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