Basement Design Ideas

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Before You Start

Before you make plans to remodel your basement, you need to understand what type of basement you have and why it's there in the first place. Only then can you accurately assess how much time and money you will need to invest in creating a functional spare room.

In most homes, basements provide an easily accessible utility and storage space. The rooms are partially or completely underground and include an area with controls for a home's electrical and ventilation system. In colder areas of the United States such as the Midwest and East Coast, basements provide a central location for fuse boxes, electrical circuit breakers, furnaces, and water heaters. On the West Coast, basements are less common. In the majority of homes, as-is basements have unfinished floors and walls and are only suitable for storage. Substantial remodeling efforts are required to transform the space into anything more.

Ideas For Rooms In Your Basement

Before you begin remodeling your basement, you'll need to decide what you want to turn it into. This will affect what and how you build.

Basement Wine Cellar

If you are a wine connoisseur or collector, you may wish to make your dream of a wine cellar a reality by creating a basement wine bar. You will need wooden storage racks for your room-temperature wines and refrigerators for the colder ones. Consider decorating with tables and chairs, and host a wine tasting party when all of your remodeling is done. For more information on home wine cellars, see How To Design A Wine Cellar In Your Home and How To Build A Wine Cellar In Your Home.

Game Room

Create the ultimate fun-cave and retreat space for your friends. The beauty of a game room is that you can adjust your budget to spend as much or as little as you would like. Every dollar that you invest will bring you one step closer to fun. Options to consider: Big screen HDTVs in 2D or 3D, pool tables, foosball tables, ping pong tables, one or multiple video game consoles, a high definition projector, beanbag chairs, classis couches, bars, poker tables, and more. To learn how to design a game room, see How To Decorate The Perfect Game Room.

Exercise Room

If you work out often, consider building an underground gym. You'll never have to worry about snow or limited time again. Just make sure that this is a room that you will use - you don't want your remodeling work and money to go to waste. An exercise room is probably the best option for people who already have a regular workout routine. Try to invest in equipment that you already use to keep your purchases practical. Options to consider: a treadmill, elliptical machines, stair machines, exercise bikes, sets of free weights and benches, mats, an exercise ball, a wall-mounted HDTV, a stereo system to keep your blood pumping. To learn more about how to design a home gym and what equipment to buy, see How To Choose The Best Home Gym Equipment For You and 15 Home Gym Essentials On Any Budget.

Spare Bedroom & Bathroom

Do the parents or in-laws spend significant time at your place? Do your kids host regular (loud) sleepovers? If you anticipate lots of visitors, then a spare bedroom and bathroom may be a great option. Just make sure that you prepare the area to be a livable and healthy space: otherwise, your guests may fall sick. Don't anticipate many visitors? Consider becoming a landlord and taking on tenants in your basement area. That extra rental income may help you pay for some of your renovation expenses.

Basement Wine Cellar Basement Laundry Room

Bar

Going to the bar is tough, especially since you ultimately need to drive home. Instead, throw the ultimate party in the comfort of your own home where your guests can stay safe while having a blast. Install a counter with a mini-fridge and kegerator for all of the essentials. Why not go all-out, and install a stereo system and hardwood dance floor too?

Kitchenette

If you have a spare bedroom and if your basement is big enough, why not install a kitchenette area? Keep a refrigerator or mini-fridge stocked with food to keep your guests completely comfortable. If you have tenants, they will enjoy the comfort of their own all-equipped area.

Home Office

If you work from home, you have probably experienced the challenge of establishing a work-life balance. Your basement is relatively isolated from the rest of your house, and with a home office, you'll have a quiet space that's away from the distractions of everyday life. At the end of the day, you'll have a short commute upstairs, and you'll be in full relaxation mode. For more information on designing a home office, see How To Set Up A Home Office.

Living Room

Have your kids reached an age when they have started taking over the living room? If so, think about converting the basement into an adults-only space - or, do the opposite and design your basement as a kids' only space. With couches, beanbag chairs, and a nice HDTV, your basement will be transformed into a space that someone of any age will love - and you will love that extra time to yourself.

Laundry Room

Washers and dryers are loud, so consider creating a space in your basement for a laundry area that is isolated from the rest of your home. Have plenty of space available so that everyone in the family is comfortable. Say goodbye to the days when your dining room table was covered with clutter and ready-to-fold clothes.

Types of Basements

The different types of basements include cellars, crawl spaces, walk-up basements, and look-out basements.

  • A cellar is a type of basement that is designed to store food and drink year-round. In areas that are prone to natural disasters such as hurricanes and tornados, many people use cellars to store emergency supplies, including nonperishable food items. Because of their location underground and minimal exposure to light, cellars maintain a cool environment that is ideal for storing food. Cellars may or may not have a small window for some lighting. Most cellar walls provide foundational support for the home. In colder parts of the United States, cellars are located below the frost line.
  • Crawl spaces are more common in homes throughout the United States. They tend to be about one foot tall and are designed to provide access to pipes, electrical wiring, and underground circuits. Crawl spaces can be hazardous, especially during hot temperatures. When air becomes warm, it rises and leaves. As a result, the home will suck air up from the crawl space, causing tenants to experience breathing problems and other illnesses since mold, fecal matter, and dust will move upwards with the air. In general, crawl spaces should not be converted into a living or lounge area, even if they are spacious enough.
  • Walk-up basements have an exterior access area. The stairs to this type of basement may be angled in order to prevent the buildup of rainwater.
  • Look-out basements are high enough above ground level to include a window. Usually, these windows are small and do not provide sufficient natural lighting for the area. Look-out basements are common within homes with non-level surfaces that are built upon slopes.

With the exception of crawl spaces, the walls of the basement form the foundation of your home. Basements are most common in colder areas, where the home's foundation must be built below the frost line. In warmer areas, basements are less common, although some homes are still built with them for luxury.

In some parts of the United States, such as areas that are prone to flooding, basements are not cost-effective and may even be dangerous. In areas that are prone to earthquakes, basements are not common because of the risk the home may collapse on top of the basement.

Basement Game Room Basement Kitchenette

Especially during the spring and summer months, basements tend to be cool compared to the rest of the house because warm air will rise and escape from the room. Because of this characteristic, basements tend to be damp. Because basements have limited lighting and may be unfinished, they can provide an ideal space for mold growth and dust. As a result, a basement needs to be continuously cleaned in order to remain safe as a space for people. Otherwise, basements can cause breathing problems such as asthma, severe allergies, and infections.

In general, basements are relatively large because they span the foundation of your home. As a result, the space has substantial potential for renovation projects.

From Utility to Luxury

Cleaning

As it is, your basement is probably extremely dirty. As a dark, damp, and cold room, it is the perfect environment for mold, bacteria, insects, and rodents to thrive. With limited ventilation, the dust piles up. For these reasons, you probably have not spent significant time in your basement. Before you convert the area into an additional living space, you need to ensure that your basement is safe and healthy.

First, you need to make sure that you have waterproofed your basement. You'll know that you have a problem with water if you see signs of mold, odor, cracking in your paint, rotting walls, or spots. You can try do-it-yourself techniques to waterproof your basement with a sealant, or you can hire a contractor. If you don't waterproof your basement, you will have problems with ventilation, circulation, and climate control. Plus, a space that hasn't been waterproofed may cause you to become sick. Set up a permanent solution so that you do not have to deal with problems in the future.

Control moisture by installing a floor heating system. Because your basement is a moist environment, you'll have perpetual problems with mold and bacteria. Cleaning and decorating your basement does not prevent these problems from recurring. Most basements remain unfinished with concrete flooring and walls. Because concrete is cold, it is susceptible to mold and dampness. Use materials that dry easily and withstand mold such as tile, hardwood flooring & walls, and rubber. Before installing anything, think about whether it will be easy to clean. Expect to invest between a couple hundred to a couple thousand dollars in preparing your basement for your redecorating project.

Ventilation

You need to make sure that your basement's air quality is high enough for a healthy and livable environment. If your home already has an extensive ventilation system, consider hiring a professional for a thorough air duct cleaning. Investing in a dehumidifier will help you lower levels of moisture. Depending on the condition of your basement you may need an electrician or HVAC professional to install fans, vents, and humidistats.

Expect to invest at least $1,500 on a ventilation system for your basement, especially if you plan to remodel the space with a kitchen, kitchenette, or bathroom.

Lighting

Basements have virtually no natural lighting, so you will need to select fixtures that are bright enough to light the entire space. In general, you will be working with a low ceiling, so take advantage of this concentrated space to maximize how your light reflects. Use mirrors to make your lights seem brighter.

Try recessed lights with adjustable dimness so that you can optimize your brightness. Avoid fluorescent lights: because of low ceilings, these may actually seem too bright.

Basement Lighting Ideas Basement Lighting Idea

If you plan to spend time in your basement, it's a good idea to dig window wells. You'll be able to let more light in, and you'll create an escape-space in case of a natural disaster or emergency. You can find sturdy glass and other barricades to burglar-proof your home.

Decorate your basement with table and floor lamps for additional lighting if you need it. In general, you will need at least some type of overhead light.

Plumbing

If you are planning to install a laundry room, bathroom, or kitchen in your basement, you need to make sure that your plumbing framework will support your goals. The main question to consider is whether your home's main drain is located above or below ground level. If your main drain exits above ground-level, you will need a sewage ejector pump to push drainage out of your basement. You'll have a choice between a sewage ejector that is free standing or fixed into your home's design. For this project, you will need the assistance of a plumber, and you should expect to spend at least $2,000.

If you do not want to install a sewage ejector pump, you can think about installing an upflush toilet. In general, upflush toilets are less effective than sewage ejector pumps. Some upflush toilets serve a dual function as a pump so that it is possible to install a sink or laundry drain.

Last Updated: May 14, 2012

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About Chanti Burnette Chanti was a freelance writer for IdealHomeGarden.com.

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