Wet, ugly, and dark typically aren't high on the list of characteristics for our favorite rooms. No wonder cardboard boxes and old couches are the only things that end up in many basements. Instead of giving up on your lower level, try these ideas for turning it into a stylish retreat:
1. Get your bearings.
Don't move or remove any steel or wood post or tear into any studs that end on a concrete wall without first consulting a structural expert. Chances are those elements are bearing the weight of the house above.
2. Invite light in.
Whenever possible, increase the daylight coming into a basement by cutting in additional windows. Use a mix of small-aperture recessed can lights and decorative lamps to extend light into all areas of the basement; paint the trim around can lights to blend them into the ceiling.
3. Improve surface drainage.
Poor drainage is a main cause of wet basements. To move runoff away from the house, build up the soil around the foundation so that it slopes a minimum of 6 inches in the first 10 feet. Gutters should direct water onto areas that slope away from the house.
4. Add beauty to the floor.
Although solid hardwood expands and contracts with humidity changes, engineered wood can be an attractive alternative for moist basements. It's made of layers of wood bonded together under heat and pressure, so it handles humidity swings.