When it comes to home remodeling projects, your basement often gets the short end of the stick. Foyers and living rooms and (especially) kitchens get the first-class treatment in this department. It makes sense; they’re out where the whole world can see them. But the basement is, by definition, buried underground. It’s often the out-of-sight, out-of-mind room. We say we’ll get to it one of these days, but it’s not on our immediate list of priorities. However, we use this mentality as an excuse to ignore one of the most interesting living spaces in the home. That’s right, the basement can (and probably should) be a living space – not just a dingy hole where you keep holiday decorations and your mother’s creepy antique doll collection. It’s versatile; it’s a space that can be transformed into almost anything. A playroom, a bedroom, laundry room, a man cave or maybe even a personal study to keep your books and globes. Take some time to understand your space and your needs, and then figure out an attainable project to transform your basement into something more.
The Unfinished Remodel
Before you grab a sledgehammer and start pounding away, take a few breaths and think about the current state of the space. For instance, it doesn’t help to put in a fully-stocked bar if all your well-aged scotch swims away when the basement floods. Start with the basics, such as waterproofing, upgraded flooring, wall panels and especially lighting. Basements are underground, meaning they’re not exactly ideal sunrooms, though some will have small windows (DIY-ers need to check out this great egress window design.) Installing lights is also one of the easiest ways to see immediate improvement in your dark basement. Lights will not only make your basement seem cheerier and brighter, they’ll also give the impression that your space is bigger. Lights are also a great place to start if you plan on reselling the place.
Even if you’re just putting in the bones of your basement, this is still a good time to plan for how your space will look in the future. Follow this guide of best practices to put your 2×4 skills to work and get your basement in excellent, finished shape.
Warnings and Wisdom
Whenever I look for a new remodeling project, I always find DIY websites telling me “how easy” it is to do something completely complicated. They’ll say how “in only three simple steps” you can have an extravagant or ridiculous project – like a hand-carved spiral staircase. And don’t get me wrong, I’m sure they find that project simple, but for most of us, it’s going to be a challenge.
But can it be done, you ask? Probably. Can it be done well? That’s where you’ll get a wide spectrum of answers. If you’re worried you don’t have the skills to make some of these basement dreams turn into realities, take a moment to think about it. You can do one of three things. You can jump into the project – make a few (potentially costly) mistakes along the way, take a class (or classes) and learn the necessary skills or you can just hire a professional. The latter option makes some people uncomfortable. They don’t like the idea of paying someone for something they might be able to do themselves.
But look at it this way: You’re likely an expert in your career field. In most cases, a professional renovation contractor isn’t going to be able to do your job. The same goes for you and a home renovation project. It’s perfectly acceptable to let professionals be professionals.
Once you’ve got the basement finished, start looking towards the next project. Let’s take some time to look at the possibilities of remodeling a basement.
The Playroom In Your Basement
Developing a creative space for your children is a great option for your basement remodel. Make some careful considerations before tackling this project. First of all, and most obviously, you want it to be safe. If you haven’t already, go back and read the unfinished basement section above. You also want it to be durable. Between drawing on the walls and spilling juice on the floor, you should take some necessary, childproof precautions. In an interview with Houzz, interior designer Sara Hopkins explained that “A solution to this is flooring in square tiles. They’re available in a variety of choices, including patterned vinyl that resembles wood or square carpet tiles. All are easily installed and can be individually replaced in the event of damage.”
Also remember, your kids will outgrow a themed playroom. Expecting a ten-year-old to play in a space built for a four-year-old is a bit optimistic. When designing a playroom, give it the opportunity to grow as your children do. This way, whether they’re using your basement to play indoor soccer or to create amazing watercolor creations, they can do so without you making another massive remodel. Creativity, simplicity and versatility are the traits you should shoot for first.
The Gym In Your Basement
If you’re ready to burn the belly fat and get back in shape, perhaps this is the time to turn your basement space into a home gym. Basements are great for your extreme workout because they’re typically made of concrete. This means they’ll be able to support the weight of workout equipment.
As we mentioned before, lighting is an important part of any basement, and this is doubly true for a place that requires you to have high energy. Keep the area bright with light installation, painted walls (neutral colors work well) and consider filling at least some of the area with mirrors. Mirrors are for more than watching yourself bulk up. They’re great for improving the lighting, which will increase your mood in the room.
You should also be taking care of your physical self. If you’re going to be doing any kind of jumping (make sure your basement ceiling is high enough first) or maneuvering on your basement floor, you need more than concrete below your feet. Gym flooring is a great option to give you that extra cushion.
The Man Cave In Your Basement
There is very little consensus on what a man cave – or the increasingly popular woman cave – actually is. Some may see it as a place to smoke a pipe while listening to classical music, while others think it should be littered with old Atari games and neon lights from the 80s. Traditionally, it’s just a room where you can be yourself.
This freedom comes with some issues, though. Whether you’re sharing your house with a spouse or your parents, telling them that you have a space – just for you – might make you seem a little self-absorbed. Consider instead an adult space, perhaps with aspects that everyone in your home can enjoy. If your household wants that classic scotch and leather-bound book feel, make it a reality with a bar, beautiful furniture and walls painted with warm colors. If you and your spouse are kids at heart, make the basement an area to play pool, throw darts or play video games.
Wall decorations are also great options for improving the overall aesthetic of your basement. Fathead has some fantastic options you can use to give your man cave that extra pop.
The Extra Bedroom In Your Basement
Transforming your basement into an extra bedroom is perhaps the most utilitarian basement remodel option. This could be a perfect space for guests to visit or a permanent bedroom for one of your children. Before you get started, take some time to look at the necessary requirements to get your basement bedroom up to code.
Designing this room will depend on your personal taste, as well as the type of space you’re working with. If you’re still in the process of finishing your basement, consider leaving areas exposed, such as certain pipes or bricks. This will help give your space an industrial or rustic look.
Another piece of the puzzle will be moisture control. You won’t want a space – especially one that holds clothes and bedding – to be the victim of water damage and mold. Begin by installing a sheet of moisture barrier against the walls. In some cases, this might not be enough, especially regarding your clothes. You should have a closet space that is sealed off with weather stripping.
Creating storage space, such as a closet, is a must for a basement. Take a look at this DIY project to create a simple closet in your basement.
If you want to go one step further, you could potentially turn your basement into another unit. With a small kitchen and bathroom installation, you could quickly change your previously unused space into a high-fashioned studio apartment. If this kind of project interests you, take a few minutes to think about the responsibilities of being a landlord. This could provide some nice supplemental income for your and your family.
The entrance and exit could be problem, especially if your tenant has to go through your house to get out of the apartment. If you’re serious about this undertaking, take a look at the legality of transforming your basement bedroom into a rental.
Whether you just want to finish your basement or you have long-term aspirations for your underground space, take the time to look at your options. For too long, basements have had the reputation of being gloomy and forgotten places. Throw those thoughts to the curb and take advantage of one of the most interesting rooms in your house.
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