Choosing the best lighting for your basement
When finishing or renovating your basement, lighting can make all the difference in the world. Tired old fixtures can be replaced with modern ones and dark, dingy-looking corners can be brightened for a total room transformation. A well planned basement gives you the option for dimmable mood lighting for watching movies, highlighted accents for pictures on the walls, and different color temperatures to compliment your wall colors and décor. With the right fixtures, it will be less evident that you are in a basement at all.
Lighting fixtures have come a long way in the last 20 years. While you don’t need to be an expert, knowing what’s available to you on your budget can really go a long way to ensuring you get the look you want on your Calgary basement renovation. This guide goes over some general lighting-layout planning tips, and then some info about the 3 most common lighting fixtures available
Primary and Secondary Light Circuits
First, we’ll start off with some info on how to plan your basement’s lighting plan. When lighting your basement properly, you’ll want to have a primary and secondary lighting system controlled by 2 circuits. A primary light circuit generally creates a broad light pattern to illuminate the general area and can often include dome, track or other halogen types. A secondary light circuit would illuminate the corners of the room to compliment the primary large-area system with something like a row of wall sconces or track fixtures for instance.
Since you will use the primary circuit more often, consider using fixtures that run energy efficient bulbs to save power costs. It is also a good idea to make sure that the first switch for this system is conveniently placed as you first enter your basement.
Commonly Available Fixtures
Recessed Pot Lights – also known as Can or Flush Lights
Although pot light fixtures are typically more costly than other standard lighting, they are the least obtrusive option because the actual fixture is completely hidden in the ceiling.
Once installed, recessed Pot lights are an excellent choice for a primary lighting system because you can run energy efficient bulbs such as compact fluorescent and LED’s. This will make it less of a big deal if kids or forgetful adults tend to leave the lights on when leaving the room. They are also an obvious choice for low ceilings.
Be aware of fixture quality – Due to the fact that high quality and low quality pot light will look almost identical once installed, you should know they are not all created the same. The type of pot light and the quality of the fixture can be the difference between a safe product and major fire hazard. Using cheap multipacks of retro-fit pot lights means they are not IR (Insulation Rated), and operate at very high temperatures. If you have to use these, ensure there is at least 12" clearance in all directions from the ballast to ensure no risk of fire. Since your ceilings are already open for wiring, have your electrician install proper CSA certified pot lights for your own peace of mind. It’s a good idea to let your electrician know that this is one of your concerns and that you only want quality fixtures in your home.
If you are not entirely sure how you will lay out furniture and how the various areas of your basement will be used, then track lighting can be a good option. It is generally the only non-permanent option that allows for the lamps to be pointed to where you need the light at the time. You can highlight a picture on the wall, get rid of glare on your TV screen, or temporarily point all the lights at area. There are many options for track lighting fixtures that range from low cost, utilitarian fixtures to nice brass and brushed-steel options.
Along with this style of lighting, wall sconces create character, have many design options, and typically direct light upwards in a diffuse light pattern. Wall mounted sconce fixtures are also easy to swap out for a completely different look as the years go by.
Halogen Sconces are a good choice if you need a very bright hallway or room. They are declining in popularity somewhat because they often use a minimum 100-200 watt bulb and run quite hot in comparison to other methods.
Going Further – Smart Controllers
While not in the budget of everyone, lighting controller systems such as the Lutron system can give a lot of intelligent functions to the lighting in your home. You can do things like:
- turn off all the lights in your home with one switch conveniently placed in your bedroom or back door – no more walking the whole house to turn off lights.
- run arrays of lights at lower dimming settings to conserve energy while still having ample lighting.
- set a dimmer to a certain level you like, then program a button to dim an array of lights to that level with the touch of a button.
- control lighting schedules and functionality from your laptop or smart phone.