Assess Your Basement Needs

Your unfinished basement could be the most popular area of your home. Use these tips to begin your transformation.


Photo by: Alan Gilbert ©Photo courtesy of 2011 CEDIA. Used with Permission.

Alan Gilbert, Photo courtesy of 2011 CEDIA. Used with Permission.

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A world of fun is available in that dark and dingy space, but before you start creating the basement of your dreams, assess your wants and needs.

What to Consider Before You Begin

Space. Don't be afraid to dream big, but be realistic. "You want to make everything fit for what you want to do," says Scott Varn of Harmony Interiors. If your heart is set on a big multipurpose space with game tables and a home theater system, make sure there is ample room.

Moisture. Before you start any work on your basement, you should detect and fix water and humidity problems. If you get water in your basement or regularly use a sump pump to pump it out, address this before adding walls, floors and furnishings.

Mechanical Systems. You may have a furnace and a hot water tank on one wall and a water filtration or water softener system on the other. It can be tempting to move systems into a space separate from your finished basement, but don't unless you have to. That will involve rerouting plumbing, ductwork, wiring and possibly even a gas line. Plan to design around existing systems.

Lounge-Worthy Basements

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Rustic Man Cave

Do you want to play pool, watch movies or have a wine tasting with friends? (Or perhaps all of the above?) Start by determining how you want to use your basement. Browse 8 Man Caves at

Gathering Musts

By working cozy nooks into your basement layout, you can create private areas without sacrificing an open space for family time.

Photo By: HOWARD TUCKER 216-696-4616

Bold and Playful

To create a basement with the energy and warmth of a Mexican cantina, HGTV designer Candice Olson grounds the design with durable tile that has the look of wide-plank hardwood.

Ceiling Sense

When designing your basement, don't overlook the ceiling. Molding, recessed lighting and a warm color scheme can add depth and charm. Photo courtesy of Design Your Basement

Entertain With Ease

You may never see your family upstairs if the basement is outfitted with comfortable furniture and a high-def projection screen for the ultimate movie-watching experience. Photo courtesy of Finished Basements

Sophisticated Details

Designer's Tip: From family movie night to prime-time sporting events, use geometric patterns and artwork, and install a commanding 85-inch plasma TV and a full bar area to set the stage for everyday use.

Photo By: Alan Gilbert ©Photo courtesy of 2011 CEDIA. Used with Permission.

A Sea-Inspired Retreat

HGTV designer Candice Olson creates a multifunctional floor plan to accommodate a bedroom, a media area and a kitchen. To infuse a beach feel, she uses a sea-green, natural grass and sky-blue color palette.

All-Purpose Rec Room

Most homeowners like to create a large multipurpose media area rather than chop up a basement space into little rooms. This combination bar, recreation space and high-performance media room is the perfect spot for entertaining friends and family of all ages.

Photo By: Alan Gilbert

Mood-Lifting Ambiance

It isn't necessary to have high ceilings in a media room because you'll mostly be seated when you're there. Choose recessed lighting and dimmers to create the right mood. Photo courtesy of Sheffield

Urban Chic Style

This multipurpose media room retains an industrial feel, featuring a spiral staircase and an illuminating wall, creating an urban escape.

Billiards Lounge

If you want the ultimate basement hangout, design a floor plan that accommodates informal dining, lounging and playing games. Photo courtesy of Basement Ideas

Decide How You Want to Use the Space

Unlike a typical upstairs remodel, where you have one room that is designed for a specific function, your basement renovation depends on how you want to use the space. The basement can be a multipurpose space, and design elements you choose for a media room will be different from what you want in a guest bedroom.

Remain flexible, as your plans can change. If you want to house a pool table, make sure you have enough space around the table for players to use pool sticks without hitting the walls. If you decide to build a home theater, plan to have a couple of feet between rows and enough room for seating.

Next Up

Solving Basement Design Problems

Mechanical systems and other obstacles can present design opportunities. Get tips for tackling the most common problems.

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