5 Best Unfinished Basement Lighting Options

Jessica Stone
by Jessica Stone
Unfinished basements are common, but they are hard to make look great unless you have the right lighting setup. You can complement the space in an unfinished basement with frosted LEDs or round flush mount ceiling lights. Whether it be outdoor string lights or 4-bulb track lights, let’s take a look at the best lighting setup for an unfinished basement.

Searching for the best lighting to fit an unfinished basement can be a challenge. Their barren concrete walls feel sterile and do not do well with reflecting light, and exposed floor joists can create odd shadows. Additionally, the process of mounting a lighting fixture in an unfinished basement is very different from installing them on a finished ceiling.

The best lighting for an unfinished basement are fixtures that use soft white bulbs that offer a warmer light. Avoid using fluorescent tubes which can be harsh and uninviting in damp basements, and consider your style, budget, and the room’s purpose. Track lighting is another good option for unfinished basements, providing multiple light sources with one fixture.

In unfinished basements, we often see bare lightbulbs hanging from the ceiling, operated by a string that creates very harsh lighting situations. We’ve outlined all of your options for unfinished basement lighting and highlighted some of our favorites to help make the choice much easier.

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Unfinished Basement Lighting Considerations

Choosing lighting for an unfinished basement requires a lot of thought and consideration. The following are some of the factors you should keep in mind during your search.

  • The amount of natural light. Depending on your particular basement, you may be blessed with ample natural light if it’s a walkout or you have large windows. Although, in some cases, simply having a walkout basement still may not offer enough natural lighting.
  • The use of the room. The type of lighting you need will greatly depends on the room’s overall purpose. Are you establishing a media room or using it as an art studio? Art studios require plenty of lighting in order to be useful. Whereas, a media room may not necessitate as much to avoid glare on movie screens.
  • Your budget. Just like any other home renovation, your budget should be strongly considered when shopping for unfinished basement lighting.
  • Style of the room. The established style or design that you’re going for in your unfinished basement will dictate the lighting that you select. If you’re trying to achieve an industrial look, exposed recess lighting may be the best choice to stick within the theming.

In basements, you are required to work around low ceilings and the general lack of natural light. However, when it comes to unfinished basements, they present a whole other set of obstacles. They are typically colder, lack reflective surfaces, and make mounting most conventional lighting fixtures very challenging.

Before beginning any work, we recommend establishing a lighting plan for your unfinished basement. A plan will ensure that you have sufficient outlets and that you achieve ample illumination in the areas that need it.

How Much Light Does an Unfinished Basement Need?

If you are unsure of how to determine the amount of light you need in your space, there are some ways to help you figure out this information. Experts suggest that instead of thinking in wattage, you should use lumens.

More specifically, to provide sufficient light to floor areas, 20 lumens per square foot is recommended. For tables and other raised surfaces, you should use 30 lumens per square foot and 50 lumens per square foot for task lighting.

There are also online tools for determining the amount of light your fixtures will provide to your space. These tools work by calculating the average luminance based on the variables that you enter and provide vital information for your basement lighting layout.

Additionally, do not forget to consider the time of day when you’re figuring out how much lighting your unfinished basement needs. Even if you have small windows, they will still impact the overall light in the room. Also, you will most definitely need more light in the basement when working at night than during the daytime.

Lights that Work Well in Unfinished Basements

If you’re looking to pair flair with function in your unfinished basement lighting, choose an industrial style. Since your unfinished basement already has exposed piping and wood beams, an industrial lighting style will help enhance these features.

In general, track lighting makes an excellent choice for lighting unfinished basements. With just one fixture, you will have multiple sources of light. If you have the clearance, track lighting is relatively simple to install on wood joists and when mounted between joists they have a very low profile.

If your unfinished basement necessitates task lighting, you can choose to install a pendant light over your work area. However, you’ll want to make sure that these types of lights are only mounted in areas with low traffic as pendant lights and low ceilings are not the best combination.

Additionally, string lights installed on or between support joists offer good lighting and create a warm, ambient atmosphere.

Whether you’re trying to achieve function, style or a combination of the two in your unfinished basement, any of the above options should suffice.

Lights to Avoid in Unfinished Basements

Experts warn that one of the main lighting types to avoid in unfinished basements is fluorescent tubes. Fluorescent tube lighting does not work well in areas of high humidity or cold temperatures; both conditions found in basements.

Basements are generally cold and damp therefore, fluorescent tube lights should be avoided.

Additionally, you should steer clear of bare incandescent bulbs in unfinished basements. They have harsh, yellow light characteristics that do not offer a welcoming, comfortable ambiance. Instead, choose light bulbs that are of the soft white variety and provide a warmer light source.

When planning out the lighting in your unfinished basement, you should also keep in mind the amount of clearance that lights have.

If your basement has particularly low ceilings, you should avoid any type of lighting that hangs down too low. For example, pendant lighting should only be used in low traffic areas and solely for specific task lighting purposes.

LED Basement Lights For Unfinished Ceilings

Five Lighting Choices for Unfinished Basement Ceilings

The following are some of our top choices for lighting your unfinished basement.

1. Round Flush Mount Ceiling Light

This round flush mount light has a very low profile, making it great for use in unfinished basements. It will only protrude 2 inches from your ceiling and offer a sleek, modern look. These lights do not necessitate any recessing and will most likely function well when mounted on or between ceiling joists.

It comes in a variety of colors and sizes to fit your needs and is very easy to install. However, it should be noted that since this light contains LED lighting, they cannot be changed and require a special dimmer. Also, depending on the space you have in your unfinished basement, they may be too wide for use on support joists.

2. Canarm Ltd. James 4 Bulb Track Light

If track lighting sounds like more your style, the James 4 bulb track light may be the choice for your unfinished basement ceiling. By mounting the fixture to the side of the support joists or directly to the ceiling, the lights will not encroach on the available headspace.

This light uses four lights with 50-watt bulbs that are fully adjustable and will provide ample illumination in your unfinished basement. Additionally, the glass globes that house the lightbulbs provide a nice diffusion for the lighting.

The only downsides associated with these track lights are the fact that they can be challenging to install and replacement shades are difficult to find, should they break.

3. Mr. Beams Ultra Bright Wireless Battery Powered Motion Sensing Indoor/Outdoor LED Ceiling Light

This battery-powered, wireless lighting fixture by Mr. Beams is a simple solution to add extra light to almost any room. They come in a pack of two and since they are battery powered, they do not require any wiring and can be installed pretty much anywhere.

The Mr. Beams light turns on and off with a motion sensor so you will never have to worry about searching for the switch in your dark basement. The motion sensor will even function properly in larger rooms with its 18-foot range.

Additionally, the auto shut-off feature conserves battery life and you can expect a set of batteries to last you about a year. The light is also waterproof so your damp and cold basement will not affect its functionality.

The only drawback to the Mr. Beams wireless light, although minor, is the fact that you will eventually have to change the batteries.

4. Lemontec Commercial Grade Outdoor String Lights

The Lemontec Outdoor Commercial Grade String Lights come outfitted with a total of fifteen bulbs that offer sufficient ambient lighting. Its warm overall light will help to make your damp, dark unfinished basement feel cozier and more comfortable.

String lights can be combined together or coupled with additional lighting features for more adequate task lighting.

This lighting fixture features a 48-foot long cable, giving you plenty of length to install it along the support joists. The chord is also weather-resistant meaning that it can withstand the cold and damp conditions in your basement.

For a larger room, these outdoor string lights can be connected together. Another advantage to this option is the ease of install with a loop over each light making it very simple to hang securely in your unfinished basement.

The only disadvantage to this lighting choice is the fact that the string of lights are not connected to their own dedicated switch and the bulbs are rather fragile, requiring safe handling.

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5. Barrina Frosted Linear LED Light Bar

The Barrina Frosted Linear LED Light Bars are a great solution for lighting an unfinished basement. With more than 4500 lumens output, these lights are very bright while also offering you up to 68% in savings on your electricity bill.

Since they are not hardwired, they are easy to install. Simply use the snap joints included in the assembly to hang them up, plug and play, and you’re all set! Their extendable design allows you to seamlessly connect up to six lights together with either connectors or connector cords. Or, depending on your preferences, they can be mounted separately.

These lights have a low profile and are narrow, making them the ideal choice for installation on the joists or the ceiling. They can also operate in a range of temperatures, meaning you will no issues if installed in a heated basement.

One of the few downsides to the Barrina LED light bars is the fact that the connector cable is relatively short, limiting how far apart the lights can be placed when connected to a single power cord.

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Jessica Stone
Jessica Stone

Jessica considers herself a home improvement and design enthusiast. She grew up surrounded by constant home improvement projects and owes most of what she knows to helping her dad renovate her childhood home. Being a Los Angeles resident, Jessica spends a lot of her time looking for her next DIY project and sharing her love for home design.

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