10 Creative Ways to Use Your Basement
By Jessica Shear
Basements aren’t just for keeping people prisoner, like in the award-winning sinister thriller series, CELL. Oh sure, they’re good for that… and for burying bodies… and Satanic ritual… and for stacking up garbage if you’re a hoarder. But for people without serious mental illness, psychosis or extreme personality disorders, the basement can be a vehicle for productivity, entertainment, and physical well-being. Really!
Disclaimer: If you live in an area below sea-level or on rocky topography, creating a basement is ill-advised and/or near impossible. There’s a reason your neighbors were looking at you funny when you brought in that back hoe!
CELL – One
1. Below-Below Ground Pool
You might want to ditch the “Playboy Mansion”-inspired grotto for this one, but there’s no reason why you can’t add a pool to your basement. You’re limited by the square footage of the room, but if your home’s footprint is large enough to accommodate it, consider installing an endless pool. Small in size, endless pools produce a smooth current for you to swim against, allowing for a never ending lap within limited space. Your basement needs to be two feet wider and three feet longer than the size of the pool. This means for an 8’ x 15’basement, your pool will be 10’x18’. Normally, excavation isn’t even necessary, as the depth for such pools is typically only 39 inches. However, if you’d like a bit more room for your water ballet, excavating an additional 16 inches will give you a roomy five foot depth, or just about.
2. Home Theater
For about the cost of two large popcorns and a box of Raisinets at your local multiplex, the average homeowner can create a home theater in their basement. Okay… so maybe it will cost a bit more, but the benefits of installing a home entertainment system are significant. In addition to saving hundreds of dollars a year on movie snacks, your view of the screen isn’t likely to be blocked by women with big hair or people in trendy hats. You can pause the movie when you need to go to the bathroom, and you’ll know your kids aren’t sneaking into the R-rated flick next door. Just how luxurious your home theater becomes is up to you. Install multiple rows of raised reclining seats with built-in drink holders, a popcorn cart and concession stand replete with a soda fountain, projection system and surround sound… or simply install plush carpeting, a few comfy chairs, a mini fridge and microwave oven, large flat screen TV and a pile of your favorite DVDs.
3. Wine Cellar or Wine Making Room
You want cheese, you go to Wisconsin. In the mood for a little wine with that cheese, no need to go any further than your own basement. Traditionally, French wines are stored in caves. Most basements provide similar conditions and are easily fitted with additional climate control systems to maintain temperatures best suited to specific wines. Even the smallest basement can hold hundreds of bottles of wine, or a dozen or more barrels if making your own wine. Storing wine above ground, where the atmosphere is more vulnerable to temperature swings, can ruin valuable wine supplies and can cause even the most sophisticated connoisseurs to whine about their wine.
4. Basement Business
When buying a home, a lot of people seek out a house with an extra room for home office space. That’s all fine and good, until somebody starts taking it over for scrapbooking, Barbie dolls, or a recent college grad returns to the family nest and needs a place to mooch. That dark, cluttered basement starts looking pretty good. While you might settle for moving a few boxes out of the far corner, setting up a desk and milk crate and calling it your own, the possibilities are endless. Frame out a corner of the space, slap up some drywall, paint it, install track lighting, shelving and enough outlets for office equipment, and you’ll have all the space needed to get your work done. Or… pull out all the boxes of “stuff” you’ve moved from house to house without unpacking, have a garage sale and use the proceeds to redo the entire basement area. Incorporate a separate seating area for clients, a conference table and even a private entrance if you have a walk-out basement.
5. Income Generating Basement Apartment
If zoning laws in your area allow, consider transforming your basement into a self-contained apartment. Although best when using daylight basements with separate entry ways, below-ground basements can also be turned into comfortable living areas with a little more cost and effort. Add a kitchen and bath, tying into existing plumbing, and look for bright, light wall colors and moisture friendly floor coverings. As a courtesy to tenants and a sanity safeguard for yourself, be sure to install noise-cancelling insulation. If money isn’t of prime importance, basement apartments are also a thoughtful way to help family members during difficult economic times, and aging parents or in-laws.
6. Basement Automotive Museum
It’s definitely not your father’s basement, but utilizing expansive basement space for display purposes is not unheard of among wealthy vehicle collectors. With the addition of special hydraulic lifts when the basement is below ground, some fortunate automotive owners store and show their prized car and motorcycle collections within the privacy of their own home. Special lighting and flooring help turn basements into showroom quality space – shining marble, black and white checkerboard tile, garage themed furniture and memorabilia – all allow the privileged few to trick their rides and their crib at the same time.
7. Basement Fallout Shelter
Honestly – if it’s not nuclear or biological warfare, it’s the Walking Dead or the Mayans bumming us out. When stocking up on bottled water, canned food and batteries just won’t suffice; turn your basement into a fallout shelter. Yeah… you can also use it to hide out during bad storms, but if you’re really serious about it – you’ll incorporate the three main components of shelter safety: airborne, blast and radiation protection. Creating a basement fallout shelter allows you to enter and exit your space without leaving your home. Basements usually already have electric, water and sewer installed, which is preferable to reinventing the wheel with a detached fallout shelter. Incorporate a blast door and special air outflow pipes and air filtration systems, and you’ve got your own little apocalyptic Eden.
8. RC Car Track
So you’ve spent hundreds more on your remote control car and truck collection than you ever spent on your main ride. Your spouse has left you because your priorities and interests tend toward the lame, and the good news is you’ve got the whole house to yourself. So… what’s the first thing you do after heating that double-crust pot pie? You map out a rad RC car track in your basement, of course. Nobody to pull you away from the task at hand, don’t settle for a simple track with three or four hairpin turns; create ramps, jumps and a remote controlled ring of fire to jump through. Don’t let all that wall space go to waste. Build shelves to showcase your RC vehicles and set up a workspace for painting car bodies and working on your collection.
9. Basement Buddha
As life becomes more hectic and stressful, Western cultures are increasingly adopting Eastern methods of relaxation, spiritualism and meditation. Properly appointed basements can provide the kind of quiet, peaceful environment necessary for meditative exercises. Add subtle lighting, comfortable flooring and a water feature to connect with nature when it’s not possible to take advantage of the great outdoors.
10. Photo Studio
The same features that make basements ideal for storing wine, showing movies and meditating make them perfectly suited for conversion into a photo studio. Below ground basements often have only one small window which can be easily covered with heavy black fabric to shut out all light, creating the perfect darkroom atmosphere for photo development. Downstairs washbasins become photo developing tubs, and existing outlets allow for the use of computers for digital photographic work as well. Set up lighting equipment, screens and backdrops for photo shoots and install shelving for additional photography accessories.
CELL – Two
CELL – Three
Raised in both the DC Metro Area and West Africa, Jessica Shear pulls from life experience in her quest to become one of the great essayists of her time. Failing that, she finds solace in riding her motorcycle and in playing with her cats and boyfriend – all requiring patience, a keen eye for obstacles and the ability to speak sweetly and slowly. A freelance writer for 15 years, Jessica’s work can be found online via Demand Media, in marketing collateral of all kinds, in Underwired, CommonGround and Hype in Type magazines…and filling her parents’ junk drawers.<