Basements Archives

finished basement bar with recessed lighting

Turning On to Finished Basement Lighting Ideas

At roughly one-third to half the cost of a comparably sized aboveground addition, finished basements are one of the best ways to add functional space to your home. However, there are a few important caveats that come with being partially or fully underground. One is that they are more susceptible to moisture. Another is that they may receive little to no natural light.

Of course, functional space isn’t really functional if you can’t see well enough to function. That’s why when we finish a basement, we should always have a plan to smartly and attractively incorporate lighting. In this month’s blog, we will share finished basement lighting ideas that will be sure to add both substance and style to your understory.

Basement lighting basics

It should come as no surprise that the first consideration of any basement lighting layout is the law, which is dictated by local building codes. Requirements vary depending on whether a space is deemed “non-habitable” or “habitable.”

New Jersey building code decrees that:

  • Non-habitable rooms (e.g. staircases, hallways, cellars, basements, landings, furnace/utility rooms) must have “natural or artificial light available at all times, with illumination levels of at least 2 lumens per square foot in the darkest portions.
  • Habitable rooms “have at least one window or skylight facing directly to the outdoors,” spanning at least 8 percent of the floor area of that room.

It may surprise you that finishing a basement does not necessarily make it habitable by the legal definition — it must be maintained with a set temperature range via connection to a home’s HVAC system. In other words, even if it looks pretty, it can’t be too cold.

If a basement room is habitable, code requires at least one lighting outlet and a corresponding wall switch, located near the room’s entrance (if it’s not a kitchen or bathroom, a floor lamp can serve instead of overhead or wall-mounted lights). Connecting halls or stairs must have their own lighting outlet and switch.

Basement lighting layouts

As we discussed in a previous blog about kitchen lighting layouts, there are three levels of lighting to consider when conceptualizing a space:

  • Ambient lighting: Intended to illuminate an entire space.
  • Task lighting: Focused lighting for specific tasks or activities.
  • Accent lighting: Meant to accent or highlight a certain feature of the room, usually for decorative purposes.

finished basement recessed lighting

Basement lighting types

Recessed/can lights

Recessed lights, also known as can lights, are by far the most widely utilized in modern finished basements. These cylindrical units (i.e. can-shaped) nestle into the ceiling (i.e. they are recessed), only revealing their trim. Pairing recessed lighting with dimmer switches allows fine control of luminosity and mood, and clustering them into zones can help define functional areas.

Ceiling lights

More traditional ceiling lights, which come in flush-mount and semi-flush mount varieties, are located in the center of the room and serve as ambient lighting. They check the box for meeting code requirements and can be aesthetically pleasing as well.

However, semi-flush mount lights may not play very well in basements with lower ceilings, as the fixture itself hangs below where the unit is mounted, increasing the risk of (literal) head-on collisions.

Sconce lights

Sconce lights attach directly to the wall and can be focused upward (for ambient lighting) or downward (for task lighting, such as reading). Sconce lights might be controlled through the wall switch or by a switch on the unit itself.

Floor lamps

Floor lamps offer versatility through portability — simply pick them up and move it to wherever it’s needed. You can plug them into a wall-controlled outlet and switch them on or off as you enter or leave a room, or you can place them next to a couch or seating area and use the switch on the lamp. They would function excellently in a den or game room.

Tray lights

As their name suggests, tray lights are housed within a tray that is installed along the perimeter of the ceiling. They are primarily used as accent lighting, as they do not generate much in the way of brightness (great if you’re reproducing a home theater, lounge, or nightclub vibe). A skilled interior carpenter will ensure they are integrated unobtrusively.

Track lights

Track lights are a popular form of task (e.g. above a basement bar) or accent lighting (e.g. above a painting, mantle, or trophy case). They consist of several units oriented along a solid metal or wire lighting track, which mounts to the ceiling. The major appeal here is the individual lighting heads can be swiveled or slid along the track without the enlistment of tools — you’re the director!

Like the semi-flush mount ceiling lights we mentioned earlier, they can cause clearance issues in basements with lower ceilings. This problem can be mitigated by locating the track closer to where a ceiling meets a wall, lessening the chances of anyone bumping into it.

Natural lighting

When we think of natural light and basements, we often think of the narrow hopper windows that hinge from the bottom and are just barely adequate for airing things out, much less capturing sunlight. As habitable spaces, we should expect more from our finished basements — in fact, in most states (including New Jersey), it’s the law that we have something more in the form of an egress (emergency exit) door or window.

Code requires that the following finished basement rooms have a point of egress:

  • Bedrooms
  • Rec rooms
  • Offices
  • Home theaters

In the event any of these spaces adjoin, only one of them needs an egress door or window — but bedrooms always take precedence. Deeper, below-grade basements must have an egress window well dug, with ladder or stairs for escape.

Egress doors and windows must first and foremost be openings through which human beings can easily escape, so they’re necessarily larger and operate differently than your standard basement hopper windows. With that comes the benefits of better airflow and more natural light — you might even forget that your basement room is in the basement!

See our friends at Egress Solutions in South Jersey to learn of all of the attractive possibilities available in a modern basement egress system.

Finished basements with Ayars

At Ayars Complete Home Improvements, we approach basement lighting design ideas like we do everything else — purposefully and with the big picture firmly in mind. We believe a finished basement should look like it organically belongs with the rest of your house — because it is part of your house. To see how this philosophy plays out in practice, visit our finished basement portfolio page for some prime examples

mudroom laundry area with hangers, cabinets, convertible utility sink, and bench with stowaway totes

Folding Creativity Into Laundry Room Design Ideas

The laundry — few of us enjoy surrendering our time to it, and few of us like ceding our space to it either. But given its place in the housekeeping trinity next to cooking and cleaning, all homeowners must sacrifice at least some square footage to a laundry area, whether it is confined to its own dedicated room or integrated into another.

Despite both its reputation and its reality as a utilitarian space, there are plenty of surprising ways to fold creativity into laundry room design, making a chore we all hate feel like less of one.

Where to locate the laundry room?


In many homes, especially older ones, the laundry area is delegated to a corner or section of the basement (also sometimes referred to as a utility room).

Pros: Ample space, easy utility access, flood containment, removed from bulk of activity and commotion within the household

Cons: Lugging laundry up and down the stairs can be strenuous for some, greater likelihood of cycle signals going unheard/unnoticed


Locating a laundry space either within or immediately adjacent to a bathroom can be highly convenient if space allows.

Pros: Utility lines already available, clothing and linens have a minimal distance to travel

Cons: Potentially conflicting with the privacy/regimens of other household members, noise factor

Second story

The second-story laundry room has become pretty fashionable in recent years, and for good reason.

Pros: Dedicated space for laundry, typical proximity to bathrooms and bedrooms, availability of natural light

Cons: Can be a complicated retrofit if your home is not set up for it

modern master bathroom clarkboro nj stacked washer dryer custom cabinet

Maximizing small spaces for laundry room designs

It follows that the more space you have to work with, the more laundry room design ideas you will have to play with. We’ve even seen those with larger homes mirror design concepts from popular kitchen layouts, including island countertops. But for those with tighter living arrangements, the focus is on small laundry room design ideas that emphasize economy and efficiency.

Let’s look at the key tasks we need to accomplish in the laundry room and how we can implement clever design features to lighten the load.

Washing and drying

The most essential function of the laundry room, of course, is to wash and dry clothing. As such, our design process has to begin with where we locate the washer and dryer.

Front-loading washers and dryers are far more versatile than their top-loading counterparts for layout purposes, especially in the context of small laundry room design ideas. By stacking the units, we can free up a good deal of valuable wall and floor space for the design elements to be discussed in the sections that follow, such as a sink, cabinetry, shelving, and/or countertop.

When placing front-loading units side by side, we also have the option of sliding them under a countertop so we can fold our clothes fresh out of the dryer. For air drying, we can utilize vertical space for a tension rod or drying rack.

Pre-soaking and stain treatment

Life can get especially messy at times, so it’s highly advisable that your laundry area includes a utility sink for pre-treating stubborn stains (or hand-washing delicate items). In terms of utility sink styles, the cast iron or white plastic tubs are probably the most universal. Although a freestanding metal tub could mesh well in some settings, most modern laundry room designs ideas will include a washbasin inset into the counter, with an attractive fixture to go with it.

If you go this route, you’ll want to ensure the surrounding countertop is composed of water-resistant material such as quartz, porcelain tile, or granite — these are non-porous and thus will not warp or grow mold easily. Likewise for your laundry room flooring — always choose vinyl, stone/concrete, laminate, or ceramic tile instead of carpet as your base.

However, a nice area rug can help add both style and traction underfoot.

Storing, organizing, and sorting

A sensible storage solution can go a long way to making your laundry area less cluttered, less chaotic, and safer. Open shelving and door storage are smart small laundry room design inclusions. But if you have the budget and the space, we definitely recommend installing cabinets to hold all your cleaners, sprays, detergents, mops, buckets, rags, and towels.

While these are pretty mundane items, putting together the right combination of cabinets and pulls can truly elevate your laundry room to a level on par with the rest of your house. Again, some of the more luxurious examples we’ve seen take major cues from modern kitchens — complete with backsplashes and all.

We also have to think about what we’re doing with our clothing pre- and post-cycle. Pull-out baskets and sorting bins are a stylish and subtle way of containing clutter. If your home is old-fashioned enough to have a laundry chute, this might feed directly into your hidden hamper.

Ironing and folding

For a lot of people, ironing and folding clothes look a lot like anarchy — bath towels draped over kitchen chairs, this week’s work fits spread haphazardly over a living room sofa. It doesn’t necessarily have to be this way.

For the most compact of laundry spaces, a countertop built above front-loading machines is probably your best bet for a folding area. If you have more wiggle room to work with, you might consider a small floating countertop projecting from an adjacent wall or a pull-out laundry table that can retract within your cabinetry setup.

There are plenty of nifty laundry room design ideas that pertain to ironing as well — ironing boards that fold out from the wall, can be flipped up like a leaf on a table, or slide out from under a counter. But if you can’t go with an integrated solution, you can hang that clunky ironing board on a wall- or door-mounted storage stand, or find a narrow gap between tall cabinets to wedge it into.

A fresh start with Ayars

Laundry can be a source of high agitation for a lot of us, but there are ways to make things a lot gentler on ourselves. Start a new cycle with Ayars Complete Home Improvements or by incorporating any of these design ideas into your home.

finished basement

Modern Finished Basement Ideas: Getting Downstairs to the Details

What is your idea of a modern finished basement? Don’t let other contractors sell you on the idea that laying a carpet down and installing some cheap drop ceiling panels qualifies as “finished.” There is so much more that can be done to convert your basement into a real, honest-to-goodness, bona fide living space that you’ll wonder how you ever lived without it. But as with any successful home remodeling project, it’s all about attention to detail every step of the way. 

Framing basement walls

Once we have an idea of the design for your finished basement, how it will be laid out, and what features it will contain, we can move onto framing. We take great care in framing basement walls, because we know the setup phase is absolutely critical to the execution.

When framing basement walls, we are trying to accomplish four main things:

  1. Structural integrity — To help achieve this, we use steel studs for their sturdy and resilient properties.

  2. Fireblocking — Limiting the amount of oxygen that can get into spaces between walls (and in between ceiling joists) in the event of fire.

  3. Waterproofing — Moisture is the mortal enemy of any basement, finished or unfinished. When there is evidence of water issues (such as cracks) along the outside walls, it’s important we reinforce and draw water away from those walls prior to framing and hanging drywall.

  4. Housing and hiding our mechanicals — It’s what’s on the inside of walls that counts, too. You’ll need wiring, plumbing, and HVAC routed correctly for your modern finished basement idea to become a reality. The less conspicuous we can make these elements, the more “finished” your basement will look and feel.

Finished basement ceiling ideas

Many of those same mechanicals we just talked about have to run through the ceiling, too. If you favor a more industrial or nautical look (like that of the cabin of an ocean liner), painting the overhead joists and beams may suffice. 

Others may settle for the aforementioned drop ceilings, which is a gridded metal framework that hangs from the joists and is filled in with drop ceiling tiles. Although there are much better-looking options as far as those go than there used to be, most modern basement ideas steer away from them.

At Ayars, drywalled ceilings are our preferred method of finishing since it is more cohesively integrated with the rest of the home.  This opens up opportunities for a really polished look and feel with recessed lights, crown molding, and paint, just as you would see on the first and second floors.

Finished basement flooring ideas

Whatever finished basement flooring idea you have in mind, a moisture-resistant material should be a top consideration — because raised humidity and flood risk just come with the underground territory. Thankfully, basement flooring material options are numerous and varied. Here are some of our favorites:

  1. Luxury vinyl tile/plank: A major upgrade over conventional sheet or tile vinyl flooring on account of its thickness, durability, and impressive emulation of real wood and stone.
  2. Engineered wood: Engineered wood is less apt to warp in damper environments than solid hardwood and is virtually indistinguishable.
  3. Ceramic/porcelain tile: Naturally wear-resistant and water-repellant, ceramic or porcelain tiles are one of the best options for the long-term. You may want to consider an anti-slip finish for condensation and/or radiant heating to keep things warm underfoot.
  4. Plank (“wood-look”) tile flooring — Plank tile flooring combines the durable qualities of ceramic/porcelain tiles with the timeless look of wood. Because of their rectified (90 degree) edges, they fit together nearly seamlessly with almost invisible grout lines. 

Finished basement storage ideas

Many people conceptualize basement storage as tossing whatever it may be down the stairs into a dark abyss, never to be seen again. With finished basement storage, however, we’ll want to be more intentional and organized. And for a modern finished basement, we’ll want to be clever and creative, too. Here are some examples of the bespoke storage solutions we’ve drawn up for our clients:

  • Built-in drawers and cubbies
  • Under-stairs closet
  • Under-stairs reading nook with bench storage
  • Equipment storage area in foundation jut-out

Finish your basement the right way with Ayars

The best modern finished basement ideas begin and end with the details. Don’t miss a step on your way down to your favorite new living area; discuss your dream with the Ayars team today. 

finished basement sewell new jersey

Finished Basement Design Ideas to Take Your Lower Level to the Next Level

We’re going to be perfectly aboveground with you on this — that partially or fully finished basement you’ve been getting ideas about is fully in your best interest. 

If you missed our blog post about the benefits of finished basements, here are the three main takeaways:

  1. They can significantly increase the useful living space in your home
  2. They add serious value on the resale market (average of 70% return on investment)
  3. Hanging out there can actually help you save on energy costs — ground temperature is not as susceptible to the ups and downs as the air is, which means you do not have to expend as much energy keeping it cool in the summer or warm in the winter. 

Finishing a basement is almost always less disruptive (and expensive) than constructing a home addition, which is a major consideration if you live with family or work from home. Furthermore, there are nearly as many finished basement design ideas.

mickleton new jersey basement finishing

What kind of basement do you have?

Before you dream up and scheme up your newly finished basement, you must assess what you’re working with — and that’s dependent on how the foundation sits within your property. 

Standard lot basement

As its name implies, a standard lot basement is just that — standard. It’s your typical set of concrete walls buried underground, with narrow horizontal windows peeking up into the yard or driveway. They are not known for being light or airy, but you can use that to your advantage, creating a secluded space away from distractions (or judgment).

Walk-out basement

A much coveted feature with today’s homebuyers, walk-out basements allow you to step right out into a backyard or onto a patio and get some fresh air. They have a lot of qualities in common with the main floor, and in some cases are counted towards your home’s total square footage. They are associated with properties with a slope of at least 6 feet from front to back. You’ll often see elevated decks attached to these types of homes as well. 

Garden-level lot basement

Garden-level lots are the middle ground — due to a gentle slope, some of the basement will be poking out above grade, while some of it will be totally underground. While it will receive more natural light than a standard-lot basement, there is not enough clearance for a full-sized door for egress.

finished basement cubby under stairs

What can I do with my basement?

Smarter storage

Yes, we know basements have the reputation of being these dark voids into which things are thrown and never return. By incorporating a few organizational features into your finished basement design, you can still retain its traditional storage function while attaining a much cleaner and more attractive aesthetic. You might mount shelving onto the walls or into the walls, utilize a storage bench or ottoman to serve double duty as seating, or even tuck a cozy little cubby under the stairs, as we did in a recent project near Mantua Township, New Jersey. 

Undistracted work

Need more space to get things done? Secluded and removed from the bustle of the main floor plan, finished basements make for excellent home offices, studios, or gyms. To further your focus, you might invest in a bit of soundproofing. There are several effective materials at dampening sound, from blown insulation and acoustic foam tiles to sound absorbing blankets and soundproof underlayment. 

The best solution for you depends on how much you’re willing to tear things up (for example underlayment requires removing existing main level flooring) and how much privacy you require. Are you after a true fortress of solitude, or do you need to just dial down the volume a bit? If you (or an in-law) really need to disappear for a bit, it may be a good idea to add an extra bathroom, bedroom, or even kitchen to your finished basement. They can fulfill the role of a completely functional studio apartment!

Uninhibited play

As good as a finished basement is for working, they may be even better for play. Think a playroom or arcade for the kids (or grown-ups), a home theater, a man cave to let your inner sports fanatic free, a band practice space — you’ll have so much room for activities, no matter what your favorite indoor pastime is. 

Finished basements are among our favorite project types at Ayars Complete Home Improvements — there are few things more satisfying than transforming an ugly, underutilized dungeon into a truly indispensable part of your home and your life that you can be proud of. Let us know about your basement design ideas — we’d love to help make it a reality. 

South Jersey Basement Remodel

Designing a Winning At-Home Sports Bar

You’re ready for some football, but is your home? Win big with your guests on game day with an optimized entertainment space. Creating an at-home sports bar, either as a patio feature or part of an indoor man cave, is a great way to enjoy time at home and save money on Saturdays and Sundays. Before beginning, however, it pays to have a gameplan.

South Jersey Basement Renovations

Indoor or outdoor?

In late summer and into early autumn, you can use an outdoor bar to replicate a bonafide tailgating experience. The elements are always in play in New Jersey, so ensure the bar is covered with a canopy, extended ceiling, roof overhang, or awning. Televisions or monitors should either be of the outdoor variety or shielded with an outdoor covering. Lighting should amply illuminate the primary task areas of the bar (preparation, serving, and clean-up) and assist with navigation as the days grow shorter. A firepit or space heaters might be incorporated into the patio to help stave off the chill at nightfall. 

For year-round versatility, consider converting an unfinished basement into a finished entertainment area or man cave. The availability of water and electrical lines should be the first consideration when designing a finished basement — altering or adding plumbing or wiring can be costly, so try to work with what you have if you can. Make fellow fans feel at home while providing the best view of the action with comfortable open seating arrangements. Well-positioned speakers and surround sound work wonderfully in basements, in part due to their natural sound-dampening characteristics, but soundproofed materials might be a good idea if not everyone in your house is as into the game as you are. 

Dry bar or wet bar? 

The difference between a dry bar and a wet bar is the availability of running water. If your bar is going to be easily accessible from or attached to a kitchen, a sink may not be necessary. An integrated refrigeration cabinet or closet allows you to store a wider variety of perishable ingredients, as well as stow beers for quick handoffs rather than long jaunts to the nearest refrigerator. For barkeepers who want to really go the distance, leaving room for a home draft beer system such a kegerator might be a wise move. 

What materials will I be using?

For the bar’s framing and structure, construction lumber, oriented stand board sheeting, and plywood provide sturdiness and integrity. Treated lumber or composite materials are advised for outdoor bars to resist moisture and weathering. For aesthetics, trim your bar with hardwood fascia. Countertop workspaces should be resilient and easy to clean — granite, marble, tile, and laminated hardwood or plywood are popular examples.

South Jersey Basement Renovations

The best seats in the house

Your bar stools need to:

  • Complement the decor and be comfortable to sit in for hours at a time
  • Be positioned to correct height (28 to 33 inches from the floor, with 9 to 12 inches left for leg space under the counter)
  • Offer clear sightlines to the action — do not place behind obstructions and keep level with the monitor or screen. If the TV is not behind the bar, swiveling bar stools are a must.

Take time to incorporate these design tips into your at-home sports bar plans and you’ll be sure to ring up the score with visitors. And remember, Ayars Complete Home Improvements is always game to help out with your next patio or finished basement project. 


The Benefits of Finished Basements

Use Your Basement for More than Just Storage

Your basement doesn’t have to be just a dark dungeon where you store your Christmas decorations.  Finishing your basement can actually give you more benefits than you may think.  Not only can you add more living space and increase the market value of your home, but you can also increase your home’s energy efficiency!  Obstacles like low ceilings, disguising water heaters, and insufficient lighting are all issues that can be dealt with.


Most of us leave our basement space unfinished. Unattractive concrete walls and carpet scraps laid on the floor are only inviting to mold and mildew. The only time we use our basement is for storing things we don’t need.

Putting that space to use could be the best thing that can do for your home — it truly can come in handy for so many things. Here’s what you should consider when contemplating a modern finished basement design.


Most unfinished basements have a concrete floor, and to cover that, people generally lay down carpeting or wood flooring that traps moisture underneath, leaving the flooring vulnerable to mold and mildew. To avoid this, it’s a wise idea to install basement subflooring, which provides a level base for the flooring finish material while insulating and protecting against moisture infiltration. Options range from simple plywood 2x4s to rigid foam to specialty subfloor systems. The latter two choices do not sacrifice as much precious head clearance as plywood subfloor does while offering great thermal insulation properties.


After you’ve chosen the material, you can begin to focus on the aesthetics. Search all the floor designs that you might think will work for your space and the theme you have in mind. This could be a time-consuming and daunting task, so take your time and finalize a flooring style that will work best for you (or consult a design expert!)  You’ll need to consider these three attributes: durability, attractiveness, and water-tightness.

finished basement rec room


Begin by checking the basement walls for any excessive moisture. If there’s moisture on your walls opt for wall paneling. Unlike wooden framing that may rot or metal frames that leave ugly rust spots, paneled walls are made from durable high-density foam insulation. The paneling not only functions well but can also prove an attractive stylistic choice for your basement walls.


Suspended ceilings are a good option for your basement. They allow easy access to ducts, electrical cords, and cables. These ceilings are also water-resistant. Other important aspects to consider when choosing ceiling material are noise control and thermal regulation. Depending on whether you intend to use your finished basement for work or play, you’ll either want to keep the noise from the rest of the house out or the noise from the basement contained within.

Finishing touches

Last but not least comes lighting. Lighting is the crucial finishing touch that gives definition to your space and sets all the other design elements in place. In order for your walls, flooring, and ceiling to look perfect with the theme of the furniture, do not overlook the role of basement lighting in creating the perfect ambiance.

finished basement bannister

The possibilities for your new basement are endless. A finished basement adds value to your home as well as energy savings. Contact us for more information about how you can finish your basement or visit or project gallery below for inspiration.