An unfinished basement tends to be the area of the house that is the most difficult to renovate. After all, no one wants to spend time in a room with cement floors, dim lighting or musty odors, and renovating a basement to mirror your living room is undoubtedly a major expense. So MainStreet asked the design pros to weigh in and offer some inexpensive DIY projects to spruce up a basement.
From flooring to painting to lighting, these projects along with a few weekends' worth of work will completely transform your basement.
How unfinished your basement is will determine how large a paint job the area will need.
"Finished basements with drywall and carpeting can be painted as any other room within the home," says Joe Kowalski, training manager at Glidden.
However, for unfinished basements with cement floors and walls made of concrete or cinder block, Kowalski offers these tips:
• Use paint with an eggshell or semi-gloss finish. Primer is not needed on cinder block or concrete walls.
• Apply two coats of paint to walls that have already been painted. If the walls are bare, thinning the first coat of paint will allow for better penetration into the wall. Apply a second coat at full strength.
• As for brushes and rollers, use a ½- to ¾-inch nap roller and, to cut in edges, a 2- to 3-inch brush.
2. Painting Basement Wall Panels
If the walls in your basement consist of panels, this will make the job a bit more complicated. Robert Palmarozza, president at Mr. Handyman, Tri-County, in the New York City area, offered these tips:
• Use a high quality alcohol- or oil-based primer and allow plenty of drying time.
• Caulk all the seams after priming, but before painting.
• Use a high quality paint and apply two coats. Use a matte or flat finish in order to touch up the inevitable scratches later on. Matte is the middle ground -- being shiny enough to clean while maintaining the ability to be touched-up seamlessly. If you use eggshell or semi-gloss, you'll have to paint an entire wall or live with noticeable touch-ups.
3. Installing Peel and Stick Tile
An inexpensive and quick way to solve your basement's flooring problem is to install 'peel and stick' tiling, which can be purchased at home improvement stores. Palmarozza offers these expert recommendations when taking on the project:
• Check for moisture by taping a piece of plastic to the floor. If condensation appears, the tile may not stick.
• Use the special primer designed for installing peel and stick tiles. Be sure the subfloor is flat, clean and dry before starting.
• Lay out the floor to allow for the largest tiles to be placed in the most visible areas and avoid installing pieces that are less than half a tile.
• Store the tile in the room for a few days before starting, since warmer tiles are easier to work with.
• Any tiles that become loose can be re-installed with vinyl tile adhesive, which works like contact cement. Use a thin layer and let it dry before sticking the tile back to the floor.
4. Laminate Flooring
If you're looking for a more in-depth flooring project, installing laminate flooring is another way to spruce up your basement's bare concrete floors. Palmarozza adds these tips for the perfect laminate floor:
• Be sure to add a 6-millimeter layer of plastic covering to the entire floor. Overlap the seams by a few feet and tape them closed. Additionally, turn the plastic up the wall a few inches and hide it behind the baseboard.
• Use more padding under the laminate for a warmer more comfortable floor.
• Take your time when cutting the material. Undercut all door jambs and trim. Plan to add shoe molding after the install. Use transition T-strips where needed and allow the proper expansion space for the floor -- this expansion is critical for a long-lasting floor.
• To be extra cautious, always remember your safety glasses.
For home buyers, “the kitchen is king,” says Paul Cardis, chief executive of Avid Ratings, which conducts an annual survey of more than 20,000 first-time home buyers to determine design preferences. “For those looking to spruce up their house, the kitchen is the place.” You can replace a kitchen sink and faucet yourself in a matter of hours. Be sure to seek out low-flow faucet aerators that can reduce water usage by 30%. (Energy-efficient features, specifically, are a “must have” or are “really wanted” by 88% of home buyers these days.) You can expect to recoup 70% to 80% of the cost of kitchen-remodeling work when you sell your home.
The easiest way to add pizazz to your kitchen is with a new backsplash. You can go from country to modern in a snap with a variety of options for finishes and colors. To save money, time and frustration, consider the peel-and-stick tile options now available. “They’re aesthetically pleasing and will do the job if that’s all you can afford,” says Fredda Weisbard, a real estate agent at Coldwell Banker in Boca Raton, Fla. "It's an inexpensive Band-Aid for updating your kitchen." The messier grout-and-tile approach will add $50-$100 more in related supply costs but will appeal more to prospective buyers.
Even relatively minor updates to your bathroom can produce a return on investment of 172%, according to HomeGain.com’s 2009 Prepare-to-Sell survey of 1,000 real estate agents nationwide. Because toilets fit neatly over existing plumbing, they’re fairly easy to install. Look for modern water-saving models that will both save on your water bills and appeal to energy-conscious buyers when it’s time to sell. If you’re feeling creative, save hundreds of dollars by using an old dresser as the foundation for a new vanity. Simply cut out room on the top to hold a basin sink and to connect pipes.
It’s amazing what a fresh coat of paint will do to immediately transform any room in your house. Lighter shades generally make a room feel larger; neutral shades will appeal most to potential buyers. “Buyers won’t be able to look past [bold] colors and see the rest of your home,” says Weisbard. You’ll earn a 250% return on your investment in freshly painted interior walls, according to HomeGain.com’s survey. Expec to pay a little more for higher quality and designer brands. Be sure to test colors -- Home Depot sells 8-ounce sample cans of paint for $3 -- before buying the full batch of paint needed for the room. Limit costly mistakes and spills by splurging on drop cloths and painter’s tape.
Crown molding in your home compared with none in a similar home in your neighborhood could make a difference when it’s time to sell. “You may not get the money back, but it’s a feature that most buyers appreciate when looking for a home,” says Weisbard. “It’s a wow-factor feature. It stays in buyers’ minds.”
Fair warning: Installing crown molding might be the trickiest task on our list. There’s a lot of geometry involved -- along with a nail gun and a miter saw. Follow the “measure thrice, cut once” rule to limit waste.
Improvements to a home's functional space can be just as valuable as ones that make a home look better. Potential buyers like to assess space and storage area for their belongings when evaluating new houses. Focus your efforts on the garage, basement and closets, where you can declutter easily with clear storage bins or new shelving.
As the first thing prospective buyers will see upon entering your home, a new front door will more than recoup your investment. You can expect a 129% ROI on a steel door, according to Remodeling magazine’s 2009–10 “Cost vs. Value Report.” (Fiberglass models, which can cost three times as much, recoup only 65% of their cost.) Bonus: Buy a qualifying energy-efficient door and reap a tax credit of 30% of your cost (up to a maximum of $1,500 in 2009 and 2010 combined). But you may want to hire a professional for an air tight installation.
Before your visitors (and prospective buyers) even get to the door, they’ll see the front yard. It’s a critical first impression. “If the outside of your home isn’t appealing, then what does that say about the inside?” Weisbard says. Even the most basic landscaping project can add $1,500 to $2,000 in value to your home, according to HomeGain.com’s Prepare to Sell survey. Go for plants that add color and complement your house, suggests Bruce Butterfield, market-research director of the National Gardening Association. Perennials require less maintenance and return each year. Butterfield likes “Endless Summer” hydrangeas, which will give you several months of blooms annually. They cost about $50 each, compared with $150 or more for a new tree, which will take much longer to mature.