Lighting for your Basement
More homeowners than ever are taking advantage of the extra space afforded by finished basements. Those who haven’t yet embraced this trend often have questions when it comes to lighting. After all, unfinished basements have a reputation for being damp and dark, given that they rarely have the benefit of natural light.
Don’t give up hope. Even if their basements have no windows at all, homeowners still have plenty of options. Read on to find out about basement lighting and how to ensure that the newly renovated space will be as warm and inviting as the home’s above-grade rooms.
Plan in Advance
Start planning for lighting installations before construction even begins on the basement. It’s essential to have sufficient outlets installed before the contractors finish the walls and ceilings.
Get it Even
The all-over lighting fixtures should be placed evenly, typically between eight and ten feet apart, across the ceiling. One of the best ways to create an even lighting distribution is to install recessed ceiling cans, but the ceiling needs to be at least seven and a half feet tall for this strategy to be effective.
Make sure the general lighting provides sufficient light even at night, but don’t place so many ceiling fixtures that the lighting becomes too harsh. Homeowners should consider dimmer switches for the ceiling lights, especially if they plan to use the room for multiple functions.
Some homeowners prefer pendant lights over recessed lighting. If the ceiling is high enough, this is a viable option for overhead lighting. In basements with low ceilings, incorporate pendant lights only over pool tables, bars, or other areas that won’t be accessible to foot traffic.
Choose the Right Bulbs
LEDs and CFLs are the most popular options for overhead lighting. They produce less heat than conventional incandescent light bulbs and use less electricity but still provide sufficient light even for below-grade applications. Today’s LED and CFL light bulbs are less harsh than those of decades past, so it’s entirely possible to match the warm colour quality of traditional bulbs.
Consider More Than Just Wattage
The FTC requires light bulb manufacturers to specify wattage on their packages, but there are other considerations that are actually much more important than wattage alone. Pay more attention to the lumen measurement.
Light bulb manufacturers use lumens to measure brightness. To put the scale in perspective, a 100-watt traditional light bulb produces around 1750 lumens, but a 32-watt fluorescent bulb produces around 2800 lumens. Unlike wattage, the brightness scale is comparable no matter what kind of bulb consumers choose.
Color is measured from warm to cool on the Kelvin scale, with lower numbers producing warmer, whiter colors and higher numbers producing cooler, blue-colored light. Choosing the right color lighting is largely a matter of personal preference.
So far, this article has focused on overhead lighting. While it’s true that overhead lighting needs to be considered early on in the construction process, accent lighting is just as essential. Homeowners can use it to provide softer, more ambient light to an otherwise harsh room.
Place accent lighting judiciously. If the basement will be traditionally furnished, think about placing lamps on side tables next to couches or on top of desks.
Task lighting differs slightly from accent lighting. Its purpose is to illuminate areas of the basement that will be used more frequently, so it should be chosen based on the task required.
If the basement will be used as an office, buy at least one desk lamp. If it will be used as an art studio, install strong overhead lighting above the workspace. If any area of the room isn’t getting sufficient light, add a floor lamp.
In basements with low ceilings, task lighting can be twice as useful. Install task lights over seating or entertaining areas to make the space feel cozier and more inviting.
Many homeowners install home theaters or game rooms in their renovated basements. These situations call for further specialized lighting. Since the room will have to be dark to accommodate a screen, consider installing floor lighting in addition to overhead lights and soft accent lights near the door.
The Bottom Line
Even a completely renovated basement won’t live up to its potential if it doesn’t have enough light. Make sure that the overhead lighting is strong enough but don’t sacrifice ambiance by using harsh bulbs. Instead, look into all available options when it comes to energy-efficient light bulbs and make a point of incorporating accent lighting and task lighting along with overhead lights.