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

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

We started finishing our basement last October, and I’m so thrilled that we completed it this week! We did a lot of the work ourselves, and so it’s taken us awhile to get it done, but 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 an exposed painted 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 did it with you!

Painted Basement Ceiling White

Before: OUR UNFINISHED BASEMENT

Painted Basement Ceiling White

WHY WE DECIDED ON A PAINTED EXPOSED BASEMENT CEILING

  • 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. We handled the prep work–cleaning and wiping down the basement rafters, pipes, and ducts to get rid of the dust and cobwebs in all the nooks and crannies 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, 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.  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. 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.

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 an less expensive brand of latex paint. It’s held up beautifully, and it’s perfect for the basement. To be honest,  I’m not sure I would have chosen Simply White, but I’m really glad it ended up that way.  

When we were building our house, it’s the original color I had chosen for all of the walls and trim on the upper floors.  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. So we stored it, knowing we would some day finish the basement, and knew we could use it there, so the money wouldn’t be wasted. 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.

THREE YEARS LATER:

I also get asked how the ceiling has held up, and what it looks like.  Three years later (2021), it looks exactly the same! We’ve had no issues at all, and are so happy with our decision. Any imperfections haven’t been noticed, and we would absolutely make the same choice again!

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85 Comments

  1. 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!

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

  3. 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.

  4. 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!

  5. 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?

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