Last Updated on June 14, 2023 by lindseymahoney
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 easy and affordable ideas for your unfinished basement.
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.
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.
Here is a peek at what our basement looked like before our budget-friendly basement makeover.
And here is the same basement after tackling these projects.
10 Ideas for your Unfinished Basement
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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 finishing 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!
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
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.
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.
For the 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!
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.
4 | Add Overhead Lighting
My 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 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 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.
This DIY was physically taxing but totally worth the end result. An all-black exposed ceiling gives the room a uniform and finished look.
*Check out this complete tutorial for how I painted the exposed basement ceiling, including a source list at the end.
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 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 dry-walled 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 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.
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 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.
11 | Freshen Up the Basement Stairwell
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 lighting before the makeover and it made a huge difference.
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.
Tackling even a few of these unfinished basement ideas will breathe new life into the space and make it feel more welcoming.
Which ideas do you want to tackle for your unfinished basement?
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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. My handheld sprayer took forever 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.
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.