When framing your basement, you may be wondering how to cover those basement poles? Basement poles are also referred to as “lally columns”, especially in the UK. Hey, laugh if you want to, its always a basement pole to me.
Deciding what to do with those support poles can be a tricky decision. Today I want share with you how I framed the support poles in my basement. Hopefully this will give you some ideas and prevent any future “pole regret”.
In my case I had two basement support poles to design around. One was right smack in the middle of what was going to be my living room area and the other was just inside the doorway of my soon to be work-shop / hobby room.
The Living Room Basement Pole
I decided to frame around this pole with what is basically a big box. My design decision was driven by the functional aspects of what I was looking to see in that part of the basement. Function driven design is always a good approach. I had five desired functions:
- Support sconce lighting on the wall
- Act as an anchor for the other side of my “snack bar”.
- Support 2 light switches for the living room and game area
- Support an electrical outlet
- Act as a quasi room definition architectural element
Interaction with other Elements
Another consideration for me was this support beam that hung down lower than the rest of the ceiling and intersected with the support basement pole. I knew that I would be framing it in and that it would look weird if it intersected with a wrapped or just painted pole. I wanted the wall that it intersected to be twice as wide as the beam. A 2 to 1 ratio of support column to support beam is more settling to the eye. It says, there’s a huge support column holding up the house, this is a strong, safe and grand home.
Here is my basement living room during the framing stage. You can see the black support beam in the ceiling that’s been boxed in (framed in) and the black support basement pole which has been framed around. Note the light that’s near the top, there’s also another one on the other side. The green circle highlights where the beam intersects with the support pole framing, you’ll see it more clearly in the next photo.
Here is basically the same view but after drywall.
It looks more like there are two separate rooms now. I didn’t have to put up a whole wall, just the representation of separation. Not framing the pole at all or just wrapping it would make it look weak and would not really separate the spaces.
To have a comfortable and warm space which looks like the rest of your house instead of a basement – you need to look for areas where you can convince the brain that this was all part of the whole house design from the beginning.
Here’s how it looks after painting and base trim. I plan to eventually add some box and ceiling trim.
Here is another angle which shows the light switches and the outlet. The family room switches made sense here because they are at the “entrance” to the room. The left switch controls a plug in the ceiling (not visible). I plan on adding some crown molding and then some rope lighting to illuminate the family room ceiling. (great for movies)
The Basement Pole in my Workshop
I promise, I’m really, really trying not to write pole jokes as part of this post but if one slips in, I apologize. The basement pole in my workshop was right next to where I wanted to place my light switch. I thought about moving to door further down the wall or perhaps boxing in the pole and putting the light-switch on the side of the box. But, in the end, I didn’t want to give up any space, I liked where the door was and I didn’t really have any other functional requirements for that area. So I just decided to do nothing. I painted the pole black and left it as is.
It turned out awesome. It gives the room a real workshop feel and I didn’t waste a ton of time for a design feature that I really didn’t need. I was a little concerned that when using the light switch someones hand could end up hitting the pole but I did some testing and it wasn’t bad at all. If you’re not sure about a design decision try doing some testing. (aka “ask you wife”) Take a few minutes to think about how you will use that space or element of the design and imagine the pros and cons.
Wrapping your Basement Pole “Pole Wrap”
One of the best ways to get design ideas is by checking out the basements of your friends and neighbors. Once I started my basement finishing project I really started to notice every little detail in each basement. My neighbor had wrapped his support pole with a with a roman column type look. You can buy these “wraps” pre-made and they look ok.
His family room was huge and even though the wrap had some great trim it still looked like there was a pole in the middle of the room. The wrap method also doesn’t allow you to have any outlets, lights or light switches. By boxing it in with 1 to 2 foot walls you will have plenty of wall to work with and it looks more like those walls were always meant to be there. They look like a natural part of the basement.
Hopefully that helps you decided what to do. After writing this post I’m more convinced than ever that taking the extra time to plan for this particular element is crucial. The approach you take can really be influential on the overall feel of the basement.
If you know of other great options for designing around basement support poles please post them here in the comments section. Or, if you need help with a particular design scenario, let me (and everyone else) know about it. Maybe we can help you out.