Our Exposed & Painted Basement Ceiling: Why We Love It!

All the details on our painted basement ceiling, why we decided to leave it exposedand all the reasons we love it!

Last October we started the process to finish our basement, and this week it will be complete! The process has taken a bit longer, so much of it we did on our own. Now that it is, we absolutely love it. There’s a play room, game room, exercise room, movie theater, and bathroom–plus a large storage room and workshop that remain unfinished.

One of the things we decided on was a painted and open basement ceiling, instead of finishing it with drywall, or adding a drop ceiling. We love love the way it turned out, and I thought I’d share all the reasons we decided on leaving it exposed. If you’re looking to do a basement remodel, or finish your basement, keep reading to see why you might want to remove your ceiling tiles and start painting!

Painted Basement Ceiling White

Before: OUR UNFINISHED BASEMENT

Painted Basement Ceiling White

WHY WE DECIDED ON A PAINTED EXPOSED BASEMENT CEILING

Each of these reasons was an important factor, and when putting them all together, it was a pretty easy choice.

  • Budget

We did framing and electrical ourselves, but we hired out the drywall. Our quote for the ceiling alone was thousands of dollars. Neither a finished drywall ceiling nor a drop ceiling were in our overall budget for the basement. This was a huge reason for deciding on an exposed ceiling, and not finishing it. The cost of painting it instead was much, much smaller. We hired someone to do all of the painting mostly because of the ceiling and the movie theater, and adding in the ceiling wasn’t that much more. There was also prep work, including cleaning and wiping down the basement rafters, pipes, and ducts to get rid of the dust and cobwebs in all the nooks and crannies. We handled all of that before the painters came. We didn’t have insulation in the ceiling, so it was a non-issue.

  • Ceiling Height

Honestly, this was just as important of a reasons as the budget, perhaps even a little more. The ceilings in our basement are 8 feet, but the metal vents, plumbing, ductwork, and beams hang down at least a foot. If we finished the ceiling, it would be way too low, and with a husband that’s 6 ft. 4 in., low ceilings aren’t the best. By choosing to paint it instead, and leave it exposed, we get the full 8 feet, plus it feels like it’s even more, because of the open beams to the first floor. When we walk downstairs it doesn’t feel like a super cramped space, and the

  • Aesthetic

Granted, this did not play a major role in our decision to have a painted basement ceiling, because the first two reasons were so important. But if it was going to look terrible, it would have been hard. But I also had a vision for what I wanted it to look like, and I felt like the industrial style would be a really good fit. I love love the way it looks, and it definitely matches the whole vibe of the basement. The exposed beams are one of my favorite things now, and the paint completely transforms the unfinished basement ceiling. I chose lighting that would also add to the overall feel, and together they work so well together.

We saved a ton of money, the ceilings are higher, and it looks awesome–can’t beat that!

Painted Basement Ceiling White
Painted Basement Ceiling White

BEST PAINT COLOR FOR BASEMENT CEILING: LIGHT & BRIGHT

I decided on white paint for our painted basement ceiling because there’s only one window down there, and I wanted it to be as light and open as possible. Many people paint their basement ceiling black, which gives it a different vibe, but open, light, and bright were my goal, so I went with white. It’s not a true white, because it would show everything, so it’s tinted every so slightly gray, but still looks white when you look at it.

We did paint the movie theater ceiling with black paint, and the walls are a dark gray, which is what you need in that type of space, and I love it in there.  But white for the rest of the basement was my top pick!

Painted Basement Ceiling White

GREAT BASEMENT LIGHTING 

I chose pendant light fixtures that would hang down, making sure the light was even distributed, rather than up higher in between the beams. They have an industrial look that I love, and really matches the look of the open basement ceiling. We put in quite a few (10) lights, and all of that also helps keep the whole space really light and bright, which was my goal. I didn’t want to walk down to the basement and feel like I was in a cave, even though it’s naturally a very dark space. They’re uniform throughout the space, and we measured closely to make sure of how many we needed so they’d line up nicely.

The lighting is by IKEA, but when they were out of stock when I needed to purchase them. I knew they eventually come in, but I didn’t have time to wait. Fortunately I found them on Amazon, and they had enough for the entire basement! They were really easy to install, and we didn’t need to hire an electrician.

Affiliate links of products we use and love are included for your convenience. If you click on a link and make a purchase, I receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.

Painted Basement Ceiling White

DIY: PAINT YOUR BASEMENT CEILING 

If you’re hiring out the painting of your basement, you can choose to include this in the quote, or do it yourself. If you do it yourself, you will need a larger airless paint sprayer to get the job done more quickly and spray more easily. A paint roller will not be sufficient to cover all of the small pipes and wires evenly and thoroughly. Even investing in a paint sprayer will save you money hiring it out, and you will be able to use it again and again, for so many projects.

Another option is to rent one from your local hardware supply store, like Home Depot or Lowe’s.  If you only plan to use it once, then it might make more sense to rent for a day or the weekend. 

After the basement project we built a barn, and used this same type of sprayer to paint it with three coats in just one day! You could also use this to paint your entire basement, if you planned to do it all yourself, and it would work really well for the both the ceiling and the walls.

While we didn’t paint our own ceilings, we’ve done a lot of painting, and do have quite a bit of experience.  We also watched the painters complete the project, and watched them to look for any other tips and tricks we could use in the future.  

  • The ceiling was painted first, before the walls or trim. We didn’t need to put down a tarp or drop cloths or worry about overspray, since the carpet wasn’t in yet, and drips wouldn’t be a huge issue. We didn’t have to use painter’s tape either, because everything was able to be painted. 
  • They did paint a first coat of primer before a coat of paint went on. Then two more coats for extra coverage.
  • They used a large sprayer for all of the ceiling coats, and it went very quickly. It easily covered all of the vents, pipes, ducts, and even the cable wires running through there.
painted exposed basement ceiling

**Someone asked me for a picture of that the junction boxes look like for the lighting, and I thought I’d post it here, in case anyone else was curious and looking for that same information.

THE QUESTION I’M MOST ASKED

Hands down, the biggest question I get is about the noise that comes with not finishing the ceiling.  This answer may be different for everyone, but I can answer it from our experience.  We have six kids, and the basement gets a lot of use.  It’s mostly used as a playroom, but we also have a theater in one corner.  Above the play areas, we don’t hear much more noise than before. That said, my kids played down there before it was finished, so not much really changed on that front.  We have a piano in the basement, and I hear it faintly upstairs. 

When the kids are watching a movie in the theater (we have speakers set up too), I can’t hear it anywhere in the upstairs except our bedroom, and especially our bathroom, because it’s directly above it. There’s also a vent in the bathroom that leads directly to that room.  It’s the only place in the house that’s affected.  It hasn’t been a big deal for us, because they’re not watching while we are going to sleep.  But I’ve also just put something over the vent on the few occasions when it’s been an issue, and it totally helped.  

If you’re planning on a theater with loud speakers, you may want to consider something different for that space, depending on your home and situation.  But for us, it’s not been a big deal, and we’d still make the same choice again.  

Painted Basement Ceiling White

SOURCE LIST:

PAINT COLORS:

  • Walls:  Simply White, Benjamin Moore
  • Trim/Shelving/Doors: White, semi-gloss trim paint
  • Ceiling:  White ceiling paint with a bit of gray
  • Theater ceiling: Black

To save money, you don’t need to use the same kind of paint that belongs to the color you chose. That also helps the budget!  I was able to color match the paint in a less expensive brand of latex paint. It has held up beautifully, and it’s perfect for the basement. Simply White wouldn’t have been my first choice under regular circumstances, but fate intervened.

It’s s the original color I chose for all of the walls and trim on the upper floors when we first started building Old Salt Farm. But when the painter put a bit on the walls, I could see right away it wasn’t the look I was going for.  But we had already purchased all the paint, and had many 5-gallon buckets that we didn’t want to go to waste. Knowing we would some day finish the basement, we stored it in the basement, so it wouldn’t go to waste. So…Simply White it was! But I wouldn’t change a thing. The downstairs space needed a bit of creaminess, even if very slight, and I love it.  All of the white walls and ceiling, plus the great lighting totally brighten up the whole space.

TRIM:

  • 3.5 inch MDF, around the top and bottom

I usually like a wider trim, and upstairs it’s 6 inches.  But we needed it on the top and bottom of the wall, since there was still a bit of unfinished area where a finished ceiling would have been.  With 8 foot ceilings, there just wasn’t the space for larger trim, so we used 3.5 inch on both top and bottom.  It turned out to be perfect for the space.

FOUR YEARS LATER:

How has the ceiling has held up, and what does it look like now? Four years later (2022), it looks exactly the same! We’ve had no issues at all, and are so happy with our decision. We would absolutely make the same choice!

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87 Comments

  1. Where did you get that cute buffalo couch cover? I’d love to get one for an oversized chair I have!

  2. I am told by many (even a decorator) that I will regret painting it light and should go for a more saturated color. Our ceiling has many nails etc sticking out and they say it will show every crack etc. I see how that is in your pictures but I think it just looks rustic. Do you have any regrets? Any saturated color you would recommend that is not black?

    1. I don’t regret it all. I like the rustic look, and it fits in with the rest of my home, so it works! I agree in theory, but the trade off is that you have to go with a darker color, and that ultimately makes the rest of your basement darker–unless you have a ton of windows and natural light to compensate. Choosing between those options, I decided to lighten my space (we only have one large window), and I’m so glad I did. We did a black ceiling in the theater, and it’s amazing the light difference in just neighboring rooms! If I was going to go with a saturated color, I’d go with a gray–you can make it as dark or as light as you want it to be, and it’s neutral. Good luck!!!

      1. Thank you for the reply! What color is the light ceiling and walls? Do you have a picture of the theater room?

        1. The wall color is Simply White, by Benjamin Moore. The ceiling is a custom color—white with some gray in it. I don’t have a picture of the theater room yet…working on it. Because it’s SO dark in there (dark gray walls, black ceiling, no window light) it’s really tricky to capture it! But I will…:)

          1. Last question as I am headed out to buy the paint. Did you use matte or satin on the ceiling and walls? Did you prime first and finally when you say a bit of gray what do I instruct the paint mixer to add? What is a bit? :) Yes, I am paint challenged:)
            Thanks again!

            1. The ceiling paint is flat paint. No priming—just three coats of paint. I didn’t get the paint mixed, so I’m not sure how much gray–I’m sorry! But it’s not so much that it doesn’t look white anymore. I hope that helps!!

      2. Hello! I may have missed it. I see you used ceiling paint but how did you paint it? Did you have a sprayer?

        1. Yes, a sprayer was used. However, because we were finishing our entire basement at the same time, we had the painters do it along with the walls.

  3. Working on my basement right now! Did you use a sprayer to paint your ceiling? It looks so good!!!!

    1. Do you notice that sound is an issue? I want to do this with our basement but am worried you’ll hear everything upstairs

      1. We’ve had zero issues with sound. I totally thought we would, but I was ready to just deal with it. Before we finished the basement, we heard every little thing. However, now we don’t! We put carpet in down there, and I think it absorbs the sound. The only place we hear anything is in the theater, and our bedroom is above it. I can hear a movie up in my room if the sound is turned up really loud, but you can’t hear it anywhere else in the house. I am super happy with it!

  4. Now that it’s been a few months, do you notice if your basement has a dust or noise problem from having open beams? I have a finished ceiling that I’m exploring my options. (My bathroom had a leak and ruined part of the drywall ceiling.) So I’m trying to decide between an open ceiling or just repairing the drywall.

    Thanks.

    1. Hi, Carrie! Actually, I’ve been surprised (happily) at how little I do hear from the basement. We’ve had zero noise issues or complaints. Before we finished the basement, it was so noisy, but since we put in the carpet down there, it absorbs so much of the noise that it’s happily been a non-issue. I thought we’d give it a try and see what happens–we could always finish the ceiling later if we really needed or wanted to. But we will be leaving it as is! Hope this helps. So sorry about your ruined ceiling. :(

  5. Pingback: 15+ Best DIY Basement Ceiling Ideas & Designs For 2019
      1. Thank you!! It’s indoor carpet! We got it for a great deal at Home Depot in their 7 day section (meaning that it could arrive within 7 days). We LOVE it!!!

  6. Hi!kierste!!i love ur basement !!im planing to do the same ..in my house..did u use any kind of insulation in the ceiling before painting..and 2 ? Did u paint the electric wire? Or did u cover them?

    1. Hello! We didn’t put any insulation in the ceiling, and we did paint all wires!! Hope that helps. Let me know if you have any other questions! xoxo

  7. Do you still love your white basement ceiling? I’m really torn between black or white. I’m worried black will make it too dark. Do you have a lot of floor dust from above that shows on the basement ceiling? Are you still happy with your choice?

    1. Hello! Yes, I still love my white basement ceiling, and I would definitely do it again. I didn’t want it to be too dark either, which is exactly why I went with white. One of our rooms, the theater, has a black ceiling, so I can really compare the difference, and it’s huge. We have carpet in the basement, which I think has cut down on the dust, and I’ve not noticed it being dirty. It’s been about 9 months, so not a super long time, but so far, so good!

  8. HI. I love your pictures and especially the ceiling. Did you paint the silver HVAC ducts? or replace them ? I’m concerned the paint wont cover well.

    1. Hello! We painted everything up there, even the silver ducts. There are a couple of coats on the ceiling for coverage (plus a primer), and a year later, it’s still totally fine.

  9. This is very inspirational. My basement is finished except for the ceiling and I really don’t want to put a lot of money into it. Why did you paint it with a hint of grey and not pure white? Did you also paint out the lighting cords or leave them black?

    1. Adding the tint of grey makes it just a tad darker, and not as likely to yellow or show dirt. Are you asking about the electrical cords for the lighting? Anything on the ceiling–ducts and cords–we also painted white. Then we hung lighting from the ceiling, and left it as is. It saved a ton of money, and we love it!

      1. I love this post! I want to do our basement ceiling the same way. Our contractor has said she’s not sure if an inspector will be okay with painted wires. Was that an issue for your team?

        1. Hi, Hannah! No, that was not an issue for us, but I’m sure the rules can differ from area to area. I’d reach out to your city or town inspection office and ask if there is something prohibiting it. We didn’t have any wires that would have been affected by external paint. Good lucK!

  10. We painted our exposed basement ceiling white about five years ago. It still looks great. No dirt, no mold. Our basement just has those tiny basement windows so I didn’t want to go dark. We had an electrician install white IKEA track lights all over and painted the walls a pale happy yellow. We love it.

  11. We are in the process of painting our basement ceiling. We finished the first coat of Kilz and will be painting white over the weekend. The ends have insulation showing, did you paint that white or make something to hide it from below. We haven’t put up the sheetrock yet so anything could be done easily at this stage. Thought?? Ideas?,

    1. Hi, Michelle! The ends of what? Where the ceiling meets the walls? I just want to make sure I understand before I answer!

      1. I’m guessing she is talking about the Rim joist. Between the joists, above the block.concrete wall. I’m curious about this as well. I don’t know if painting fiberglass insulation is a good idea or not.

        1. I’m so sorry, what is your question? I couldn’t find what this was referring to. We didn’t paint insulation–just the drywall and trim at the top of the wall.

          1. I actually was looking thru this post because I have the same question! I wish I could send a picture to help explain! Let me take a stab at it… we have drywall on the walls, it obviously stops at the bottom of the floor joist. So above the drywall and in between the floor joists there is exposed insulation… we dont know how to finish that… do we just paint it the ceiling color?

            1. Hmmmm…I think I know what you’re asking! So we do have exposed insulation at the top of the basement wall where the drywall meets the floor joists. However, it’s pushed back quite far, and I can barely see it. I had to go downstairs and look at it, because it’s just not noticeable. We didn’t paint ours at all. With the drywall and then trim above that, and the fact that it meets the floor joists going across the basement ceiling, it’s just a non-issue for us. If you email me, I’ll send you a picture of the top of the wall, so you can see what I’m talking about. So I would suppose it depends on how far forward your insulation is.

      2. Hello! At what stage was the ceiling painted? After drywall installation and before flooring/carpet? Thanks :)

  12. Hi. I am doing the same with my basement. Wondering
    How you installed the lights. Are they hardwired to the light box fixture? I just have bare bulbs and don’t know what type of light fixture to use. Any help on this would be greatly appreciated!!

    Thanks!

    1. Hello! They are hard wired lights. We originally had bare bulbs as well–we removed those bulbs, and put these in their place. Email me if you have more questions!! simplykierste@yahoo.com

  13. Your industrial look ceiling looks really good? Do you remember how much paint was required (gallons/ sq feet)?

    1. I’ll try!!! It’s so hard to get a good picture when the walls and ceiling are so dark. It’s been on my list, so hopefully soon!!

  14. Love your basement! We painted our ceiling white too and I came across your lighting and wanted to try the same. My question is what kind of light bulbs did you use? We are trying LEDs 16W soft white but it doesn’t seems to be very bright or crisp looking. Any help in this would be great!

    1. I will see if I can hunt that info down!! Would you mind emailing me in case I forget? oldsaltfarm@gmail.com

  15. I saw on the thread that you have exposed wires. Is all of your electircal exposed or did you run some of it through conduit prior to paint? I’m worried if each individual wire is exposed it may look sloppy (especially if the wiring is not super crisp). Wondering what your recommendation would be here to achieve the right look.
    Thanks,
    Jeff

    1. Hi, Jeff! Most of it is exposed, yes, But ours is pretty crisp and straight–and isn’t hanging loose at all. I’m pretty particular, and it’s never bothered me. Ours is also up in between the boards, so you can’t see it as much. We’ve been happy with it!

  16. Hello, I was curious if you could share how much you paid to get the ceiling painted? Did you have any help prepping the ceiling? The ceiling looks very neat so that is why I am asking. Did you have someone cut down nail heads in the ceiling or make sure all of your cords were pulled together with zip ties and holes drilled to string them through? Did you have to wrap your pipes in advance or just sprayed directly?

    Your ceiling looks fantastic. I would love to be able to recreate.

    1. Hello! We actually hired painters to paint the entire basement, so our quote included not only the ceiling, but also the doors, and our movie theater wall. I’m not quite sure what it would have been if the ceiling is all we hired out. Our ceiling was actually pretty neat before we even started. There weren’t a ton of nail heads to begin with, and our builder had actually already put most of the cords together that go across the rooms. The cords along the sides of the room we put together. We made things a little neater, and then the painter sprayed over everything. It worked really well!

    1. You’re so welcome! What do you mean by wrapped? Are you asking if we wrapped them in something additional?

  17. We are looking into doing the same thing with our exposed basement ceiling. However the house is older and we do need to clean the exposed wood in the ceiling first (to rid of cobwebs and what not.) Did you and your hubby do this and if so how did you prep the ceiling before painting?

    1. We did clean the exposed wood, but our house was only 2 years old, so there wasn’t as much to do. We just used a damp cloth to wipe down cobwebs, and clean any dirt.

  18. Hi, so super invasive question. What was your total budget for finishing the basement. We are about to ours but not even sure the amount it cost to finish. Ours is around 1550 sq. Even just a ball park would be greatly appreciated! Love love love yours!

    1. I don’t mind at all! We finished 900 square feet of the basement. We did our own framing and electrical work. We spent about $2000 on lumber, and $1000 on electrical. We subbed out the drywall, which was about $5000, painting (they did the walls and ceilings) for $3000, and bathroom plumbing and fixtures…no shower… for $2000. Carpet was $3000. Doors (5) and lighting (10) was $1500. Barn doors and hardware around $300. So a total of around $18k. Building supplies are higher now, so that’s something to keep in mind. If you have any more questions, let me know! I’m happy to help!

  19. Hi there,

    We are in the process of finishing our basement and we are very inspired your work! The basement you did looks great!

    We have a couple of questions for you.

    We have a bathroom in our basement, and wanted to know how you would transition the ceiling from the bathroom to the main area. I would think for privacy and sounds control you would want to drywall in the bathroom?? We don’t know what to do to be honest with you.

    Would you recommend putting a sand element to the paint to give it some texture?

    1. We actually didn’t have to worry about this at all, because we put our bathroom under the stairs! It already had a “ceiling” on it, so it was a non-issue for us. I can see where you’re coming from though. I’m thinking if it’s just the bathroom space, the transition would be fine, because it’s separated by a door. If I didn’t know the ceilings weren’t finished in the rooms off of our basement main area weren’t finished I would never know–and I think it would be the other way around as well. Hope that helps a little! If you have any other questions, please let me know!

  20. Your basement is beautiful (it’s actually our inspiration for doing it ourselves!) We are wondering if the junction boxes are exposed above the lights: if not, how? and if so, did you paint them to blend better? Can you share a photo? Thank you!!

  21. Love the storage closet with the barn door. Do you know the Dimensions of the storage closet? Do you feel it is the right depth or would you go bigger? I would like to be able to store a step stool on the interior wall. Is there anything you would do different like adding more shelves. My husband wants to put closets on each end for Winter jackets.

    1. Hi, Lela! The closet is 4 feet in depth, and 16 feet in width. The depth is perfect for what we need it for. Even with the shelving, I can walk inside the closet to either end. You would have room to store a step stool on the ground, but you wouldn’t have a lot of room in front of you or behind you if you wanted to walk in the closet to stand on it. I’ve used a stool in ours, and it’s been fine, but if you want it to be roomier, then I’d probably make it deeper. If you have any other questions, please let me know!

  22. Love the industrial look and strongly considering doing the same. My one big question is… does the central unit have to work overtime because of energy loss thru the uninsulated ceilings? Does it seem hard to heat and cool? I would greatly appreciate your thoughts since you’ve lived with it a few years now!

    1. Krys, I don’t know how I missed this, I’m so sorry! There’s been no difference in the heating and cooling needing to work harder, because nothing has changed. The ceiling is the same as it was when we built the home. The basement is naturally on the cooler side, so the summers are nice, and the winters can be a little chilly. I don’t mind that, but my husband does! We just use space heaters, and are considering adding the baseboard heaters to my husband’s office which is in the basement. But it was just like that before we finished it, so we were already used to it.

      Hope that helps! You may have already finished your basement–I’d love to know what you decided!

  23. I’m considering painting my basement ceiling white.. however I heard overtime it will look dirty… it was explained to me that dirt and dust will start to sift through the joints from upstairs.. so I’m curious how has your ceiling held up? Does it look discolored or dirty??

    1. That has not been our experience at all. Our ceiling looks the same as it did three years ago. I honestly didn’t know what to expect, but we couldn’t have asked for anything better. We didn’t use a straight white–we added a bit of gray that our painters suggested. I know that alone wouldn’t stop dirt or dust, but it helps with discoloration. Good luck, hope this helps!

  24. Are the pendants dark grey or black? I really like the look of black but I think these may be grey.

  25. Does noise carry back and forth a lot between the floors? We have been talking about leaving our ceilings exposed, but we are worried that without the added space/insulation of a finished ceiling, that noise from the kids playing or from one of us watching a movie will be way too loud. Thanks!

    1. Hi, Mia! From our personal experience, we haven’t noticed much noise carrying back and forth. The only exception is from the theater, which is right below our bedroom. It hasn’t been an issue, because the kids aren’t watching down there when we are going to sleep. And interestingly, I can’t hear it anywhere else on our main floor, except our bedroom! So even when they’re watching during the day, I can’t hear it unless I’m in my room. That’s also with it being a theater, and extra speakers for sound. If it was a regular tv, I don’t hear it, unless the sound is WAY up. Hope that helps!

      1. Thanks so much! That is super helpful. Can I ask a follow up question – when you hear it, is it loud? Like would the noise from the theater be distracting if y’all were having a conversation in the bedroom? Or if you were watching TV in the bedroom? Sounds like the kids playing is not particularly noisy? Thanks again!

        1. You’re welcome! It’s actually in our bathroom, lol, so if I shut the bathroom door then I’d still hear it, but it wouldn’t interrupt a conversation. But without the door closed, it is loud. I can still watch tv, and it doesn’t really bother me, but it might bother some. My husband and I can still have conversations, but we can definitely hear it. If there’s a way to just insulate the space above the theater, then that could really make a difference. Any other playing/noise has been minimal for us.

  26. In addition to my previous question as a reply on an earlier comment (Did you colour-match your ceiling to a specific off-white?), I’m wondering 1) is your trim the same colour as your ceiling and 2) how you knew what a good spacing would be for your pendant lights so you lit up the whole space evenly? Thanks! Love the look!

  27. Love the finished space! I light the lighting choice. I’m trying to determine how many lights I would need for our space. I see you installed 10 lights. How big was your area?

  28. Hello! Love your basement. Do you know if your ceiling paint is a flat finish or eggshell??
    Thank you!

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