5 Affordable Ways To Upgrade Your Basement

Lots of space in new recreation room with kitchenette and bar.
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A basement can be a damp, dank, underground storage shed — or it can be a bright and cheery extension of a home’s living space. If you’re looking to give your basement a makeover, there’s plenty that you can do without paying basement makeover prices. The following is a list of relatively cheap and easy fixes that can turn dull and dingy basements into a comfortable liveable square footage. Here’s how to upgrade your basement on a budget. 

Damp Basements Are Gross: Invest in a Dehumidifier

So many of the problems that people have with their basements — musty smells, mold, mildew, damp curtains and carpeting, etc. — can be traced to moisture. If any of this rings a bell, you might be able to solve the problem without a contractor, a crew, or even a messy weekend of attempted DIY remedies. 

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A good dehumidifier does what the name implies — reduces humidity — but it also improves air quality and filters allergens. You can get one right now on Amazon for less than $200 — $169.99, to be exact — with 4.5 stars after more than 15,000 reviews. It can pull 34 pints of liquid from the air every day across 2,000 square feet of crisp, dry basement air.

Use Epoxy Paint to Transform Drab and Porous Concrete Floors

Just as it can in the rest of the house, a few cans of paint can transform a basement faster, cheaper, and more dramatically than just about everything else — but not just any paint will do. The best material is two-part epoxy, according to The Spruce. Consisting of a resin and a hardener mixed together, the paint dries through a fast chemical reaction, not evaporation, and when it dries, it hardens into a tough, durable, waterproof surface. 

You can get two gallons of single-coat concrete floor paint with built-in primer at Home Depot for about $72 — roughly $36 per gallon. You can expect to need the same kinds of tools you would need for any paint job — rollers, brushes, painter’s tape, etc. So if you don’t have them already, add the price of those supplies to your budget. Even so, most people can probably finish their basement floor in a single day on a budget of $100.

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Cozy Things Up With Soft, Warm Carpet Tiles

Basements are infamous for moisture issues, so installing carpet might feel counterintuitive. But according to RealHomes, carpeted flooring — or at least a section of carpeted flooring where people spend time or kids play — can make a basement warmer and cozier, which reduces heating bills. All of this, of course, is contingent upon the basement being finished or partially finished and not being prone to flooding. 

If you can check those boxes, your dehumidifier and epoxy paint should keep your basement dry enough for you to install a soft, warm surface under your feet. 

You can install interlocking tiles or peel-and-place stick-on tiles. Both are cheaper and easier than standard carpeting, and both let you freestyle with imaginative patterns and designs. You can get a 15-pack of waterproof, washable, 2′ x 2′ squares of PET carpeting — 30 square feet — from Foss Floors for about $119 on Amazon.

Warm the Room With Heated Wall Tiles 

Basements are known for being cool — too cool for much of the year — and notoriously difficult to heat. Installing radiant panels on the walls or under the floor can cost thousands of dollars — or you could DIY a convection wall panel or two for a fraction of the cost to make your basement cozy and comfy even in the coldest months. 

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No one would argue that convection heat is more efficient than radiant heat, but for $99 at Home Depot, you can get an ultra-slim convection panel that heats 150 square feet. It operates silently and you can paint it once you get it installed — it comes with a DIY kit meant for novices. There are no moving parts, fumes, gas, or exposed elements, and it can help you save up to 50% on your heating costs.

Use Hanging Dividers to Create Rooms and Conceal Clutter

If your basement is one big open space, as so many are, purpose-built curtain-style hanging dividers can create rooms or cordon off spaces for laundry, play areas, or whatever else it is you do in your basement. If your basement is finished, you can use hanging dividers to create a semi-private guest room. If your basement is only partially finished, you can use them to hide furnaces, water heaters, oil tanks, and other unattractive utility clutter. 

You can get large, durable, dividers that dampen noise, block light, and provide some thermal insulation from Wayfair for less than $50.

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About the Author

Amen joined the content team in January 2019 and brings a diverse background of digital, broadcast and print journalism to the team.She currently serves as the Executive Producer for our podcast Live Richer Podcast with Jaime Catmull. Before she joined the GBR family, Amen was a film writer at Bustle.com, where she explored the cinematic portrayals about people of color. She formerly was a host on Dr. J The Counselor Show on LA's 102.3 KJLH. She has also had her work featured on NPR's/KCRW, Fox Entertainment News, Los Angeles Sentinel Newspaper, Blavity and PilatesStyle Magazine.
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