By Tom Scalisi | Updated May 31, 2022 11:42 AM
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Shining some light on below-grade spaces can do a lot for your home. Proper lighting increases the usability of your basement, allowing you to expand this storage area while reducing the clutter in the rest of the home. The best basement lighting can even encourage you to finish the basement and add more living space.
If you’re looking to improve the lighting in your basement, this guide will help. It will point out some of the most important factors that go into choosing this specialized lighting, as well as offer a selection of some of the best basement lighting options on the market today to facilitate your shopping.
For a basement to reach its full potential, it requires the best basement lighting option that fits your style, budget, and needs. There are other points to consider as well, and this section will outline them, so you’ll be better prepared to choose the best option for your basement.
There are a multitude of ways to light up your basement. All of the typical options apply, like ceiling-mounted lights, and wall sconces, as well as floor and table lamps. While lights that are lower in height can create a cozy ambiance, ceiling light does the best job of brightening an entire space.
Ceiling lights are available in several categories.
One of the fun parts of choosing the best basement lighting is finding a style and finish to complement light fixtures in the rest of your home. If you tend to decorate with a country-cottage theme, consider choosing lights made with rustic materials like iron and copper, with exposed light bulbs. If you prefer a modern aesthetic, bright metal finishes and decorative glass touches stand out as a centerpiece in the room. If you’re a minimalist, recessed lighting is the way to go.
Most lighting fixtures are available in several finishes, most often bright nickel, brushed nickel, bronze, black, and white. In most cases, it can also make sense to match the finish on basement light fixtures to other metal fixtures in the home, such as doorknobs and hinges.
Basement lighting fixtures, or any fixture in general, typically feature four main types of bulbs: LED (light-emitting diode), CFL (compact fluorescent light), halogen, and old-school incandescent. These bulbs have brightness ratings quantified by watts or the wattage equivalent of lumens (in the case of LED bulbs). Basements are usually dark, so choosing a bulb with a rating of 75 watts or higher will effectively brighten the space. Each type of bulb offers specific features, pros, and cons.
Note: While older incandescent bulbs were measured in wattages, many modern bulbs are now measured in lumens, with wattage equivalent listed for reference. Each bulb type has a different lumen-to-watt ratio, so it’s important to base shopping decisions on the wattage equivalent, not the lumens (if possible).
Bulbs generally have a color temperature, which indicates how warm or cool the lights appear in the space. Color temperature is quantified using a Kelvin (K) rating, as opposed to degrees. In general, residential lighting falls between 2,000K and 6,500K.
While it might seem backward, the lower the color temperature, the warmer the light will look in the space. A bulb with a color temperature of 2,000K will emit a warm and soft yellow light, while a bulb with a color temperature of 6,500K will appear cold and harsh. Some LED fixtures have tunable color outputs to adjust the temperature for your space and preference.
It’s also important to note that many fixtures are compatible with dimmer switches, which allow users to throttle their output. These fixtures provide the ability to choose between a brighter or darker setting, also allowing the light output to be adjusted in the space, especially based on the time of day.
When it comes to installation, some fixtures might be more desirable than others for DIYers. For example, replacing an old flush mount light with a new flush mount or track light is fairly straightforward, usually only requiring a screwdriver and a pair of electrical pliers. However, if you’re using the junction box from a former flush mount light to wire new recessed lighting, the job becomes much more involved.
In general, lights include the required hardware to attach them to pre-existing junction boxes. The only necessary tools are typically a screwdriver, a pair of pliers, and an electrical tester. When installing new lights, access to the area above the ceiling is essential, which might require a sheetrock saw, a drill driver, and a bit for boring holes through ceiling joists for wiring.
Taking into consideration the above-mentioned factors, our top picks reflect some of the best basement lighting on the market today in a variety of categories. Read on to discover a selection of products to illuminate a dark and gloomy below-space.
Homeowners and DIYers looking to light up an entire basement with one purchase should check out this LED recessed ceiling lighting from Ensenior. Each light in this 12-pack produces 1,050 lumens, with a wattage equivalent of 110W. These fixtures are Energy Star-rated and can save up to 88 percent in energy costs.
These lights require just 2 inches of clearance above the ceiling, making them useful in basement ceilings that contain plumbing and mechanical equipment. They’re also dimmable between 5 and 100 percent output. Installation doesn’t require any hardware, as each fixture’s spring-loaded clamps simply sandwich the ceiling drywall to hold the light in place, creating a clean, modern look.
Get the Ensenior recessed lights on Amazon and at Walmart.
Basement renovations can be expensive, but saving money on lighting fixtures doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice features. From LIT-PaTH, this flush mount ceiling lighting kit includes two Energy Star-rated fixtures, each with a 75-watt-equivalent LED output that can reduce energy consumption up to 85 percent. These lights also dimmable and feature a lifespan of 50,000 hours.
The LIT-PaTH LED lights feature polycarbonate, frosted globes and white-painted, rust-resistant aluminum bases rated for a damp location, making them a practical choice for a basement setting.
Installation takes just a few minutes. These units tie into existing wiring without complex diagrams or ballasts. Plus, as long as a junction box is already in place, the only required tools are a pair of pliers and a screwdriver.
Get the LIT-PaTH flush mount lights on Amazon.
The flexibility and contemporary styling of this 6-light foldable track lighting kit from Globe Electric make it an appealing choice for chic basement settings that need a lot of light. This track system features two pivoting arms, each with three positionable lights to pinpoint light where it’s needed most. The fixture is also dimmable, featuring halogen bulbs that produce 50 watts of light with a soft 2,700K color temperature and a 3,000-hour lifespan.
The kit includes the required mounting hardware required to quickly and easily install the track.
Get the Globe Electric track lighting on Amazon and at Walmart.
High-end basement renovations often require special lighting over home bars or countertops, making a product like hykolity’s pendant ceiling fixture an attractive option. This fixture offers four adjustable-height pendant lights with LED bulbs. Altogether, these lights produce 1,950 lumens, providing a 150W equivalent of 4,000K neutral lighting while also being dimmable between 5 and 100 percent.
This fixture boasts a chrome finish for both the base and the pendants. An outer clear glass surrounds each pendant, as well as a bubble-glass inner surround for an interesting, modern touch.
The kit also includes the hardware to install the light, making setup quick and easy.
Get the hykolity pendant light on Amazon.
There are few atmospheres more unsettling than a dimly-lit basement. Solve that issue by brightening up a dark below-space with this flush mount ceiling light fixture from Lighting EVER. Via a single fixture, this flush mount light uses a 15-watt LED bulb to produce an equivalent of 120 watts of bright white, 5,000K light. The bulb has a 20,000-hour life expectancy while saving up to 85 percent on energy costs.
Not only can this fixture brighten up a basement, but it’s also waterproof, meaning that moist below-spaces won’t have a detrimental effect on it. Installation is certainly within the wheelhouse of a DIYer, as this kit includes the required parts to install it on several surface types, including wood ceilings, plaster, drywall, or a metal junction box.
Get the Lighting EVER flush mount light on Amazon.
If ceiling height is an issue, the Ensenior Ceiling Lights are a flush option that provide plenty of light. When looking to make more of a style statement, consider the hykolity Pendant Ceiling Fixture and add a touch of contemporary glamour to a space.
Basements often come with varying degrees of requirements in terms of lighting, from low ceilings in need of recessed units to maintain acceptable headroom, to dark and dingy spaces that need to be transformed using bright fixtures. Our research has uncovered the top picks across the range of categories that shoppers often look for in basement lighting. We have taken care to offer choices that meet these different needs, which all come with energy-efficient bulbs and are relatively easy to install.
Our list of recommendations also features products ranging from cost-effective units that get the job done, to more sophisticated options for shoppers in search of more of a statement piece to complement a bar or entertainment area. Regardless of price, we have made sure that all our top picks are made with quality materials that will stand up to years of use, as well as varying degrees of moisture, since some basements can suffer from this issue.
Even with this comprehensive foundation about basement lighting, you might still have a few questions. Below are some common inquiries about the best basement lighting and their corresponding answers.
LED lights are usually best for basement applications, as they’re able to light an entire room while using the least amount of energy. Halogen and CFL lights aren’t as popular, but they’re far more preferred and readily available than incandescent lights.
Not only is every basement different, but each type of bulb (LED, CFL, and halogen) offers a different lumens-to-watts ratio, so there is no hard-and-fast rule as to how many lumens you need. As basements tend to be pretty dark, look for a fixture or bulb with enough lumens to produce an equivalent of 75 watts or more.
If recessed lights are your only source of light, you’ll want to install them every 4 to 5 feet, keeping them about 3 feet from the walls. You might also consider installing them over a bar or sitting area.
Bob Vila has been America’s Handyman since 1979. As the host of beloved and groundbreaking TV series, including This Old House and Bob Vila’s Home Again, he popularized and became synonymous with “do it yourself” home improvement.
Over the course of his decades-long career, Bob Vila has helped millions of people build, renovate, repair, and live better each day—a tradition that continues today in the expert yet accessible home advice at the heart of BobVila.com. Today, the Bob Vila editorial team distills need-to-know information into project tutorials, maintenance guides, tool 101s, and more. These home and garden experts then thoroughly research, vet, and recommend products that support homeowners, renters, DIYers, and professionals in their to-do lists.
Tom Scalisi is a freelance writer specializing in the home design, construction, tools, and automotive industries. He has been involved in the trades for over 15 years as both a contractor and a commercial building mechanic. Tom has written for several online blogs and magazines including Next Luxury, The Drive, Car Bibles, and PowerTüls. In addition to his professional life, Tom enjoys getting outside on his mountain bike, camping, beekeeping, and fishing. Tom is also an avid racing and baseball fan. He lives in NY’s Hudson Valley with his wife, their three children, and three dogs.
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