Did you know the average cost to finish a basement is around $7,500? It’s worth the investment since cost-effective basement finishing projects can not only add livable square footage, but also an increase in home value. In fact, the return on investment for refinishing your basement can be as much as 69%.

Not sure what to do with your empty space? Consider the following five ideas.

Home theater

If your basement space isn’t well lit, you may not need to invest a lot of time and money in new lighting. Instead, consider making it a home theater. Think projectors and screens, or even just a 90-98” flat screen. Of course, the “right” screen size depends on how far away you’ll be seated.

According to Cnet.com, the ideal is to have a screen that fills a certain amount of your field of view, though how much is “ideal” is up for debate. It could be 30 or even 40 degrees.

In-law suite

Create a second home within your house for visitors, or create an apartment you can rent out. Whatever your interest (or need), basement space can easily transform into an extra living area. It can also increase the value of your home. 

Be sure to separate the bedroom from the living area to make the space comfortable. Otherwise, it may feel cramped. And if the space truly is for your in-laws or parents, think about their future needs. Does it need to be wheelchair accessible, or have adjustable sinks? Taking care of everything upfront can save significant time and money over the long run.


It doesn’t take long for kids’ toys to clutter a room. It can often carry over into the next room and the next room. Why not give them a play area that’s completely out of site — like the basement? They can learn, grow, and play in their own personal environment.

With the playroom being separate from the main living quarters, you can even go so far as to add a custom playhouse or slide. Paint the room with bright colors or murals, and don’t forget to hang their creative artwork.

Private gym

Struggling to find the time to make it to the gym? Why not roll out of bed and make the trek downstairs to your own private workout space? Just throw some mats on your hardwood floors, and you can easily add a squat rack, some workout machines, and an elliptical or treadmill.

Worried about the cost? Don’t be. Provided you’re willing to accept some alternatives to your favorite equipment, having a home gym on the cheap is only a few hundred dollars (or less) away. Just make sure the equipment can fit down your stairs, and measure your space correctly. You’ll need proper ceiling clearance for most equipment to make a home gym work.

Half work half fun

If you have multiple needs, you can divide the space into an area that’s half work half fun. Think an office or gym on one side, and then a home theater, bar, or living room on the other side. You can separate it with a wall, french doors, or sliding barn doors.

Additional tips

  • Don’t forget an emergency exit
  • Adding an air purification system can keep the basement smelling fresh
  • Sound insulation can keep noise from making its way upstairs