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I'm your average homeowner, and this is our first house. I've done everything from paint to plumbing, electrical to framing.... and everything inbetween. This year hurricane Ivan ruined the 30 year old bright red shag carpet in our basement and we've been left with an unuseable space down there for months now. We are planning a cheap remodel ourselves and I wanted a little input from the pros.

Flooring - we're going to use the Legato carpet "squares" for this. It's in our budget and we really don't want something permanent down there due to the possibility that we may get another extremely wet season again. We want something portable or removeable if you will.

Walls - this is my biggest hangup. The walls are currently wood paneling. It's a matte surface in a dark grey/brown color and there are knot holes, grooves, wood patterns, etc in it. It's not smooth at all. Ideally I'd like to drywall the walls but tearing down the old panel and fighting to get 4x8 sheets of drywall down the stairs and around two sharp corners doesn't sound like a fun job. We would also need to remove the existing drop ceiling and replace it if we took the panel down. We've decided to paint the panel (although I'm not truly happy with that). Are there any other options?

Electrical - there are currently two large flourescent lights down there. 2' x 4' in the center of the room. This results in the sides of the room being a little dark. I'm curious if I could remove these two fixtures and replace them with four "can" lights in the four corners of the room (maybe 3 feet from each corner. Would that provide more even lighting and would four can lights be a large change in current over 2 large flourescent fixtures?

Carpentry - I would like to do two built ins. One being a medium sized cabinet for our daughters toys, books, etc. The second being a small entertainment unit in the corner. The corner piece being the TV and electronics unit with two shelving units on either side. I was planning on 1/2 -3/4" MDF as this will be painted and doesn't need to be a hardwood surface. It will be dressed up with face boards and crown molding to make it look a little less "Trading Spaces-ish" :D Without a table saw, what's the best way to get a straight cut using a circular saw on a sheet of MDF? Can I screw a 1x1 or 1x2 to the sheet as a fence or is there a better way? I suppose I could pickup a few small clamps and just clamp the 1x to the sheet I'm cutting as well. Should these cabinets sit on pressure treated sill plates? The basement floor is concrete.

Thanks for your help. I love home projects (we've remodeled the entire rest of the house ourselves) and I'm hoping this will look as good as I envision it.
 

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I'm probably the worst person to get advice from about doing something on the cheap because I'm just the opposite, I prefer using the best materials and techniques to create beautiful spaces not as you aptly put it "Trading Spaces" looks when all is said and done. Because just about every dollar you put into your home will come back to you over time. A $1000 of materials will usually raise the value of your home $1000. A $100 of materials will usually rase the value of your home $100, so you almost always end up getting what you pay for, and when it comes to my personal home I want the best since it is just like putting money into a savings account. It isn't like throwing money away on a depreciating asset like a car.

homeowner said:
This year hurricane Ivan ruined the 30 year old bright red shag carpet in our basement and we've been left with an unuseable space down there for months now. We are planning a cheap remodel ourselves and I wanted a little input from the pros.
The first thing I would tell you is to fix the problem, don't cover it up. If your basement floods you need to address it first, fix it or you are just throwing good money after bad when it floods again.

homeowner said:
Electrical - there are currently two large flourescent lights down there. 2' x 4' in the center of the room. This results in the sides of the room being a little dark. I'm curious if I could remove these two fixtures and replace them with four "can" lights in the four corners of the room (maybe 3 feet from each corner. Would that provide more even lighting and would four can lights be a large change in current over 2 large flourescent fixtures?
Can lights are a nice lighting choice, but the are by nature not going to provide even lighting. They are a spot source compared to a broad source like a flourescent tube. To get broad lighting from them you will need multiple can lights. You need to figure out how many you need based on size of the room.

homeowner said:
Carpentry - I would like to do two built ins. One being a medium sized cabinet for our daughters toys, books, etc. The second being a small entertainment unit in the corner. The corner piece being the TV and electronics unit with two shelving units on either side. I was planning on 1/2 -3/4" MDF as this will be painted and doesn't need to be a hardwood surface. It will be dressed up with face boards and crown molding to make it look a little less "Trading Spaces-ish" :D Without a table saw, what's the best way to get a straight cut using a circular saw on a sheet of MDF? Can I screw a 1x1 or 1x2 to the sheet as a fence or is there a better way? I suppose I could pickup a few small clamps and just clamp the 1x to the sheet I'm cutting as well. Should these cabinets sit on pressure treated sill plates? The basement floor is concrete.
I would tell you that you can do what you are trying to do with lots of work arounds, but I would recommend you purchase a used table saw if you have room or a used portable job table saw, buy it out of the paper for $200-300 bucks and when you are done, put it back in the paper and sell it for $200-300 bucks, the worst you will be is out the price of a new blade and the cost of advertising it to get rid of it. Anything wood that is going to be in contact with a cement floor in your basement I would recommend being PT wood.
 

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Heck you can get a new delta 10" table saw and stand at home depot for $89. I have 1 as a back up that I have used every day for 2 months all day and it still does just as good as my dewalt.
 

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I am also just finishing off a recroom in the basement and wanted to still have access to the ceiling, I was going to install a drop ceiling but just really did not like the look of them so I though about it for awhile and came up with a coffered ceiling design made from mdf and it looks great and I can still have access to ceiling with the removal of just a couple of mouldings. I have taken a couple of pictures of the construction, not quite finished yet but the price was about the same as a tile drop ceiling if you build it yourself.
 

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This year hurricane Ivan ruined the 30 year old bright red shag carpet in our basement
Can a hurricane really ruin a 30 yr old BRIGHT RED SHAG carpet...or did Mother Nature just get tired of waiting for you to replace it and took action into her own hands. I'd thank her and move quickly forward to the 21st century :0
 
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