Come take a photo tour and learn all the details of our finished basement on a budget! It’s not always easy to find small basement ideas on a budget, but if you’re searching… this post is for you!

Our charming old Colonial Home in Kansas had a great basement space but needed some inexpensive upgrades to make it more up to date.

A finished basement on a budget, painted in white with a mirror reflecting a bedroom.
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Originally published February 27, 2014 and updated with fresh content on August 4, 2021.

As we’re renovating our new home, I’ve been reflecting back on the changes that made the most significant impact on our previous home. I recently came across these photos today that I had saved, and was really proud of the difference we made.

Before we purchased our Colonial Home, dozens of realtors and prospective buyers came through and walked away without blinking an eye. However, Chris and I saw potential, so we threw out a number and they accepted!

There were times I thought we were crazy, times we had doubts and times I wanted to alter things that really weren’t possible with the given structure, but we made it work and it made me proud.

Keep reading for all of our small basement ideas on a budget!

Finished Basement Details

One of our first projects was the guest bedroom. We wanted to make guests’ comfort a priority. We didn’t have a spare bedroom, so we created one. Sure, it wouldn’t count by real estate standards without a closet and a window, but it was fully functional.

The room was DARK and honestly, a little creepy. There was a faux fireplace filled with ashes, a pipe and random 60’s cabinet, a door to the storage room and bold blue carpet. And guess what? We were on a tight budget! Eek!

A dark and dated basement with a brick fireplace "before" image

Welcoming, right? Who would want to sleep here? Of course all great transformations start with paint – eh, primer! It needed a lot of it! The ceilings, the walls, doors, fireplace and pipe all had their share.

transitioning a basement from dark A dark and dated basement with old paneling and blue carpet.

We didn’t have a budget for plumbing, nor did we want to replace the paneling, so we did our best to make it blend in. I told you these are small basement ideas on a budget, and I meant it!

tips and tricks for making the best of a dark basement

The white walls made the blue carpet feel intentional, especially when paired with nautical decor.

To give the carpet new life we cleaned it thoroughly time and time again. It went from dated and dingy to bright and *almost* beautiful. When you’re on a budget, the key is to work with what you have and to rethink it.

Tips and tricks for updating a basement on a budget

Without a closet to hang clothes or adjoining bathroom to hang towels we needed to offer some accessible place to hang the occasional shirt, so we added a few hooks to an oar and secured it to the wall.

A coat and a purse hanging on a wall

That eyesore of a cabinet and pipes? Well, we couldn’t make it go away so we strategically placed a side table nearby to further disguise it.

Tips and tricks for updating a basement on a budget

And finally light, my favorite! An inexpensive IKEA pendant with a maximum wattage bulb paired with two mirrors made the room feel like a bright, sunny day.

We also chose a satin paint sheen to reflect a little additional light. Get my favorite Cream Paint Colors here. Every little bit counts, right?

Tips and tricks for updating a basement on a budget
A mirror with a small vase on the side

This “renovation” including all paint, decor, bedding, etc was just $300 and a weekend’s worth of work with a couple toddlers running around.

I believe it provided a great return on investment. All of our guests loved sleeping in, which I take as a good sign of a comfortable space!

A vase of flowers on a table
tips and tricks for making the best of a dark basement
tips and tricks for decorating a dark basement

Finished Basement Living Space

The next project we needed to complete was the living area of our finished basement. What a difference a week can make!

A beige sofa in a finished basement with a small white coffee table.

Because “life ain’t always beautiful,” here is a before/during photo. As with most basements, the floor is not level. The flooring we selected works well with uneven surfaces.

A before photo of a basement with bars across a small window.

Since this finished basement had a tight budget, we used our sofa and chair from our first home. I made them feel fresh and up to date with linen pillows and a throw we could spare from our upstairs family room.

It started out as an area for guests to relax as an en-suite since the guest bedroom and guest bath are also downstairs; however, I think this will quickly become my place to relax and escape for an hour or two.

The Best Finished Basement Floors

We started our project by installing new floors. A friend stopped by today and couldn’t believe the transformation the new floors made. At first she thought they were the custom hand carved hardwoods we had upstairs, then pergo / laminate flooring.

A finished basement with LVP on the floors and a little white metal stool in the corner.

No, they are much easier and more cost effective Luxury Vinyl Plank floors from Lowe’s – the same we used in our bathroom remodel

Given that most basements have uneven surface due to the concrete subfloor, laminate isn’t always a great choice. This vinyl wood floor is perfect for a finished basement, and we were able to lay most of it in just two hours.

The more difficult area with extra cuts around the stairwell took a couple additional hours.

How to finish a basement on a budget

Chris alternated the planks to create a pattern. The 6″ planks have grains and patterns that matched incredibly, providing enough variation, while flowing beautifully.

To install, we just cleaned the floors, peeled the backing off and adhered them over the original vinyl floors in an alternating pattern. We used an exacto knife to cut.

It’s so quick and easy, really! The girls immediately rode their tricycles, cars and strollers over them to “test” them out! We have spent a lot of time in our basement this winter and it’s sure to be enjoyed even more now!

The flooring cost us just about $1/square foot. Seriously.

A box of LVP flooring on top of dark white oak flooring.

You can see how close they are to our significantly more expensive White Oak Floors we have on the main level.

More Basement Ideas on a Budget

The other hurdle I had to overcome was the lack of light and a few oddities…

A close up of a mirror against a white wall.

Basements tend to be dark. To add light and make it feel larger, we added mirrors. Check out one of my most popular posts – How to Add Light to a Room.

Basement decorating tips and tricks
Basement decorating tips and tricks

I found a bench for $60 at a discount store that I painted white to use as a coffee table. I didn’t want anything too significant because this allows for plenty of space for the girls to play.

It was one of the few purchases we made for the room. Of course one of my nautical rope vases made an appearance in this room, as well.

Finished Basement decorating tips and tricks

I placed an easy to care for tropical plant in a basket to disguise an unsightly pipe that I previously painted white. Find all my favorite Houseplants You Can’t Kill here!

At most angles, you would never know it was there! We hung a bamboo shade to tie in the jute rug & make the space feel less like a basement.

simple & beautiful nautical living room decorations

I filled another empty corner space with a stool that doubles as a table when not in use.

Floors for a finished basement
A vase of flowers on a table

For a pop of color, I added a stem of hydrangea in a bud vase. I always try to add something organic to the space whether it be a plant or fresh cut flowers – it’s one of my favorite tips for a Cozy Home.

In this case, both plants and flowers brightened the space! I’ll dry it to continue using the color year round.

How to finish a basement on a budget

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  1. Julie my husband and I are sitting here trying to decide whether to go or stop with this floor project in front of us, as we are seeing so many say the tiles are lifting up in their reviews. Could you please address this as you have been living it with now for some time. Thank you for giving a heads up in this regard as it will help in our decision today.

    1. Ours is in a lightly used space – the girls played there through winter & guests use it occasionally, but not one issue with it lifting up. I would definitely suggest cleaning the floor well and allowing it to dry before installing as we did.

  2. Hi Julie.
    Thank you for the wonderful ideas. Do you think the floors you recommend from Lowes would work on over concrete? And do you benefit if I purchase through your site’s link? I want to make sure I do if so. Thanks again!

  3. I am wondering, after living with this flooring for a while now, how you are liking it. Both in your basement and bathroom. We are considering something similar and need durable, yet attractive. I really don’t want to put more carpet in the basement, but want it to be warm enough in the winter. Also, in your bathroom, how is it holding up in the wet areas?

    1. I love it! It’s very durable & wears well. I always use rugs with wood to give a room warmth & the same would apply to this, but you certainly don’t have to. We haven’t had any issues in the bathroom. There aren’t any “wet” areas, but of course the shower & sink are used. It can definitely handle minimal water. As with wood or laminate, I wouldn’t recommend it in a place where you have moisture issues/basement water leaks during heavy rainfall.

  4. Love the walls! Do you have the brand/color? The floor is fantastic. We’re planning a basement remodel and would love to try this flooring.

  5. I love the expanding table holding the hydrangea, but am I missing a description of it, where you purchased it, etc. can you tell us more about it?