Painting the exposed basement ceiling black may have been the most physically taxing DIY I have ever done. 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.
Our basement ceiling went from looking like this:
So much better, right?! Today I am going to share all of the details around painting our ceiling black and what I would change if I were to do it over.
How to Update & Paint an Exposed Basement Ceiling
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For a complete list of items used for this DIY project, scroll to the bottom of the post.
1 | Organize Ceiling Wires
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. Any loose wires that needed to stay, I pinned them to the side of a joist for a clean look.
2 | Add Electrical (if needed)
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
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.
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.
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.
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!
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
For this project, I used my Wagner Flexio 5000 to spray the ceiling. 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.
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. 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 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.
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 cabinet, for example, the intake tube would be angled towards the front of the sprayer.
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 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
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
- More affordable than a drop ceiling or drywall
- It gives the basement an cool, industrial look
- Easy access to mechanicals of the house when necessary
- 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 Basement Ceiling Reveal
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.
Here is the basement once the floors and walls had been painted. It is such a great hangout space for our family now!
Here is another great before shot of the basement:
And that same view after!
Project Source List:
- Valspar 2000 Flat Black Interior
- Coveralls with a hood
- Protective eyewear
- N95 mask or Respirator
- Wagner Spraytech Flexio 5000
- Dropcloth and Plastic Sheeting
- Work platform and/or ladder
- Wire Cutter
- Cord Staples
- Broom or Leaf Blower
- Shop Vac
- Black can lights
- Dimmer Switches
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This inexpensive DIY will transform your unfinished basement!