How to cover a basement pole

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.

How to cover a basement pole.

How to cover a basement pole.

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:

  1. Support sconce lighting on the wall
  2. Act as an anchor for the other side of my “snack bar”.
  3. Support 2 light switches for the living room and game area
  4. Support an electrical outlet
  5. 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.

basement pole

Support beam intersecting with box framed support pole.

Here is basically the same view but after drywall.

basement pole drywalled

Larger basement pole support framing looks strong and substantial. Support beam intersection point has plenty of padding space around it.

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.

Large box frame around basement pole.

As you can see, I’m ready for the snack bar to be put in as soon as the kids stop riding their bikes down there. The framed basement pole makes and excellent anchor.

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)

basement pole framed large enough to hold light switches, outlets, lighting and art.

Basement pole framed large enough to hold light switches, outlets, lighting and art.

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.

Basement pole painted flat black

Flat black basement pole support blends in well.

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.

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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.

“Wrap” Up

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.

basement finishing jasonIf 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.

Cheers –

Jason

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Questions and Comments

Click here to ask a question or leave a comment.

  1. Kevin says

    Jason,

    I love this website. I am working on my bsement and this has been a huge help and provided a sense of “we can do this!”. I am geting ready to wrap poles in the near future and am curious the dimensions you used for reference.

    They look terrific.

    Thanks,

    Kevin

    • says

      Kevin – I just checked and the basement pole “wrap” is 24″ x 21″. The support beam fulled drywalled is 13″ it intersects with the 24″ side of the pole. I have 3 light switches and a plug one of the sides measuring 24″ and two sconce lights on the side measuring 21″. Good luck with your project, take your time, have fun with it, yes, you CAN do it! – Jason

  2. Shari says

    Hi Jason;
    Just signed up for your newsletter! I can appreciate you and other people on this site who have some basement remodel know how and the courage to DIY. BUT, I and my husband have neither a clue or the time to take on something like this, so we are going to rely on your expertise and guidance to hire this out while trying to save money in doing so. Thanks for your help

  3. says

    Hello Jason,

    It’s late at night. Just can’t find sleep. I’m in the military. Canadian Armed Forces. In the process of being posted from Royal Military College Saint-Jean in Qc, to the Canadian Forces Logistic Training Center in Borden Ontario. Just finishing what we call a «house hunting trip (HHT). I ended purchaseing this new house really to please my wife… After selling what I was hoping to be my retirement house. I’m pissed off and angry.

    This new house has a basement that really sucks.

    I just finished watching one of your clips on Youtube and I like your Website.

    I want to finish my basement and I take it as a personal challenge to turn this Dunjon like crapy basement into a place where I actually want to spend time.

    Cheers !

    Guy

    • says

      Hello Guy – Thanks for checking out the site. I’m hoping I did not put you back to sleep. Try to think of your basement remodel as an opportunity to create something amazing from something sucky, as you put it. The best basement transformation start out without something just terrible and end up as the best part of the house. Good luck! – Jason

  4. Kathy says

    I just got my huge columns replaced with lally columns and was told they should remain open so we can tighten them every 2 years or so. Will your framing give you access or are there different kinds of steel columns that require no maintenance?

    • says

      Hi Kathy. Tightening lally columns… that’s something I’ve heard of for log homes but never really standard build homes. Either way, it wouldn’t be too hard to put in an access panel that just looks like decorative paneling, no one will ever know. You should be able to frame it the exact same way I did, you’ll just have to cut out an access hole and then do some custom moulding to disguise it once you’re done. Good luck finishing your basement! Cheers – Jason

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