Creating a functional living space in an unfinished basement is an incredible way to add usable square footage to your home! Today I am excited to share 10 affordable ideas to create a beautiful unfinished basement on a budget. 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. I would dread going into our dirty basement and walking to all of the pull string lights to turn them on. Unfortunately, most homeowners don’t have the budget to complete a full basement renovation.
Here is a peek at what our basement looked like before our budget-friendly basement makeover.
Unfinished Basement Ideas to Create a Livable Space
1 | Hide Mechanicals
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 area in the utility room as well. Any stacked bins can now be tucked into this utility room and we can close the door to keep them out of sight.
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 (the other walls are concrete) also gave us the ability to hang some artwork, which is another great finished touch for an unfinished basement.
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
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! We planned to create designated activity zones (more on this later) in the basement and were able to plan where to install the outlets to hang tvs and plug in games and our Peloton.
3 | Deep Clean the Basement
Be honest, when was the last time you deep cleaned your 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 1960s that were still rolled up in the corner of our basement.
Before tackling these projects, 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 sweeping 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.
For the floors, clean the concrete with soap and water! This is a crucial step if you decide to paint the concrete floors (more details below), but if you decide not to paint, this will really freshen up the basement! How many times do think the basement floors have actually been washed since it was built? You will love bringing your furniture into the basement with clean and glistening floors.
*If you are looking for more information on cleaning the floors, check out my tutorial for painting basement concrete floors.
4 | Add Overhead Lighting
We hired an electrician to install the 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 lights were wired prior to painting the ceiling black and then I attached the lights.
5 | Paint the Exposed Ceiling
Once the ceiling was cleaned and the new lights 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.
This DIY was physically taxing but totally worth the end result.
*Check out this complete tutorial for how I painted the exposed basement ceiling, including a source list at the end.
An all-black exposed ceiling gives the room a uniform and finished look.
6 | Paint the Basement Walls
There is nothing quite like a crisp coat of white paint. on the walls! The power of paint is incredible and it really does show in our basement!
The uniform black ceiling and freshly painted white walls are so pretty! I used untinted white paint for a neutral and clean look. Plus, I already owned had the paint on hand so it was easy and affordable!
7 | Paint the Basement Concrete Floors
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.
*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.
I have had multiple people comment that our unfinished basement looks like an art gallery! I have to agree.
8 | Add Area Rugs
In a basement full of concrete, adding area rugs will really warm up the room and define various activity areas. Area rugs will also help to pad the sound of loud and rambunctious kids.
9 | Create Basement Activity Zones
This is one of my favorite unfinished basement ideas. Before, our basement was a disorganized mess. The TV area, toy area, craft area, and even workout area were all on top of each other.
With the makeover, we designed four zones based on how we planned to use the basement. The first zone is the TV/video game area. This area is anchored with a nice rug and includes a cozy couch for the kids to hang. The second zone is the utility/storage room which is behind the TV wall. With two framed and drywalled walls, we were able to hang the TV and add electrical outlets for gaming systems.
The third zone is our workout 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. They do use the climbing rope a lot, but their toys stay on the other side of the basement.
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
Before we fixed up the basement, there was no rhyme or reason to 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.
With the new unfinished basement updates, I included a crafting corner 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.
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. When we installed the new walls in the basement, we closed in 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.
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.
Painting the basement and adding two new walls made the biggest difference when transforming our basement into a livable space on a budget.