Oh, how I dreaded going into our basement.
It felt dark and dirty…it had a musty smell that wafted up the stairs. I thought it would take tens of thousands of dollars to make our unfinished basement look nice.
Over time, we gave it an affordable makeover. I’m relieved to tell you that we love our basement now!
While it is still considered mostly unfinished, it is now bright and pleasant, and we enjoy spending time in it.
Along the way, I discovered so many helpful ideas for unfinished basement design. I felt inspired to share them all, in hopes of helping anyone who may be obsessively searching for ideas like I was!
Turning an unfinished basement into usable space creates so many exciting opportunities. You can finally create that playroom, workout space, or craft room you have been wishing for.
You deserve to have a beautiful home, including the basement!
These inspiring ideas for unfinished basements fall into four main categories, but they share one thing in common: They are all budget friendly!
- Get your Basement Ready
- Basement Floor Ideas
- Ideas for Unfinished Walls
- Ceiling and Lighting Ideas
I’m so excited to share these inexpensive ways of finishing your unfinished basement. You can do amazing things with some creativity and an open mind! Post may contain affiliate links.
Get Your Basement Ready
Before we get into the fun ways to make your unfinished basement feel more like home, there are a few things to consider to get the space ready.
Organize and Declutter
Before sprucing up an unfinished basement, it makes sense to clear out the space of all unnecessary storage items and clutter.
Organize any remaining items into a designated location. To keep storage tidy and confined to one area of the basement, consider a few sturdy shelving units.
Our basement was full of random items that had no place in our home. Clearing out unnecessary items, and organizing what was remaining gave us more open space. All that added space created a blank slate to work with.
Clean the Floors and Walls
Any basement that is completely unfinished is bound to need a good cleaning.
Start by sweeping the floors to remove large dirt and debris. Follow up with a shop vacuum. Vacuum the walls and windows as well, taking care in the corners and crannies.
Once the space is vacuumed, it is time to wet clean. I used a mop that was easy to wring out, and a cleaner formulated for concrete.
A clean and etch formula will thoroughly clean the concrete, as well as prep the surface for paint or stain. Apply with the mop as indicated on the directions, rinsing thoroughly after application.
Does the air in your basement feel moist, damp, or musty? If yes, it means the basement most likely needs a dehumidifier. Many basements benefit from a dehumidifier to remove dampness and purify the air.
A dehumidifier did wonders for making our basement feel more comfortable. I had no idea how badly we needed one!
It took our basement from dark and damp…to just dark. That’s halfway there already!
Unfinished Basement Ideas
Once your basement is clean and organized, it is time to make it feel like home with these unfinished basement decor ideas.
Let’s dive in, and see which of these ideas could be perfect for your unfinished basement.
Ideas for Unfinished Basement Floors
There are plenty of great ways to spruce up that unfinished concrete. From concrete stain to area rugs, some of these affordable basement flooring ideas are sure to be just the thing for your home.
Give the Concrete a Makeover
If you are hoping to brighten up your dark basement, consider rolling some paint or stain on those concrete floors.
In addition to making the basement look better, the right paint or stain treat will also seal the floor, helping to reduce moisture. For just a small amount of money, this project will make a big impact.
There are also many color options available for ready-made concrete stains. You can usually find a pamphlet of color swatches available at home improvement stores.
Concrete Paint Ideas
Our old concrete floors were covered with permanent stains and paint splatters, so staining would not have covered all the imperfections.
Instead, we painted the concrete using a basement floor paint kit. Paint is another simple and cost effective method for finishing concrete floors. Once the concrete is cleaned and prepped, the application is simple.
The decorative chips do a great job of hiding imperfections and roughness in the concrete. This paint was easy to roll on, and we just dropped the chips randomly in handfuls.
Another beautiful way to dress up the concrete floor is with a pattern. Paint the floor a solid color with concrete paint, then use another color to give it some personality!
Southern Hospitality painted stripes to add some wow to her basement laundry room floor.
Or, use your favorite stencil design to give the floor the look of gorgeous tile on a budget. The Crowned Goat has a great tutorial to stencil concrete.
Having a clean, painted, and well sealed basement floor really made a big difference in the appearance of our basement.
Consider concrete paint or stain as a first step in getting beautiful floors in your low budget basement remodel.
Add Some Cushion
Concrete looks a world better once it is stained or painted. But by itself, it can be too cold and hard to make the space feel inviting.
Foam mats are the perfect thing for adding some cushion for your feet over that cold concrete. The best part is, they come in endless designs and options!
My favorites are wood grain interlocking floor mats. They lay down so simply, and give the warm look of beautiful wood floors.
We used them to cozy up our unfinished basement, and make it a safe spot for the kids.
In another corner of our basement, we put down simple solid foam mats under the workout equipment. These can be purchased very affordably, we found grey ones at Harbor Freight.
Add Some Cozy
Area rugs are another easy option for unfinished basement floors. It is another great way to add some comfort and personality!
My Primary Paradise used multiple area rugs on top of a painted concrete floor to create a large basement playroom space.
If you are looking for something even more budget friendly, consider searching for a carpet remnant to fit your space from a local retailer.
We were lucky enough to find a 10×14 remnant at Lowe’s one day. It defined the TV space and made it feel more inviting, for only $50!
Lay your rug down on top of a rug pad to cushion those concrete floors, and your basement will feel much cozier.
What About the Stairs?
When talking about ways to dress up unfinished basement floors, I can’t forget about the stairs! Here are a few amazing makeover ideas to get those bare bones basement stairs looking their best.
Paint or stain is an affordable way to give your existing basement stairs a fresh look. To ensure durability, use a paint formulated for floors, such as porch floor paint.
You can even get creative with your painting, and create a stair runner striped design using painters tape like B4 and afters did with her unfinished basement.
Consider gel stain as an option to update your basement stair treads.
If you are looking to stain your basement stairs, General Finishes gel stain is an amazing product. I love using it to stain over any previously finished wood, like this yard sale sofa table.
What makes it so special is you can use it to stain in one step without stripping! It goes on quite solid, so it will hide all the unevenness and imperfections.
Artsy Chicks Rule used gel stain on the stair treads, check out the amazing transformation!
For the stair risers, you can create a look you love with paint and a stencil, just like with floors.
Or, for an easy update, check out these stair riser decals. I love all the design options, and that they peel and stick for an instant transformation.
I can’t wait to try this on our basement stairs. This seems like it could be a fun idea for renters as well.
Ideas for Unfinished Basement Walls
Concrete and cinder block walls pose a design challenge for unfinished basement decor, especially when pipes and wiring are exposed. Fortunately, there are lots of great ideas for hiding the unsightly, and adding warmth and character.
Paint Always Helps
Paint is a reoccurring theme for any budget makeover, and that holds true for the basement walls!
If you decide to paint, use a masonry waterproofing paint tinted to a color of your choice. A light color will brighten the basement, and seal the walls to reduce moisture.
Add a Shelving Wall
Do you have an ugly wall or an unsightly portion of your basement that you just need to hide? Use a wall of bookshelves or cube shelving to create an attractive wall with tons of storage!
Fabric Hides it All
Fabric is also wonderful to create a visual wall where you need one. House of Beng Beng used simple curtains to hide a portion of her basement and create storage space.
Fabric also adds warmth to concrete walls. The use of fabric transforms this basement laundry room into a cozy haven.
Build your own Partition
Shelving and fabric both make great partition walls on a budget, but here are a few more fun ideas.
Use pallets to create a rustic partition wall that doubles as a photo display!
Or, hang some sliding barn doors to create a farmhouse style partition wall or feature wall. Ceiling mount barn door hardware seems like an amazing way to hang doors in a basement without framed walls.
Add Some Artwork
If you have cinder block or concrete walls, don’t let it hinder your artistic vision. Use command hooks to hang lightweight artwork.
We used command hooks on a few canvas signs and lightweight poster frames, and they have held up great.
Or use adhesive putty to hang posters, maps, or other lightweight decor.
For example, I purchased black foam poster board and cut out large letters. The putty was the perfect solution to attach them to the wall in the play area.
Basement Ceiling Ideas
When it comes to basement ceilings, there are a few options beyond the typical drop ceiling. Not to knock drop ceilings…we have one, they are a relatively easy way to cover the wire and plumbing craziness!
Let’s look at a couple other ways to beautify a basement ceiling.
Give your ceiling a coat of paint for a fresh clean look on a budget. Semigloss design has a great tutorial on spraying the basement ceiling!
Drape fabric between the floor joists to cover unsightly pipes and wiring, plus add a little romance! Similar to what Melissa Esplin did with her rental in this amazing basement bedroom transformation!
Unfinished Basement Lighting Ideas
Some extra lighting is always welcome in a basement, right? Even if your basement is short on power outlets, here are a few fun lighting ideas to try.
Add some playfulness by attaching string lights to the ceiling. You can make the most of just one power outlet by connecting several strings together. Source: Apartment Therapy
Another option for dark areas with a limited supply of outlets are battery operated light fixtures.
These LED pendant lights are controlled by a remote. I think they would be perfect for a pool table or bar area!
Have fun with the lighting to make your basement feel bright and inviting!
An unfinished basement doesn’t have to be a dark dungeon. With a little time and creativity, it can be a comfortable bonus space the family can enjoy.
Do you have any unfinished basement ideas to share?