproof the walls. If not, roll on a coat of masonry sealant just in case.
Waterproofing may also involve installing a drainage system with gutters to take water away from the foundation of your house. Check your plumbing and seal any cracks that you locate around pipes.
Dealing with moisture doesn’t stop just at the structure though. A dehumidifier can make all the difference you need to convert a musty, smelly, chilly basement into a warm, clean and healthy livable space.
2. Keep an open plan, keep your basement flexible
Your basement is supposed to be that extra, fun area in your house, doubling up as your home office, game room, gym room, in-law room, etc, right? Then why get rid of that flexibility by building walls?
Instead, here’s a better idea – use modular DIY walls to divide up and organize your basement. Yes, they could look like real walls and no, they don’t have to be difficult to install at all!
Consider this Partition Divider or this L-shaped Partition Divider – they’re both DIY, you can assemble them in barely a couple of hours with as little as a drill and screwdriver, and they also come with cute accordion doors! When you decide it’s time to convert your basement hideout to something else, just disassemble these walls and build them elsewhere. Really, your basement could become that versatile!
3. Get the lighting right
First, focus on whatever little natural light you get in your basement – whether it’s through the stairwell or a lone egress window – and maximize it. Use window treatments that allow maximum light in. Use mirrors and reflective surfaces to further spread the light to make your basement look bigger, livelier and more open.
Consider getting pot or recessed lights instead of low-hanging lights or wall-mounted ones. They’re better suited for low ceiling heights helping you get rid of that dark, shady vibe your basement probably has at the moment.
Also, this is one area you definitely want to be generous with your cash-spend. Instead of the traditional, single light fixture, get multiple ones - one for every 25 sq ft of space. You’ll thank us once you see the massive difference it makes! But if you’re really tight on the budget, your next best bet is to go with track lights.
4. Plan your storage
The truth is, as glamorous as your basement reno plans may sound, it’s the basement that’s still got to take in all of the things that don’t belong anywhere else in the house. So it’s better you include a good amount of storage in your plan lest your underground-escape turn into a messy dump yard before the next season. Account for every tidbit, from garden equipment to holiday decorations, out-of-season clothes, memorabilia and books – everything you can think of, and some more.
One of the best ways to deal with storage is to build a store room, and fill it with storage racks made from 2x4s. It doesn’t even have to be finished on the inside. Yes, this means you can allocate your budget towards other things instead.
Another alternative is to design your storage units as floor-to-ceiling closets with vertical, full-height doors. They’re not only effective with square-foot use but the vertical lines will also make your low-ceiling basement look taller.
5. Hide the utilities
The basement is also, unfortunately, the one to house those unsightly mechanical equipment, HVAC components, house furnaces, air handlers, etc. that serve the rest of the house. While you cannot get rid of them, you don’t want them beastly things killing the vibe of your underground abode. For aesthetic and functional reasons, it’s best to conceal them from the living areas of your basement.
The problem is that since these utilities require regular maintenance, easy access is important. Here’s an awesome solution – use temporary DIY dividers! This VersiPanel Acoustical Partition can be put up in any flexible shape and taken down in no time and with minimal effort. The best part- it’s acoustical so you can use it to dampen the incessant, annoying whirr of the machines to make your basement a quiet and peaceful space.
6. Choose the flooring wisely
Although basements could use the much-needed warm look of hardwood floors, they’re just a big no-no for subgrade flooring. Wood will expand and contract and warp with all that moisture. What you need for basements is moisture-resistant flooring.
In fact basements are where wall-to-wall carpet floorings could just be magical. They’re cheap, easy, and most of all, warm and cozy – just what a chilly basement needs so you can kick off your shoes and get comfy!
No, carpet floors don’t have to be dull and monotonous. Go for brighter colors and break them up with highlight area rugs. You can really freak out on the customization!
7. Personalize the walls
Finishing walls is one of the most fun and rewarding exercises in any DIY home improvement project and there’s no reason this shouldn’t be the case with your basement walls too! Except instead of the usual paint, how about peel-and-stick wallpapers?
Basement walls usually tend to develop cracks with the changing seasons – cracks that’ll need repainting every now and then. And we all know that these DIY efforts aren’t coming out every season. That’s why wallpapers.
Wall papers are not only fun, but they’re also pocket-friendly. Plus, they come in a wide variety of lovely prints and designs with which you can invoke the right kind of environment and warmth you want in your basement. You can even have a bunch of them to swap around to suit your changing moods!
For example, check out this Batik Jacobean Wallpaper – it’s got this graceful floral pattern on a light pastel background that’ll give your basement an elegant, classy vibe - just what’s perfect for a home office. On the other hand, if funky’s your style, this Jungle-themed wallpaper will be right up your alley. The great thing is, there’s tons of designs available so you’re sure to find something you love! Plus, these are removable and repositionable so they’re totally flexible enough to fit every changing mood.
Basements don’t have to follow that associated norm of being dark, shady and uninhabitable spaces only meant for things that don’t belong above the ground. If you’ve decided to give yours a makeover, there’s no better time than now to get on with your DIY basement finishing and remodelling project! Just remember to follow these simple steps, and surely you’ll make your basement your own.