9 Basement Renovations on a Budget

Make your underground space a little more welcoming without going beyond your budget.

U.S. News & World Report

9 Basement Renovations on a Budget

Interior of modern renovated lover floor basement common room in private city  residence.

You have plenty of options to improve your basement without breaking the bank.(Getty Images)

If you're looking to add living space to your home or at least establish a slightly more presentable basement, know that a finished basement can be a game-changer.

In parts of the country where many homes are built on a slab or crawl space, homeowners looking to add square footage and value are paying top dollar to get the finished basement of their dreams. "It’s a huge, huge expense. You are digging down eight feet from nothing and excavating all that and giving yourself a basement," says Kevin Mond, head of business development and sales for HDR Remodeling in Berkeley, California. He knows of a recently completed basement excavation and finishing project that cost $550,000.

In terms of adding value, a basement that's finished with an entertainment area and full bathroom that costs about $70,000 could recoup as much as 70% of the cost in value, according to Remodeling Magazine's 2017 Cost Vs. Value Report, the last year basement remodeling projects appeared in the report.

But not everyone has the kind of cash to fund a full basement makeover. Whether you’re looking to add value to your home or just hoping to make your basement a bit more enjoyable for your family, there are budget-friendly options that can make it more welcoming.

Here are nine project ideas that will make your basement livable on a budget:

  • Focus on the ceiling, floor and walls.
  • Improve part of the basement.
  • Paint the ceiling and walls.
  • Make room for storage.
  • Light up the space.
  • Create a space for crafts and activities.
  • Add easy-to-install flooring.
  • Paint or stain the floor.
  • Take on some of the labor.

Focus on the Ceiling, Floor and Walls

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If the goal of your basement renovation is to add value to your property for resale value, focus on finishing the ceiling, walls and floors too look like the rest of the home. Unless you’ve walled in a room before, you’ll want to hire professionals for this project.

Home improvement information company HomeAdvisor estimates the cost to finish a basement – including framing and wall installation, ceiling and floor – of a 2,000 square-foot home to be about $15,000. This may be well outside your budget, but if a fully finished basement is what you’re looking for, “maybe wait – it’ll save you in the long term,” says Andy Haste, founder and president of Riverside Construction in West Lafayette, Indiana.

Improve Part of the Basement

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If your budget limits the amount of space you can finish, consider partially finishing the basement, which will reduce the cost by cutting down on the square footage you’ll be working on. Haste says his company will occasionally finish part of a basement, building out a secondary living room and half bath, and then plan with the homeowner to add a bedroom or other basement space a few years later.

You can also hang drapes or curtains to informally close off a space or create a partition between an entertainment space and a laundry room, for example. However, if your basement is particularly humid, textiles including drapes and upholstered furniture can easily grow mold. If you’re using fabric in your basement, be sure you have a dehumidifier to keep humidity levels low.

Paint the Ceiling and Walls

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If interior walls and a ceiling aren’t an option for you, you can still make the space feel more finished with a bit of paint. Exposed beams, pipes and ducts on the ceiling can be painted a solid color to make everything blend.

For unfinished basement walls, you can paint cinder block with latex masonry paint or acrylic paint made for walls, though you should expect to need a few coats since concrete is more porous than drywall.

Regardless of the type of wall or ceiling you're painting, Mond recommends light colors to brighten the space and make it feel bigger. He also recommends a bold accent wall in an eye-catching color that provides contrast to the white elsewhere in the basement. "It makes the light colors feel even lighter," he says.

Before you paint any part of your basement, be sure to thoroughly clean all surfaces and make sure the basement is sealed to keep moisture out. Dirt and water will cause paint to chip, peel and potentially grow mold.

Make Room for Storage

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Unfinished basements often become a catch-all storage space for items that don’t fit in closets and cabinets above ground. Improve your organization and make space in the basement by adding shelves or cabinets, so you can take advantage of vertical space and get boxes off the floor.

Light Up the Space

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You’ll never want to spend time in a basement that’s lit by a single, bare lightbulb. Mond recommends lighting upward from wall sconces or lamps, allowing light to bounce off walls instead of hanging light fixtures from the ceiling. "Anything hanging down makes the basement feel lower," he says.

For an additional DIY option, string bistro lights from hooks on exposed beams on the ceiling to provide additional consistent light throughout the basement.

Create a Space for Crafts and Activities

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What will encourage you to use the space more? Since a basement that’s partially or completely unfinished is fairly bare, it’s the perfect place to set up a craft table for yourself or young kids, as spills on the floor or walls are easier to clean up on concrete.

With the right lighting and bright paint colors, the basement can easily become a place for kids to roughhouse on a cold or rainy day when going outside isn’t an option. “Sometimes the best use of a basement is to leave it unfinished and let the kids ride their tricycles around,” Haste says.

Add Easy-to-Install Flooring

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Installing carpet, tile or hardwood flooring in your basement are projects that can take you beyond your budget. One alternative is carpet tiles, which are squares of carpet that can be fitted together via a do-it-yourself project. You can often find carpet tile between $1 and $2 per square foot through specialty sellers like Carpet-USA.com or home decor and improvement companies like Wayfair or Lowe’s.

If you’re not interested in carpeting, foam mat squares that fit together like puzzle pieces may remind you of an elementary school classroom, but they work perfectly for a home gym space in your basement.

Paint or Stain the Floor

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If you prefer to keep hard floors, you can paint your concrete floor in the same manner you’d paint the walls. If your basement is dark, consider a bright color to help reflect light throughout the space. You can also opt to stain the concrete, which offers a more natural flooring look. In established living areas or home office space, you can lay rugs to keep your feet warmer.

Take on Some of the Labor

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If you’re still looking for ways to stretch your budget but achieve a more finished look, you may be able take on some of the final touches as a DIY project or do the initial demolition work yourself. If you’re building a bathroom, for example, once the walls are up and the plumbing is done, you may save by installing tile and hanging the mirror yourself.

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