Finished Basement Ideas - Photos, tips and cost estimates

basement ideas chalkboard paint

Basement Ideas - My daughter, Charlotte, testing out the new super easy chalkboard

Once you start thinking about basement ideas you can't stop.

Anytime someone visits your house you think about how cool it would be to be playing pool downstairs while you tend the bar and keep an eye on the game that you're watching on your 90" projection screen.

If you've got kids like I do then you can easily imagine them playing downstairs where they can be loud, imaginative and messy without destroying the main floor living room or your sanity.

I love thinking about what's possible with my basement and I find new basement ideas every other day on the internet. When you're ready to turn those ideas into the real thing check out this article on exactly how to finish a basement.

I plan to use this section of the website to share those ideas with you and show you how you can prepare to make those a reality by thinking ahead during the 5 basement finishing phases.

(before I forget, if want to capture where these basement ideas will go, check out my review of basement design software)

Basement Ideas

Dartboards - Nothing could be more quintessential to a basement than dartboards. Easy to setup, inexpensive and tons of fun.

Basement Pole - Basement poles are unsightly but with a little planning you can turn them into a design asset.  Highlight art, add lighting to the middle of a room, anchor a snack bar.

Guest Bedroom - I love it when my family comes to visit us and I want them to have a relaxing and enjoyable time.  Nothing helps that more than giving them a luxurious bedroom of their own where they can get away for a few minutes and get a great nights sleep.  This basement idea post breaks down an awesome photo I found of a guest bedroom and shows you the keys to achieve the same look and feel.

Wood Pallet Walls  - Great basement finishing idea to add some color and texture to your basement walls. Read this post before you start as there are a few safety things to consider before working with wood pallet wood.

Built-in bookcase - You don't have to be a master carpenter, just a few extra boards and foresight during the framing stage.

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basement ideas art niche small

Here is Jenn's favorite basement idea - an art niche with down-lighting and 2 piece trim.

Art Niche - What the? Isnt' that just a sunk in frame in the wall? Yup!  But add some simple lighting and frame it with some trim and it can add tremendous depth, character and elegance to a sometimes plain and boring room.

Home Theater / Audo - Video  -  The post has 7 ideas you should consider to prep a basement room for some awesome audio and video.  You need to do these BEFORE drywall! If nothing else, check out tip #7.

A Door Bell - Say what? I once ordered pizza for my poker night during my basement renovation and never heard the guy from downstairs. Don’t forget to add a doorbell into your plans. (not hard)

Angled & Trimmed Basement Windows - Those puny basement windows need some help. This post has two great ideas on how to get the most light from your basement windows and make them look bigger than they really are.

Up Lighting - Especially for the ceiling of your basement living room. By using some molding, rope lighting and planning a switched outlet in the ceiling you can create some great soft lighting for you movie nights.

Finished Basement Ideas on Pinterest - The best place to save you basement ideas is on Pinterest.  It's free and it makes it super easy to organize everything into logical groups.

Video Projector - I'm almost hesitant to write this one because I want to do this project so badly.  I haven't built my ultimate movie room yet, but I've prepped for it during the framing and electrical phases.  You'll want an outlet in the ceiling again, one for the projector and one for the motorized projection screen.

Stained Concrete Floor - (a.k.a. one thing I really screwed up). If you want your basement to look "super cool" you should think about staining your floor. It's especially easy if your concrete is new or has never been sealed or painted. Yes, despite my terrible story, you can do it yourself and get great results.

Built-in shelves in my basement, great idea.

Here is one of my favorite basement idea, a built in shelves. Slightly embarrassed to show this pic 'cause the basement is mess, but this looks great and was easy to build.

Chalkboard - Chalkboard paint and some trim and your kids have an awesome an fun chalkboard to write on. Also looks great by the wine seller or as a darts scoreboard. Easy and fun project and yes, it really works!

Utility Sink - Think ahead just slightly when doing your space and plumbing planning and you can have an awesome extra sink for washing up for less than $50 bucks. Got pets? Think about creating a pet washing station.

Unique Bathroom Idea - This one is more for the guys.  Well, it's strictly for the guys. Ladies, click if you want to but you won't be interested in this.

Boots and Gloves - Plan to house wet boots, gloves and jackets. If you get a lot of snow in the winter, and especially if your kids play outside, the basement is a great spot to store wet winter gear. Put an outlet nearby to plug in a boot/gloves dryer. Plan on a non-slip floor surface and spot for a bench.

7 Basement Finishing Ideas inspired by our beach house. It's official.  I've got the fever. Basement design fever. Every house I go to I'm clockin' ideas for my basement.  Here are seven ideas from our beach trip to Kiawah, SC.

Basement Paint Colors - Need some ideas for what colors to use in your brand new finished basement?  This blog has tons of pictures of great color combinations, plus it tells you the exact brand and color name. Check it out, it's great!

What's an Up Flushing Toilet?  13 Tips and Ideas from my parent's basement finishing project. Hi Mom! Here's a post with a video tour of my parent's basement and 13 basement ideas they learned while finishing their basement. Including - Wizard of OZ style cellar doors and a closet under the stairs (so cool)!

More Coming Soon…..  Check out my Pinterest Page for more photos and design ideas.

basement finishing jasonOkay guys, this should give you an inkling of what I plan to put in this section. Each of these topics will have their own article just need a bit more time to get them pulled together.

If you have a great basement idea leave a comment below. Love it!

Cheers - Jason

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Questions and Comments

Click here to ask a question or leave a comment.

  1. Tom Hayes says

    I love your website! I was able to begin my basement and your tips and the little "things" I would have not thought about. You gave me the courage to do it on my own. The contractors wanted way too much money to finish it for me. Cant wait until my kids see it. I agree with used tools so much cheaper and not sure if I will use all of them again.
    Thanks for the webiste, it is clear and well worded so a layman like me can understand it. Looking forward to finishing my man-cave.

    • says

      Tom - Thanks for that awesome and encouraging feedback. Glad you like it and that it's been helpful. Feel free to ping me with any questions as you go along and share some pictures along the way. - Jason

  2. Marlane says

    Your website is going to be really helpful once I get started. Last week I got my basement waterproofed and I'll remove the rest of the moldy/mildewy panelling. Then I'll clean up the block walls. I don't want anything fancy; just want it to be well lit with light walls and floors. And dry.

    • says

      Marlane - That's a huge first step. I had nightmares sometimes when it would rain because my basement sump pump would go off all the time. After a year of frustration and 2 floods (pre finished basement) I finally had someone add three downspout extensions to bring the roof water 8-10ft from the house. Sump pump hasn't gone off once since then! Dry as a bone.

      Good luck! Have fun with it. Ping me with questions. Share some pics via email.

  3. Wes says

    Jason, I love your site. I came acroos it looking for more info on my basement plumbing rough-in and identifying what was actually down there. It's definitely going to be quite the project (bathroom alone). It's refreshing to find a good down to earth account of tips and tricks on every aspect of the basement finishing process. I'm all done with my layout and will start the process this coming weekend (making sure to check your site every step of the way). I haven't come across your overall timeline yet but I know I have about 8 months (2nd little one on the way). Nothing like a new baby as your incentive to get things done around the house.

    Thanks for your great site and I can't wait to see the upcoming articles on the rest of the bathroom!

    • says

      Wes - So glad you like the site. I've still got a huge list of articles to write. Including one on basement bathroom rough-in, a lot of people have been asking about that. The timelines thing is something I've been mulling over for a few months... in fact, and this hasn't been officially announced or confirmed but I should have my basement book ready in about a month. It has the exact timeline for finishing in under 1 year on the weekends. I need some help editing, so I might offer a few copies at a discounted rate to get some feedback. Good luck on the project, that baby is going to love playing down there. -- Jason

  4. Rob says

    Jason- Awesome website and I really appreciate the information and tips. Is there a free or inexpensive for software program for designing floor plans? Thank you in advance for your help Rob

  5. Ginny says

    Just checked out your site again Jason. Great new ideas. You are a genius and extremely handsome.
    And the best son a mother could ever have.


    • says

      Sonny - Creating or removing load bearing walls are definitely outside of my knowledge zone. My "guess" would be that you would have to first install some headers that run perpendicular to the rafters and then put in the wall to handle the load. There are probably some very specific engineering calculations to figure out exactly what to build. I'll keep a look out for any websites that might offer this specific type of advice, but I haven't come across any to date.

      Cheers - Jasons

  6. Ken says

    Hi Jason,
    Thanks for the calculator. One question - shouldnt the bathroom be a fixed cost? I dont think the cost of the bathroom varies with the size of the total project. Let me know your thoughts.

    • says

      Ken - I guess that's true, unless you plan to have a really big bathroom. The only caveat would be that bathroom costs can vary greatly depending on which materials you want to use. I wanted to do tiling that definitely added some extra costs that I could have avoided if I'd used a laminate or vinyl floor. - Jason

  7. Adam says

    Jason - Great website! Mostly been reading through you electrical section as I am pretty competant in framing. I am starting on a basement finishing project as we speak, and your website has given me a number of ideas, and tips I hadn't thought of. I appreciate your sense of humor in these posts, its refreshing compared to people who do this for a living, who are overly technical, use a lot of industry jargon, and make their posts/articles/video so dry you can barely read them for 5 minutes.

    Thanks for the inspiration, and keep the ideas flowing!


  8. Robert Rood says

    Jason, Thank you for taking the time to share your ideas on building out a basement. You have great writing skills and you have taken the time to share (for Free) all those little steps of building out a waisted space without worrying every night that the Building Dept Spies would be knocking on the door at night to hall you off to jail for improving your house without the fears of having to tear in all out for improving your house and using a wasted space that the builder could have done for $5000.00 and probably asked another 20 K for doing something that is simple when you have the room. I had 10 ft ceilings which gave me plenty of room to run the wires and the room is 90% at ground level. The yard was terraced so by the time they got to that end of the yard it became a 3 story house. A perfect stoorage shed......... but know a 2 bedroom, 1 bath, kitchen , living room and family room with a good size closset space in both rooms and a nice private apt. for guests or a mother-n-law retreat area all to herself or a place to play with the kids and the dog and then we get a day off. I improved my house so much that no inspector could ever find an error. I used a 30 ft laminated beam that increased the strength of the house. Plus gave a nice warm feeling to the room. I strapped the entire walls to make it Earthquake proof. So it was a win, win building project that has turned the house into a 5 bedroom 4 full bathrooms and a place that all can enjoy. Sincerely, Robert

  9. says

    I would like to send you a sample of our Do-It-Yourself Basement Finishing Wahoo Wall panel. I think you might be interested in this for your future basement remodeling project. You can install a minimum of 80 linear feet in a day without wood or framing! Please check us out and let me know what you think.
    Nice work by the way.

    • says

      Matt - I'm guessing you mean the framing is already done? Or the plumbing? All depends on basement size but let's say 1000 sq. feet, you're definitely saving a couple grand at least. It's a great start to finishing your basement.


  10. Kim says

    Great website!! My husband is in the process of finishing our ongoing (seemingly never ending project thus far) We are trying to keep costs down and are debating, drywall on walls or something else, painting, paneling, etc.? any suggestions? Also the floor carpet, concrete stain or something else?
    so many options!!

    • says

      Que Pasa Kim - Thank you. It feels great to be helpful to someone else who's finishing their basement. For the walls I'd recommend drywall over paneling. Drywall for the ceiling as well, unless you have a lot of pipes or wires that you can't work around - in that case I'd recommend painting your ceiling. You can save a lot of money in flooring by going with a stain or paint. Just make sure to do it correctly so it looks good (unlike what I did). Hope that helps. Good luck! Cheers - Jason

  11. Tracy says

    Any idea how much it would cost to finish a 500 square foot section in my basement? (Rest is already complete) Already framed, just need to add drop ceiling, wrap duct work, tile floors (average) and sheet rock. we already have electric down there, doors, but one would require trim etc. Thanks!!

  12. says

    I really like these ideas Jason. They are outside the box and I completely agree that the design ideas for a basement are endless. I do think much of it depends on shape and size though. Was your basement pre-existing or did you have it professionally converted? If you have a small home then you may want to covert the basement into a bedroom. It takes so much time and effort to design and convert a basement that you have to be absolutely sure of what you want. I really like the idea of a bar.

    • says

      Hi Di - It's not essential. Most people who do it do it for noise control, but it only helps a little because the drywall tends to still carry most of the noise. Otherwise - you don't need it. - Jason

      • Brandon says

        Also look for something called "z bars" (technically Resilient Channels) that can fasten between your floor joists and the drywall ceiling to reduce noise.

  13. carla says

    I want to thank you for this website of information. I just purchased a home with an unfinished basement I'm so excited to finish my basement because of your website. I'll definitely be purchasing the book as well.

  14. says

    One of my favorite things I've ever seen in a basement is a "homework room", with desks, a computer and printer, a natural skylight (in the basement!) and... dry-erase walls! There's some kind of paint that finishes with such a glossy non-porous sheen that it becomes a whiteboard! It's great for high-school students and artistic kids who need space to write out their thoughts.

  15. Doreen says

    I read your article about installing recessed lighting in your basement and saving $$ by buying components individually. You suggested buying cans and lights individually. Somewhere else I read that lemonbest installation might be better and avoid the cans. Please advise.

    • says

      Hi Doreen - Interesting. I'd never heard of Lemonbest before. Honestly I thought it was a drink, like Tang or something. I checked it out and it looks promising and it does get good reviews. But, I don't see a lot of the professional basement finishing companies using it yet, so it's not quite ready for prime-time, in my opinion. It may be a great product, I've just never used it myself. - Jason

  16. gloria says

    Just bought a home built in 1954.. with basement 2 car garage. Love the house but on the first real heavy rain this month, awoke and found large puddle of water gathering in corner. So.... I got out the bucket and mop and you guessed it! It kept coming back with no signs of where it is coming from. Help! Don't wan't to freak out and scream.

    Any suggestions?

    • says

      Ahhhh, Gloria. Welcome to the world of wet basements. Fear not, it can be resolved.

      First - do you have gutters? Are your gutters extended at least 6 feet from your house? I'm not talkin' about those cheapy little 2 foot green water splashy deals - you need real deal extensions that get the water from your roof far away from your foundation.

      That's where I would start - since your issue came up right after a big rain. - Jason

  17. Ron says

    Just bought a home with an est unfinished 1000sf dry basement. I am planning a home theatre, bar, storage space and bedroom. I have a feeling me and you are going to become buddies... Lol

  18. Bob says

    Jason: Thanks for your very informative site. I have a question, I am in MI cold weather and I have a walk out basement. Is it helpful to put R-19 insulation and vapor barrier sheet in the drywall? I will appreciate your help with this.

  19. Vish says

    Hi much room do i need to plan for my furnace unit. I was planning to go tight to get some space but not sure what will be better. May be plan for pulling the heater unit out and have a big door and just about room for cleaning filters. Love to hear your thoughts

    • says

      Hi Vish - 30" x 30" space all around is the minimum (that I've seen). Mine is 35" from the wall, basically enough space for a person (a skinny one) to get behind the unit. I'd recommend 3 feet or so on the side of the furnace that has full access to the inner components. Before you put that wall up though you'll want to check the exact recommendations from the furnace unit manufactorure and if your specific county/jurisdiction might have a slightly different code requirement.

      Good luck! - Jason

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