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10+ Affordable Unfinished Basement Ideas to DIY

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Last Updated on June 14, 2023 by lindseymahoney

Creating a functional living space in an unfinished basement is an excellent way to add usable square footage to your home! Today I am excited to share 10 affordable and creative ideas for your unfinished basement.

Easy and affordable unfinished basement ideas for you to try at home | Building Bluebird

These DIY projects made all of the difference in our basement and it’s now a space that our family uses every single day.

Unfinished basements often become the drop zone for unwanted items, at least that is how it was for us! They can feel kind of creepy with their concrete floors and dim lighting.

Before our makeover, I would dread going into our dirty basement and walking to all of the pull-string lights to turn them on. With some proper lighting and a few DIY projects, you can turn an unfinished space into a welcoming and usable space for your family.

Unfortunately, most homeowners don’t have the budget to complete a full basement renovation, but there are other solutions!

These easy DIY projects have a major impact on improving the look of your unfinished basement.

Easy and affordable unfinished basement ideas for you to try at home | Building Bluebird

Here is a peek at what our basement looked like before our budget-friendly basement makeover.

Easy and affordable ideas to turn your unfinished basement into a welcoming living space | Building Bluebird

And here is the same basement after tackling these projects.

Easy and affordable unfinished basement ideas for you to try at home | Building Bluebird
Easy and affordable unfinished basement ideas for you to try at home | Building Bluebird

10 Ideas for your Unfinished Basement

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1 | Hide Mechanicals

Easy and affordable unfinished basement ideas for you to try at home | Building Bluebird

Nothing screams “unfinished basement” like a large furnace and exposed electrical panel. Creating a utility room is one of the best ways to give an unfinished basement a finished look.

In our basement, we decided to build two walls that enclosed the furnace, electrical panel, and water heater. We created a storage space in the utility room as well.

Any stacked bins can now be tucked into this storage area of the basement where we can close the door to keep them out of sight.

Build a utility room to create a beautiful livable unfinished basement space | Building Bluebird

It took us a little more time to frame around the exposed pipes and beams, but I am pleased with how it turned out!

Now all of our storage bins and the ugly mechanicals are hidden behind this pocket door!

Adding two framed walls in addition to the existing concrete walls gave us the ability to hang some artwork. This is another simple finishing touch to decrease that unfinished basement feel.

Build a utility room to create a beautiful livable unfinished basement space | Building Bluebird

If you prefer to update your unfinished basement without a drywall project, consider curtains. Hanging curtains to camouflage the ugly mechanicals is another easy and affordable solution!

2 | Install Electrical Outlets

Easy and affordable ideas to turn your unfinished basement into a welcoming living space | Building Bluebird

Adding two walls gave us the opportunity to add a few outlets. Before, we had extension cords wrapping around the room where we wanted to plug in our TV or Peloton.

It is amazing what a difference wall outlets can make!

Our plans included designated activity zones (more on this later) in the basement and we were able to install outlets to hang TVs and plug-in games, and our Peloton.

3 | Deep Clean the Basement

Easy and affordable DIYs to turn your unfinished basement into a welcoming living space | Building Bluebird

Let’s be honest, when was the last time you deep-cleaned your unfinished basement?

The answer is probably never! For almost two years our basement was neglected and I hated working out down there because I was terrified that a spider would crawl on me.

We even had stacks of the original carpet from the 1980s that were still rolled up in the corner of our basement.

Easy and affordable DIYs to turn your unfinished basement into a welcoming living space | Building Bluebird

Regardless of which projects you decide to tackle, a good cleaning always makes the basement look better. Take a broom and sweep all of the ceiling joists to remove dust and cobwebs.

If our basement wasn’t filled with personal items, using a leaf blower would have been quicker. Continue brushing the walls and then sweep up the remaining debris on the floor.

I recommend using a shop vac to suck up all of the dirt piles.

Cut down any old wires that are no longer in use and pin any live wires to the side of a joist. This gives the ceiling a more uniform and clean look.

Easy and affordable DIYs to turn your unfinished basement into a welcoming living space | Building Bluebird

For the cement floors, clean the concrete with soap and water! This is a crucial step if you decide to paint the concrete floors, but if you decide not to paint them, this will really freshen up the basement! Two coats of concrete paint make a huge difference in the look of the floors, so I highly recommend this project.

Easy and affordable DIYs to turn your unfinished basement into a welcoming living space | Building Bluebird

How many times do think the basement floor has actually been washed since it was built? You will love bringing your furniture into the basement with clean and glistening floors.

4 | Add Overhead Lighting

Easy and affordable unfinished basement ideas for you to try at home | Building Bluebird

Next on my list of unfinished basement ideas is all about lighting! We hired an electrician to install can lights in the ceiling and it was a game-changer.

I can’t tell you how exciting it is to turn the lights on and off with the flip of a switch! Pull lights are just the worst! The new power outlets on the floating walls also allowed me to add table lamps for soft lighting.

The lights were wired prior to painting the ceiling black and then I attached the lights.

5 | Paint the Exposed Ceiling

Easy and affordable unfinished basement ideas for you to try at home | Building Bluebird

Once the ceiling was cleaned and the new lights were wired, it was time to paint! I chose black paint to hide any blemishes and give all of the attention to the other areas of the basement.

How to paint an exposed basement ceiling yourself | Building Bluebird

This DIY was physically taxing but totally worth the end result. An all-black exposed ceiling gives the room a uniform and finished look.

How to paint an exposed basement ceiling yourself | Building Bluebird

*Check out this complete tutorial for how I painted the exposed basement ceiling, including a source list at the end.

Easy and affordable unfinished basement ideas for you to try at home | Building Bluebird

6 | Paint the Basement Walls

Easy and affordable unfinished basement ideas for you to try at home | Building Bluebird

There is nothing quite like a fresh coat of paint on the walls! The power of paint is incredible and it really does show in our basement!

Easy and affordable unfinished basement ideas for you to try at home | Building Bluebird

The uniform black ceiling and newly painted, white cement walls are so pretty! I used untinted white paint for a neutral and clean look.

Plus, I already had the paint on hand so it was easy and affordable!

7 | Paint the Basement Concrete Floors

Easy and affordable unfinished basement ideas for you to try at home | Building Bluebird

I decided to paint our basement floors instead of carpeting because I wanted something durable. I knew that epoxy paint would hold up against wild kiddos, dogs, and the inevitable spilled juice.

Easy and affordable unfinished basement ideas for you to try at home | Building Bluebird

*The full process for painting concrete floors has a complete blog post of its own, check it out!

Our unfinished basement is painted from top to bottom and it looks like a brand-new space.

Easy and affordable unfinished basement ideas for you to try at home | Building Bluebird

I have had multiple people comment that our unfinished basement looks like an art gallery! I have to agree.

8 | Add Area Rugs

Easy and affordable unfinished basement ideas for you to try at home | Building Bluebird

In a basement full of concrete, adding large area rugs really warms up the room and creates the cozy atmosphere of a family room or home office.

Area rugs also help to pad the sound of loud and rambunctious kids. This is especially helpful if you do not have a drop ceiling to block some of the noise.

9 | Create Basement Activity Zones

Easy and affordable unfinished basement ideas for you to try at home | Building Bluebird

This is one of my favorite unfinished basement ideas.

Before, our basement was a disorganized mess with tons of wasted space. The living room area, craft room area, and even the home gym area were all on top of each other.

Easy and affordable unfinished basement ideas for you to try at home | Building Bluebird

With the makeover, we designed four zones to best utilize different areas of the basement. The first zone is the TV/living room area.

We added comfortable seating with a cozy couch and anchored the area with a nice rug. It is a great space for the kids to hang with friends, watch movies and play video games.

Easy and affordable unfinished basement ideas for you to try at home | Building Bluebird

The second zone is the utility/storage room which is behind the TV wall. With two framed and dry-walled walls, we were able to hang the TV and add electrical outlets for gaming systems.

Easy and affordable unfinished basement ideas for you to try at home | Building Bluebird

The third zone is our home gym area.

The wall where the TV hangs is another new addition when we created the utility room. I love having all of our workout gear in one designated area away from where the kids play. We laid down foam floor mats and this workout area really does satisfy all of our exercise needs.

The kiddos do use the climbing rope a lot, but their toys stay on the other side of the basement.

Easy and affordable unfinished basement ideas for you to try at home | Building Bluebird

The fourth zone is the ping pong area and toy storage and toy area. Grouping together similar items creates a cohesive look and more finished space.

10 | Incorporate Organization Systems

Easy and affordable unfinished basement ideas for you to try at home | Building Bluebird

Before we fixed up the basement, there was no rhyme or reason for how the room was set up. Toys laid in piles or were stuffed in the single TV stand.

I had attempted to create a functional area by assembling our old kitchen table, but it quickly became a disorganized mess.

Affordable unfinished basement ideas and DIYs to create a beautiful, livable space on a budget | Building Bluebird

With the new unfinished basement updates, I included a craft area with a smaller table.

In the storage room, a rolling cart is organized with all of the kids crafting materials and can be rolled out to use whenever they want.

Affordable unfinished basement ideas and DIYs to create a beautiful, livable space on a budget | Building Bluebird

In the ping pong play area, we reused a cubby storage system that we already owned.

The toy box previously sitting in the guest bedroom is now in the basement for the kids to easily access. I hung a wire basket to store ping pong balls and paddles.

Affordable unfinished basement ideas and DIYs to create a beautiful, livable space | Building Bluebird

When we installed the new walls in the basement, we closed the stairwell with drywall and it added to the finished look. If we did not drywall I would have painted the framing the same color as the wall.

Affordable unfinished basement ideas and DIYs to create a beautiful, livable space on a budget | Building Bluebird

When we built the two walls for the storage/utility room, I made sure to build out a large closet to store even more toys behind closed doors.

At the end of the day, the kids can now put all of their toys back in the right spot and the basement looks clean and tidy.

11 | Freshen Up the Basement Stairwell

Easy and affordable unfinished basement ideas for you to try at home | Building Bluebird

Don’t forget about the basement stairwell! This is the first part of the basement you and your guests will see, so make sure to give it a little love.

While the electrician was adding can lights, I also had him install a light at the top of the basement staircase. The basement stairwell did not have light fixtures before the makeover and it made a huge difference.

Easy and affordable unfinished basement ideas for you to try at home | Building Bluebird

I painted the stairs black and the walls white to blend seamlessly with the basement paint colors. Next, I hung a gallery wall using artwork and photos found in my storage closet.


Painting the basement and adding two new walls made the biggest difference when transforming our basement into a livable space on a budget.

Add functional living space in your unfinished basement with these affordable DIY projects | Building Bluebird
Couch

Tackling even a few of these unfinished basement ideas will breathe new life into the space.

Add functional living space in your basement with these affordable DIY projects | Building Bluebird
Rug
Add functional living space in your unfinished basement with these affordable DIY projects | Building Bluebird
Easy and affordable unfinished basement ideas for you to try at home | Building Bluebird
Easy and affordable unfinished basement ideas for you to try at home | Building Bluebird
Add functional living space in your basement with these affordable DIY projects | Building Bluebird

I hope you found these ideas helpful as you plan your unfinished basement makeover. Good Luck! Which ideas do you want to tackle for your unfinished basement?


More Affordable Home Projects You Will Love

Frequently Asked Questions

How much does an unfinished basement project cost?

The biggest basement expense was hiring an electrician to install can lights, which can cost anywhere from $1-2K depending on the size of the basement.

The rest is just the cost of paint if you do that yourself. I would also recommend renting a commercial-size paint sprayer for the ceiling from a hardware store. Using a handheld paint sprayer took a lot of time and I strained my neck a bit.

Did you have to air returns in the ductwork to heat and cool the basement?

Our basement already had a few air vents in the ceiling ducts, so we didn’t have to worry about heating and cooling. It is a good idea to consider proper ventilation and heating/cooling as you plan your unfinished basement renovation.

Has your unfinished basement had any water intrusion or moisture issues?

We did not and have not had any water issues in our basement, which is why we felt comfortable adding drywall in a few areas of the basement.

I would recommend calling a basement waterproofing company if you have moisture issues before making any big changes.

Tanya

Thursday 7th of March 2024

super! did you end up using epoxy paint on your floor?

lindseymahoney

Monday 11th of March 2024

I did!

Taymour

Friday 3rd of November 2023

Looks like you don't have insulation in the joist header space, do you have any ideas on how to hide it?

lindseymahoney

Friday 3rd of November 2023

I don't, Im sorry!

Richelle

Monday 22nd of May 2023

Trying to understand the construction of your walls. They don’t appear to be floating walls to allow for expansion/contraction and prevent the upstairs floor from heaving….

Benny Hinn

Thursday 9th of March 2023

Great job! Keep it up! Check out Basement Finishing Spokane.

lindseymahoney

Thursday 9th of March 2023

Thank you!

Adam

Wednesday 22nd of February 2023

I am curious, how tall is your basement ceiling?

lindseymahoney

Wednesday 22nd of February 2023

Most of the basement is almost 8 ft tall but the workout area has some vents and pipes that are lower.