How To Make An Unfinished Basement Livable

For homeowners who live in homes with unfinished basements, that space below the rest of the house can be something of an eyesore. Whether it’s because of exposed piping and appliances, humidity and water leaks, or dingy paint and lighting, an unfinished basement that hasn’t been given any extra love may go to waste as homeowners choose to instead conduct their business throughout the rest of the house.

How to make your basement livable

So, if a homeowner wants to remodel their unfinished basement to make it more livable, what should they do?

Waterproofing to Prevent Smells and Leaks

Regardless of if a basement has leaks, puddles, musty smells, or mildew growing on the walls and floor, any level of water damage can not only turn homeowners away from using the space, but it can also cause lasting damage to the home or even sickness in the home’s inhabitants. Homeowners whose basements are often damp should seek to have the basement waterproofed before any steps can be taken to make the unfinished basement livable. This can be done in a few ways:

  • Installing a dehumidifier inside the basement
  • Replacing or upgrading old drainage systems
  • Using sealants and coatings on the interior of the basement
  • Coating the exterior of the basement with a waterproof barrier

These strategies and more can help homeowners keep their unfinished basements clean and dry no matter what the weather is like outside.

Brighten Up the Basement With Light Fixtures

lighting in basement

Basements have less natural light than other parts of the house, which can make them seem drab and dingy. Shadowy corners can create an unwelcoming feeling and make the basement feel smaller than it is, which may paint the basement space in a negative light. To counteract that, homeowners hoping to touch up their unfinished basements can add lighting in strategic locations across the basement to brighten it up. Target the darkest areas of the room, particularly corners and spaces far away from windows or other light sources. Floor lamps, desk lamps, and track lighting can be added on for fairly minimal expense wherever the homeowner needs.

Adding additional light sources will make the basement seem more clean and cheerful, fostering an environment where people will want to spend time in the basement. In the event that a basement still feels cramped after adding natural light, consider the addition of a large mirror to open up the space further.

Freshen Up the Walls and Ceilings With Paint

Nothing cleans up a room like a fresh coat of paint, and that holds true for the basement just as much as it does for other rooms in the house. Old, discolored paint can make a room feel dirty or grungy even when it’s clean, which may turn people away from wanting to spend time downstairs.

This can be fixed with a fresh coat of paint. Breathe new life into a room by adding color to the walls and removing any distracting discoloration, and use it as a tool to unify the space by matching the paint with key accents like accessories and area rugs. Homeowners should also repaint the ceiling to open up the room and make it feel brighter.

For basements recovering from moisture damage, some brands of paint offer water-proofing paint and odor-concealing paint to snuff out persistent smells.

Lay Down Some Area Rugs


In unfinished basements with an exposed concrete foundation, it can be difficult for homeowners to feel cozy and welcome. Concrete can make the room chilly and uninviting, as the floor will be cold, rough, and hard. To counteract the effects of concrete in the room, homeowners should lay out large area rugs that cover swaths of space. This works for a number of reasons: It traps some of the heat of the house in, it helps separate the different spaces in the basement into their own roles, and it enhances the planned interior design scheme put together by the homeowner. Area rugs can breathe new life into an unfinished basement no matter the state it’s in!

Area rugs come in a multitude of patterns, shapes, and colors, so homeowners should have an easy time finding a rug that suits their needs.

Give the Basement a Designated Purpose

office in basementA room that lacks purpose often becomes a storage room or something akin to a second living room. When homeowners can substitute using the basement for using other, more accessible rooms in the house, the basement may not see much overall use even if it’s been touched up. Give the basement a designated purpose and its furnishings can be designed with that purpose in mind. Whether the homeowner wants to turn it into an office space, a spare bedroom, a rec room, or even a multi-purpose space, assigning the basement a specific role can help ensure it sees regular use.

Break Up the Basement With Furniture and Partitions

Once the role—or roles—of a basement have been defined, it’s important to divide the basement up into segments that reflect the different roles it will serve. For basements that already have separate rooms, this is easy; however, it requires a bit more effort for homeowners whose basement has an open floor plan. Break up the space by using area rugs, using large pieces of furniture dividers, and by placing partitions at strategic points in the space to break it up. For example, a gaming and TV room could be separated from the rest of the basement with a sofa, and partitions could be placed to separate an office from a rec room. Follow the natural flow of the basement when deciding how to break it up so the transition between spaces feels natural.

Also, keep in mind that basements are often cooler than the rest of the house, so you may need a portable heater in the space during the colder winter months.

Even when a basement is unfinished, that doesn’t mean it has to be drab or dingy. Follow the above steps to get an idea of how you can transform your unfinished basement into a recreational paradise for you and your family!

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