Making an Unfinished Basement into a Homeschool Room

Making an Unfinished Basement into a Homeschool RoomIt has taken many months, and it’s still not a polished product, but I feel really good starting our next school year with our new basement homeschool room!

We have a large home, with four bedrooms. Because we will soon have three children and my husband frequently works from home and needs a private office, we cannot afford an upstairs room for school work. In the past, we’ve been moving around: from the kitchen to the couch, to the play room. But we need a space to store all of the supplies and resources, as well as a place to do school work.

I struggled last year, as my toddler constantly wanted attention in the play room (which is a small semi-finished carpeted area in the basement) and my son wanted help with school work while he sat at a desk. It did not work to have him in the same room as the playing toddler!

In January, we began the transition in to making our unfinished “storage” area of the basement into a school room. Here are some preliminaries to keep in mind if you too want to have school in an unfinished concrete-floor basement. I also share some of the ways I’ve organized the area!

Basement Homeschool Practical Ideas

Make sure it drains during storms. We did have a water issue a few years ago, but with a sump pump and a back up sump pump, we’ll likely not have such an issue again. I’d hate for school work to be damaged in a flood of any kind! We did have water almost all the way in to our playroom at that time, but timely noticing combined with quick work saved our storage items and the play room carpet! (Cost: sump pumps are not cheap, and neither are back up sump pumps. This was probably $700.)

Insulate the gaps. This unfinished portion of the basement does not have a vent to the in-floor heating the rest of our house uses. We did add spray-foam insulation between the bottom of the next floor and the start of the concrete. This has helped make the space a little more consistent during the below-zero winter months of Chicago! However, we did not insulate the cement walls. I will admit that this basement school room does feel cold! That is what the portable heater we have is for. That said, the cement walls does keep the temperature pretty constant, between 55 and 65 degrees year round. (Insulation cost: about $200. We had basement insulation added while we also had the insulation people out to re-insulate our attic. Portable room heater cost: about $150 from Costco. Parental supervision may be required, depending on what kind you get! This one on Amazon is similar to the one we bought long ago. While it is “safe around children,” we never leave it on without being around.)

Possible To do: Seal the floors. We did not seal the cement floors, although it is on our to do list (eventually). I believe this would greatly reduce the dust that we are constantly sweeping up in the uncovered areas! The need for a school area versus the days it would take to paint and seal the floors was our battle. We chose to delay for now. As I mentioned, we already know we do not have water issues in the basement in general. If you plan to work in your finished basement, you need to be sure your floors always stay dry.

Add lighting. One thing I really disliked about the basement was the two single bulbs hanging from the ceiling. This reminded me a basement. There were shadows everywhere, no matter where you sat. As we finished our basement to become a homeschool space, I bought socket adaptive splitters that gave me some some outlets. Then I added a few flexible cord hanging lamps. For these, I screwed the hangers into the wood beams of the ceiling.  (Cost: about $75 total)

Ideas to Make a Basement Homeschool Feel Like Home

Paint the ceilings. Our basement ceilings in the storage side of the basement get as low as six feet from the floor due to duct work and water pipes. For this reason, we are not legally allowed to finish the ceilings (our city’s rules). Obviously, our low ceiling basement wouldn’t work as a comfortable workspace for those taller than 6 feet, but for storage of homeschool items, my elementary-aged kids, and myself, this is a great learning space. To get around the unslightly look of duct work and unfinished wood, my husband spray painted the ceilings black. I was surprised: black makes the ceiling seem to disappear! We do not notice it, and I believe the finished paint helps keep spiders to a minimum, although it could be I just don’t see them as much. (Cost: $250 for rental of a paint sprayer, paint, and supplies. Plus, my husband did the labor.)

Painting the unfinished ceiling black helps make the space look more finished. The ceiling seems to melt away.
Painting the unfinished ceiling black helps make the space look more finished. The ceiling seems to melt away.

Paint the walls. We applied cement primer to the cement walls and painted them white. This brightened the room and eliminated a good amount of the dust from the cement! (Cost: the cost of the paint and family labor!)

Put down a large rug. We used a shag rug that had been upstairs for years. It fills in the space nicely, and it does not feel like a basement when you walk into the room because of the warm floor and familiar rug! (Cost: I don’t remember, as it was new many years ago!)

Organizing a Basement Homeschool

As for our organization, our space has many uses. Plastic storage containers and shelves (these become costly, but many of these I’ve had for years) help provide structure to the organization. Old and inexpensive bookshelves plus plastic crates provide book storage. My desk is long plastic table, and my son’s is a old used desk that has been passed around the family for decades. The tables and chairs for working are likewise repurposed furniture from elsewhere in our home. My daughter’s plastic crafts table is from a garage sale.

Toy storage. The semi-finished play room is connected to this unfinished basement by a door. This is where we store the toys! My hope is that we keep things put away once we are finished with them.

Books storage. I use both cheap-o old bookcases and plastic crates along the wall to organize and store all the homeschool books we love.

A bookshelf provides the most current reads, and the toy shelves provide an organized spot for my daughter to find what she wants next!
A bookshelf provides the most current reads, and the toy shelves provide an organized spot for my daughter to find what she wants next!

Music Corner. We have a digital piano for play and practice. This corner does not look very fun yet. (This picture was before other lights had arrived).

The music corner needs a little bit of TLC. I hope to put some music posters on the walls soon.
The music corner needs a little bit of TLC. I hope to put some music posters on the walls soon.

Storage/Activity Shelf. Because this former TV console is low, it is ideal for holding current activity bins for my preschooler. I also have some in progress curriculum and books out for easy access.

This low table has bins underneath for current projects for my preschooler and bins on top for my son.
This low table has bins underneath for current projects for my preschooler and bins on top for my son.

White board wall. Sometimes it helps to work things out together! My kids are always more eager to write on the wall than on his papers.

I love the white board wall! We painted the wall with special paint. Sometimes we'll just need to write our lessons out together.
I love the white board wall! We painted the wall with special paint.

My kids’ desk and supplies for computer work. My son is learning to type, program in Scratch, and practice his Spanish using a computer.

The kids computer work area should stay clean! Let's see how it works out.
The kids computer work area should stay clean! Let’s see how it works out.

Table and chairs. This area is for both homeschooling and crafting/play-dough/painting. (In other words, it’s not on the rug!). Easy clean up of messes underneath it, plenty of space to all work together. I’m excited for this work space.

The book storage is kept in plastic milk crates on this wall. These are the books we use more frequently. The table and chairs provide a space to work together or to do crafts. You can see my teacher area in the back (it still needs some TLC).
The book storage is kept in plastic milk crates on this wall. These are the books we use more frequently. The table and chairs provide a space to work together or to do crafts. You can see my teacher area in the back (it still needs some TLC).

Homeschool curricula, games, and manipulative storage. The curricula is stored in crates in and around my desk. (No photo of that, as it desperately needs a bit more organization to be satisfying.) The games are ever growing in number, and we love manipulatives to play with to learn concepts!

More plastic storage shelving divides this school room area from the other storage in the rest of the unfinished basement.
More plastic storage shelving divides this school room area from the other storage in the rest of the unfinished basement.

My own office work space. This is where I plan the week, work on new products and freebies, and so forth. I have a long table behind my desk so I can turn around and get printed items, cut them, and then laminate quickly. It’s so convenient. (You can see it a little in the photo above.)

What I’ve Used for our Homeschool Basement

Here are some of the items I’ve used:

I won’t say our school room is perfect. I have to finish sorting and organizing my corner of the room, and I need to print off more of the labels! Perfect for me would be furniture rather than plastic crates. But we have to prioritize, and I’m very pleased with how it’s turned out for this year. I am getting excited to start up again!

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