Insulated Concrete Formwork Help & Advice

Our insulated concrete formwork help & advice centre has been created as a reference and information hub for designing and building ICF structures in general, and Polarwall in particular.

Insulating Concrete Formwork Basements

Bringing Daylight Into a Basement 

Bringing daylight into a basement can significantly enhance its liveability and transform it from a dim dreary space into a welcoming area. Any room without a window can see a little disconcerting and some may even feel such a room to be oppressive.  If we can possibly bring natural light into the basement then it should be done. Several strategies can be employed to create a more vibrant atmosphere.

Bringing Daylight Into a Basement 

Maximise Natural light:

Window Wells: Sometimes called Light Wells are an extension built into the wall that may be preformed or constructed as part of the basement. Consider installing these. These structures allow more natural light to enter by expanding the window area out into the surrounding ground. Clean and maintain these wells regularly to ensure unobstructed light flow which will help when Bringing Daylight Into a Basement .

Walk Out Basement: If a basement is built into a slope then it remains relatively simple to bring in natural light. A “walk out” basement is ideal for having a wall of glass or doors.  The walk out can be at ground level or some ground may be levelled off to create a patio with tiered soil levels around the patio.  Taking the angle of the walls back with some stepped levels of gabion baskets can maximise the light angles and create an interesting feature.   Sometimes a patio is needed.  The lower level patio can also work very well in L shaped structures to bring light into two faces. 

 If the basement is not a full basement and is partly in the ground and part out of the ground then there is opportunity to include high level clerestory windows.   Clerestory windows do suggest a basement but a little imagination can make a clerestory window a delightful feature. 

Polarwall Basement with Light Well from grand Designs
Polarwall Basement with Light-Well

Low Level Patio Garden

Every basement needs two exits because of fire regulations. If one is an internal stair then there needs to be a second means of exit from the basement. This could be a simple door to an external concrete staircase, staircase could be in a below-ground patio area.

This is where imaginative design can create a valuable source of light and a wonderful feature.

The patio garden is usually made with a concrete retaining wall. However a gabion retaining wall in a stepped back fashion can allow even more light into the patio and basement.

Choose Lighter Colours:

Paint selection: Choose light reflective colours for both walls and ceilings. Light coloured surfaces bounce light around the room, creating a brighter and more open feel. White or pale shades are particularly effective. Reflective Finishes: Choose glossy or satin finishes for painting surfaces. These reflect light better than matt options.

Strategic Lighting Design:

Ceiling Lights: Install bright ceiling lights to eliminate dark corners. LED fixtures are energy efficient and provide ample illumination. Consider pendant lights or track lighting to add a stylish touch. Task Lighting: Place task lights strategically to illuminate specific areas, such as a reading nook or a work corner. This can contribute to an overall brighter ambiance.

Mirrors For Reflection:

Strategic Placement: Position mirrors across from windows or light sources to maximize light reflection. Mirrors not only enhance brightness but also create the illusion of a larger space. Mirrored Furniture: Consider incorporating furniture with mirrored surfaces. This not only adds a touch of elegance but also contributes through reflection to enhancing the overall brightness of the basement room.

By combining these strategies you can effectively bring light into a basement, turning it into a bright inviting space that is both functional and aesthetically pleasing.

See our page on Architectural Design

More information on basements can be found at the Basement Information Centre.

If you have any questions about Bringing Daylight Into a Basement then get in touch with us today.


The various sections above cover the main topics for Insulated Concrete Formwork (ICF) construction both above and below ground. 

Do not use this as an alternative to what your chosen manufacturer recommends.  We can do things with Polarwall that ICF blocks can’t do and there may some things that you do with other ICFs that Polarwall can’t do. For example our instructions on vibrating the concrete may not be wise on some EPS block systems. 

We want to add to and develop this section, so we welcome all your questions, suggestions for topics and feedback.  If you want to go deeper into a topic please let us know.  This advice hub does not replace our training (or any other companies training) and you still need to avail yourself of our FREE training course.

Have a question or suggestion not listed here? Feel free to contact us