How to Update an Old Basement

Wood paneling and shag carpet were popular in basement decor when the house was built, but you can brighten things up by ripping them out. Also consider replacing outdated track lighting with recessed fixtures and adding daylight bulbs to any windows you have.

Keep in mind that if you turn the space into a bedroom, you'll need to meet building codes for egress windows.


A fresh coat of paint can transform a basement, making it feel warmer and more inviting. Paint is also a great way to cover up any grime or water damage on the walls, and can make old wood paneling look modern. Be sure to take waterproofing and mold assessments seriously, however, as these are key components to a safe, healthy basement.

For a bright, airy finish, try a crisp white paint. However, this can be uninviting if not paired with a warm carpet and colorful decorations. You can also use a dark color for a moody and dramatic look. For budget-friendly wall ideas, consider mixed wood walls, or textured painting techniques like sponging, rag painting, or lime wash.

Before painting, prep the walls by cleaning off any grime or grease, and removing moss or efflorescence. You should also seal cinderblock walls with a block primer that fills in the pores of the material, and reduces moisture and odors. It’s a good idea to use low or no-VOC paints for your basement, as these are safer and will help keep the room clean and fresh.

Another great way to spruce up an old basement is to improve the look of the small emergency windows in the floor. You can add deep sills and a dark wood trim, or even switch out the old latch closures for ones that are more attractive. You can also spruce up the ceiling by adding exposed rafters for a rustic finish, or replacing drop ceiling panels with decorative wood or tiles. Be sure to add plenty of overhead lighting, as this will help illuminate the space and brighten it. Having lots of storage is also key for a bright, open finished basement.


Adding a floor to the basement can make it more comfortable to hang out in the space. However, a new floor is a major undertaking that will require careful planning and installation. You’ll need to consider the state of the concrete slab, moisture concerns, and out-of-levelness. If you hire Foundation Repair Lexington Ky, they can install the flooring more quickly and accurately than you could on your own.

Vinyl flooring provides a durable, affordable, and moisture-resistant surface that can transform your basement into a more functional and visually appealing space. It’s also easy to install, and it comes in a wide range of design options. If you’re working with a budget, consider choosing sheet vinyl instead of tile. It eliminates seams and is easier to replace if it gets damaged.

Carpet tiles are another option. They provide comfort and style in a variety of colors, patterns, and textures, and they are easily replaced if they become worn or stained. If you’re concerned about moisture, look for carpet tiles with a moisture-resistant backing or a waterproof coating to prevent water absorption and potential mildew growth.

Wood floors may be a tempting choice for a basement, but the high level of maintenance and vulnerability to moisture will make it unsuitable in most cases. If you want the beauty of wood, consider engineered wood floors that resemble real hardwood but offer stability and durability. They also come in a variety of finishes, wood species, and plank widths to allow you to customize the look and feel of the floor.


Bringing natural light into your basement is an important step to transforming it from a cold, dark place to a warm and inviting family room. You can accomplish this by installing window wells, which allow natural sunlight to flow down below ground level. If you don't have the space for windows, consider a skylight or a translucent roof. Use a reputable window manufacturer to help you choose the best option for your home and design style.

Ceiling lighting is another powerful way to brighten a basement. Installing recessed lights offers several advantages over other types of lighting:

1. They can add a sleek aesthetic to the ceiling, while saving space by not taking up floor area.

2. They can be adjusted to highlight specific areas or objects, such as a bar or entertainment area.

3. They can also be used to hide unsightly exposed pipes, which are often found in basements.

4. They can increase the amount of natural light entering the basement, which reduces the need for artificial lighting and helps make the space feel larger.

5. They can also be used to enhance the style of your basement.

A giant sectional and stylish pendant lights transform this basement into a welcoming space where the whole family can gather to laugh, snack and play games. The formerly dreary wood stairs now sport a fresh coat of paint and a handsome new handrail. Decorative sconces on the walls, along with the new ceiling fixtures, illuminate both the stairs and the room beyond them. The tall wainscot also conceals the joists and wires that support the ceiling, giving it an overall finished look. If your basement has an exposed duct or other ventilation, be sure to open it and rescreen it to prevent pest infestations. It's also a good idea to hire an inspector to check for carbon monoxide leaks, foundational cracking or instability, water damage, mold and joist sagging.


If you are building a finished basement and will be using it as a living space, check with your local codes office to make sure the extra living area has at least one emergency escape and rescue opening to the outside. The space will also need ventilation and smoke and carbon monoxide detectors to meet code.

It's a good idea to have a professional install the drywall and electrical or plumbing changes to ensure they are up to code and don't create health hazards for family members living in the new basement. However, other finishing touches can be DIY'd.

For a more stylish look, try adding a decorative ceiling to your old basement. Decorative ceiling tiles come in a range of materials and patterns to suit any design style. Some even look like metal, wood or paint, allowing you to update them easily if your taste changes in the future.

A basement with a low ceiling may feel more like a storage closet than an inviting family room. Dressing up the walls with tall wainscot can help, especially if you opt for a stain rather than a white finish. It will also protect the drywall from dents and dings when you store things up high.

You can also add more storage to your old basement by installing floor-to-ceiling cabinets along one wall. This will give you plenty of room for storage without making the basement seem smaller. If you don't want to commit to full cabinetry, a simple built-in with shelves near the walk-out entry is an attractive alternative. You can also use beadboard between joists to add more texture to your basement ceiling.


If your basement has large spans of bare walls and empty areas beneath the stairs, consider inexpensive white bookcases for an instant brightener. They hide unsettling nooks and crannies while providing more storage space.

A damp basement is a sure sign that it’s time to install a dehumidifier. These handy appliances remove excess moisture to keep your basement comfortable and protect against mold and other creepy-crawly infestations. You’ll also want to invest in a new sump pump system to prevent flooding during heavy rains and sewer back up.

While it’s not a basement remodel tip, it’s important to add a good quality dehumidifier to your budget. This will help ensure your finished basement is comfortable for a long time to come and will protect your valuables from damage due to moisture.

Small emergency windows are a common problem in old basements, but they can easily be made to look stylish and updated. Add deep sills and replace old latch closures with gold or matte ones. You can also dig down to create larger basement windows, which will bring in more natural light and make the room feel bigger and airier.

Decorative accents like mirrors and artwork will help your basement feel less empty. You can also use rugs to separate the space and make it feel more defined. This will help your basement feel more functional, so you can focus on your hobbies and make it a place that your family can enjoy.

Once you’ve finished the basics, decide how you plan to use your old basement. If you’re looking to entertain guests, a bar and entertainment center will be the perfect fit. If you’re a home entertainer, then consider adding a pool table and foosball to your basement remodel. If you have young children, you can turn your basement into a kid-friendly playroom and media room.

Wood paneling and shag carpet were popular in basement decor when the house was built, but you can brighten things up by ripping them out. Also consider replacing outdated track lighting with recessed fixtures and adding daylight bulbs to any windows you have. Keep in mind that if you turn the space into a bedroom,…