What is the Best Beginner 3D Printer to Buy

3D printers have come a long way in the past few years. You can now buy a pre-built 3D printer for under $200 that you can take out of the box and start printing with, something perfect for beginners.

Best Beginner 3D Printer - What to Look For


More 3D printing blog posts and video's i've done or will do:
1 - Introduction to 3D Printing1 - Introduction to 3D Printing
2 - Best Beginner 3D Printer2 - Best Beginner 3D Printer
3 - Monoprice MP Select Mini - Printer Setup3 - Monoprice MP Select Mini - Printer Setup
4 - Things I Learned as Beginner4 - Things I Learned as Beginner
5 - What are my Gcode & Cura Settings5 - What are my Gcode & Cura Settings
6 - Make Filament Spool Holder6 - Make Filament Spool Holder
7 - Different Filament Explained7 - Different Filament Explained
8 - 3D Printer Enclosure8 - 3D Printer Enclosure
9 - Filament Dry Box9 - Filament Dry Box
10 - Glass Print Bed & Z Spacer10 - Glass Print Bed & Z Spacer
11 - Granite & Marble Print Bed11 - Granite & Marble Print Bed
12 - Fix Clog in Extruder & Nozzle12 - Fix Clog in Extruder & Nozzle
13 - Insulate Hot End - Prevent Clog13 - Insulate Hot End - Prevent Clog
14 - Install 50mm Fan and Shroud14 - Install 50mm Fan and Shroud
15 - Insulate Print Bed15 - Insulate Print Bed
16 - Drawing/Modify 3D Parts - Best Program16 - Drawing/Modify 3D Parts - Best Program
17 - Install New V6 Hotend17 - Install New V6 Hotend
18 - MOSFET Hot End Replace - Main Board18 - MOSFET Hot End Replace - Main Board

F1 - Filastruder - spool.works E3D EdgeF1 - Filastruder - spool.works E3D Edge
F2 - colorFabb - NGENF2 - colorFabb - NGEN
F3 - Monofilament Direct - PLAF3 - Monofilament Direct - PLA
F4 - 3D Universe - PLAF4 - 3D Universe - PLA
F5 - FormFutura - HDglass & EasyFil PLAF5 - FormFutura - HDglass & EasyFil PLA

In the early 2000's they were home-built kits that you had to assemble yourself, work out all the bugs, spend thousands of dollars, and still there was no guarantee of getting it to work properly.
original 3d printer, basic 3d printer, makerbot, 3d kit

But since then there have been many more companies getting into the rapid prototyping services, which has lowered the cost to you. So how much does a 3D printer cost? Well you can definitely still spend in the $1,500 range, but now there are a lot more 3D printers that are also in the $200 - $600 range.
high end 3d printer, best 3d printer, expensive 3d printer, cost of 3d printer
One of the most popular 3D printers today is the Monoprice Select Mini 3D Printer, which cost $200. It was the most popular 3D printer bought on Amazon in 2016.
monoprice select mini 3d printer amazon, cost, reviews

And it has been a huge part of the Monoprice 3D printer market as well.
mp select mini 3d printer reviews, monoprice, best, beginner, how to

Monoprice did not come up with the design themselves, i believe they bought the rights or use from an existing printer and began selling it through their company.
malyan m200 3d printer, monoprice select mini, reviews, cost, compare, better, basic, beginner

The MP Select Mini is popular because it is cheap, but also because it is easy to setup and also produces decent quality prints. It is geared toward the person just starting out in 3D printing. Cool looking delta printers like this are good for people that have already gone through the learning process with a basic printer and are ready for something more advanced.
cool compact delta printer, 3d printer, tall, kit, setup, orion

The size of the print bed is 120mm x 120mm x 120mm. Which isn't as large as some of the more expensive 3D printers, but most of the stuff you will be printing when you are just starting out is small. For example your third print isn't going to be a life size Iron Man head that takes 29 hours to print. Usually your first few prints are upgrades to the printer itself. Like this, here's a new dial button i printed and installed.
mp select mini upgrades, how to, parts, .stl, button
And here's a filament guide to help align the filament coming from the spool.
filament alignment, modification, 3d printer
As you learn and get better you will modify this little printer, get clogs and learn to unclog the hot end, and slowly over time learn exactly how it works.
monoprice select mini 3d printer, best beginner 3d printer

The 3D printer objects you will be printing will be small stuff you download off Thingiverse.
thingiverse, download 3d print, best files, popular prints, 3d

But here are some reasons to look for if you are buying a 3D printer, and why i think that the MP Select Mini is a good choice.

It's solid. Made of metal, not plastic. This printer is super solid. Some other, more expensive printers i've seen have lots of plastic parts and look wobbly. This has a solid metal frame and solid frame rails. If there are wobbly parts, there are 3D printable upgrades that you can modify.
what makes the monoprice select 3d printer good for a beginner

It's simple. The software on this is basic but does a great job and is easy to follow. Same with the movement in the X, Y, and Z axis. Everything is simplified and straightforward. I've seen other printers with super complicated menu systems and all different types of movements. More complicated sometimes means more places for it to break or be confusing to repair. When this printer breaks it is easy to track down the culprit.
best 3d printer, cost of 3d printer, cheap 3d printer

Again you can see that if you are having issues with a delta printer, the solution might not be that easy to diagnose.
best 3d printer kit, new 3d printer, where to buy a 3d printer
It's easy. In 10 minutes you can take this out of the box, plug it in, insert the microSD card, load the filament and press print and it will work. Sure there's lots more to learn and do but just the fact that it works out of the box is huge at getting people interested and engaged, rather then trouble-shooting issues. It has all the elements you need for a good 3D printer, but in the most basic form possible.
what to look for when buying a 3d printer

It's cheap. At $200 it's an inexpensive and cheap 3D printer to start out with. If you find out it's not for you, well then you haven't wasted $1,500. $200 is a good price point for a lot of people to start the hobby. It's popular. That's not always a reason for something to be good, but it does mean that there's loads of support online. Every time i had a problem with something it was easy to search and find a solution because someone before me has already gone through it. Also it means that there's lots of 3D parts that you can download and upgrade/modify your printer, like new knobs, rollers, and glass print bed adapters.

Reddit - Monoprice Select Mini 3D Printer Owners Page
Facebook - Monoprice Select Mini 3D Printer Owners Page
Google+ - Monoprice Select Mini 3D Printer Owners Page

MP Mini - Print Replacement Parts
MP Mini - Manual
So if you are looking to buy a cheap 3D printing, but you are afraid of spending too much, or don't know what a 3D printer cost, and you are not sure if you will like it, then the MP Select Mini is a great beginner 3D printer.

Intro to 3D Printing - A Series

My blog and youtube channel has always been about things i'm interested in, things i build, and things i fix around the house.  And a few months ago i got a new 3D printer.  So i thought it would be a great thing to write about and record video's about.

Intro to 3D Printing - A Series


More 3D printing blog posts and video's i've done or will do:
1 - Introduction to 3D Printing 1 - Introduction to 3D Printing
2 - Best Beginner 3D Printer 2 - Best Beginner 3D Printer
3 - Monoprice MP Select Mini - Printer Setup 3 - Monoprice MP Select Mini - Printer Setup
4 - Things I Learned as Beginner 4 - Things I Learned as Beginner
5 - What are my Gcode & Cura Settings 5 - What are my Gcode & Cura Settings
6 - Make Filament Spool Holder 6 - Make Filament Spool Holder
7 - Different Filament Explained 7 - Different Filament Explained
8 - 3D Printer Enclosure 8 - 3D Printer Enclosure
9 - Filament Dry Box 9 - Filament Dry Box
10 - Glass Print Bed & Z Spacer 10 - Glass Print Bed & Z Spacer
11 - Granite & Marble Print Bed 11 - Granite & Marble Print Bed
12 - Fix Clog in Extruder & Nozzle 12 - Fix Clog in Extruder & Nozzle
13 - Insulate Hot End - Prevent Clog 13 - Insulate Hot End - Prevent Clog
14 - Install 50mm Fan and Shroud 14 - Install 50mm Fan and Shroud
15 - Insulate Print Bed 15 - Insulate Print Bed
16 - Drawing/Modify 3D Parts - Best Program 16 - Drawing/Modify 3D Parts - Best Program
17 - Install New V6 Hotend 17 - Install New V6 Hotend
18 - MOSFET Hot End Replace - Main Board 18 - MOSFET Hot End Replace - Main Board

F1 - Filastruder - spool.works E3D Edge F1 - Filastruder - spool.works E3D Edge
F2 - colorFabb - NGEN F2 - colorFabb - NGEN
F3 - Monofilament Direct - PLA F3 - Monofilament Direct - PLA
F4 - 3D Universe - PLA F4 - 3D Universe - PLA
F5 - FormFutura - HDglass & EasyFil PLA F5 - FormFutura - HDglass & EasyFil PLA

I highly recommend that if you are someone that loves building and designing, you definitely need to try using a 3D printer.
Monoprice Select Mini 3D printer, Amazon, Price, Malyan 200, series

In past years that meant spending thousands of dollars.  But as more and more people and companies have gotten into 3D printing, the prices have come down.  I will be getting more into things like features and costs, but the printer i have can be purchased for $200.

price of 3D printer, how much does it cost, beginner 3D printer, amazon

I plan on making video's and writing about everything i've learned and built over the past months:
 - How to pick out a beginner 3D Printer
 - My opinion of this Monoprice Select Mini 3D Printer
 - Things i've learned in 3D printing
 - Settings
 - Filament Spool Holder
 - 3D Filament Explained
 - Enclosure
 - Dry Box Storage
 - Glass, Marble, Granite Print Bed and Cutting
 - Fix a Clog in Filament

Here's a simple enclosure i made to keep the printer quiet, hold in heat, and light the work surface.
3D printer enclosure, DIY, make, insulate, lighted, box, how to, make, build

Here'e a big pile of all my 3D printing stuff.
tools for 3D printing, what do i need for 3d printing, how to start, beginner

Typical Thingiverse page where you can download all sorts of 3D parts.
filetype for 3d printing, 3d file type, .stl, .obj

Close-up of a 3D print.  I was trying to figure out how to remove those little blobs.  What to adjust in the settings?
settings for 3d printing, cura, simplify3d, slic3r, speed, temp, retraction, how to adjust

Here's the 3D printer i have, the Monoprice Select Mini.
best beginner 3d printer, monoprice select mini, price, cost

A design i did on AutoCAD for a filament spool holder.
plans, design, filament holder, 3d printer, angle, make

This is a close-up of the hotend that comes with the MP Select M
simple 3d printer hot end, extruder, mp select mini, maylan 200

I will be showing you what to look for when buying a 3D printer, how much 3D printers cost, how i built a printer enclosure, how i tested different print beds like glass, marble and granite, how i tested all different filaments and all the settings, tips and tricks to help people just staring out with printing.  I will try to make things short and to the point, focusing on what you need to know and what's important.

I will also be doing Filament Reviews of several different filaments from different companies.
what type of material do you 3d print with, free filament, 3d printing

Right now it's purely a hobby for me.  But it is fun knowing that if i spent more time designing parts in 3 dimensions, that i would be able to print anything i could draw.  I will definitely have to improve my 3D CAD skills, using programs like SketchUp.

Considering that 3D printing is relatively new, I assume that most people are also beginners.  So i would be focusing everything i do toward someone just starting out with 3D printing.

So i hope that this is something that everyone is interest in as well and will enjoy the video's, pictures, and write-ups.


Ring Toss Game - Easy to Make


For as long as i can remember this ring toss game has been hanging on the wall of my parents cottage.
Ring Toss,Game,Kids Game,Antique Game,Simple Game

The story is that it was made by my grandmothers father i think back around the 19??'s.  It's obviously a really simple game but we play it all the time when we are there.

I know that now there's a lot of modern versions of the game with sticky balls, balls with velcro, etc.  But this game never breaks, never tears, and never wears out.  Plus everyone likes to play, from 4 year olds to 84 year olds.  Plus it looks cool and is an antique.

Here's a close up of the board.  There are numbers 1-13 under all the hooks.
Fun Game,Free Game,Make Antique,How to Make a Game,Ball Game,Indoor Game,Childrens Game,

Just a square piece of wood with metal hooks spaced evenly and at the edges.
Ball Shooting Games,Kids Birthday Party Games Indoor,Games Free to Play,How to Make a Game

Now instead of velcro tennis balls, we use round rubber jar lids.

Here's another version that my parents have, made at the same time.
Make a Game,Game,Free Game,Ball Game,Childrens Game,Ring Toss Game,Antique Game,Racing

We found out that not all rubber jar lids are made equally.  The older lids we have are thick heavy rubber, but we bought some newer ones that are thinner rubber and more flimsy.

To play the game you just throw all the rubber rings and add up all the numbers that the rings get hooked.

But it's great if you are looking to make an old antique game in a kids room or somewhere in a house for people to play.  It cost basically nothing to make and will last forever.


Basement Remodel Plans - How to Refinish it Yourself and Save Money


So you've decided to refinish your basement.

Refinishing your basement is the cheapest and easiest way to add tons of value to your house.  And it turns an area of somewhat unused space into a totally new room and floorspace.  You don't have to be great at building, electrical or carpentry.  And you don't need to have lots of tools.  But it does help to have friends who have done it before.

This will not be a super in-depth guide to refinishing your basement.  I just wanted to go over some things i learned from what we did in 2001 and tips that will save time and money.  And let me just say that i talked to as many people as i could about what i needed.  People who have refinished their basements before know all the tips and pitfalls and will tell you things you need to do and things that you can skip.  I also watched a ton of video's on youtube.

First, decide on what you want to do.  We decided on just refinishing half of our basement.  Our basement is around 1,000 sq.ft. and we figured 500 sq.ft. for a TV room/play room would be fine.  The other half of the basement is my workshop, laundry and storage.  Originally i had this whole area as my workshop, now i was being confined to the back 1/4 corner.

unfinished basement before remodel

Another view from years before.
basic unfinished basement, remodel cost, how to

Here's the view to the stairs coming down.  The boxes you see are from the bathroom tile remodel we did.
Finished Basement,Basement,Drywall Basement,Carpet Basement

And another view of the stairs from an earlier date.   Just your typical basement.
Finishing A Basement,How to Finish a Basement,Cost to Finish a Basement

Next you want to measure everything.  Measure all walls, ceiling height (noting that it might be shorter at the walls and higher where the floor drain is), location of windows, pipes, water meters, gas meters, electric boxes, heating ducts, vents, etc.  Initially you can draw this by hand on paper, but i think it's super important to draw it out to scale on some type of computer CAD program.  I use AutoCAD at work so it wasn't a big deal to draw it out using that.
dimensions, measure, sketch, drawing, cad, refinish basement, electrical, stud wall, 2x4


Finished Basement Ideas,Basement Remodel,Basement Ideas

Here's just the area we were going to remodel.  You can see the stud walls, 2x4's, lights, electrical, outlets, etc.  This is a necessity for getting all your material quantities.
Carpet Tiles,Basement Flooding,Flooded Basement,Basement Flood

Once i had that EXISTING drawing, i could start drawing the PROPOSED linework.  Doing all this on the computer is great because it makes it easy to move and delete things.  Also you can change where you want lights to go and how many electrical outlets you need.  Here's my final version, probably the 30th different drawing i did.

google sketchup, basement, remodel, house

Here's a later version where i had the ceiling drawn in.
google sketchup, basement, remodel, house, joists, carpet, beam, 2x4, stud wall

A view from above showing the entire basement.

sketchup 3d basement

These views were great to get a sense of scale and how things were going to look.
3d basement plans, cad, drywall, trim, joists, electrical

And another view of the stairs.  This was an earlier design where we had a door to storage under the stairs, which never happened.
basement remodel design, 3D view

Another great thing about drawing your basement plan on AutoCAD is getting quantities.  I could quickly get dimensions of everything i needed since it was drawn to scale.

Another cool thing is to draw it on Google SketchUp.  This is a free program you can download and really quickly draw an entire room in 3D.  I found it really useful to get a feeling for how the room would look.  Plan views are good, but actually seeing what the room will look like lets you get a better mental picture and think of things you might forget.

Water in Basement,Waterproof Basement,Wet Basement

Drawing it to scale, for example with our 7' ceilings, helps to see whether it will look ok or not.
Basement Waterproofing Cost,Basement Waterproofing,Waterproofing Basement

Our final plan was to frame the walls with 2x4's.  Replace the old windows with glass block.  Then run electrical and put up lights.  Then paint the ceiling black.  Next staple up insulation and do drywall.  Install 2 doors.  Then hire someone to install carpet.  Paint the walls then nail up baseboard and crown molding.


Once everything was decided and drawn, i could then figure out how much it was going to cost.  So i created a spreadsheet and separated everything into categories like Electrical, Drywall, Paint, etc.  The columns are Item, Quantity, Cost, Total Cost.  Then the total cost of everything at the top.
basement remodel cost opinion, excel, pdf, materials, costs, how much
Here's the link to this Basement Remodel Cost Opinion Spreadsheet, it's on my Google Drive.  

I got all of the costs by visiting Lowe's and writing everything down that i needed.  The prices are from 2014, but they shouldn't have changed much.

This was the sheet that i took with me to either Lowe's or Home Depot to get a cost for everything and determine what the entire remodel would end up costing us.
prices of materials, lowe's, home depot, house remodel, basement, finished basement

This was a guess at our time frame.  This basically got thrown out the window once we started working.
time frame, time line, building, estimate, how long will it take

No only does the spreadsheet give you an idea of what everything is going to cost, but it's really important to have when you go to buy everything.  It takes several hours in the store and you are pushing around a couple of carts.  You don't want to be confused as what to buy and forgetting something.  It's nice having a list of everything, how many you need and checking them off as you go.

I think we bought some of the stuff at Lowe's and some stuff at Home Depot.  Just because of cost and we liked certain things better at the other store.  (like recessed lights)

Here's a link to a blog post i wrote earlier on how to save 10% on every purchase from Lowe's.  You can also do sites like Cards4Cash where you buy gift cards and get another 10% off, but that can be a pain sometimes.

So now you have your plan, you spent over $1,000 on materials and you are ready to get started.


We decided to frame all the walls with 2x4's.  I did see that sometimes people anchor 1x2's to the walls and use that hard pink foam insulation.  But the first step for us was to measure 4" off the wall and snap a chalk line.  2x4's are actually 3.5" wide but we wanted 1/2" for some air flow.  The one downside of all of that is losing 5" of floor space on each wall, but it wasn't that noticeable.

Another decision we made was to attach the pressure treated 2x4's to the floor with TapCon screws (they are the blue ones).  In hindsight this wasn't the best thing.  Having to use a hammer drill to drill 30 or 40 holes in the concrete was a real pain.  I thought that one of those RamSet nail guns would be too expensive, but i found out later that they are only like $30.  If i had to do this again i would use the RamSet because it's a whole lot quicker and easier.

basement remodel stud wall, 2x4

We framed up the walls on the ground and then lifted them into place.  We put Liquid Nails on the floor, then drilled into the concrete and secured them with the TapCon screws.
basement wall framing, how to, nail gun

Another picture from early on in the process, had to work around all the materials.
How to remodel a basement, cheap, save

The first door I framed up.  You can see at the top that i somehow screwed up the measurement and had to saws-all an inch from the top board.
door frame, stud wall, how to, basement remodel

A couple of things to know about framing.  We were able to buy 7' 2x4's because our ceiling was only 7' high.  That saved us some money.  Next, you need a good miter saw.  I bought a DeWalt 12" miter saw a few years ago and it's been great.  Making all of these cuts with a hand saw or circular saw would have been a real pain.  Having a nice table setup makes everything easy and accurate.

materials to remodel a basement by yourself

Here's what it looked like when we started, dark and lots of stuff in our way.
basement remodel, what to buy, how much does it cost, square feet

Here's the miter saw stand that i built a few years ago for my 12" DeWalt miter saw.  Having this is a must.  You are making tons of cuts and it's nice having a dedicated station to try and minimize mistakes as you go along.
miter saw cart, folding, compact, dewalt
Here's the blog that i wrote for making the stand.  Plans for folding miter saw cart.

More junk.  Also you need to have a good table for working on and going back to reference your measurements/plans.  But it gets cluttered. 
plans, work table, measurements, remodel house

This was after we had all the walls framed up and i was looking at building the shelves for under the stairs.  Just trying to get an idea of how the new shelves would fit in there.
under stairs shelves, plans, drawings, how to, ideas

And another view of looking back at the plans and measurements to check that we didn't forget anything.  Also here you can see one of the doors and frames we bought, as well as the hard foam we use for down the stairs.
basement remodel materials, cost, spreadsheet, excel

Another thing you need to have is a big framing nailer.  I guess you could screw or nail all the boards together, but again having a framing nailer is a huge help.  It's fast and easy to make the stud walls.  I borrowed my brother's framing nailer (he bought it to do his basement years ago).  I already had a 6 gallon air compressor and smaller nail guns.
tools need for basement remodel, air compressor

These nail guns were only good for small stuff like baseboard, crown molding and trim.  For the 2x4's i had to borrow my brother-in-law's big framing nailer.  But the 6 gallon compressor worked great. 
small framing nailer for 2x4 remodel

Here's a blog post where i talk more about the tools and when i got them.  6 gallon air compressor and nail guns.

Another tip is in building the stud walls.  Don't just cut the wall to be the exact height of the ceiling.  Meaning if your ceiling is 7'2", don't make the stud wall 7'2".  One of my friends who does construction said to measure the entire wall in several places, take the shortest height and subtract 1/2".  Cut all your board to that height.  Meaning if you measure your first wall and get 7'2", 7'3", 7'2", 7'4".... cut all of your boards 7'1-1/2".

I know what you are thinking, that would be way too short.  But you will realize when you frame up your first wall and have to beat it into place with a hammer that it's much easier to slide the wall into place and secure it with some wood shims.  Who cares if it's an inch or two short, it's not load bearing, just put up a bunch of shims and nail it into the ceiling joists.  We cut a wall that wouldn't fit, had to take it down, pull all the nails, recut the vertical 2x4's then put it back up.  After that we made sure it was at least 1/2" shorter than all the measurements.

Straight walls area easy, it gets a little tricky when you have to go around pipes and water meters.  Our water meter was 3' from the back corner, and we decided to bump out the wall around it.  I figured that i could build shelves in the void later.  I was going to get fancy and only box in the lower part, but we just boxed it in all the way to the ceiling.

framing in pipes, gas, meter, water meter

We didn't want to lose 4" of stair width, so for that wall we attached 1x2's directly to the concrete wall with TapCon anchor screws.  The 1x2's provided an anchor point for the drywall screws.  Then we used 3/4" pink hard foam to insulate the spaces between.  This way we only lost 1" and not 4" from the stair width.

framing wall down stairs, steps, how to, size, wide

We ended up buying 2 doors from Home Depot.  They came with the hinges and already attached to the frame.  One door was to access the furnace, that was only 30" wide.  For the door to the back laundry room i bought a 36" wide door so that i could get any big items in and out.  I would hate to build everything then realize that the washer and dryer wouldn't fit through the door.

To mount the doors i used these metal alignment brackets.  They were great.  I was able to mount it by myself.  You attach the brackets to the frame, draw a vertical line, then align the brackets to the line to make sure it's perfectly plumb.  I probably could have done it with wood shims but it would have been difficult to do by myself.

You can see here that i miss-measured and the door frame wouldn't fit, i had to do a little hacking with the SawsAll to take off another inch.

frame doorway, door and frame stud wall, align, plumb, vertical

The small windows we had down there we just thin glass and looked terrible.  So i decided to replace them with glass block.  It took a while to figure out what size blocks i needed.  Figuring that i needed a 1/2"-1" gap all around, i bought blocks with widths of 8", 6", 6", 6", 8" to fit the opening.

The first step was to knock out the old windows and metal frames.  I used a small sledge hammer and prybar.

how to install glass block windows, remove old basement windows

The next thing i learned is that it takes a LOT of grout.  I think i used an entire 50 pound bag for each window.  So definitely buy more than you think you need.  Next, you have to mix it pretty thick, too thin and it will be too runny and slump.  You need a firm base or else it will be hard to get it to stay level when you set the blocks on them.  Mine started slumping at one end, but it's difficult to notice now.

first time glass block window, how to update house, basement remodel


I've never done any electrical apart from changing an outlet, switch or installing a ceiling light.  So i knew i needed help and asked my brother in law.  We were able to do everything in a weekend.  That included lights, wire and switches in the unfinished room, then outlets, wire, lights and switches in the finished side of the basement.  

Here's running wires from the breaker box, thru the joists, then down into the walls.

electrical wires, basement remodel, playroom, 14-2 wires

The first thing you have to do is decide how everything will be connected, meaning what lines will supply power to what things.  One tip i got was never have more than 9 "things" per line.  Meaning no more than 9 lights or 9 outlet per circuit breaker.  Otherwise it might be overloaded and trip the circuit breaker.

So we decided to do all the recessed lights on 1 circuit breaker and all the outlets on the other.  There was already a light that worked on a 3-way switch at the top and bottom of the stairs.  For that we just cut the wire to the switch and ran it to the new switch location.  Then we split the wire to feed the 2 new lights.

wiring can lights, how to, basement lighting

Another view of the lights after i painted the ceiling black.  I painted the lights black too and that helped to blend in.
paint ceiling can lights, how to, black ceiling

Next we hung the recessed lights by nailing it to the ceiling joists.  Then we nailed the plastic outlet boxes to the studs where we wanted the outlets to go.

basement lighting, easy wiring, wire, outlet, switch, 2-way, 3-way

Here's wiring the switch for the basement lights.  1 wire for one half of the basement and 1 wire for the 3-way lights coming down the stairs.
3 way outlet switch, wiring, how to

Then we went to the circuit breaker box, turn off the main breaker, and installed 2 new circuit breakers.  From each breaker we ran lines to the finished basement area.

how to tap into breaker box, wire breaker box, electrical, fuse box

Determine how much wire you need, then double it.  I figured that i needed about 200' of wire, we needed about 400'.  The wire comes in 250' rolls which aren't too expensive.  We bought 14-2 wire for everything except the 3-way switch, we needed 15 feet of 14-3 wire.  The 14 represents the gauge (thickness) of the wire and the 2 represents the number of wires in the sleeve (not including the ground wire).  It took a long time drilling 3/4" holes in the stud walls and ceiling joists and figuring out the shortest route for everything.  We probably could have installed 8 or 10 recessed lights but since the contractors box only included 6 lights, that's what i went with.  It's a little bit dark down there with the BR30 bulbs.
cheap BR30 bulbs, can lights

Another tip my brother in law said to do was to not just run the wires to the outlets, but to install "pig-tails".  That way if one of the outlets is bad or wired incorrectly the rest will still work.  If you wire 1 in and 1 out then if one outlet is bad, they all stop working.  Also i decided to use the fancy light switches with the dimmer on the side.  I thought we would watch movies down there and want it dimmed, but so far we haven't really needed it.

The difficult parts of all the electrical wiring was figuring out the 3-way switch and routing all the wires.  Other than that, it wasn't super complicated.


Once the wires were in, it was time for wall insulation.  Each roll will cover something like 40 sq.ft. of space (it says on the roll).  We needed 11 rolls, but it only cost like $12 per roll.  We stapled the paper tabs to the studs and had to cut a slit for electrical wires to pass without being pushed.  Putting up insulation is pretty easy, but you are itchy afterwords.


After insulation it was time for drywall.  Putting up drywall isn't too hard, but it's a pain.  We decided that the easiest thing would be to run the boards vertically.  That way we would only have 1 seam running vertically every 4'.  Also we only had to cut off 12" from the top of each board (8' long boards, 7' ceilings).
basement remodel, drywall, mud, tape, sand

This took hours and days and weeks.  
basement drywall, how to, easy

Again it would have gone faster had we known what we were doing, but the learning curve meant for extra mudding and sanding.
how to refinish your basement, cost to remodel, tips for basement finish

Putting up the drywall isn't too difficult, just measuring, cutting with a utility knife and big T-square, then screwing it to the wall.  Next you nail up the corner guards with the air nailer.

The hard part comes with taping and mudding.  It always takes me several days of mudding and sanding, then more mud then more sanding.  It's one of those things that you are terrible at first, then slowly get better and better.  Just remember that the more mud you put on means the more sanding you need to do.  Although having the sanding pad on a long pole made sanding a lot easier.


With the drywall done it was time for painting.  We decided to paint the ceiling black.  We did this for a couple reasons.  First, because our ceiling height was only 7'.  If we did a drop ceiling or drywall on the ceiling it would have made the room look small and cramped.  The black ceiling just makes it look higher.  Second we thought that painting would be a lot easier and look better.

I borrowed my brother in law's heavy duty paint sprayer.  It was a real nice one that had tons of pressure.  It took a while to setup and prime the pump but once it started going it was great.  That sprayer was able to go through a gallon of paint in a couple of minutes.  Here's what i looked like after i was all done.

how to paint a ceiling, black paint, basement black ceiling, easy, optical illusion

And here's what i looked like when i was done.  The paint suit started out being white.
painter suit, filter, air sprayer, ceiling, joists

Again, like the electrical wire, figure out how much you think you need, then double it.  Especially with the ceiling joists, it's not just a flat wall, there were lots of corners and sides.  I thought that i would only need 2 or 3 cans, i ended up needing 5.
finished painting ceiling black, joists, drywall, air sprayer, paint sprayer

Just painted over the smoke alarm, again it just blended in and no one notices it.
paint smoke alarm, detector

I bought paint that was pre-mixed black, and cost $18.

Next we primed the walls with white primer.  That's important because the drywall seems to suck up the first coat of paint.  So just use the cheap $9 primer for that and not the $35 can of paint.

After primer we painted the walls with the green paint we chose.

paint basement walls, remodel, baseboard, crown molding, finished basement cost


A year ago we had our dining room and living room carpeted from Home Depot.  We got a good deal, it was on sale, and since it was over a certain square footage, install was free.  This time we only had about 500 sq.ft. so we had to pay for the install.  We bought the cheap 40 cent padding but got slightly better $2.00 carpet.

Here was that carpet pad from a year ago.
lowe's carpet pad install, coupon generator, code 10% off
And also here's a link to that blog, which goes into more detail about the carpet and cost.  Plus it has that Lowe's coupon generator code for getting 10% off your total purchase.

One thing we did to save money was SAY that we were going to do the stairs ourselves.  Home Depot charges like $7 or $12 per stair.  That was going to be another $150.

The people who do the install are not Home Depot employees, they are a separate carpet company, where Home Depot is the middle man.  So what we did was ask the installers, "hey if we give you $50 would you carpet the stairs for us?"  They said "ya for sure".  I guess they only get paid $3 or $4 to do the stairs, so we saved money and they made money.

Another thing was we thought that we had to do the tack strip ourselves.  But they charged less than $1.00 per foot so we had them do it.  And that was the hardest part i think, having to drill into the concrete.


With the carpet done it really started to look like a finished room.  So we got started putting up all the trim, baseboard, and crown molding.  I started with the baseboard because i knew that i could do that quickly.  I've installed baseboard in several rooms in the house.  It's way way easier to use a good miter saw and air nail guns.  Without that it would be difficult.
basement baseboard, crown molding, paint, finished basement

Here's a link to a blog post i wrote about how to easily install baseboard.

easy baseboard in stall, crown molding

Again, you need to have a good miter saw, air tank and nail guns.

finishing touches, basement how to, remodel

Ready to install doors.

carpet in basement, play room ideas
Then i started with the crown molding.  I know it sounds a little weird putting up crown molding when there isn't any ceiling boards, but it turned out great.  The crown molding hid the rough drywall edge and really made the room look taller.  It somehow tricks the eyes and provides a break between the green walls and black ceiling.
ends of crown molding, how to, kids play room ideas, basement

Then i installed the framing around the 2 doors.  This was a little tricky, i had to rip down the top width to fit it in below the crown molding.

how to install door, hang door, vertical, plumb, metal alignment

I did have to cut a bit off the bottom of each door because of the long carpet and thick pad.  
Spacers for door alignment, clearance over long carpet

And it was a bit screwy at the top where i had to trim some off the door trim because there wasn't enough room for the frame and crown molding.
door frame and crown molding, how to blend wood trim

Then i put up trim around the glass block window, a ledger board and then trim around the opening below the stairs.
wrap glass block window, grout, how to, install, basement, spacing

Some stuff that seems like a big screw-up gets forgotten when you near the end.  Plus most of the time you are the only one that notices small imperfections, like glass block that isn't perfectly level.
finishing a basement, remodel, cost, spreadsheet, common mistakes

For all of these we bought the 100' contractors packs.  They were a lot cheaper then buying individual lengths of boards.

After that we hung the TV on the wall with the stand.  The cool thing about that is i put an outlet box on the wall and another box to run the wires.  That way you didn't see any wires hanging down.

wire tv through wall, outlet box behind tv, tv wires in wall, mount

Then we moved in all the furniture.  That was a bit of a mistake because all work stopped after that.  It's been over a  year and we still haven't done lots of things.  We still have to spackle nail holes on the trim, attach trim under the stairs, build shelves under the stairs, and build a door to access the water meter and water shut off.  I'm sure it's something we will wait to do until we sell the house.

basement corner shelf, design, water meter

I drew it up on AutoCad so that i could get the spacing to look right.  You can see here that i took a picture, inserted the picture to scale in AutoCad, then drew over-top of the picture.
cad design corner shelf, 3d shelf, plans, dimensions

And again i did the same thing here for the shelves i was going to build under the stairs.  But this drawing wasn't to scale, just a concept to see if i would like the box and triangle design layout.
shelves under stairs, design, storage, space

I saw a few drawings like this for my inspiration.  Nothing fancy, but able to hold a lot of kids toys and things.
under stair shelves, basement stairs

I also built a wood frame so that we could setup the baby gate to keep him from escaping up the stairs.
baby gate wood frame, wall mount, basement stairs

Our product tester at work.  
angled stairs baby gate, mount to wall, tight

Another thing i still have to do is staple up thick felt/insulation between the joists on the unfinished side of the basement.  Since that's my workshop, the felt would cut down on noise and sawdust blowing over to the finished side.  Also i bought some thin 1/8" hardboard that i wanted to put on the back side of the stud wall.  That hasn't happened.  And as you can see the shelves under the stairs didn't happen either, just a big area to throw stuff.
finished basement storage area

But we are super happy with how it all turned out.  It's become a playroom for our son and all the kids that come over.  And for less that $3,000 we have another 500 sq.ft. of space in our house.  It's a lot of work and takes some time but it's totally do-able for anyone.  Just invite your friends over to help.

basement play area, remodel, house, garage, plans, design, dimensions, cost, how to