Painting an Exposed Basement Ceiling Black

DIY, Renovation

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:

1. Height

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?).

2. Accessibility

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.

3. Aesthetics

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?

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 why (and how!) you might paint your basement ceiling? Click to read the post!

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.

(More on why we love it in this post here!)

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!

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 why (and how!) you might paint your basement ceiling? Click to read the post!

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.

Do you need personal protective equipment while spraying paint with a sprayer? Today I'm covering why you might and how I stayed safe while painting my basement ceiling. Click to read!
Ready to go

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!)

Do you need personal protective equipment while spraying paint with a sprayer? Today I'm covering why you might and how I stayed safe while painting my basement ceiling. Click to read!
When I was nearly done—check out how much paint spray is on my suit, my head, and the concrete floor!

Basement Progress

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:

Today on the blog: Why (And How!) We Painted our Basement Ceiling Instead of Drywalling It. Click to read more.

We’re taking a bit of break from this project at the moment, just to focus on the bathroom and outdoors, but we’re getting so close and I can’t wait to see it all come together!

Have more questions about how we did it? Let me know in the comments or via email:

This post contains affiliate links, which are a way for you to support our blog at no cost to you. Thank you!

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  • Reply
    Olivia M
    October 21, 2020 at 2:00 pm

    Which kind SW paint did you use?

    • Reply
      October 24, 2020 at 7:07 pm

      Thanks for reading! We used Sherwin Williams Super Paint Interior Acrylic Latex.

  • Reply
    November 18, 2020 at 3:13 am

    How did you insulate the rim joist and cover for painting? Did you just spray paint on insulation foam?

    • Reply
      November 18, 2020 at 10:10 pm

      Hey there! So the rim joists are just insulated with spray foam and I painted right over them.

  • Reply
    Lourdes Rocha
    December 9, 2020 at 4:04 pm

    Looks great!! Did you prime before painting or use a paint with primer in it?

    • Reply
      December 10, 2020 at 3:26 pm

      Hey there! I didn’t use primer, no. And we used Sherwin Williams Super Paint Interior Acrylic Latex.

  • Reply
    December 11, 2020 at 1:24 am

    Did you all spray foam yourselves as well. I am finished demo and working on putting my basement back together. I am spraying the ceiling and want to spray foam, especially the rim joists. I got a quote but the DIY is tempting me.

    • Reply
      December 11, 2020 at 4:00 pm

      Hi John, no, we hired out the spray foam.

  • Reply
    December 23, 2020 at 1:41 am

    Looks great!! Would you mind telling me what the floor to ceiling height in your basement is?

    • Reply
      December 31, 2020 at 8:32 pm

      Hey Sean, It’s about 80.5 inches. There is a spot with HVAC where it drops down to about 6 ft, though. Thanks for reading!

  • Reply
    December 24, 2020 at 4:39 pm

    Thank you for the post. We also have an old house and we’re considering painting our basement ceiling. I think in some areas its just north of six feet so really low! Did you spray all of your wires too? We have exposed copper pipes and wiring and I was not sure how to handle that. Also, which sprayer did you use? Thanks!

    • Reply
      December 31, 2020 at 8:21 pm

      Hi Cassie! We sprayed right over everything, including pipes and wires. This is the sprayer we used: Good luck with your project!

  • Reply
    Carrieann and David
    January 2, 2021 at 5:09 am

    A couple questions we are getting ready to start our basement as we just got finished with studs. After you sprayed your ceiling and started on your drywall, did you have trouble with drywall dust all over the ceiling and if so how did you remove that or did you cover the ceilings before doing your drywall. This is the part we are dreading. thanks in advance Carrieann

    • Reply
      January 2, 2021 at 7:44 pm

      Hey there, thanks for reading! We didn’t really get any drywall dust on the ceiling (gravity?) except for maybe a bit on the edges where we bumped the ceiling while putting up or sanding the drywall. We planned on needing to touch up the paint anyway so it wasn’t a big deal. Hope that helps!

  • Reply
    January 4, 2021 at 3:13 pm

    Hello! Has the paint adhered to the ducts, wiring, and copper pipes pretty well? Been trying to find a good paint to use that will stick to everything in our basement. But the ducts especially have me worried.

    • Reply
      January 5, 2021 at 6:23 pm

      So far it has adhered just fine! I found that ducts are the spot most susceptible to drips, so spray lightly and have your roller ready.

  • Reply
    Bob W
    January 5, 2021 at 6:27 pm

    Hi! Thanks for the write-up. I’m finishing up my wiring and will be painting my ceiling. You mentioned you used 5 gallons. Can you tell me the approximate area that the 5 gallons covered?

    • Reply
      January 5, 2021 at 7:56 pm

      Hi Bob, I did buy 5 gallons, but didn’t use all of it (it’s hard to tell but maybe 3/4 of it was used on spraying the ceiling) but I knew I had other things I needed black paint for. The area of the rooms I sprayed is around 400 square feet.

  • Reply
    January 11, 2021 at 6:09 pm

    Hi there! I LOVE this! I’m totally considering doing this in our low basement also. Quick question – what type of floor are you planning to do, bc of height restrictions?

    • Reply
      January 11, 2021 at 6:15 pm

      Hey there, thanks for reading! We did LifeProof vinyl plank flooring on top of dry barrier subfloor. We live in a wet area so we selected materials with potential moisture in mind.

  • Reply
    February 12, 2021 at 12:11 pm

    Hi! This post was so helpful as we work on our unfinished basement – thank you!
    Can you source the black bubble light in the picture? We have exposed bulbs right now and need something simple that’s going to provide more light.

    • Reply
      February 12, 2021 at 5:22 pm

      Thanks so much for reading! We have this light—ours is silver but I can’t find the exact same color we have. What you’re looking for is a “spin light,” that will allow you to replace the bare bulbs (we had the same situation!).

  • Reply
    February 20, 2021 at 2:50 pm

    Please explain what you mean when you say you insulated the rim joist with spray foam. I am not sure I understand this step.

    • Reply
      February 22, 2021 at 3:48 pm

      Hi Jason, Thanks for reading! It’s not a painting step, I was just explaining how we insulated our basement.

  • Reply
    March 9, 2021 at 3:02 pm

    Hi Darcy! This looks SO GREAT! It’s exactly what we want to do but weren’t sure how to start, really appreciate your time sharing it. Our home was built in 2014 so there’s like 6 years or so of dustbunnies up in the overhead! Did you do anything to clean up there before painting? I had a someone recommend to me to spray a bunch of cleaner up in there… but I’m wondering if that’s overkill and maybe just a good brooming-down would be sufficient. Doesn’t sound like you did any of that, but I just wanted to pick your brain/verify. Thanks again, looks so kewl!

    • Reply
      March 10, 2021 at 3:51 pm

      Hi Brandon,
      Thanks so much for reading! We did give the area a sweep and went around with our shop vac (has a long hose) to get any dust bunnies and spider webs out of the corners. If it’s just dusty, that should be enough cleaning, but of course if there’s any sticky or wet messes, you’ll want to give those a better clean before painting.

  • Reply
    March 12, 2021 at 8:15 am

    Super helpful! Thank you!!!

  • Reply
    March 15, 2021 at 5:03 pm

    Did you have any issues with paint leaking to the floors above? I would assume that some gaps in the ceiling to the floor above would have some over spray leaking to the floor above.

    Thanks, I will be doing this to my new house. I like the idea of an unfinished finished basement

    • Reply
      March 15, 2021 at 6:04 pm

      Hi Kevin,
      No, there are no issues with paint overspray on the floors above—this is the subfloor I painted, not the actual floor boards upstairs.

      Thanks for reading!

  • Reply
    Michael Hughes
    March 18, 2021 at 10:40 pm

    What is the square footage they the 5 gallon bucket covered? I’m considering doing this myself, but have no idea how much paint we might need.

    • Reply
      April 1, 2021 at 4:57 pm

      Thanks for reading! The area we sprayed was about 400 square feet, and we used maybe 3/4 of the 5 gallon bucket. But I knew we’d use black paint in other spots and the ease of just sticking the sprayer tube in the 5 gallon bucket instead of having to switch it every gallon was worth it to me.

  • Reply
    March 26, 2021 at 3:09 am

    I live in an older home and there is no sub floor, so should I be concerned with paint overspray on the floors above? I love the look, but I don’t want to create another project!

    • Reply
      March 26, 2021 at 3:35 am

      Cancel the previous question, there is a sub floor and all should be good, thanks!! Just have another question as to why you chose black over a lighter color? I have a small basement area that I want to finish and I didn’t know if black would make it too dark!

      • Reply
        April 1, 2021 at 4:48 pm

        Hi Lisa,
        I painted it dark to cover the wires and pipes better. You could do a lighter color if you want to!

  • Reply
    Caroline Hall
    April 16, 2021 at 2:35 pm

    I’m super-tempted to paint my exposed basement ceiling. I’d like to paint it white – any particular reason why you did yours in black?
    Also, did you just paint all exposed wired and pipes? I’m trying to decide if I should have An electrician come in first to tell me what not to paint.

    • Reply
      April 19, 2021 at 5:43 pm

      Hi Caroline,
      You could paint it whatever color you like, I guess! I picked black because there are so many wires and things up there I thought it would cover all of that the best. And, yes, I painted right over all of the pipes, wires, and HVAC.

      Thanks for reading!

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