DIY that unfinished basement

Beth Sterner
Beth Sterner
Published on September 5, 2017

Even if do not plan on selling your home in the immediate future, a finished basement offers more living space – something most homeowners dream about.

According to Remodeling Magazine’s 2017 Cost vs. Value Report, you’ll recoup 70 percent of the cost of the remodel when you decide to sell your home. Ideally, keeping your basement-finish budget to no more than 10 percent of your home’s appraised value makes it a smart investment, Lending Tree Home Pros’ Neil Salvage told HGTV.

The National Association of Home Builders ranks the project as the third most requested by homeowners, just behind kitchen and bath remodels and additions.

According to HomeAdvisor, the national average cost of a basement remodel is between $10,583 and $27,103. But, some homeowners pay as little as $4,800 depending on the basement square footage and extent of the work to be done.

You don’t necessarily have to go full-blown remodel to whip that basement into shape. Use a few of these DIY ideas to turn it into a livable area that will add value to the home.

Wet basements aren’t livable

Greater than 60 percent of homes with a basement have leaks, according to the American Society of Home Inspectors. Furthermore, 38 percent of those homes have a risk of developing basement mold. So, before you tackle the decorating and design aspects of your unfinished basement, undertake the repairs necessary to set a solid, healthy foundation for all of the hard work you’re about to undertake.

You’ll need to find the source of the leak, which is easier said than done in many cases. The most obvious place to look is the area of the wall where pipes enter. You should also check that the landscaping outside the basement slopes away from the home and that the gutters on the home aren’t clogged with leaves and other debris. Downspouts should extend at least 4 feet away from the structure.

Fixing leaks may sound intimidating but many repairs are inexpensive and easy. Filling in cracks with epoxy, installing additional downspouts, re-sloping the landscaping. Slope for landscaping should be at least one inch per foot for a minimum of six feet away from the foundation wall. Installing flashing are DIY projects that won’t break the bank.

Consider purchasing a dehumidifier for the basement as well. Then, seal the walls. Tom Silva at suggests applying waterproof masonry cement to walls.

Start at the top and work your way down

You’ll most likely want to paint the ceiling but what else is up there, hanging from it, that can ruin the comfy vibe you’re aiming for? Pipes, air ducts and more can be painted to match the ceiling, in the hopes of making them blend in.

You can also look for products like coffered ceilings or wood planks that add style and the results are easier to achieve than most people think.

Then, of course, there is always the option of using drywall or large, removable tiles. A dropped ceiling with large tiles will give you easy access to all the wiring, plumbing, etc between the first floor and basement. Get more ideas on ways to camouflage ceiling “junk” at

What will you walk on?

Carpeting is the flooring of choice for most basements, according to research by the National Association of Home Builders. However, factoring in the cost of moisture-resistant padding and carpet can be a bit pricey.

Consider vinyl if you are on a tight budget. Some of the new wood-look luxury vinyl floor planks add a surprisingly realistic wood-look to a room, they’re inexpensive and can be an easy DIY project for the homeowner.

If you fear water leaks, tile may be a better choice. Since basements are notoriously moist, however, shop for tiles with anti-slip finishes, such as glazed ceramic tile. Or, consider leaving the concrete floor exposed and acid-staining it. With lots of area rugs scattered about, feet will stay warm.

 Create a warm ambience

Installing the right lighting is crucial in a basement that you plan to use as living space. Choose ceiling fixtures, such as track lighting or recessed lights and then add table lamps around the room.

The effects of a low ceiling and lack of natural light in most basements can be offset by choosing light-colored accessories, such as upholstery fabrics, rugs, pillows and artwork.

Choose soft rugs, thick blankets and fluffy pillows to seal the warm ambience of your newly-finished basement.

Finishing a basement is a big project but not only will it give you more living space, it will help sell the home in the future. Tackle as many DIY project you can to keep costs down.


If you are looking to buy a home with a basement, check out my blog about what to look  for when buying a home with a basement. Read more here!



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