10 Ways to Spruce Up Your Unfinished Basement for Under $100


If you watch HGTV long enough, you'll soon be convinced that every basement in the nation is a gleaming bonus space complete with glass-tiled bathrooms, recessed lighting, and in-floor heating. It's enough to create major basement envy and make you wonder if a home equity line of credit isn't called for in order to upgrade your own cave-like lower levels.

Or, you could just check out these 10 simple ways to spruce up your unfinished basement for under $100.

1. Chuck the Junk

Decluttering is the first step in any successful project and it's critical when sprucing up common catch-all spaces like basements and garages. If you struggle with the process, learn how to get rid of your junk and declutter with less drama.

2. Light It Up

Since basements don't get a lot of natural light, brighten things up with higher wattage bulbs. It'll make the space less spooky, more functional, and help show off the rest of the projects we'll cover.

3. Add Clip-On Shades

A lightweight plastic shade designed to clip directly on overhead bulbs is a simple, quick, and inexpensive way to dress up a ceiling light. For some reason, the shades are difficult to find at most retailers, but you can usually score them used for $10 or less on eBay or similar resale sites.

4. Get a Grip

Safety first. Since most unfinished basement stairs are crafted of simple two-by-fours, adding treads make them safer and improves their aesthetics. Paint stairs a neutral color first, add a railing if you haven't already, and install vinyl or rubber treads.

5. Hang Homemade Curtains

Sewing simple channel or tabbed curtains is the perfect weekend project to dress up all the windows in your basement. Depending on the size of the windows, consider repurposing matching tea towels or large cloth dinner napkins for this project (no hemming!). Create tabs from nylon ribbon or vintage neckties. Since natural light is at a premium in basements, make sure your rods are wide enough that when the curtains are open, no portion of the window is covered.

6. Dry It Out

Many times what keeps us out of our unfinished basements is the chronic dampness and resulting dank smell. If this is a problem in your basement, make solving it a high-priority project. Add a dehumidifier to combat the moisture and run it regularly, especially during summer months. Though dehumidifiers cost around $180 new, I just picked up a gently used one on Craigslist for $25 and it works like a charm.

7. Seal and Paint Walls

As with most projects, painting is a relatively simple way to make a dramatic change. If you have a large basement, control costs by focusing your efforts on those areas used most often by you and your family.

Before painting concrete walls, clean them thoroughly and scrub away any mildew stains, repair cracks with fast-setting hydraulic cement, and then prime with a concrete primer. Use a quality masonry paint for best results.

8. Add a Large Rug or Floor Mat

If your basement is well-sealed and stays dry during large rains, add a large area rug in key areas like the laundry, pantry, or crafting room. Though each space may not be finished in the traditional sense, inexpensive rugs, carpet remnants with finished edges, or interlocking floor mats can add a level of comfort that encourages expanded use for the whole family.

9. Add Shelving

Durable plastic shelves are perfect for the basement. They get items off of potentially damp floors, make use of vertical space, and encourage new levels of organization. A five foot shelf with four tiers retails for about $30.

10. Try Simple Decorating Projects

Once you have a clean, dry, safe, and well-organized basement, there's a lot you can do to incrementally improve the aesthetics. Consider differentiating work areas with paint colors and designs, adding pegboard to workshop areas, making a skirt for that old laundry sink, sanding and painting rusty pipes, or using salvaged vintage doors to create a unique folding room divider.

Remember, there's a lot of wiggle room between unfinished and perfectly finished. If you're not ready to make a huge investment in your basement, find a happy medium. With some clever ideas, sweat equity, and patience, you can create a much more comfortable and functional space ― without burying your budget.

Do you have an unfinished basement? How have you improved the way it looks or made it more functional without breaking the bank?

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