Your unfinished basement is an empty canvas that has the potential to add valuable new living space to your home.

Your basement room can become your home office, a place to entertain guests, or even your personal man cave or lady cave! And don’t let anyone tell you a woman can’t have her own lady cave. It’s 2017, and the “woman cave” is real.

If a full basement remodel isn’t in the cards right now, there are plenty of small changes that can be made to your unfinished basement to liven up the space.

Here are a few budget friendly ideas and inspiration to help you take your unfinished basement from drab to fab!

1. Build a storage space. If you’re like many homeowners, your basement is currently a catch-all of boxes, tools, and out-of-season decorations. If you’re going to turn your unfinished basement into livable space, these odds and ends need a place to go. Installing storage shelves or a new closet is a great way to take advantage of vertical space and keep the floor clear.

2. Paint the walls. It’s remarkable what a fresh coat of paint can do for a room. Light, airy colors such as such as robin’s egg blue, buttery yellow, or soft gray are ideal for basement walls since they help an enclosed room feel open. You could also add interest to the area by painting one wall with a bright accent color.

Many basement walls are comprised of concrete blocks. These absorb a good deal of paint, making the chore a pain, so you’ll definitely want to hire a professional for the job!

3. Spruce up your basement floor. Give your basement floor new life by covering up the old concrete. This is a great place to incorporate another light color into your decor. Install comfortable beige carpet or durable wood laminate with a warm maple finish.

If you’d rather leave the concrete untouched, a little basement floor paint can work wonders. A professional paint job can even make it look like you’ve installed expensive stone tiles on your basement floor.

4. Boost your basement lighting. Basement windows (if there are any) are often small and don’t let in much natural light. To help your newly space feel cozy and inviting, it’s critical to overhaul your basement lighting and install new lighting fixtures.

Here are just a few basement lighting ideas:

  • If your basement has low ceilings, avoid hanging light fixtures.
  • Recessed lighting fixtures, such as can lights, conserve space and provide strong overall light.
  • Track lighting is a stylish choice for large spaces and works especially well if you don’t want the installer to cut into the basement ceiling or add electrical boxes.
  • Wall-mounted lights can provide additional lighting in sections of the room that call for extra brightness, such as near a pool table or a reading chair.

Regardless of what lighting fixtures you choose for your basement, the important thing is making sure there’s enough light. Remember, it’s a man cave (or woman cave!) and not an actual cave.

5. Install basement windows. Of course, if you have the opportunity to enlarge your windows, go for it! Beefing up just a few of the windows in your basement space will significantly increase the amount of light that shines into the room.

If you want to install new basement windows, it will depend a lot on how much of your lowest level is underground.

A professional contractor will be able to evaluate how feasible installing or replacing basement windows will be. If installing or replacing basement windows is something you’d like to do, Homeowner’s Hub can schedule an in-home evaluation with a specialized contractor.

6. Trim surrounding shrubs. One of the best ways to take advantage of your existing basement windows doesn’t actually involve any work in the basement. If there are large bushes in front of your basement windows, some outdoor pruning can liven up your indoor space. A landscaper can trim them back or even remove any obtrusive bushes to allow more light into the room.

7. Consider basement waterproofing. Unless you want to go all out and turn your unfinished basement into an indoor pool, you probably don’t want a lot of water in your new space. Basement waterproofing is a must if there is excessive moisture downstairs.

A full-scale exterior waterproofing may not be necessary for every basement. Sometimes sealing a few cracks and waterproofing just the interior basement walls is enough. If flooding is an issue, as it is in some parts on New Jersey, it never hurts to install a French drain in the basement.

A contractor who specializes in basement waterproofing (or alternately, indoor pools) can help you determine the best course of action. Luckily, Homeowners Hub can connect you with either!

8. Cover (or paint) the basement ceiling. Unfinished basement ceilings aren’t usually much to look at. If you have an old, dingy ceiling, consider having it covered with attractive wood panels, artsy metal tiles, or even a simple, fresh coat of white paint.

9. Heat the space. No one wants to hang out in a chilly basement. If “borderline frigid” describes your downstairs space, it’s time to warm it up. Two good options for basement remodels are baseboard heat, which is installed along the walls of the room, and under-floor radiant heat, which involves pipes that lie under the flooring.

Both of these options are permanent installations that will effectively heat your basement living area so it becomes a comfortable spot for sleeping, working or lounging.

10. Finish the basement stairs. The steps provide an introduction to the room, but basement steps are often made of bare wood or covered with old linoleum. A makeover of the basement stairs will really set the scene for your newly decorated basement space. At a minimum, a fresh coat of paint is a must for wood basement steps. If you’re going for a more dramatic change, consider covering your stairs with carpet or vinyl flooring.

11. Install a Railing. If your basement staircase doesn’t have a railing, now is the time to have one put in. Since your downstairs area will now be so much more inviting, you’ll find yourself walking down the steps more often than you used to. A sturdy railing will help make every descent into your underground oasis a safe one.

What tips do you have for turning a dreary basement into a welcoming space? Leave a comment below!


Homeowner’s Hub Affiliate Contractors service the following NJ Towns: Maplewood, West Orange, South Orange, Millburn, Short Hills, Summit, Livingston, and Montclair.