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Paint an Exposed Basement Ceiling Black | DIY

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Last Updated on July 1, 2023 by lindseymahoney

Painting the exposed basement ceiling black may have been the most physically taxing DIY I have ever tackled.

Don’t get me wrong, it was totally worth it for the look and the money saved, but it was exhausting! In total, it took me 10-12 hours to paint about 1,500 square feet of our basement ceiling.

How to paint an exposed basement ceiling black | Building Bluebird

Our basement ceiling went from looking like this:

How to paint an exposed basement ceiling black | Building Bluebird

To this:

How to paint an exposed basement ceiling black | Building Bluebird

So much better, right?!

Today I am going to share all of the details about painting our ceiling black and what I would change if I were to do it over.

*Check out the complete unfinished basement makeover reveal!


How to Update & Paint an Exposed Basement Ceiling Black

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How to paint an exposed basement ceiling black | Building Bluebird

For a complete list of items used for this DIY project, scroll to the bottom of the post.

1 | Organize Ceiling Wires

How to paint an exposed basement ceiling black | Building Bluebird

Before painting the ceiling, it is important to organize and remove any old wiring and pin any active wires to the joists using cord staples. This will help conceal the wires once the ceiling is painted.

Our basement ceiling had old TV cable and alarm system wires that I easily removed. I used a wire cutter to remove the old wires.

For any loose wires that needed to stay, I pinned them to the side of a joist for a clean look.

2 | Add Electrical and Overhead Lighting (if needed)

How to paint an exposed basement ceiling black | Building Bluebird

Our basement lighting consisted of only pull-string lights. I hired an electrician to install can lights that we could turn on and off with a few switches.

Because I wanted everything on the ceiling black, I had the boxes installed before I began painting the ceiling.

Before the electricians got started, I asked that they attach the wires to the joists. If they needed to cross any joists I asked them to try and do it at the edges of the room so it wasn’t noticeable.

Never assume that contractors know how you want something to look.

You know the saying, “assuming makes an ass out of you and me!”

3 | Clean the Basement Ceiling Joists

Removing dirt and dust from ceiling joists can be accomplished in a few different ways. I found that using a broom to brush away any dust and cobwebs was the most effective for me.

I also tried a leaf blower which would have been great if I was properly dressed and our basement wasn’t filled with our furniture. If your basement is empty, throw on some goggles and go to town with the blower.

Finally, I utilized our shop vac to remove larger debris found on the support beams or ledges of the wall.

4 | Protect the Walls & Floor From Paint

How to paint an exposed basement ceiling black | Building Bluebird

If you have plans to paint the basement walls and floor, start with the ceiling first!

I know this rule, but still got antsy and decided to apply the first coat of paint onto the walls before spraying the ceiling.

Because I followed the steps out of order, I spent a whole day taping plastic on the walls only to have all of it blow away as soon as I turned on the paint sprayer!

Next time I will follow my own advice and skip painting the walls until the ceiling is completely finished.

How to paint an exposed basement ceiling black | Building Bluebird

To protect large items that are staying in the basement, move them into the center of the room and cover them with drop cloths and plastic sheeting.

If you are not updating your basement floors, I recommend covering those as well. Our floor had black speckled paint all over once the ceiling was finished, but I didn’t mind since the floors would be painted next.

Personal Protective Gear

How to paint an exposed basement ceiling black | Building Bluebird

You also want to get protective gear for yourself. I wore a full body suit, protective eyewear, and an N95 mask. Gloves are not a bad idea either, but I decided not to use them.

I used a nail brush in the shower on my hands to remove any paint and it worked well but it does make them quite dry.

How to paint an exposed basement ceiling black | Building Bluebird

My father-in-law saw my standard mask in the photo above and immediately drove to my house to give me a respirator to use.

I used the respirator about half of the time but it would slip off of my head after a while.

My preferred mask for this task was the disposable N95 mask with the mini respirator. Side note: We could not stop laughing at these pictures with me all geared up!

How to paint an exposed basement ceiling black | Building Bluebird

Even with my protective gear, I still had paint all over my face and hands at the end of the day.

5 | Paint the Exposed Basement Ceiling

How to paint an exposed basement ceiling black | Building Bluebird

For this project, I used my Wagner Flexio 5000 to spray the basement ceiling black. It is really easy to use, but it took a long time.

I heard from multiple people after I finished this project that renting an industrial sprayer from Home Depot would have cut my time in half.

I’m not sure if this is true, but I would definitely research it if I tackled this project again.

How to paint an exposed basement ceiling black | Building Bluebird

As I mentioned above, this project took about 10-12 hours! I packed it into 2 days and had to see a chiropractor afterward.

Looking up at the ceiling, holding a paint sprayer, and consistently pulling the trigger starts to hurt after a while! I would recommend taking more time if you can.

I followed the paint sprayer manual recommendations when setting up the machine to paint the ceiling. You can change the size of the spray coverage and the air pressure depending on your project.

How to paint an exposed basement ceiling black | Building Bluebird

I used the latex paint settings and kept the material flow between 9-11 and the airpower on med-hi.

We chose Valspar 2000 flat black ceiling paint and used 6 cans. I decided to go with black paint for the basement ceiling because I wanted to camouflage the wires and pipes as much as possible.

White looks really nice as well but was not the look I was going for. With the can light placement, there is no light shining on the ceiling joists and it just disappears.

Paint Sprayer Tips

How to paint an exposed basement ceiling black | Building Bluebird

Because I had the sprayer tilted back as I sprayed the ceiling, I angled the intake tube towards the back so it would suck up all of the paint.

If I was pointing the sprayer downward to spray a kitchen cabinet, for example, the intake tube would be angled toward the front of the sprayer.

How to paint an exposed basement ceiling black | Building Bluebird

It took me a little bit to figure out the best way to use the paint sprayer, but once I got my system down, it was easier to get all of the nooks and crannies in the ceiling.

I primarily used the horizontal spray position to cover in between the joists.

I switched to the vertical spray option where I moved the sprayer up and down when there was a narrow area to cover.

6 | Paint Touch-Ups

After spraying the ceiling for two days, I decided that one coat of paint was enough!

I touched up any areas that needed some more coverage with a paintbrush and a small roller.

Applying a second coat of paint is always better than one, but I was not interested in tackling that project.

The single coat of paint looks great and unless you are looking to find spots that may need more paint, you do not notice it at all.

*Check out my recommended supplies for painting interior spaces.

7 | Install Can Lights

Unfinished basement makeover | Building Bluebird

I chose black can lights to match the black paint and it looks so good! We added dimmers to the switches too.

I like having the option to dim the lights for a movie or while we are working out.

Removing the pull lights with hanging bulbs and adding can lights completely elevated the look of our basement.

Pros and Cons of Painting an Exposed Basement Ceiling

Pros:

  • More affordable than a drop ceiling or drywall
  • It gives the basement a cool, industrial look
  • Easy access to the mechanicals of the house when necessary

Cons:

  • If you DIY this project, it can be time-consuming and exhausting
  • There is no sound buffer that a drop ceiling and drywall can add

Exposed Black Basement Ceiling Reveal

Basement ceiling painted black and a step-by-step tutorial | Building Bluebird

I am so happy with how the black exposed basement ceiling turned out!

It looks completely different from when we first started this project. The flat black paint gives each area a clean and cohesive feel.

Below is the workout area before we painted the floors.

Basement ceiling painted black and a step-by-step tutorial | Building Bluebird

Here is the basement once the concrete floors and walls had been painted. It is such a great hangout space for our family now!

Basement ceiling painted black and a step-by-step tutorial | Building Bluebird

Here is another great before shot of the basement:

How to paint an exposed basement ceiling black | Building Bluebird

And that same view after!

How to paint an exposed basement ceiling with exposed beams | Building Bluebird 
#diy #painttutorial #paintsprayer #budgetfriendly #basementmakeover

I am thrilled with how our unfinished basement looks and our family uses it every single day.

How to paint an exposed basement ceiling black | Building Bluebird
How to paint an exposed basement ceiling black | Building Bluebird

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FAQs

What is the best paint to use on the exposed basement ceiling?

I used standard latex paint that can be used in handheld paint sprayers. I prefer a flat sheen when painting ceilings to hide imperfections and purchased Valspar 2000 flat black ceiling paint for this specific DIY project.

What is the best paint color for exposed basement ceilings?

Painting the exposed ceiling one color will give it a nice, cohesive look. A white ceiling color on the ceiling will brighten the room and give it a larger appearance.

Black ceiling paint makes a room feel more grounded and hides imperfections. The best ceiling color varies depending on the characteristics of the room and the goals of the homeowner.

How much does it cost to paint a basement ceiling?

The cost of this DIY project will vary based on the size of the basement. You will need to purchase paint and supplies and either rent or buy a paint sprayer.

What do you do about parts of the ceiling that the paint sprayer can’t reach?

After I sprayed the ceiling, I went back and used a handheld paintbrush to cover any missed areas. There are definitely imperfections with the paint coverage, but they are not noticeable once the can lights are on.

Jen

Monday 1st of May 2023

Two questions for you :

1. Do you find the black made your basement look smaller? 2. How is for dust and cobwebs?

I am really torn between black or white! We will be putting a black rubber floor for our gym on one side and the other side will be a light gray carpet.

lindseymahoney

Monday 1st of May 2023

Hey Jen, The black does not make our basement feel smaller at all. Because the can lights shine light from the bottom of the rafter, the black ceiling kind of just disappears. I have never noticed a crazy amount of cobwebs or dust on the ceiling either.

I hope this helps!

Jeff

Thursday 23rd of March 2023

Does your local building code not require enclosing the wires along the ceiling in a conduit or have them behind drywall in a finished basement?

lindseymahoney

Sunday 26th of March 2023

It isn't technically a finished basement so I think it is ok.

Sarah

Friday 17th of February 2023

Hello! We are currently working on prepping our basement to tackle this same project. I think prepping the basement is going to take longer than actually painting it haha. Wondering what you did on the outside walls where the drywall meets to top and there is insulation there. Did you spray the insulation? Did you have to cover it up with anything? Thank you so much for sharing your process!

lindseymahoney

Monday 20th of February 2023

Hi Sarah,

We did not add insulation where we installed the walls and added drywall since it is just a storage room behind there. I sprayed the ceiling black and we added a small trim piece at the top of the drywall on the "living room" side of the basement. The side of the basement with the workout area has pipes hanging down and we left the drywall edge unfinished.The exerior walls are concrete.

Allison Edinger

Thursday 29th of December 2022

Thanks for your detailed post. I’ve been dreaming of doing this same project with our basement for several years now and am finally planning it out. Trying to decide on a white or black ceiling. I’m curious as to why you didn’t prime the ceiling and duct work before painting. I’d love to hear your thought process there. Also, do have info on the housing you used to mount the can lighting? Thanks!

lindseymahoney

Thursday 29th of December 2022

It is a total game changer! The main reason I didn't use a primer is because the black ceiling is not the focal point of the room and is really meant to blend into the background. Because there is no light shining on the black ceiling joists (the light begins shining at the bottom of the joist), I knew that any imperfections would not be visible because of the shadowing. If I painted the joists white, I would be more inclined to add a primer to get an even coat of paint. I hired an electrician who provided guidance on the materials needed to install the can lights, so I can't give great guidance in that area of the project.

Trent

Wednesday 30th of November 2022

Thanks for sharing! Thanks for the photos and ideas on what to do with those unsightly basement rafters!

First, if the respirator was slipping, then it wasn't properly fitted. You should be able to wear it all day without issues.

Second, I agree that a different sprayer would have saved a tremendous amount of time and shoulder pain. I use an airless Graco project painter plus which is pretty inexpensive and doesn't make a mess. Plus, it can pump directly from the paint can (1 or 5 gal). It's a little tedious to set up, but I can still paint even a door faster with it than using a brush.

lindseymahoney

Thursday 1st of December 2022

I agree! It's all a learning process over here. :) There are many things I would do differently if I did it all over again.