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10 DIY Projects for Your Basement

NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Unfinished basements tend 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 cements floors, dim lighting or musty odors, and renovating a basement to mirror your living room is undoubtedly a major expense. So we asked the design pros to weigh in and offer some inexpensive DIY projects to spruce up the basement.

From flooring to painting to lighting, these projects — along with a few weekends' worth of work — will transform your basement completely.

1. Paint

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.

For unfinished basements with cement floors and walls made of concrete or cinderblock, though, 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 second coat at full strength

• As for brushes and rollers, use a half-inch to three-quarters-inch nap roller; 2” – 3” brush for cut in

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 a middle ground of being shiny enough to clean while maintaining the ability to touch 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 mess 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 ½ 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 six millimeter layer of plastic covering 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

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