3 Basement Projects That Are Easier Than You Think

Basement repair isn’t necessarily a blockbuster conversation topic at parties, but it is a necessary topic for keeping the foundation of your home in working order. Some issues require a professional, but others—like small cracks in a foundation wall and laying subflooring panels on top of a concrete slab—are easy DIY projects. And if you’re finishing your basement (after you’ve resolved any moisture issues, of course), adding crown molding is a doable way to add polish to your space. Black and Decker The Book of Home Improvement walks readers step-by-step through these at-home repair projects.

Seal Cracks in Foundation Wall + Skim-Coat Foundation Wall

Keeping excess moisture and standing water out of the basement is a priority before finishing the space, and even when you’re not planning to finish the basement, these repairs are important. Good news: sealing cracks in a foundation wall can be accomplished relatively quickly.

Basement moisture appears in two forms: condensation and seepage. Condensation comes from airborne water vapor that turns to water when it contacts cold surfaces. Vapor sources include humid outdoor air, poorly ventilated appliances, damp walls, and water released from concrete. Seepage is water that enters the basement by infiltrating cracks in the foundation or by leeching through masonry, which is naturally porous. Often caused by ineffective exterior drainage, seepage comes from rain or groundwater that collects around the foundation or from a rising water table.

Here are two ways to address moisture-attracting cracks in your basement foundation wall:

How to Seal Cracks in a Foundation Wall

  1. To repair a stable crack, chisel cut a keyhole cut that’s wider at the base then at the surface, and no more than ½” deep. Clean out the crack with a wire brush.

seal cracks in a basement foundation wall

  1. To help seal against moisture, fill the crack with expanding insulating foam, working from bottom to top.

seal cracks in a basement foundation wall

  1. Mix hydraulic cement according to the manufacturer’s instructions, then trowel it into the crack, working from the bottom to top. Apply cement in layers no more than ¼” thick, until the patch is slightly higher than the surrounding area. Feather cement with the trowel until it’s even with the surface. Allow to dry thoroughly.

seal cracks in a basement foundation wall


How to Skim Coat a Foundation Wall

  1. Resurface heavily cracked masonry walls with a water-resistant masonry coating such as surface bonding cement. Clean and dampen the walls according to the coating manufacturer’s instructions, then fill large cracks and holes with the coating. Finally, plaster a ¼” layer of the coating on the walls using a square-end trowel. Specially formulated heavy-duty masonry coatings are available for very damp conditions.

skim coat foundation basement wall masonry

  1. Scratch the surface with a paintbrush cleaner or a homemade scratching tool after the coating has set up for several hours. After 24 hours, apply a second, smooth coat. Mist the wall twice a day for three days as the coating cures.

skim coat foundation basement wall masonry home repair

Install Polymer Crown Molding

Crown molding is one of the easiest ways to increase the value and visual appeal of a room, and installing it can be done entirely with hand tools. Polymer crown molding comes in one piece, versus “build-up” crown molding, making installation easy.

Polymer moldings come in a variety of ornate, single-piece styles that offer easy installation and maintenance. The polystyrene or polyurethane material is as easy to cut as softwood, but unlike wood, the material won’t shrink and it can be repaired with vinyl spackling compound.

You can buy polymer molding pre-primed for painting, or you can stain it with a nonpenetrating heavy-body stain or gel. Most polymers come in 12-foot lengths, and some have corner blocks that eliminate corner cuts. There are even flexible moldings for curved walls.

Tools and Materials You’ll Need

  • Tape measure
  • Drill with countersink-piloting bit
  • Power miter saw or hand miter box and finetooth saw
  • Caulk gun
  • Putty knife
  • Crown molding
  • Finish nails
  • 150-grit sandpaper
  • Rag
  • Mineral spirits
  • Polymer adhesive
  • 2″ drywall screws
  • Vinyl spackling compound
  • Paintable latex caulk
  • Eye and ear protection

How to Install Polymer Crown Molding

  1. Plan the layout of the molding pieces by measuring the walls of the room and making light pencil marks at the joint locations. For each piece that starts or ends at a corner, add 12 to 24″ to compensate for waste. If possible, avoid pieces shorter than 36″ because short pieces are more difficult to fit.


  1. Hold a section of molding against the wall and ceiling in the finished position. Make light pencil marks on the wall every 12″ along the bottom edge of the molding. Remove the molding, and tack a finish nail at each mark. The nails will hold the molding in place while the adhesive dries. If the wall surface is plaster, drill pilot holes for the nails.

crown molding basement wall DIY

  1. To make the miter cuts for the first corner, position the molding faceup in a miter box. Set the ceiling side of the molding against the horizontal table of the miter box, and set the wall side against the vertical back fence. Make the cut at 45°.

crown molding basement wall DIY miter box

  1. Check the uncut ends of each molding piece before installing it. Make sure mating pieces will butt together squarely in a tight joint. Cut all square ends at 90°, using a miter saw or hand miter box.

crown molding basement wall DIY

  1. Lightly sand the backs of the molding that will contact the wall and ceiling, using 150-grit sandpaper. Slightly dampen a rag with mineral spirits, and wipe away the dust. Run a small bead of polymer adhesive (recommended or supplied by the manufacturer) along both sanded edges.

crown molding basement wall DIY

  1. Set the molding in place with the mitered end tight to the corner and the bottom edge resting on the nails. Press along the molding edges to create a good bond. At each end of the piece, drive 2″ drywall screws through countersunk pilot holes through the flats and into the ceiling and wall.

crown molding basement wall DIY

  1. Cut, sand, and glue the next piece of molding. Apply a bead of adhesive to the end where the installed molding will meet the new piece. Install the new piece, and secure the ends with screws, making sure the ends are joined properly. Install the remaining molding pieces, and let the adhesive dry.

crown molding basement wall DIY

  1. Carefully remove the finish nails and fill the nail holes with vinyl spackling compound. Fill the screw holes in the molding and any gaps in the joints with paintable latex caulk or filler, and wipe away excess caulk with a damp cloth or a wet finger. Smooth the caulk over the holes so it’s flush with the surface.

crown molding basement wall DIY

Install Raised Subfloor Panels

Subfloor panel pieces fit together easily with tongue and groove edges, like a jigsaw puzzle. They combat moisture problems in otherwise water-secure basements and can be followed up with wood or laminate floors.

Raised subfloor panels are an excellent choice as a base layer when installing wood or laminate floors over concrete slabs, such as in a basement. The raised panels do an even better job of protecting against moisture than simple plastic vapor barriers. Do not expect a raised subfloor to eliminate problems in a basement with severe water problems, however. The system works very well for combatting the normal moisture that is always present in an otherwise water-secure basement, but a basement that frequently has puddled water must be corrected in a more aggressive way before flooring can be laid over the slab.

The raised subfloor panels fit together securely with simple tongue-and-groove edges, and for best results the concrete slab must first be examined for dips or cracks, and leveled out before laying the subfloor panels.

Tools and Materials You’ll Need

  • Long board
  • Floor leveler and trowel (if needed)
  • Tape measure
  • Circular saw
  • Jigsaw
  • Carpenter’s square
  • Tapping block and pull bar
  • Hammer
  • ¼” wall spacers
  • Particle mask
  • Eye and ear protection

How to Install Raised Subfloor Panels Over a Concrete Slab

  1. Clean the concrete floor and install temporary ¼” spacers along all walls. Starting with the longest wall, measure the length of the wall, and calculate the number of panels needed by dividing this length by the width of the panel (most products are 2 × 2′). If necessary, trim the starting panel to ensure that the last panel in the first row will be at least 3″ in width.

basement floor install raised subfloor panels over concrete home improvement

  1. Check the first corner for square, using a carpenter’s square. If it is not square, the first panel will need to be angled in the back corner to ensure the first row will fit flush against the wall along its entire length.

basement floor install raised subfloor panels over concrete home improvement

  1. Lay the first panel with the tongue side flat against the wall spacers. Slide the next panel into place by connecting its tongue into the groove of the preceding panel. Using a tapping block, snug up the tongue-and-groove joint. For the last panel in the first row, measure the gap between the last installed panel and the wall spacer, and cut the last panel to this measurement. Install by inserting the tongue of the cut panel into the groove of the preceding panel, and levering it down into place. Pull it into place so the joint is secure using a pull bar.

basement floor install raised subfloor panels over concrete home improvement

  1. Before beginning the second row, check the first row for flatness, and if there are any areas with “give” or bounce, adjust them with leveling shims inserted under the panels.

basement floor install raised subfloor panels over concrete home improvement

  1. As you start the second row, cut the first panel in half, so that seams will be staggered between rows. Begin with the half panel, and install the second row as you did the first, sliding the tongues into the grooves of the preceding row, and snugging them up with the tapping block. Install the subsequent rows, so that the first panels alternate, with odd number rows matching the pattern of the first row, even numbered rows matching the pattern of the second row.

basement floor install raised subfloor panels over concrete home improvement

  1. At the last row, trim the wall side of the panels to fit the space between the previous row and the wall spacers, and snug up their joints with the pull bar. Remove all spacers.

basement floor install raised subfloor panels over concrete home improvement

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Boasting 560 pages of hardworking, how-to instructions and photos, this is quite possibly the only home remodeling you, or any homeowner, will ever need! From basements to attics and everywhere in between, BLACK+DECKER The Book of Home Improvement shows you exactly how to do more than 100 of the most popular improvement projects.

Whether your ambition is as big as remodeling the kitchen down-to-the-studs, or as modest as changing a bathroom faucet, you will find all the guidance you need to do the job right. This giant book is the ultimate resource and trusted advisor for anyone who wants to make the home a better place to live. Not to mention increases its resale value–and all from the experts at Black & Decker.
Just some of the projects covered here are:

  • Planning a Remodeling Project
    Wall, Ceiling & Trim Projects
    Floor Projects
    Cabinets, Countertops & Storage Projects
    Window & Door Projects
    Attic & Basement Projects
    Kitchen Projects
    Bathroom Projects
    Room Addition Projects