Basements don't have to be dingy dungeons suitable for nothing but storage. With a little time and patience, you can turn your basement into a cute and classy living space for a minimal financial investment. Whether you're looking for a hangout spot for your teenagers, an extra bedroom, or a playroom for your kids (or spouse), you'll need a fashionable floor, sturdy ceiling and a way to hide your furnace and other appliances. The rest is up to you.
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Before you add anything to your basement, clean it thoroughly. Dust everything, sweep and mop the floors, and wash down the walls to get rid of dirt, grime and any mold spores. Use a dehumidifier to dry the area completely. Leave the humidifier running for a few days for the best effect. While this is going on, check the corners of the room for dampness and leaks. You don't want to finish the floors and ceilings if water is going to ruin them, costing you hundreds of dollars in repair.
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The cheapest way to finish a basement floor is simply to paint it. Most basements are fashioned with concrete floors, so pick a dark color that will hide any unevenness or settling. Browns and dark grays will also cover up any dirt from trekking shoes. Blues and greens are more suitable for a clean-looking living space.
If you've got a bit more disposable cash, you can cover the concrete floor. The cheapest option here is linoleum, or linoleum tiles. They roll out and stick to the floor. These will only last for 10 years or so, though, even if meticulously cared for.
Tiling the basement floor is a classy and timeless approach to finishing it. Depending on the materials used, this could cost thousands of dollars. But the upkeep is minimal and tiles will last decades, which could save money in the long run.
Corkboard ceilings, as seen in many school buildings, are the cheapest and easiest way to cover a basement top. If there are any leaks or problems, you'll be able to identify them through stained boards, then replace those affected areas. To put insulation behind the boards, simply remove some of the boards and stuff the space with your material of choice. Ceiling tiles come in many shapes, sizes and patterns for your individual needs.
Installing bright lights into the ceiling, whether large sheet fluorescent lights or can lights, will add much needed atmosphere to an otherwise darkened space.
For a slightly classier look, install a drywall ceiling. This takes a bit more time, and makes installing lights slightly more difficult. It's also more expensive and harder to replace. If you're confident in the waterproofing in your basement, these would be your best bet for a tasteful ceiling.
What you add to your finished basement is up to you. Pool tables and ping pong tables, dart boards, and poker tables make excellent additions for a game room. Couches and televisions provide a cozy hangout atmosphere. You can even put a guest bed in there.
Regardless of how you choose to furnish the room, it's important to cover up your hardware. Furnaces, water heaters, washers and dryers can really take down a room. The easiest way to hide them is to paint them a dark color and put up a barrier around them. That barrier could be made from fence materials, lattice work, curtains or beaded drapes.
With a little more work and expertise, you could consider constructing walls around the offending appliances with a walk through space at the back.
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Darlena Cunha has been a writer and editor since 2003. She has a Bachelor of Arts in journalism and a Bachelor of Science in biology from the University of Connecticut. Cunha is also completing her master's degree in mass communication.