Do you have a basement? If so, then you need to know this complete guide on basement lighting. We’ve created this guide for those looking for the best way to light your basement and make it feel like home.
Today’s homeowners are looking for ways to maximize the space in their homes, and basements are often one of the most underutilized areas.
A dark basement can be a scary place, especially when you have kids or pets running around. Installing just a few light fixtures can make an enormous difference!
This guide will walk you through everything you need to know about lighting your basement. We’ll discuss how much light is necessary, different types of lights that work best in basements (and which ones don’t), and even what kind of switches to use so your lights turn on automatically at night and off during the day.
Table of Contents
Set the mood with basement lights
The dark and dingy basement is an unpleasant place for many homeowners, but luckily it’s a relatively simple fix. Installing the right types of lights will help set the tone to turn that space into something functional and inviting.
Ambient lighting also referred to as general lighting, is perfect for dark basement spaces. The light gently affects the entire room and makes it easier to see.
Ambient lights are beneficial for basements as they provide a soothing glow that’s easy on the eyes. They’re great spotlights, too!
The most important component of a good basement is task lighting, which allows for both readings and working on tasks. These lights should be bright to promote concentration and be placed pointed at the task being performed.
With task lighting, you are more focused and alert. If you have a basement office, task lighting is an absolute necessity.
If you want to highlight a few items in your basement with accent lighting, this is optional. Basement art galleries are created with uniform lighting for displaying artwork. Dimmers can bring attention to focal points, adding style and representation of art pieces or photographic works.
When most people want to create a mood in their basement, they start with ambient lighting since it will work with just about any design. But if you are looking to set a certain mood, you can include decorative tasks and accent lights.
Best Basement Lighting 101
Basements can be frustrating spaces, and while the lack of natural light contributes to this frustration, it doesn’t have to be that way if you have access to the best basement lighting. This guide will outline all your best options so you’ll know how to make your basement feel like a home.
Combined with a proper lighting layout, there should be no dark spots in the basement with the lights on. This will make space feel inviting and more like the upper levels of your home.
Basement Lighting Type
From ceiling-mounted lights and wall sconces to floor and table lamps, there is a multitude of ways to light up your basement. All the options can make your space less claustrophobically intimate while still giving it an inviting atmosphere. Ceiling lights do the best job of brightening entire spaces for added comfort.
The following are some popular basement lights to consider:
Track lighting is good for those who are looking to save space. Instead of taking up a bunch of wall space, track lights can be placed around your room and directly onto what needs the most light without any obstructions.
Track lighting is an excellent choice if you don’t want to drill holes in your ceiling or spend a lot of money on recessed lights. When it comes to basement lighting, installation is key. Even if you only have one junction box in your ceiling, electricians can install a track unit that illuminates large spaces.
If the ceiling does not have junction boxes, it is possible to run cords across the ceiling, or you can even conceal them with molding.
One of the benefits of track lighting is that it can provide plenty of illumination and be directed in whichever direction you prefer. Also, because many models are not more than 6 inches above the ceiling, they are a good option for basements with low ceilings.
Track lights have the flexibility to provide much more than just light. For example, you can combine spotlights with pendant lamps for both ambient and dramatic lighting on the same track.
Track lighting uses several fixtures, and each one is mounted to the track itself. Use them as directional lights or spotlights for any corner of your basement.
Recessed lights are installed on the ceiling and create a clean-looking light source. Installing several of them can be essential for well-lit basement ceilings.
The most common form of basement lighting is recessed lighting. This type of light has a variety of different sizes that range from general to specific illumination.
There are two main factors to consider when determining the distance that standard recessed lights should be from one another, the size of the fixture and its function. You want your area to be evenly lit, so do not act following a specific numerical distance; instead, make sure that there isn’t any noticeable difference between parts of your basement.
According to experts, there’s no standard distance between light bulbs in the basement: the higher your ceiling is – and thus less lighting you need.
Recessed lighting is a popular choice for converting living spaces into basements. They are ideal in games rooms, dining areas, and living rooms because they minimize glare and shadows while providing the necessary light for tasks.
Recessed stair lights can be installed densely to add as much light to the stairs as desired. Some people install one recessed lamp per stair, while others install them every few steps.
Recessed lights work especially well in tight spaces like basements where you need to see where you’re walking without taking up space with clunky fixtures.
One way to create texture and depth in a basement is through the use of pendant lights. The fixtures are hung from the ceiling, drawing attention to concentrated areas. Pendants can provide focused task lighting or even accent light for interesting spaces.
One way to achieve this effect is by using hanging lights like pendant fixtures. A pendant light can either be structurally mounted or hung from the ceiling on a metal chain and then plugged into an outlet, lends itself to serving multiple purposes in your home. For example, at night, they can provide task lighting when over the kitchen table.
Installing lights over your basement’s surfaces can improve overall visibility, especially for activities such as cooking, crafting, and reading. Many of these lights can be coupled with dimmer switches to get the perfect amount of illumination depending on your needs.
Pendant lighting comes in a variety of styles, acting as both task and ambient light sources.
Pendant lights hang from the ceiling, with a height of between 1 and 3 feet. They provide light to areas like counters and bars but do not offer adequate illumination for the rest of a room. Additionally, their low profile can cause them to obstruct people in or around your home.
Flush mount lights install directly to the ceiling, and many people feel they do a better job of lighting an entire basement because there are no protruding screws or bolts. They may not look as stylish, though.
Flush mount lights sit flat against the ceiling, giving a uniform glow downward. This style is perfect in close quarters with shorter ceilings or dust away from the bulb and shade.
For unfinished basements, industrial pendant lights or Edison-style bulbs will highlight the industrial ambient of your basement.
Lights in basements serve three purposes: (1) lights for a specific task, such as over a table or a bar; (2) overhead lighting that illuminates the whole room and finally (3) accent light to highlight an area.
Indirect lighting is more about creating a mood, highlighting or accenting architecture in the basement. Examples of indirect light include rope lighting used behind a bar, wall sconces for home theater rooms, and small light fixtures hung over paintings to highlight the painting.
Architectural features, furnishings, wall art, or collectibles can be highlighted and well-displayed with the addition of attractive sconces on the walls.
If you are re-doing the basement walls, installing channels within the walls for lighting is possible. Also, corded sconces in corners of the room can help highlight decorations by directing light on them. Surface or track lighting solves two problems: eliminating cords and illuminating your design elements!
Faux Natural Light Windows
Homeowners with no windows in their basement can create a similar feel using special fluorescent light fixtures and white paint on the walls. Blackout shades, blinds, or curtains will also help to mimic the appearance of providing natural light.
Faux windows also have trim and casing, mimicking the look of a real window. But they’re made from polycarbonate that looks like glass panes in the form of a curving Lazy Susan or an atrium-style skylight.
Faux daylight windows are an inexpensive way to dress up a basement. These faux light fixtures can be mounted on the wall and plugged into standard electrical outlets and, while they can’t fool anyone into believing that these are real windows, they add some element of fun to this area.
Wall sconces are another common feature of basement lighting schemes. Electricians usually install them opposite a window to provide some light and reflections throughout the room. They recommend using small wall sconces to create volume because the low ceilings can make you feel claustrophobic.
People looking to create an atmosphere in their basement need to focus on lighting for space.
Cove lights are a great way to make a new basement space feel more significant. These lights sit in the gutters around the top of the wall or behind a portion of a drop ceiling.
Be creative with the installation if you are looking for a certain effect. For example, you can use it to line a wall or install it behind a protruding section of the wall.
Cove lighting is an excellent way to give a basement ultra-modern ambiance while simultaneously providing some light for movie watching without the frustration of stumbling around in the dark. Using a dimmer switch, cove lighting can also be used as just enough light to provide mobility for those enjoying themselves under its illumination.
The stairway is often one of the most neglected areas in a basement. However, proper lighting can give it an entirely different feel and experience. You want to spend more time instead of feeling like you need to hurry up before something happens or worrying about what lurks around the next corner.
One way to light a dark basement is by installing lights underneath the overhang of each riser in the stairway. This will be safe, and it will also look great!
If you don’t want to go the ‘under the tread’ route, you can install a few sconces on the wall between the top of the stairs and the foot.
Table lamps are also typically thought to be problematic in basement settings. The issue is that the vertical nature of the table lamp’s light doesn’t correspond with the horizontal ceiling line, creating an incongruent look. However, this isn’t a problem if you’re willing to place your table lamp on something high enough - like bookshelves.
It largely depends on the context. Some people choose to keep the slung furniture height in their finished basement rather than having a ceiling look much taller. This type of furniture can open the door for bathrooms as long as they are not too high and do not take up too much space. Lighting is essential and should be considered carefully when designing.
Basement lighting can be made to work with lamps that are often overlooked due to its use of height. There is no straight answer on how to effectively incorporate such a lamp as it mainly depends on the setting; however, they should be seen as more delicate and chic rather than being too noticeable by standing out too much from the room. It
One way to make the vertical space seem bigger is with a tall, single-pole floor lamp and an upward pointed light bulb. This will make the ceiling appear taller than it actually is.
Add Basement Windows
With windows being high and small in basements, the option to bring natural light into the room is not an easy task. As little as there may be, window options are always a great way of brightening up your basement.
If the basement is deep, windows should be cut into the foundation for natural light. Thus, it may be necessary to consult an engineer or contractor to avoid structural problems for upper floors.
Basement windows can be cut into the wall studs and supported by matching window headers. This is a significantly easier and less expensive project than cutting into concrete or even more sturdy, but still hard to do with precision, poured foundations.
Style and Finish
The best part about selecting basement lighting is finding styles that fit with other fixtures in your home. If you have a country-cottage theme, consider rustic materials like iron and copper with exposed bulbs for what type of light will work best.
There are many different ways to light a basement, depending on your preference. If you prefer a modern design, metal finishes and glass accents can be included in the decor. For those who prefer minimalism, recessed lighting is what you might want instead.
Many of today’s light fixtures come in various finishes, including bright nickel, brushed nickel, and more. In most cases, it can make sense to match the finish on lights in an unfinished basement with metal elements elsewhere in the home, such as doorknobs and hinges.
Bulb Type and Wattage
Basement lighting typically consists of four types: LED, CFL, halogen, and old-school incandescent.
The brightness of a bulb, quantified by watts or the wattage equivalent of lumens in LED bulbs, is important when choosing to light for basements. They are usually very dark rooms, so we recommend using one with a rating of 75 watts or higher to brighten the space adequately. Each kind offers its own pro and con:
LED bulbs are the most common light source for basement lighting, as they use less energy and last longer., they remain cool to the touch, which is an important safety factor in a room designed with no windows.
Basement LED light fixtures offer many benefits over other types of lighting design. A few of these advantages include low energy, warm lighting, and instant-on capabilities that will directly impact the lifespan of your bulbs.
In addition to sustainability, LED lights offer other benefits over traditional incandescent bulbs, such as longer lifespans and energy efficiency.
- LEDs last about 50 times longer than traditional bulbs, and also they produce a much brighter light.
- Incandescent bulbs have a higher running temperature when lit.
- LED light bulbs emit around 87 degrees, whereas incandescent light is 335 degrees.
- LEDs use around 75% less energy than incandescent bulbs.
CFL bulbs are efficient, long-lasting, and don’t give off as much heat. They need a few seconds to warm up and become bright enough.
Halogen bulbs are a type of incandescent bulb that is very bright and has an instant-on capability. They need around one minute to heat up before they reach their full brightness.
Halogen lights are good for basement lighting; they produce more light while being economical and durable.
Incandescent bulbs are no longer prevalent in the market, with their decreased energy efficiency and short life span. If you use them, be sure to place the bulb away from anything that can catch fire…
Note: Incandescent bulbs measure light in wattages, while modern LED lights are measured by lumens. LEDs have a higher lumen per watt ratio than incandescents, but it’s important to take the bulb’s Watt equivalent into account when shopping for new lights.
Consider the Color Temperature and Dimming Option
The color temperature of your lights will impact the look and feel of your basement. LED lights come in a range of colors- some are warmer, friendlier shades such as bright white, while others may be driven more by aesthetics like cool whites.
The warm-colored temperature of a light bulb will provide more yellow or warm colors, while the cool-color temperature provides a whiter and brighter color. Lamps with a warm hue are used in very relaxing environments.
Reconsider how restaurants use lighting for living spaces. Cooler colors are better when you’re trying to achieve an evenly lit space, like your basement or the inside of your home.
Certain light bulbs emit a certain color temperature, which indicates how warm or cool the lights will appear in the space. Color temperatures are quantified using a metric called Kelvin (K) as opposed to degrees. Generally, residential lighting falls between 2,000K and 6,500K.
Bulbs with lower Kelvin ratings will emit a warmer light than ones with a higher rating. A bulb color temperature of 2000k emits an orange/yellow light, while one of 6500K emits blue/white light.
Some LED fixtures are tunable, meaning they have the ability to modify the color output for a specific space or preference.
Furthermore, many fixtures are compatible with dimmer switches that allow users to toggle the light output in the space. This allows them to choose between a brighter or dark setting and regulate it according to hours of the day.
Installing lights in the basement can be an easier task if you are DIY-oriented. One of the simpler projects is installing a new light fixture such as a flush mount or track lighting system.
If you’re installing recessed lighting in a room that used to have flush mount light receptacles, the installation can be more complex.
Installing light fixtures on a basement wall can be done quickly when there are pre-existing junction boxes available. There are generally two tools required: an adjustable wrench and an electrical tester.
Installing lights requires access to the area above the ceiling beams, which may require sheetrock saw or drilling through joists for electrical wiring.
When installing your basement light controls, it is significant that they are in an easily accessible spot for safety and security. The switches should be at the same height as the rest of this home’s buttons and placed nearby to eliminate fumbling.
If it’s possible, putting separate areas of the room on different switches will help you. The basement may contain a gaming area at one end with a pool table and computer, a media center for music and TV in the center, and an office desk in another corner.
In this case, the office area should be on a different switch close to the desk itself, while the gaming and media areas should be on a primary switch. You can also set up another dimming switch that controls light levels in both entertainment areas separately.
Best Basement Lighting Options
There are so many different types of basement lighting, but which ones would be best for your home and the specific needs you have? Here are some illuminated ideas to help you choose the perfect type of basement light:
- If you’re looking for basement game room lighting, try hanging pendant lights over the pool table to ensure no one misses a shot due to bad lighting.
- Studies show that lighting can dramatically affect how focused and productive you are at work or in your study. You want to balance great ambient light with additional task lights, so you’re not forced either to constantly readjust the distance of the material you’re looking at or otherwise strain your eyes from dim surroundings.
- Looking for a great place to watch movies with kids? A dimly lit basement is perfect. Recessed can lights can lead the way back upstairs without disturbing the movie.
- Use motion sensors - One of the most helpful improvements you can make to your basement is installing a motion sensor. Use them in places such as hallways, staircases, and laundry areas.
- Use strategic lighting. Put a light under the edge of the bar, put a light behind the big flat-screen TV, or use track lights to illuminate artwork or other precious items.
- Ditch the incandescent bulbs - You may have a lamp or two you think will be perfect for the basement that still has an incandescent bulb in its socket. Now is your opportunity to make sure it isn’t an energy pit by replacing the old, inefficient lamps with CFLs and making a clean start.
- Keep flashlights handy to use if the power goes out. Electricians recommend a few ultra-bright tactical flashlights should be accessible to light up your basement whenever needed.
Additional Tips on Basement Lighting
- When you are building or renovating a basement, it is important to think of your lighting situation. Generally, the best surfaces for installing lights are ceilings or walls that happen to be open on one side. If this is not possible, speak with an electrician about ways to install lights in a way that will work with your
- Dark hardwood floors often make it difficult to see underfoot. If your renovation plans involve installing hardwoods, you may want to purchase more light fixtures than planned.
- Wall Colors - If your ceilings are high and there’s lots of light pouring in through the windows, you can get away with darker colors on the wall. Not so much in a basement. Keep the walls light to make illuminating hard spaces easier.
- Construction and wiring safety – Every aspect of your basement lighting system needs to be up to code and safe. There’s no compromising with this. Talk to various electrical contractors before choosing one, but whatever you do, don’t wire the basement lighting yourself.
- Before building out your basement, make sure to install a sump pump if you haven’t done so already. If you have a high water table or think there is the possibility of flooding, then do not carpet and use furniture that can be raised off the ground. Be careful with any wiring as well.
Common Question About Basement Lighting
What is the best lighting for a basement?
The recessed ceiling lights (referred to as can lights, high hats, or downlights) are often the best option for basement lighting. These provide ambient light that is perfect for a basement and use the least amount of energy. LEDs are the best type of light bulbs because they can be used in large numbers without creating too much heat.
How many amounts of lumens needed for basement lighting?
As every basement is different, it’s hard to give the exact number of lumens you need. You want lighting that produces 75 watts or more of light.
What is the ideal placement for recessed lights in the basement?
You may want to install recessed lights every four or five feet, but make sure they are three feet from the walls. You might also want to install them over a bar or sitting area.
How do you light an unfinished basement?
Bringing more light and a playful ambiance to unfinished basements can be achieved in just two ways: hanging some string lights or clustering them around a single electrical outlet by using extension cords.
Basement Lighting Inspiration Ideas
Open Space Game Room Basement Lighting
String Light Farmhouse Basement Lighting
Cool Basement Ceiling Lighting
Comfortable Basement Lighting
Low Basement Lighting
Unfinished Basement Flush Mount Lighting
Exposed Ceiling Joists Basement Lighting
Basement Gym Room Basement Lighting
Modern Illuminated Basement Ceiling
Illuminated Pendant Basement Lighting
Contemporary Transitional Basement Lighting
Led Strip Lights Basement Lighting
Lighting makes an enormous difference in the feel of a space and can be used for just about anything from adding ambiance to your basement. We hope this basement lighting guide has helped you find the right solution for your home! If not, let us know what we missed to update our blog post with more information on how to choose the perfect basement lighting options for your needs.