Today, I have a basement progress update and DIY learning experience (lol) all in one—we painted our exposed basement ceiling black, and we absolutely love it! I truly can’t believe the difference it made in the space literally right away.
Want to see where we’re headed in the basement? Read all about our plans here.
So, today, I’m going to share a little about how and why you might want to paint your exposed basement ceiling instead of going to all the trouble of sheet rocking it.
Why Paint an Exposed Basement Ceiling?
Normally, when you finish a basement, you drywall the ceiling when you put in the walls. That makes it look like any other room in your house. We decided not to for a few reasons:
First up, we have an old house, which means the ceiling height in the basement is quite low. While it might not seem like much, adding drywall would lower the lowest point of the ceiling about an inch. By leaving it open, we not only have the actual extra height, but it feels even higher because of the up and down of the floor joists (does that make sense?).
Keeping the basement ceiling open means that we have access to a lot of the HVAC ducts, plumbing, and electrical in our house. Especially with all of the projects that we’re doing, having those things easy to access has been such a blessing. In the future, if something breaks or we just want to change something, it’s easier to deal with if everything is accessible.
Finally, it looks cool and industrial to paint the exposed ceiling instead of covering it up. And that’s as good of reason as any, right?
How We Painted the Ceiling
With an exposed ceiling, especially one like ours that has many pipes, wires, nooks and crannies, it’s best to spray the paint to get a good even finish. I can’t even imagine how long it would have taken with a brush, but it only took about 2 hours with our trusty paint sprayer.
We used Sherwin Williams Tricorn Black, in a matte finish, and we called and ordered a 5 gallon bucket since it’s a large space. They did contactless pickup and just put it in our trunk for us—so easy!
I only did one coat on this project, because we didn’t feel like anyone was going to be looking super closely to notice any drips, so I wasn’t afraid to go somewhat heavy on it.
For any super noticeable drips, I kept a roller nearby and rolled them out before they dried.
Plus, I knew after getting drywall up and walls painted that I’d have to do touchups anyway.
We did this project before the room had walls (what you see is the spray foam insulation) or floors or anything, which was perfect because it would make a big mess otherwise. We just masked off the windows and the open spots where the light fixtures were going.
If you’re painting a ceiling after those steps, you will really need to prep. I would suggest this for your walls and contractor’s paper all over your floors. I cannot emphasize enough how much the paint got everywhere.
Personal Protection While Painting A Ceiling
Let me start by saying that I am obsessed with my paint sprayer. It’s been the gift that keeps on giving and gives me crazy ideas that I can probably paint the exterior of our house by myself, right??
But with any spraying project, you’re going to deal with a bit of mess and overspray, and given that this one was above my head, I knew it was going to be worse than usual. If you’re going to spray a ceiling, it’s important to protect yourself.
Now, I married a safety engineer, so it’s possible that I overdid it slightly, but the main concerns with spraying paint on a ceiling are your eyes and breathing in particles.
For your eyes, wear some good safety glasses and be sure they have coverage on the sides, because paint particles will 100% sneak in the sides. The paint sock on my head also helped cover the sides of my safety glasses.
I had Dustin nearby with a wet paper towel to wipe my glasses every once in a while. (He couldn’t hear me call him through my mask, so our system was that I would clap really loudly when I needed help, lol!)
For your lungs, paint is actually a big particle, so you’re going to be pretty safe if you just tie a bandana around your nose and mouth. (This does not constitute medical advice, I’m not a doctor!)
The other issue for me, though, is the smell, which can sometimes make me lightheaded. So, I wore this respirator mask, and it honestly completely blocked the paint smell. It was worth the investment because I also wore it while sanding drywall later, which is a smaller particle and more dangerous to breathe.
I also covered my clothes, even though I wore paint clothes, with a paint suit, just to avoid ruining them and/or tracking paint all over the house after. I was glad I did because it had a ton of paint on it in the end. And I wore a hair cover and latex gloves as well.
Finally, I didn’t wear shoes because, again, I didn’t want to track paint around. Instead, I wore a pair of old socks and threw them away as soon as I was done. (This led to the interesting result of having my foot prints in paint all over the concrete floor, lol!)
This has been such an exciting space for us to plug away on, because we’re truly doing everything ourselves and learning so much. Dustin even learned how to do electrical and hang sheet rock, and I mudded and taped all of the walls!
Here’s what the most recent picture of the basement looks like, but I’ve actually primed since then too:
Update March 2022: Frequently Asked Questions About our Basement Ceiling
Thank you so much for reading! After getting a lot of questions, I decided to add an FAQ section to this post so it can be most helpful to you. Of course, if I don’t answer your question below, feel free to comment or email me! I still love to hear from you!
What kind of paint did you use?
We used Sherwin Williams Super Paint Interior Acrylic Latex in Tricorn Black.
Did you use primer?
No, we did not use any primer, and we painted right over the joists, wires, ducts, and pipes. I’m not a professional at any of this, so you can go ahead and prime if a pro tells you to and you want to! I will say, so far we haven’t had issues with peeling or flaking, and it has been almost 2 years. Fingers crossed for the future, of course! But I also feel like touch-ups would be pretty straightforward.
How has the painted ceiling held up? How about on pipes and HVAC?
As I said above, we haven’t had flaking or peeling happen yet, and it has been almost 2 years.
The only issues have been places where we added water lines and HVAC where I had to go in and paint the new things. I didn’t want to cover everything again so I just painted with a brush, and it would’ve looked better sprayed, of course. I will say, the darkness of the black hides those brush marks pretty well, though.
What did you do at the top of the drywall where it meets the ceiling?
This is a great question! We added some flat trim at the spot where the ceiling meets the drywall, almost like crown molding. We painted it black so it would blend in with the ceiling, but you could match the wall or choose a contrasting color if you want to!
Why did you do drywall after painting the ceiling? Did you get drywall dust on the ceiling?
I did drywall after painting the ceiling because it seemed easier than trying to cover the drywall and/or paint over the overspray on the walls. We didn’t get any drywall dust on the painted ceiling—I suspect gravity was our friend here? Drywall dust is surprisingly weighty and mostly drops to the ground in piles. I stand by my order of operations here but you can do whatever you’d like in your home!
What lights did you use?
Why did you paint your ceiling black? Can I paint mine white?
I chose to paint our exposed basement ceiling black because I felt it would do the best job covering all of the wires and pipes and sort of making them disappear instead of standing out. I think this was effective—it does sort of recess into itself.
Also, our house has a lot of black in it and I’m not afraid of going dark, especially in a place that’s already dark, like a basement. If you’d prefer to paint your ceiling white or another light color, go for it—it’s your house!
Have more questions about how we did it? Let me know in the comments or via email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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