By Martha C. White
June 18, 2019

If you’re looking to do some basement remodeling on a budget this summer, you’ll have plenty of company — but you may have to get creative, because remodeling has gotten more expensive.

New research from home improvement platform Houzz found that costs to renovate have jumped. The median amount people spend to redo a kitchen jumped 23% in 2018 from the year before, for instance.

According to Nino Sitchinava, Houzz principal economist, tariffs are one reason why renovations are pricier today. “In September 2018, U.S. imposed a 10% increase in tariffs of imported countertops, cabinets, flooring, and other materials from China,” Sitchinava said. The tight labor market also plays a role for big projects like kitchens and bathrooms, where DIYing it often isn’t an option, Sitchinava said.

This might be why more people seem to be tackling smaller projects these days. According to Houzz, roughly one in five people who are remodeling spend less than $5,000, up three percentage points since last year. “We do find some softening in the actual activity of consumers in 2018 compared with the previous years,” Sitchinava said. “There is some mild shifting of spend toward smaller projects.”

Instead of adding a shed or upgrading your outdoor living space, you might dedicate some time this summer to remodeling your basement — which is always the coolest spot in the house. Basements can be tough to tackle, but Houzz has some basement remodeling ideas you can keep in mind to keep from blowing either a gasket or your bank account.

The decisions that go into figuring out how to remodel a basement depend on your budget, your basement’s size, your personal taste, and, oh yeah, your skill level assuming this is a DIY basement project. Houzz found that people upgrading previously finished basements spent a median of $5,000. If you’re planning a basement remodel, ideas about design probably factor high on your priority list. Houzz found that the top reason people remodel a finished basement is to refresh “outdated or undesirable design.” Here are the three basement remodeling ideas most popular with Houzz survey respondents.

Wall Coverings and Paint for Basements

One of the best ways to update and brighten your basement is with a new coat of paint. Houzz found that two-thirds of people remodeling a basement upgraded “wall color or texture.” Oh, and gray is officially the new beige.

If you’re doing a basement remodeling on a budget, you’re probably better off painting rather than investing in drywall, and moisture-resistant paint would be a good choice if you’re battling dampness.

Courtesy of Home Depot

For that matter, moisture and dampness can be a problem in a lot of basements. Buying a good dehumidifier is a must. Reviewers at The Wirecutter nominate this Frigidaire model as the best dehumidifier, thanks to its versatile draining options and energy-efficiency.

If you’re looking for trendy basement remodeling ideas, consider alternative finishes that dovetail with the industrial look that’s popular right now. This Houzz post shows how corrugated metal or engineered subfloor particle board can add texture and help break up the monotony of concrete walls. (One note: These alternative wall coverings are recommended partially finished basements; if you’re remodeling an unfinished basement, it’s a good idea to double-check your local building codes.)

Courtesy of Home Depot

Basement Flooring

After walls, floors were the next hot most popular item for Houzz users who remodeled their finished basements. Almost 60% of those surveyed purchased flooring materials as part of basement remodeling, and three in 10 said one reason they undertook a basement refresh in the first place was because of flooring issues.

While painted concrete might work for a utilitarian workshop or stripped-down home gym, pros interviewed by Houzz say carpet tiles are popular, for good reason. They’re very easy to install (just peel and stick), and a lot of basement remodeling is undertaken to make the space feel warmer and more cozy.

Another option that’s gaining traction — and that’s something you’ll want to check out if your basement remodeling is taking place in a space prone to taking on water — is vinyl flooring planks. In a wood-grain finish, they look great and can make a room feel warm at a reasonable cost. They’re also appealing because most can be applied directly to concrete without needing to lay down a subfloor. Many plank styles come in a snap-together configuration so they’re good even for a DIY basement remodeling project — some of them are even self-adhesive.

Courtesy of Walmart

Basement Lighting

Lighting is a big basement remodeling challenge. These spaces can often be dim, thanks to a partial or complete lack of natural light, and low or unfinished ceilings make traditional ceiling flush-mounted fixtures a nonstarter.

That might be why lighting is the next most important part of a basement remodel for Houzz users. More than one in five said inadequate lighting was a motivator for overhauling their finished basement.

To combat the dimness, LED light strips have come a long way in recent years, and they go a long way (literally and figuratively) to brightening up a basement. In this Houzz post, pros suggest using these lights to illuminate bar areas or above crown molding.

Courtesy of Walmart

They also suggest track lighting as another good option for basement remodeling ideas (fixture designs have gotten a lot trendier and come in new configurations, like curved tracks), and if you have the budget — or the electrical know-how to do it yourself — recessed lighting is great because it won’t draw attention to a low ceiling.

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