DIY Painted Basement Ceiling Project

Guest Written by my Mom!

About a year ago, Steph and Mike’s realtor (the same terrific lady who sold their former home in four days) posted a home sale listing that happened to have a finished basement with a black painted exposed wood ceiling. I fell in love with that look. Fell hard. It was so cool – so urban/industrial chic and all. A mental note was made that someday, that type of ceiling would need to be a part of my life.

Little did I know it would be happening so soon.

When approached with the idea of doing the total basement makeover, it was clear that the ceiling was going to need some serious attention. My first thought was to simply patch and paint the old drop ceiling and be done with it. Or, get a new drop ceiling. Upon further review, the old ceiling was in too poor of condition to work with and a new ceiling would have run into some significant cost.

 

The dreaded drop ceiling! Had to go!

The dreaded drop ceiling! Had to go!

In reality, I was probably trying to justify doing the exposed wood paint job that I knew I wanted all along. The kids were all for it. Plus, ripping out everything gave us the opportunity to do some much-needed lighting and wiring upgrades. Without our trusted electrician friend, this would have been impossible to execute.

With the decision made, Stephanie’s dad spent the next few days ripping down the old ceiling. I’ll spare you the details, but you would not believe what-all you find on the topside of basement ceiling tiles!

This is after the drop ceiling had beed removed, before painting. 

This is after the drop ceiling had beed removed, before painting. 

Next question – what color paint to use? We were basically deciding between black or white. After looking at many remodeling websites, I concluded that black looked way cool and would be excellent for a basement that was more of a bar or TV/theatre-room style, or any basement with a high ceiling. But our basement does not have a high ceiling and was going to be more of a general living area.

We were looking to brighten things up as much as possible so Behr’s standard ceiling white was chosen. To cover up any imperfections before had, Kilz is our forever go-to:

If ever an opportunity presented itself for using a paint spray gun, this was it! After some fairly extensive research, I went with one of the small-to- midsize DIY airless sprayers available. These can be had for under $100 and I figured the whole family can use it for other projects as well. I even posted questions on a pro painting blog to confirm I was on the right track.

This is after masking the floors and tarping the walls. 

This is after masking the floors and tarping the walls. 

Fast forward to countless hours masking off the floor, walls, doors, etc. You need to do a lot of careful masking because the overspray will get everywhere. Finally, I was ready to fire up my new toy. Looking spiffy in my home-made hazmat suit, things were going great for about 3.5 minutes. Then, realization set in that I had seriously underestimated the physical strength required for this job.

Here is an analogy – if you can hold a 16-pound bowling ball over your head and sweep it side to side for several hours at a time, you’d be OK here. I’m no slouch, but my strength ran out after about 20 minutes. The option of doing it by hand with a brush was still there but the thought of all the wasted spray-paint prep work was utterly nauseating. A fight-or- flight decision needed to be made pretty quickly. I chose flight; there was no choice other than to accept my total defeat at the hands of the airless sprayer. This was a crushing blow because I rarely back down from a challenge.

After allowing for five minutes of moping, it was time to move on! Over the next six weeks, one joist and plank at a time, the job got done by hand. It took a lot of paint – like 10 times more than if it was a flat ceiling. The reason for this is the increased amount of surface area, combined with the roughness of the wood and need for multiple coats.

What a chump I was to initially only purchase ONE GALLON of ceiling paint. I was back to the store in no time, buying up the two-gallon buckets and in retrospect should have been buying five-gallon pails. In the interest of full disclosure, probably a full gallon wound up on my painting outfit:

My painting uniform. 

My painting uniform. 

A more fun part of the project was figuring out some accent touches.  The exposed heat/air conditioning vent pipes (there were several of them) were painted using a flat grey Rust-Oleum paint and for the gas pipes I used a flat black Rust-Oleum paint.  The black and grey, along with the bright new electrical conduit and can lighting, yields some great contrast and makes the whole thing pop:

The finished look! 

The finished look! 

In spite of a few initial hiccups, this was a fantastic DIY project.  Probably my best one ever!  The end result exceeded all expectations.  Taking out the drop ceiling definitely gives the illusion of more height and the paint job adds a ton of interest and brightness. The only real functional downside is that the drop ceiling did provide a pretty significant noise barrier.  With just the exposed wood, from the basement you can pretty much hear everything going on in the living room above it (but oddly, not vice versa).  In fact, the kids and I often communicate just by yelling through the floor/ceiling. As in “Hey you left your car in the street” or letting them know the mail arrived.  No intercom needed!

DIY Exposed Painted Basement Ceiling. Tips for how to paint a basement ceiling. This will brighten up your room!
DIY Exposed Painted Basement Ceiling. Tips for how to paint a basement ceiling. This will brighten up your room!