12 Finishing Touches for Your Unfinished Basement

An unfinished basement, with its concrete floor and exposed joists, may seem dreary and cold. But in reality it is an enormous blank canvas just waiting for your inspired ideas and artistic vision. The fact is, you don't really need niceties like drywall and recessed lighting to create an inviting space. Before you begin, do what you need to do to make sure the space is dry and clean. Fix any water issues and apply waterproofing if necessary. Unfinished concrete flooring will produce fine dust if it’s not sealed, so you may want to consider applying a sealer. It’s an easy DIY project that will go a long way to making your unfinished basement a lot more comfortable and manageable to maintain.

When it comes to decorating ideas, the industrial look is in, which lends itself well to dressing up the subterranean infrastructure of a an unfinished basement. So, consider those exposed beams, pipes and wires an asset and play them up. If you need a few more sockets to make the space functional, don’t be afraid to run electrical conduit right on top of a brick wall or over wood joists. Then, focus on warming the space up and injecting personality into it by adding items like rugs, fabrics and curtains. These will also help to divide the space in the absence of actual walls. Employ a few of these creative ideas—all of them low cost and low effort—to transform your unfinished basement into a comfortable retreat everyone will be drawn to.

  1. Lay Down Foam Mats

    Foam Floor Mats

    Most unfinished basements have a poured concrete floor. Soften it up for playtime or workout time with square foam floor mats. They come in different sizes and colors, and join together like a puzzle—and they're easy to pick up and move elsewhere or stack away and store when your needs change.


  2. String Some Lighting

    Hang String Lights

    Most unfinished basements have very few electrical outlets and just a couple of naked bulb fixtures mounted in the ceiling. Bring more light to the space and create a playful ambience by hanging some industrial string lights. With just one outlet, you can illuminate a large area with several strings of lights.


  3. Throw Down Area Rugs

    Area Rug Ideas

    Area rugs can warm up a cold basement floor quickly. Depending on the size of your space, you could use one large rug or several smaller ones. You could even go for carpeting remnants—a low-cost, effective option that can both cozy up a basement and help define different functional areas in the space. 


  4. Install Storage

    Extra Storage Space

    Having an extra floor below grade means you have a lot of potential storage space underfoot. Make the most of your unfinished basement by putting up shelving to store off-season clothing, sporting gear, tools, and more.

    Related:  15 "Neat" Garage Storage Solutions


  5. Paint Your Cinder Block

    Painting Basement Walls

    Basement walls of cinder block, brick, or even poured concrete can be transformed pretty quickly and simply with a coat of paint. Go for a solid color, or get wild and design a mural to brighten up that subterranean space of yours.

    Related:  10 DIY Ways to Redo Your Wall—Without Paint


  6. Hang Curtains

    DIY Room Divider

    No walls? No problem! Put up a simple and inexpensive curtain system to divide space and add dimension to an unfinished basement. If you can't install a track on the ceiling, try stretching picture wire taut across the room, then attach café hooks to flat sheets for an easy no-sew DIY project perfect for a beginner.

    Related:  Divide and Conquer—14 Room Dividers to Bring Order to Your Space


  7. Create an Art Studio

    Home Art Studio

    The great thing about an unfinished space is you don’t need to be too fussy about getting it messy. So why not transform part of your unfinished basement into an art studio? If paint and glitter get all over the floor, they'll just add charm and inspiration.

    Related:  Get to Work! 15 DIY Workbenches, Craft Counters, and Potting Tables


  8. Craft a Canopy for Your Ceiling

    Fabric Ceiling

    If the rafter ceiling in your unfinished basement feels too cold and industrial for your taste, soften it by hanging swaths of fabric to create a beautiful canopy ceiling. In this billowy basement, a whimsical pendant light complements the canopy perfectly—but even on its own, the fabric makes a soothing impact.

    Related:  Without a Stitch—9 No-Sew Projects to Dress Up Any Room


  9. Build a Workshop

    Workshop Ideas

    Every do-it-yourselfer needs a place to make the magic happen. What better spot for a workshop than an unfinished basement? A sturdy concrete floor makes cleanup easier, and open studs and rafters provide excellent organization and storage space with the simple addition of pegboard and shelving.

    Related:  11 Reasons Metal Shelving Isn't Just for Your Garage

    flickr.com via Carrie Qualters

  10. Paint the Rafters

    Paint Basement Rafters

    Painting the exposed beams of your basement ceiling can make the entire space feel more finished without heavy renovation. As a bonus, all of your utilities will remain completely accessible, in case you need to make repairs to your ceiling in the future.

    Related: The Do’s and Dont’s of Basement Storage

    Zillow Digs home in Brentwood, MO

  11. Create a Partition

    Basement Room Divider

    Installing a small, temporary wall can help to delineate space without requiring permits and major planning. Once the curtain is drawn in front of the washer/dryer, this basement laundry room essentially disappears, letting the wet bar take center stage.

    Related: Buy or DIY: 10 Room Dividers to Remake Your Space

    Zillow Digs home in Mountain Brook, AL

  12. Brighten Up the Floor

    Paint Basement Floor

    Your unfinished basement’s concrete floor is a blank canvas, and a coat of paint can make a huge difference. This straightforward DIY project will give you a big bang for your buck.

    Related: Bob Vila Radio: Finishing a Basement


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