DIY vs. Professional Unfinished Basement Ideas

Unfinished basements are often the most underutilized spaces, sometimes serving as dumping grounds and excess storage areas. By transforming your unfinished basement into a more functional living space, you not only add livable square footage to your home, but you also boost the potential resale value of your home.
Gonyea Transformations specializes in designing new plans for existing spaces that add beauty, function, and joy to your home. We’d love to work with you to listen, learn, and create a design plan for your unfinished basement that’s perfect for you. And, if you’re not quite ready—no worries! We have some DIY-friendly projects that can spruce up the space and help you to imagine the possibilities for your unfinished basement.

How to Make an Unfinished Basement Livable

No matter the size of your budget, the following unfinished basement updates will help you transform your lower level into a space you and your family will enjoy spending time in while making new memories:

Refresh the Walls

One of the biggest updates you can make in any space or room is refreshing the appearance of your walls. Oftentimes, unfinished basements include cinder block walls that don’t always help create an inviting or relaxing space.
The Solution: By painting your unfinished basement walls, you can instantly create more warmth in the basement and breathe new life into the space. If you’re thinking about adding drywall or wood paneling, you may want to partner with professionals, who can ensure building codes and regulations are met and also help you add any additional insulation, waterproofing, electrical components, etc., to truly change up your space.

Transform the Ceiling

Part of what makes a basement feel dark and dingy is when an unfinished basement ceiling includes exposed rafters, wiring, and duct work.
The Solution: Try applying a fresh coat of paint to the ceiling for a DIY budget-friendly update. Be sure to take the time to properly prepare for painting by using painter’s tape to protect fixtures, duct work, wiring, and trim that you don’t wish to paint. If you’re looking for a more dramatic change, professional contractors can finish off the ceiling by hanging drywall or drop ceilings and adding additional lighting (e.g. recessed lighting, etc.), soundproofing, and/or insulation

Update the Flooring

Since flooring spans wall to wall, by simply updating your basement flooring, you can dramatically influence the look and feel of the space.
The Solution: For DIY-friendly flooring updates, consider painting the floor or laying simple peel-and-stick carpet tiles to warm up the space. Looking for a more finished room feel? It’s best to hire a professional who can ensure the basement is properly waterproofed, lay down subflooring, and discuss more sophisticated flooring options with you, including engineered wood, tile, etc.

Create Designated Spaces

Many unfinished basements tend to serve as storage overflow areas because they lack functionality and purpose.
The Solution: To redefine your space, determine how your unfinished basement could better serve you and your family’s needs. Since most unfinished basements have a relatively open-concept floor plan, you’ll find so many ways you can easily revamp your basement without much restriction.
Some DIY-friendly room transformations could include the following unfinished basement ideas:

  • Bedroom or Guest Room: make a truly relaxing retreat for guests by creating a private bedroom area. Incorporate partitions to separate the bedroom from other areas of the unfinished basement and to provide more privacy. Try hanging curtains or using trendy room dividers to partition off the space. By adding cozy area rugs and playing with textures for your bedding and furniture, you create an inviting space that feels more like a bedroom and less like an unfinished basement. Finish off the space with ample lighting fixtures, storage, and simple décor, so your guests feel right at home.


  • Craft Room or Kids’ Room: unfinished basements can easily be transformed into creative spaces for both adults and kids. To create a craft area, focus on incorporating functional workspace with plenty of storage—like cabinetry with durable countertops or a large kid-friendly table and chair set, adorned with storage organizers in the center for easy access to materials and toys. For even more storage potential, install pegboard to exposed walls for truly customized organization. To make the space feel more room-like, consider adding an easy-to-clean area rug and plenty of lighting to brighten the space for craft making.


  • Home Movie Theater or Family Den: unfinished basements tend to have minimal natural lighting, which can be an added benefit for an at-home movie theater. To create your theater space, try framing your TV or projection screen with built-in shelving to store media equipment and decorative touches. Focus on comfort by adding plenty of seating like a large sectional sofa or individual recliners, draped with throw blankets and cozy pillows, as these details help to create warmth in the space. Consider adding a snack bar with a beverage refrigerator and dimmable lighting for an even more memorable movie-watching experience.


  • Man Cave or Lady Den: an unfinished basement man cave or lady den can be a welcomed retreat after a long day of work. You can create a space that focuses on your unique interests. If you’re interested in creating additional space for entertaining, try adding a bar with comfortable stools, a large TV area with cozy seating, or a fun activity area featuring a pool table, card table, etc. It’s important to remember the details, such as area rugs, décor, and lighting, as these are essential elements that make a room feel cozy and inviting.

If any of your unfinished basement ideas involve bigger renovation projects involving electrical, plumbing, adding walls, etc., it’s a good idea to turn to professionals who’ll ensure any additions meet local building and safety codes and regulations, while also minimizing the stress of larger renovations.

Turn to Gonyea Transformations for Your Full Basement Renovation

At Gonyea, we understand how overwhelming bigger renovation projects can be, and our team of experienced builders, architects, and designers will simplify the process for you, ensuring you have an enjoyable and stress-free renovation experience. From design and job planning and ordering materials and managing subcontractors, your Gonyea team always delivers a holistic approach to new renovations. No matter your remodeling goals, we promise our superior customer service and quality craftsmanship from start to finish.
Contact us today to schedule your free in-home consultation where we’ll learn more about you and your needs, so we can help you transform your unfinished basement into usable space.