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Inexpensive Basement Finishing

I want to fix up a room in my basement for my kids to hang out/play in. Currently it is an unfinished basement, but we do have rooms framed up. The exterior walls are insulated with plastic sheeting over the insulation. We cannot afford a traditional basement finish. Does anyone have ideas for an inexpensive fix up to make the basement more warm and inviting to be in? (ie: wall treatment, flooring etc.) Would love to see before and after pics from anyone who has done this.

Terrie from Twin cities

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Recent Answers

By Allison11/24/2009

When we planned to sell our previous house we took an unfinished basement and painted the walls and floors (sounds obvious, but it made a huge difference) and then added carpet remnants in one area to make it look like a kid's playroom. I think lighting is key because it does get dark in a basement. I also like the fabric idea. And, perhaps try a home improvement store to see if they do free classes on how to hang drywall. (Perhaps trade off helping a friend with a house project if he helps you).

By Holly [350]02/14/2008

Can you hang cloth room dividers from the ceiling? The bottom of the cloth had a curtain rod sewn in a pocket to make it hang straight. I saw that on a tv decorating show (Rachael Ray) a long time ago. The dividers could also be shifted sideways to permit access to open shelving storage and the laundry area.
Also, an area rug with matching pillows always cozies up a room. You could buy a set of sheets on clearance and recover throw pillows - that way they all match and all you had to do was sew up some seams. I bought a lovely set of sheets, but needed some matching pillowcases which were not available. Bought a sheet that matched and made pillowcases from it. Visit your local thrift store for decorator items and then clean them very thoroughly before using. Or even go to a discount store (TJ Max, Marshall's, Big Lots...), and look carefully for obvious flaws in the merchandise. Every now and then they have a special buy of slightly defective brand name items. Some are more defective than others. But in a basement for the kids, no one will object.

By Kathy (Guest Post)02/13/2008

It sounds like you are ahead of the game if you have the framed part up and the insulation in. It probably wouldn't cost that much to drywall it, or you could even buy the inexpensive panel boards (in a white color) and put them over the studs.
We have an unfinished basement, I painted the walls and floor a cream color and then put area rugs around to warm the toes. We also bought a halogen light strip, like track lighting, that you plug in, then we bought the "plug in" extender for our single bulb fixtures and plugged the track light into it and hung it from the ceiling. Really brightened the room up! It looks like a "real" family room now! We also use a little osculating electric heater to warm it up!

By Terrie (Guest Post)02/13/2008

I am loving these ideas so far! Thanks so much for your responses. I especially like the cardboard idea for walls. Now I just need to find some time to dive into this project :)

By Jill [4]02/13/2008

Call a local appliance store and ask if you can get some refrigerator boxes. Open them out and they can be stapled to the wall studs to contain the area a little bit. Use the wide masking tape where the edges come together. Then invite your kids to design/paint the "walls". Look for mis-matched cans of paint on clearance where they sell paints; usually you can get some really nice paints for very little $$.

Be careful with the stings of lights--most say on that little tag on the cord that they should be discarded after 1000 hours of use. I expect they'd be fine, as long as they're turned off when no one is down there paying attention.

Ask at a local carpet store about getting some sample squares. They can usually be had for very little money, as well. You can use double-stick carpet tape (you may need to vacuum and wash a cement floor before the tape will stick effectively) to make a "patchwork" carpet.

In addition to lights at the ceiling, you could staple old sheets (thrift store) up as a "ceiling". The lighter color will help carry light; as well as hide insulation, etc. Put some hooks in the studs there, and you can hang "art", models the kids may have made, and so on.

There are some websites out there that show how to make inexpensive gadgets and furnishings with PVC pipe--which can be addictive--kind of like Tinkertoys for adults and older kids!

Bear in mind this is for you children--don't worry about colors and matching--go with what they like. The more they help "make" the room, the more invested they will be in keeping it tidy and nice! And when they outgrow the motifs used, time for a do-over!

Have fun. They won't forget it.

By Michele [3]02/13/2008

I like Maggie's ideas. Another idea could be to start hanging your children's artwork to build the "walls", depending on how old they are.

If you have cement block exposed, you could prime and paint that as well. We made a toy room in our old house and I painted the cement wall bright sunflower yellow to brighten it up down there. I hung large childrens posters all over-- trying to mask the darkness down there. You could even get some posters from a movie store and do a Hollywood Box Office game room theme.

I also hung Xmas lights in the open trusses of the ceiling.... just to be whimsical and draw away from the ductwork and framework. You could do regular ones or you could pick up some of the "garden" ones that you see that are more decorative.

You can get large 8x5 flat industrial rugs at Walmart for about $20- they aren't soft but a little warmer than cement on bare toes!

Good luck! I'm curious to see what others come up with since our current basement is also unfinished.

By Maggie [13]02/12/2008

How about sheets or fabric for the walls? And painting the floor a solid color and doing some type of faux rugs with stencils or free hand painting? If you can get your hands on lot's of ad type of CD's, put small hole in top and bottom of each and string them together to make "beaded" wall hangings to cover the walls..these could also be painted or covered with fabric or colored paper...hope this helps :0)

Maggie in Bloomoington, MN

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