Homeowners love finished basements. They provide extra space for work, play, sleeping and more. Here’s a list of 101 tips to help make finishing or remodeling your basement even more amazing. This is not a step-by-step, line-by-line to do list. Instead, this is a menu, from which you can choose the tips and ideas that work for you.
Before You Begin Finishing Your Basement
If you haven’t started your basement finishing project, these tips will help you avoid problems homeowners often miss.
1. DIY or hire a contractor?
The first thing to determine is who is going to finish your basement. If you are a do-it-yourself kind of person, this project can keep you busy for months or even years. You can save money, but rookie mistakes can end up costing you money. And the stress of the work may be too much to handle. You might try doing some of the work yourself, then turning the rest over to a contractor. But that can get tricky too, if your work isn’t properly permitted. Your contractor could end up having to undo some of your construction, just to pass an inspection.
Most people opt to hire a contractor who knows how to do all of the work, so it is safe and up to current codes and professional standards. A contractor will get the project completed much faster because they have large crews who know exactly how to get the job done.
2. Get ideas from friends and from the internet.
Before you do anything, start looking for inspiration. Of course, the internet offers a nearly infinite supply of “inspo” pics and articles showing cool things you can do in your basement. Check Instagram and Pinterest or just search on Google for basement ideas. But if you have friends with a finished basement, there’s no better way to find out what you do and don’t like than by seeing it in person. Make notes on your likes and dislikes so you can pass these on to your contractor.
3. Get your floorplans.
Did you get a set of plans when you bought your house? If you have plans, you can use those to mockup ideas. And your contractor will eventually need plans for permitting and other purposes. If you don’t have a set of plans, you can take measurements and make a preliminary sketch. Or you can hire a company to make a set of plans for you. There are even cameras that can do 3D scans for laser-accurate measurements and drawings.
4. Decide what activities you want to do in your basement.
When you think about finishing your basement and what types of rooms you want, think in terms of activities you would like to do there. Do you love to watch movies? A movie or theater room would be a great addition. Do you want to entertain big parties? You probably need a full kitchen so you can cook and prepare and serve food. Do you have active kids? A playroom is probably in your future. Do you need to work from home? Time for a new home office.
5. Make sure your basement is dry.
Basements are notorious for attracting moisture. Because basements sit underground or partially underground, moisture naturally finds its way inside. Before you begin basement renovations, carefully inspect the concrete walls of your basement. Look for signs of moisture, especially after it rains. Are there cracks that might allow water to flow in? How about the floor? Any water or hints that moisture is finding its way in? If you suspect water is getting in, plan to correct moisture intrusion before proceeding with any basement finishing. The last thing you want to do is spend thousands of dollars finishing the space, only to have it start molding due to moisture.
6. How much will you finish?
Before you start construction, decide on how much of your basement you will finish. You do not have to renovate the entire basement. When you renovate an area of your home in the main living area (not the basement), you will need to complete the entire area. Your building permit will require that those rooms be completely finished before they are approved. However, a basement is different. Unlike the main area of your home, in a basement you can leave part of the basement unfinished and still get the necessary permits and approvals from your local building authority.
So you will need to consider your budget and decide how much you want to finish now. You can do some now, then finish more at a later time. Or, of course, you can do the entire basement. It’s entirely up to your budget and needs.
7. Consider your design or theme.
You can have fun with your basement’s look. It does not have to look the same as your upstairs area. You can use different materials in your basement to give it a completely distinctive look from the rest of your home. You can even create a theme for some or all of the basement. For example, you can theme it like a spaceship or a basketball court. Or you could use faux (or real) brick walls. Or how about a Mardi Gras theme or a circus theme, or anything else that makes you happy? Just keep in mind that out-of-the-ordinary decor may not be desirable to the next owner when you eventually sell your home.
8. Think about the technology you want.
Chances are good that you want to add some high-tech “toys” to your basement, for example, a large TV, surround-sound, computer systems and more. Decide on what you want before construction begins. Being able to install wiring and other infrastructure during construction rather than after will save you money and make for a better end product.
9. Be prepared for hidden costs.
You probably haven’t finished a basement previously. It’s not a common activity, so most people don’t think about the details. Homeowners tend to overlook expenses that they will likely incur when remodeling their basement. Some commonly forgotten costs:
- Building permit. A proper basement finishing job will be permitted. Expect to spend a few hundred dollars for a permit. Your contractor will pull this as a part of the job.
- Moisture prevention. If you have moisture entering your basement, you’ll need to stop it. This can get expensive, depending on the cause and source of the leak.
- HVAC. Your unfinished basement feels fairly comfortable most of the time, right? Sure, it is below ground, so temperature swings are lower than the upstairs. But it will get uncomfortable during the hottest and coldest times of the year. Plus, when moisture naturally goes up during the warmer months, you will want your air to be conditioned so that mold is not a problem. Yes, you could tap into the existing system for the floor directly above your basement, but that system may not be powerful enough to heat or cool both floors. So, plan to spend $7,000 to $15,000 for a new HVAC system.
- Electrical. Most unfinished basements are not pre-wired, so you will need to have electrical wiring done. And you will likely need a new breaker panel installed as well.
- Plumbing. If you want any plumbing in your basement, you will need a drain to collect wastewater and waste materials. This might be buried under the floor or it may be placed in an unobtrusive location. The wastewater will also need a way to get to the drain. Often this is accomplished by digging up trenches in the concrete floor, burying pipes, then reapplying cement over the pipes. As you might imagine, this can be expensive, especially if you have to run the pipes for a long distance. Then you need a pump to get the wastewater to the level of your sewer line so it can be removed from your house.
- Unknown damage. With any remodeling project, there’s always the chance that you will uncover an unknown preexisting condition such as termite damage, rotting wood, foundation cracks, etc.
If your basement is already finished, and you are planning to remodel it again (re-remodeling), here are some tips to consider.
10. Remodel for the right reasons.
The money you spend on almost any type of remodeling project will not be returned to you 100% when you sell your home. That’s the hard truth about home remodeling: for every $1.00 you spend on remodeling, the return on investment (ROI) will be somewhere between 47 cents to 94 cents when you sell the house. In other words, you will lose money.
Basement remodeling comes in around 70% ROI. So if you are planning to remodel with the hopes of making money, your best bet is to not do it. However, if there are parts of your basement that are damaged, or in really poor condition, then fix those areas.
Remodeling is something you do for yourself to enjoy while you live in the house. Don’t do it for the next owner.
11. Remove outdated stuff.
Wood paneling. Shag carpet. Drop ceilings. These are trending for basement decor…if you are living in the 1970s. Actually some version of these are trending today, but their resemblance to the 70s style is minimal.
Look ahead a few decades, and consider updating to today’s trends, if not tomorrow’s. Things you might update include walls, flooring, old tubs, outdated tile styles and colors, old wallpaper patterns, playroom decor (if you no longer have playroom-age children), furniture (such as giant media cabinets), and more.
Theater rooms are a good example of a trend whose time may have come and gone. These rooms often have tiered seating, require a large amount of room, and aren’t really necessary with today’s giant flat screen TVs. What could you do with the space your theater is currently occupying?
12. Get more efficient.
Technology never stops changing and, usually, improving. HVAC units, water heaters, dishwashers, clothes washers and dryers, lighting, TVs and other devices get more energy-efficient every year. If an appliance is near the end of its life cycle, consider replacing it. You’ll save money on electricity, plus you’ll get new, modern features.
You can also upgrade to more efficient windows and doors, and if you are replacing walls, it may be a good time to upgrade insulation. And there might be an opportunity to better seal various parts of the construction, depending on what gets opened up in the remodeling process.
13. Focus on your changing needs.
Elsewhere in this article, we talk about building for the activities you want to do in your basement. If your current basement doesn’t meet the needs of those activities, how can you repurpose the existing rooms so that it does? Will minor decorative changes be enough, or do you need to make structural changes? Has your family situation changed, creating the need for more or less bedrooms or a kitchen? Do you need more or less storage space? Is a playroom no longer needed? Did your basket weaving hobby end, only to be replaced by a video gaming hobby?
Choosing a Basement Contractor
14. Use a licensed and insured contractor.
The remodeling business has a reputation for attracting shady characters. When your money and home are on the line, you have to protect yourself. Only work with a licensed contractor. That means they have a contractor’s license issued by the state or other regulatory body in your area. A contractor must pass a rigorous test and keep up with building codes so they are knowledgeable and competent.
Some people may have a business license, and claim they are “licensed.” But that’s the wrong kind of license. Your contractor should have a contractor’s license and a business license.
When applying for a building permit, a licensed contractor is normally required to be involved. Without this, your project will not be properly permitted.
Furthermore, you want a contractor with insurance that covers general liability and workers compensation and employers’ liability. There are a number of reasons for this insurance. What if a worker gets hurt on your property? If the contractor is not insured, the injured party will come after you. What if your home is damaged by a construction mistake? Your contractor’s insurance should cover that.
Don’t be timid about asking your contractor to provide proof of both their contractors license and their insurance coverage. A legitimate contractor will gladly provide this, without hesitation or delay. Once you get the proof, check the dates on the documents to make sure both are current.
15. Ask for references. And call them.
Any legitimate contractor will gladly share a few names and numbers of previous clients. You should call them and get some honest feedback. Yes, your contractor will probably give you their best clients, but you can still get a sense of how they work and if the clients are happy with the job.
16. Check social media.
If your prospective contractor is on sites like Facebook and Instagram, check their posts. Are there negative comments from angry clients? If so, you might want to reconsider using them.
17. Check reviews.
There are numerous sites where people can leave a review for contractors: Google, Facebook, NextDoor, Yelp, Houzz, Thumbtack and more. Check a few of these to see if the reviews are mostly positive. Do keep in mind that some people are never satisfied, and even the best contractor will probably have a couple of negative reviews if they’ve been around for more than a couple of years. Look at the totality of the reviews and make an educated judgement about the trustworthiness, reliability and quality of the contractor you are considering.
18. Ask your friends for a referral.
Your friends and neighbors are a great resource. Ask them for a referral to a contractor they are happy with. Ask your friend if you can look at the work the contractor did for them. Assess the quality of the work by putting your eyes on it. Ask your friend questions about speed of work, responsiveness to phone calls, if the job met the project budget, and other tough questions like “Would you hire this company again?”
19. Don’t base your contractor choice solely on price.
The phrase “you get what you pay for” could not be more appropriate in the remodeling business. First, if you have estimates from multiple contractors, be sure you are comparing apples to apples. There’s no industry standard for the way estimates are prepared, so sometimes comparing two estimates is challenging. Are the materials broken out separately? Is labor included or not? What about permitting fees? Trash removal? Profit margin? Etc.
Be sure that everything you are asking to be done is properly reflected in all of the estimates so you can compare them correctly. If one contractor is so much higher or lower on a particular line item, you should ask why. Is one contractor using cheaper materials? Are they cheaper because the quality is lower? Is the labor lower because the quality is not as good? Is the estimate purposefully low, with the intent to get the job, then hit you with additional, unexpected increases later? Sometimes, the cheapest estimate can end up costing you the most money.
Be sure to check the reputation of the contractor. Oftentimes, it is worth paying a little bit more for a contractor who consistently pleases their clients.
Planning Your Basement
20. Hire a professional designer.
Not everyone has great taste or a sense of style. Picking a color palette can be daunting. Choosing tile colors and plumbing fixtures and light fixtures may be exhausting or downright boring. If you need help, consider hiring a professional designer who understands color and fixtures and lighting and more. Your contractor may have someone in-house or they can probably recommend a designer.
21. Decide if you need an architect.
Finishing a basement involves making an existing, often empty, space look nice by covering the studs with walls and adding other decorative elements. The “simple” nature of basement finishing means there’s no need for an architect to draw plans in most cases.
For permitting purposes, plans showing the existing floorplan plus the proposed floorplan will probably be necessary. But these can be done with CAD (computer aided design) software, without the need for an architect. Your contractor is likely capable of creating these CAD drawings.
Where things get tricky is when you start moving walls around. Determining which walls are load-bearing, and creating plans that are structurally sound will probably require an engineer to inspect and draw new plans for the specific walls that are being altered.
22. Be clear and specific about what you want.
The more details you can provide to your contractor, the better able they will be to provide an accurate estimate and to create plans for the project. Better, more detailed plans will make sure that your vision becomes reality. When your contractor understands in detail what you expect the finished product to look like, they can more easily deliver that finished product.
Surviving A Basement Remodeling Project
23. Anticipate delays to be happier.
Construction is not a push-button process. It’s a difficult, challenging process involving literally thousands of human decisions. The government is involved. The weather is involved. Numerous suppliers are involved. Multiple skilled craftsmen are involved. Your money is involved. Your emotions are involved. The very home you live in is involved.
Your life is disrupted for weeks. For this process to go perfectly, without a single delay, would be considered a miracle by most reasonable people.
As you venture into a big project like a basement remodel, know that somewhere along the way, something will go wrong. It may be small or it may be big. Delays happen. But the great thing is that contractors are problem solvers, and they overcome problems on a daily basis. It’s literally what they do, all day, every day.
So, don’t let yourself get worked up over delays. They will happen. Now, you obviously have to guard against extreme delays. And you should question them, and hold your contractor accountable if they have unreasonable delays. In fact, your contract should include language that lays out the project timetable and how any delays will be handled.
24. Expect disruptions. These are normal.
During your remodel, your home and life will experience disruptions. Here are a few of those.
- You may have a dumpster in your driveway for several weeks.
- Ditto on the portable toilet.
- Worker trucks and delivery trucks will be in front of your home regularly, and for long periods of time.
- Noise, noise, noise, noise, noise. There will be banging and drilling and unknown, frightening noises. But it will end!
- Trash and debris. Construction generates large amounts of waste and mess. That’s why there’s a big dumpster in your driveway. In your basement, there will be days when the mess is everywhere. This will pass. Do ask your contractor to keep the mess cleaned at the end of each day.
- Any stuff you have in your basement may have to be relocated to allow for construction. Discuss this with your contractor and make plans for how you will deal with it.
- Material deliveries may require access to your backyard. Expect some wear and tear on your yard.
- Be prepared for workers to come and go. Plan on how they will gain access to your home. Will they enter from your front door or a back, basement door? Who will let them in? Will they use a lockbox or will you be there every time to let them in?
25. Protect children and pets.
Communicate with your family members, especially young children, what will be happening. Make sure they understand what they should and should not do in the construction zone. There will be dangerous power tools, heavy equipment and materials on site. Keep children and pets away.
Pets especially may be frightened by the loud noises and unknown guests. Plan where you will keep pets during the project so they remain safe and calm.
The fortunate attribute of a basement renovation is that it is usually self-contained and separate from the main living area of your home. So keeping children and pets safe is easier than other jobs such as a kitchen remodel.
26. Expect a punch list.
What’s a punch list? That’s what contractors call the list of outstanding to-do items, often after the project is “delivered” or supposedly finished. Common examples include (but are definitely not limited to) paint drips, gaps in wood or cabinets, non-working lights, installed but unpainted trim, missing lightbulbs, cracked window panes, stains on carpet, etc.
A quality contractor may have a specific person whose job it is to take care of this punch list. However they handle it, your contractor should take care of the list quickly and completely. Sometimes a part or materials may have been backordered, causing the delay. Stay on top of your contractor so they don’t “forget” about you.
27. Understand your financial obligations.
Your contract should clearly explain when payments are due to the contractor. Some contracts may use milestones to determine when you make payments. Be prepared to make payments in a timely manner to avoid delaying project completion. However, if there are problems with construction, and you feel milestones have not been met, contact your contractor immediately to discuss it. The worst thing to do is not communicate about your concerns. Be open and honest, and ask your contractor to explain where the project is on the timeline, and why payment is due. Be ready to explain why you are not making a payment if that is what you are doing, and ask the contractor to correct the problem so you can make the next payment.
Withholding payment from your contractor is a last resort to get action. A well-written and fair contract will not require full payment until the job is completed. Your contractor should have incentive to finish and finish well.
Make Your Basement Amazing
If you’ve never lived in a home with a finished basement or never been through the process of finishing a basement, knowing what to include can be confusing. These are some general suggestions to make your basement amazing.
28. Add a fireplace or stove for warmth and ambiance.
A fireplace or stove creates a cozy and warm feeling, and there are options for adding them without having to add a chimney.
29. Install soundproofing.
When you start a basement project from bare rafters and studs, you have an opportunity to easily add soundproofing to some or all of your space. If you plan to build a home theater, for example, or to have a practice room for your rock band, installing soundproofing will reduce the noise upstairs. If your kids will be playing video games in the basement while you are upstairs watching TV, soundproofing will make the experience in both rooms better.
30. Light it up.
Basements are underground, for the most part, so they are dark. Plan to add lots of light, either through large or multiple windows or by adding plenty of artificial lights, or both. With today’s LED lighting options, you can make a space bright without spending a fortune on electricity. And there are many creative and beautiful lighting designs to choose from. Just make sure you add enough during construction so you aren’t wishing you installed more after it is too late.
31. Fill it with the right furniture.
When budgeting your renovation, don’t forget about a furniture budget. A beautiful, but empty room is sad. The right furniture will make your basement comfortable and irresistible. Consider the purpose of a room and fill it with appropriate furniture. For example, a TV room is the right place for reclining chairs and comfy sectional sofas. A billiard room may not need any furniture or perhaps just a chair or two on the wall. A designer can help you choose the right furniture.
32. Add plenty of electrical outlets.
If you ever find yourself frustrated because you can’t find an empty or close electrical outlet, now is your chance to prevent that same frustration in your basement. You can direct your contractor where to install the outlets, and you can make sure there are enough to power any computers, electronics or office equipment you may be installing. And don’t forget about appliances like refrigerators, wine coolers, washers and dryers. Some of these may require dedicated lines or 220 volts.
33. Add to the flow of your basement.
Depending on how your basement was originally laid out, it might not have the best possible flow or accessibility. Work with your contractor or architect to add or remove walls to facilitate a more open or flowing floor plan.
34. Add storage in unused spaces.
Underneath the stairs in your basement, among other places, you will find space that likely is unused. With some creativity, you can turn these cavities into storage space.
35. Add built-ins for storage.
If you need room for storage, but need it to be readily accessible, consider adding some built-in cabinets and shelves. Cabinets aren’t just for dishes. And they make your stuff more readily accessible than a junk room.
36. Set aside a storage room.
Most people need a place for their stuff (junk?). Christmas decorations, luggage, old furniture, and a million other items need a place to be stored. But you probably don’t need a finished space for storage. As you design your floor plan, keep in mind that you will probably want at least one room left unfinished as a storage area. You’ll save money by not installing drywall, flooring and electrical in that area.
37. Convert your tank water heater to tankless.
A tank water heater can take up several square feet of floor space. They are often installed in empty basements when a home is first built. And many times, the placement of the tank is done without much concern for efficient use of space. You can take back that wasted space by swapping out the tank water heater with a tankless. These can be wall-mounted, and are much smaller. Plus they can save you money on your heating bill, and they are much less likely to leak into your basement than regular tank heaters.
38. Use multipurpose furniture.
A daybed or a pull-out sofa bed can provide a nice place for occasional guests to sleep, while serving as regular seating most of the time.
39. Go for the industrial look on the ceiling.
No doubt you have seen restaurants and other commercial buildings that have the ducts and other infrastructure in the ceiling left exposed. Rather than try to cover them up, the ducts and bare ceiling become part of the design. You can choose the same look in your basement. Instead of installing a drop ceiling or a drywall ceiling, you can opt to paint the rafters and underside of the flooring above, and leave everything exposed. You’ll save money, have higher ceilings and have easier access to pipes, ducts, wiring, lighting, etc.
40. Make a hobby room.
Do you have a fun hobby like woodworking, painting or beer brewing? Consider devoting a room or part of one to your hobby. Think about the needs of your particular hobby, and build the room with those needs in mind. For example, if you love to paint, install the necessary cabinets for paint and supply storage, and racks for safely storing your in-progress masterpieces.
41. Add a fun space for watching movies, sports and TV shows.
Before big screen TVs became mainstream, homeowners often built home theaters powered by expensive projection TVs. The theater rooms resembled a real movie theater, often with terraced seating. While theater rooms are still being built, with today’s large flat screen TVs, more people are opting for an open space with comfortable couches, much like a family room. Whichever way you decide to go, be sure to add a good sound system to get a real theater experience.
42. Extend the basement outside.
Is your basement a walkout basement (it has a door leading to the outside) or could you add a door? If you have space outside your basement, perhaps under your deck, think about how you could incorporate that into your basement project. What if you had a concrete pad installed, cover it, add some oversized sliding glass doors, and make your basement open and flowing to the outdoors?
43. Game on!
Your basement is the perfect place to ramp up fun. Consider adding these fun items:
- Pool/bumper pool table
- Ping pong table
- Foosball table
- Air hockey table
(There are tables that combine two or more of the above.)
- Pinball machine
- Arcade game
- Indoor basketball hoops
- Video game systems
- Card table for playing games
- Dart board
- And anything else you consider fun!
44. Inviting seating.
Use a variety of seating options, such as sofas, chairs, and beanbags, to create a cozy and inviting space.
45. Add some nature.
Use plants, rocks or other natural elements to add color, texture and life to the space.
46. Add a water feature.
The sound of babbling water is soothing to hear. And it can be beautiful to look at as well. Commercially available waterfall walls and fountains make adding a water feature relative easy. Of course, you could add a custom-made water feature if you are really ambitious.
47. Paint boldly.
A basement is meant for fun. It is separated from the more formal living areas of your home. It’s where you go to relax, play, entertain and explore new hobbies, games, and just escape from the troubles of the world. So, why not get a little wild with your paint colors? Not every surface in your home has to be a dull gray or white. Paint the color of your favorite team. Create a tropical forest with a bright green or paint the wall blue and dive in the ocean. Consider adding a fun mural, especially in a children’s playroom.
48. Add a laundry room.
For larger families, a second laundry room could be just the ticket to keep everyone in clean clothes. If your basement will serve as an in-law suite or a rental, a laundry room is pretty much mandatory. Keep in mind that you’ll need the proper drainage for the washer, so budget for that if you don’t already have the necessary plumbing in place.
49. Heating and cooling alternative.
Today, there are multiple options for heating and cooling spaces. You don’t have to depend only on an HVAC system that heats or cools the entire basement, especially if you are only using a small portion of it. Take a look at ductless mini-split systems for heating or cooling just a single room or zone. And because these are ductless, if your ceiling is too low to install ducts, you can still use the system.
50. Use doors creatively.
We all enjoy privacy, so think about what kind of doors you will use in your basement. Some rooms don’t need doors, like a central family room. But consider where noise could be an issue. A room with a TV and surround sound system is going to be loud. Do you need to put doors on that room to keep the rest of the space quiet? Barn doors let you create a wide opening to a room, without a door being in the way. But if you do need to close it off, rolling the door in place is simple. French doors or double doors can sit open most of the time, with the doors out of the way. But if you need privacy, you can close them. If a room just has a cased opening, but you still need separation or privacy, a movable privacy wall works well.
51. Monitor deadly gases.
While you are building, consider adding a radon monitor and a carbon monoxide monitor. Radon is an odorless, colorless, radioactive gas, often found in basements as it seeps in from the ground underneath. With long term exposure it can cause lung cancer. Carbon monoxide is also an odorless, colorless gas produced when burning fuel in devices such as water heaters and furnaces. If not properly vented, or if defective, these systems can output carbon monoxide into the living area of your basement. In high enough concentrations, exposure can cause death in just a few hours.
Plug-in detectors are available for both types of gas, and aren’t expensive. Protect your family while they enjoy your new basement.
52. Use window treatments to add privacy and control light levels.
Don’t forget to add window treatments. If the windows to your basement are visible to neighbors, you’ll want to have something on your windows to keep prying eyes out. Curtains or blinds are simple to add. And they help reduce outdoor light when you need a dark environment, for example in a TV watching area.
53. Use a variety of lighting.
Can or recessed lighting is common in basements. But it can also get boring if that’s all you use. Add some variety throughout the space. Hanging light fixtures (chandeliers, pendants, etc.) in the right places add style, but they don’t have to be expensive. Table and floor lamps also add a cozy feel. You can even get a little wild with rope lights and other RGB lights that change color.
54. Add a dehumidifier.
Keeping a basement dry and protecting your investment from mold is of utmost importance. Water finds its way into most basements, and keeping the humidity at reasonable levels may be a challenge during certain times of the year. If you have an HVAC system installed, running the air conditioner will probably be adequate to control the moisture. But in extreme cases, you may need to add a dehumidifier.
Basement Gym/Workout Room
55. Make your gym inviting.
Let’s face it: exercise involves drudgery. It’s repetitive, sometimes painful and takes a lot of time. Make your exercise more inviting and fun by adding the following:
- Light the space brightly.
- Add a TV and/or audio system for entertainment.
- Install mirrors on the wall so you can check your exercise form (and see your progress).
56. Cool it.
Decide where you will place your exercise equipment. Prior to finishing the room, have electrical wiring installed and have a fan mounted on the wall or ceiling near the equipment location. Get a remote-controlled fan so you can turn it off or on, and adjust the speed, right from your exercise equipment. Enjoy cool breezes when you exercise.
57. Cushion it.
Gym flooring provides a soft, bouncy surface. It’s easy on knees and joints if you are doing active exercises, or just need a place to drop a weight without worrying about breaking something. And yoga is less painful when you aren’t stretched out on a hard surface.
58. Open it to the outdoors.
Add a large door or sliding door and give yourself fresh air while you workout. Let the sounds of nature improve your mood while doing your routine.
59. Add a kitchen or kitchenette to your basement.
Who doesn’t love a snack or drink while relaxing? A kitchen or kitchenette will put food and drink just a few steps away from whatever you and your family are doing in your basement. With a full kitchen, you can even prepare meals, which would be essential if your basement is serving as an in-law suite or if you are renting it to someone.
60. You may not need a kitchen or kitchenette.
What’s the most important part of a kitchenette? Most people probably would say the refrigerator. Guess, what? You can put a mini-fridge in just about any room. It doesn’t have to be a kitchenette. Just find a spot, and you can have a cold drink. And a mini-microwave will fit almost anywhere. Popcorn and a cold drink are available in any basement.
61. Put a bar and seating around the kitchen for a fun gathering area.
Where does everyone end up at a party? The kitchen, right? Give people a place to sit, talk and eat by turning the kitchen counter into a bar area.
62. Space-saving kitchen options.
The idea behind a kitchenette is that it is smaller than a regular kitchen. But whether you have a full kitchen or a kitchen, you can still use space-saving options. Examples include:
- Microwave drawer.
- Extend cabinets higher or lower, or use space above or below them for storage or display.
- Choose a small sink.
- Mount racks or hooks on your backsplash and hang useful items there.
- Use a rolling cart for food prep and/or storage. Wheel it elsewhere when not in use.
- Forego a stove and use a portable grill instead.
- Use a single, multipurpose oven that can serve as a toaster, roaster, air fryer or more.
- Choose a smaller refrigerator.
- Mount items under cabinets: paper towel holder, can opener, toaster oven, hooks, etc
63. Make the door to your basement special.
A beautiful, finished basement deserves a special entrance. Does the door that leads to your basement stairs look like every other door in your home? It can be easy for guests to confuse that door with a closet or a bathroom. Instead, change out the door with one that is different from all the others. A simple option is a door with windows, so it’s obvious that there are stairs on the other side.
64. Don’t forget the stairs.
It’s easy to focus on updating your actual basement, but don’t forget the stairs down to the basement. The stairs set the tone as you or any guests walk down. If your budget allows, update the stairs to match the new look and design of your basement. The treads should suggest the level of quality and finish in the basement itself. Make sure the stairs are safe. Be sure to paint the stairwell if it has scuffs and marks. Replace any lights that scream “unfinished basement” with an upgraded sconce or other light fixture.
65. Plan your escape.
Be sure your contractor follows local building codes when building out a bedroom in your basement. There are specific requirements for egress windows that you will need to follow. Essentially, you need to make sure there is a window that can be used to exit or escape the room in case of an emergency such as a fire. The height and size of the window must meet certain requirements so that escape is relatively easy.
When a basement is built as an unfinished part of a new home, the builder most likely does not have to install egress windows. So when you retrofit or finish the basement, the pre-existing windows may not meet current code requirements for a bedroom. Or the windows may have met code requirements when originally constructed, but they would need to be updated to meet current code when finishing the basement. In either case, proper windows must be added for living spaces such as bedrooms.
66. This is a bedroom, not a prison cell.
For a bedroom to feel welcoming and comfortable, you need to make sure it is well lit and finished as nicely as bedrooms in the rest of the house. That means adding drywall, paint, carpet or other cozy flooring. And be sure to provide ample lighting for what could be a dark room otherwise.
Of course you should insulate your basement, but the bedroom especially, should be insulated from the heat and the cold, so that anyone staying in that room will feel comfortable.
68. Positioning is important.
Think carefully about the location of your bathroom. Try to position it as close to existing plumbing as possible to minimize the cost of installing the water lines and wastewater lines.
69. Light it up.
Make your bathroom feel warm and inviting, rather than dark and dungeon-like. Sometimes, a basement can feel like a dungeon, but the last place you want to feel cold and gloomy is in the bathroom. Brighten it up with excellent lighting, especially in the shower.
70. Vent your bathroom.
Nobody likes a stinky bathroom. Adding a vent to remove the unpleasant air is important, and most likely required by code. The vent also helps remove moisture that can increase when you are bathing or showering. Make sure your contractor installs a vent!
71. Make it handicap accessible.
If your basement will be used as an in-law suite, consider making it usable for the elderly and/or wheelchair-bound residents. You’ll need a larger space to accommodate a wheelchair. A “zero-entry” or curbless shower, which allows rolling a wheelchair into the shower, is extremely helpful. Grip bars in showers and tubs and next to toilets aid in safety. A walk-in tub is also valuable to prevent falls.
72. Add a comfortable and productive office.
More people are working from home than ever before. Chances are good that you are now working from home, or have in the past. If your home office space isn’t adequate, consider creating a dedicated home office space in your basement. With video calls becoming commonplace, having a space where you can connect privately with clients and co-workers is more important than ever. A purpose-built home office can give you that and much more.
73. Give yourself the corner office.
The best offices in a commercial building are the corner offices, with windows on at least two sides. Having a great view, with lots of light is great for improving productivity and positivity. Why not give yourself the corner office in your home office? Add windows and position your office space so you can look outside and be surrounded by natural light.
74. Plan for your office equipment and internet needs.
If you are going to be running a number of power-hungry devices like printers and computers, make sure you have enough power outlets (preferably dedicated outlets on their own circuits). Let your contractor know you want to be sure there’s plenty of power in your work area.
Also, be sure you have good internet access in your basement. If you are primarily accessing the internet via wi-fi, consider having network cabling installed in your office. This will guarantee that you don’t have connectivity issues. Ask for Cat 6a or better cabling to future-proof your connection when 10gb networking becomes standard.
75. Create a clutter-free space.
Clutter creates distraction and chaos. Working from home is already distracting enough, so taming your clutter is a simple way to make your home office conducive to work. Plan ahead for the types of items, supplies and materials you will need to use and access while working at home. Create storage for those items, whether with build-in cabinets or shelving or other methods.
76. Dedicated business/office entrance.
Will you have clients or customers coming to your home office? You may want to bring clients and customers through a basement entrance rather than through the main living area of your home. Think about what you’ll need for this entrance to be usable. For example, is the basement entrance easily accessible from your driveway? Is the entryway clear? Don’t forget to check any business license or HOA regulations or limitations on having customers coming to your home office.
Over The Top Basement Features
We all like to dream, so here are some crazy, over the top ideas if you want to have the best basement in the city!
77. Bowling alley.
Love knocking over the ten pins? Why not include one in your basement? Of course, you need 60 feet for the lane and about another 40 feet for the approach and seating areas. But who’s counting?
78. Basketball court.
Sure, why not? Maybe just a half court if you’re short on space.
79. Swimming pool.
Swim year-round with your indoor pool. And you don’t have to scoop the leaves and frogs out of it either.
80. Gun range.
Get some practice rounds in without having to go out.
81. Sports bar.
Put 10 TVs all around your own bar, and you’ll never need to go to another sports bar to watch the game.
If you hate taking the stairs, or if you have a disability that makes stairs difficult to use, add an elevator.
83. Kids slide.
Skip the stairs and slide right down.
84. Fireman’s pole.
Gravity will get you down to the man cave without any effort. Going up is a different story (see Elevator above).
85. Built-in playhouse.
Turn the area under the stairs into a permanent playhouse for the kids.
86. Golf simulator.
Technology has made it easy to put a golf course or driving range right in your home.
87. Ice rink.
Don’t give up your Olympic dreams. Add an ice rink (or simulated ice rink) to your basement and lace up your blades of glory!
88. Wine cellar.
Basements are the perfect place in your home for a wine cellar due to the lower temperature that tends to remain fairly constant. Also, the reduced light exposure is beneficial for wine longevity. You can build an elaborate, climate-controlled cellar, holding hundreds, or even thousands of bottles. Or you can just store a few dozen bottles and keep them on regular rotation.
89. Start with a level playing field.
Most basement floors are concrete, and they tend to develop cracks and other problems. Before any flooring is placed on top of this concrete, make sure your contractor fills bad cracks and levels any sunken areas.
90. Know your basement flooring options.
You have numerous choices for your floors. Each has its advantages and disadvantages, with their associated costs. Here’s a list of the most common options:
- Luxury Vinyl Tile (LVT) or Luxury Vinyl Plank (LVP)
- Engineered wood
- Area Rugs
- Finished concrete
- Gym flooring
- Hardwood (not recommended in most cases)
91. A subfloor helps avoid mold and other moisture problems.
Certain types of flooring need a subfloor that allows air to move, keeping moisture from building up. Make sure a subfloor is installed when required. Discuss flooring options with your contractor and make sure they properly install a subfloor when needed.
92. Consider a floor option not impacted by moisture.
If your basement has a moisture problem, you probably don’t want to install wood floors. In fact, basement floods do happen regularly due to the fact that they are at the bottom of your home. Water flows to the lowest point possible. And there is often a hot water heater in your basement. If it ever leaks, your floor will likely be flooded. By choosing a waterproof flooring material like luxury vinyl tile (LVT), you will not need to replace it if you have a flooding or moisture problem.
93. Use area rugs or carpeting to define different areas and add warmth.
Even if you choose flooring like LVT, you can still add area rugs to highlight or define an area such as a living room or play area. You don’t have to put the same flooring in every room. If you want to put carpet in a play room so it is soft and fun to roll around on, go for it!
94. Floor color sets mood and the perception of space.
There is a psychology to color, and color on your floors is no exception. Dark floors will make a room feel smaller and more intimate or cozy. Lighter floors make the room feel more expansive. Colors have their own set of associated feelings. For example, blues and greens have a tranquil feel to them, providing a calming effect. Talk to a designer, then choose your floor color to match your desired feeling.
95. Install a fun rug or carpet.
Today, there are numerous options for carpet and rugs, and your basement is the perfect place to get creative. For example, you can find playroom rugs and carpet that look like roads and buildings, a basketball court, baseball field, planets and stars, animals, a map of the country and states, and so many more.
For a sports fanatic, there are team-specific rugs you can install in a theater or TV room.
Your basement is done. Hurray! Now how do you take care of it?
96. Keep an eye out for water.
Water is a powerful, relentless force. If there is a way into your basement, water will find a way. Just because you now have nice finished walls in your basement, that does not mean water can’t get in.
Over time, houses settle. Foundations crack. Holes open up. Floors shift. So be vigilant. Protect your investment by periodically checking walls and floors for any sign of moisture.
97. Beware of humidity.
We already talked about adding an air conditioner and/or dehumidifier to your basement. Pay attention to the humidity level. Make sure any systems you installed are working properly. Keep filters changed regularly. Be sure to regularly empty dehumidifier reservoir if you don’t have one that automatically removes the moisture from your home.
98. Monitor your sump or sewage basin.
If your basement has a sump or sewage basin, check them periodically to make sure the pump is functioning properly and that the basin is not overflowing. There are devices that can monitor the basin and alert you if the water level gets too high.
99. Keep it clean.
You’ve added an entirely new area to your home, and it will need to be kept clean. You might want to budget for a new vacuum cleaner to leave in your basement. If you have a service cleaning your home, expect an upcharge to add the basement to their service.
100. Change your air filter.
You are the proud owner of a new air conditioning system. Don’t forget to change the air filter regularly. Make the filter change part of your regular routine when you change the others in your house (you do change them, right?)
Celebrate Your New Basement!
101. Have a party to celebrate!
After you’ve been through the birthing process of your new basement, don’t forget to celebrate with family and friends. Have a “basement warming” party and show off your new space. Don’t forget to invite your contractor!
Get Started on Your Basement Project Today!
This article provides lots of tips, but until you take action, nothing will happen.
If you’re in Metro Atlanta, and want to get a free estimate to finish your basement, Click Here to get your free basement estimate.