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Room by Room Guide to Lighting your Home: Basement
Basements can range in size from large to small—if you have one at all. After all, there locations where it isn’t practical to keep space underground, and having to contend with flooding for more than half the year is hardly worth the effort. But if you do have a basement or cellar (or basement apartment), there’s a good chance it gets the least amount of natural light of any room in your home. This presents some unique challenges when it comes to creating a lighting plan.
What you use your basement for entirely depends on its size and what type of environment it has to offer. These spaces are most commonly used for storage or laundry, but regardless of what purpose your basement serves, ensuring it is properly lit to suit whatever way you utilize it is still important.
Types of Lighting
Unless you have a new home or are undergoing a major renovation, the outlets and fixture locations available to you are likely already set. With new, smaller light fitting options available, you can easily make the best of what you’ve got, as well as add in some additional lights that may not have been possible before.
What you need to properly light your basement depends on the size of your basement and how you plan to use it. If you have a smaller space or primarily use it for storage, as a workshop, or as a laundry room, you’ll want to focus on these two types of lighting:
- General Lighting: Provides ambient or general light throughout an entire space so you can safely enter and move around without tripping over anything, usually in the form of overhead fixtures. In a smaller space, you may only need one source of overhead light for adequate levels of illumination. Otherwise, you will need several sources evenly distributed throughout the room, such as track lights, or—if you have the space for it—pendant lamps.In a basement that doesn’t have a lot of height, select fittings with a slim profile, such as recessed lights or LED panels, so they don’t encroach on what little vertical space is available and create a crowded environment.
- Task Lighting: Builds on general light, providing a focused, more intense light source, such as a positionable task or reading lamp. In a basement space, you’ll need task lighting in areas where you work, including around washing machines, desks, hobby or craft tables, and workbenches.
If you have a larger space or you use your basement as another functional space, such as a basement living room, game room, or T.V. room, you’ll want to add in the third type of lighting:
- Accent Lighting: Adds interest to your lighting plan and helps create depth, drawing the eye to key elements in the room like artwork, architectural details, or furniture, such as a wine rack. Track lighting, sconces, picture lights, and other directional fittings can help you enhance the lighting and emphasize any important spots you want to showcase in this space.
Learn more about these three different types of lighting.PRO TIP: LED panels can be used to create false windows in basements. Simply attach them to the wall rather than the ceiling and place a sheer window covering of your choice overtop. This creates the illusion of light from an outside source.
Selecting Light Bulbs
One of the most important things to consider when selecting proper lighting for your basement is the type of light bulb you use. Here are the things you need to factor in when selecting the best bulb for the job:
The type of light bulb you select comes down to personal preference and what will fit in your fixtures. With incandescents being phased out, there are two main types of light bulbs you should be looking at:
CFLs got a bad rap in the 90s when they were becoming commercially popular. Initially, these bulbs were slow-to-start and cool-coloured, which made people reluctant to embrace them despite their energy efficiency. Since then, these bulbs have come a long way. Now, not only are they long-lived and energy efficient, they also come in a variety of colour temperatures and interesting shapes, which makes them perfect for bare bulb pendant lamps:
As an energy efficient, long-lasting, low-cost light bulb with a cool operating temperature, LEDs have a lot to offer. When they were first made commercially available, the upfront cost was somewhat prohibitive and people were reluctant to invest, but with prices falling significantly lower and a with a wider variety of shapes, sizes, and colours to choose from, LEDs have become the go-to choice:
Colour & Brightness
Whether you decide on CFLs or LEDs for your basement, you’ll want to select colour and brightness (lumen level) based on the tasks you perform there. Most people prefer a warmer colour temperature, which is closer to the look of incandescent bulbs, but ultimately it is your choice:
- For ambient lighting, we recommend something warm and bright enough to fully illuminate the room, but not so bright that it’s blinding, especially with bare-bulb fixtures.
- For task lighting, opt for something a little cooler and closer to daylight. Something 3500k or higher will help keep you alert and focused on your work.
- For accent lighting, you can go warm or cool, but select a light bulb that is brighter than the light in the rest of the room to really accentuate the spots you want to highlight. And if you’re lighting artwork, opt for something with a high CRI rating:
Dimmable Bulbs & Dimmers
When you are selecting light bulbs, regardless of whether they are CFLs or LEDs, look for something that specifically mentions whether it is dimmable. Dimmable light bulbs and dimmer switches provide you with greater flexibility when it comes to your lighting, and while you may not think you need that in your basement, it is always good to have the option in case you find another use for the space later on.
Sarah is a long-time employee of the Lightbulb Company, with a background in hospitality and a keen awareness of the important role lighting plays in our everyday lives. She has worn many hats at our company over the years, developing an extensive knowledge of lighting and the lighting industry. She is passionate about working with customers, understanding their needs, and providing them with the best possible solutions.