15 Tips for Painting an Exposed Basement Ceiling

Our exposed basement ceiling has officially been painted and our basement has finally been put back together…okay, almost, but we’re working on it.  The whole basement project started out over a year ago, and one of the steps that took the longest was these first 5 tips in preparation for painting an open beam ceiling.    


Ken and I both agreed, as most anyone probably would, that using a paint sprayer for an open beam or exposed ceiling was in order, so I was very grateful that Homeright was willing to send me a Power-Flo Pro 2800 Airless Paint Sprayer.  And although there was still a lot of work that went into preparing the basement to paint spray the ceiling, when it came time to do the actual paint spraying, the Power-Flo Pro 2800 worked very efficiently for us.

Update:  The paint we used was the Glidden Duo, which is paint and primer combined and it worked very well with this paint sprayer.

Homeright Airless paint sprayer

Here is what I liked about this sprayer:

1) The machine started up right out of the box without any problems, and continued to work without issue throughout the whole two weekend sessions of the painting process.

2) The instruction manual that came in the box provided all of the information needed to assemble, start up, use and clean the machine, as well as a list of troubleshooting tips, just in case.

3) The sprayer provided a very professional paint finish on our exposed basement ceiling that we would never had of been able to accomplish with a paint roller.

Because we had large items in the basement that we could not remove, ie: a pinball machine, we decided to spray half the basement in one step (meaning over the course of one weekend)  and the other half in a few weekends later.

We learned quite a few things from our first session of painting the ceiling, so we were able to put those new found tips to use on our second session.  Overall I was able to boil it down to around 15 tips that I would recommend based on our experience and what really ended up working well for us.

 Here are our 15 tips for painting an exposed basement ceiling with a paint sprayer:


It’s all in the preparation!

The actual paint spraying part of this job, though it is still hard work and rather intensive because you are spraying upwards, against gravity, will go soooo much smoother if you spend the time beforehand prepping everything to make the paint spraying portion organized, safe and clean.

Once again, if your are starting your exposed basement ceiling project from the very beginning, you’ll want to approach these 5 prep steps first and then consider the remainder of the tips included in this post to keep the painting portion as easy flowing and going as possible.

Read directions and familiarize

We read the directions for the  Pro 2800 paint sprayer thoroughly.  And although we did not read them front to back cover, but we did familiarize ourselves with the sprayer parts, the operating directions, and the cleaning directions, so that we knew what to expect.

Have an assistant

I wouldn’t say it’s a requirement to have an “assistant” to the person who will be doing the actual paint spraying, but I will say that it definitely made it easier that I was there to assist Ken with everything from cleaning his safety glasses (about 20 times) to helping him clean the machine at the end of the day.


Masking off non-paint areas

No matter how far you strip down a basement for a paint spraying application, there are usually some areas that still need to be masked off.  A combination of painters tape, plastic and cardboard can cover a multitude of electrical or plumbing equipment.

For the outlets, Ken removed the face plate, laid a piece of plastic over the outlet, then put the face plate back on.  This helped cover up the outlet, but allowed the outer pieces to be painted.  We were also able to use this outlet to plug in the paint sprayer and construction light.


This post contains affiliate links for your convenience. See full disclosure, here.

Use paper not plastic

On the first half of the basement, we used plastic tarps on the floor.  This did NOT work well.  The paint mist that landed on the floor made the plastic very slippery.  When we prepped for painting the second half of the basement, we used masking paper (a 30″ roll size, like this one).

We taped it down with masking tape rather than painters tape because the painters tape didn’t hold as well.


When the paint mist started settling on the floor, we no longer had the problem with slipping or sliding.  The paper absorbed the paint mist just enough, but didn’t seep through at all.  It was also very easy clean up.


Cover and turn off furnace**

Our furnace has a switch, so we were able to turn our’s off and then  cover it to protect it from painting.  Ken was familiar with the safety requirements for this task, but **seeking the assistance of a professional hvac person for this task is strongly recommended if you have any questions in this regard.**


Construction light

Since many light fixtures are on the ceiling, and the ceiling is what is being sprayed with paint, having a construction type light can come in very handy.

We used a work light that was similar to this one.

Ours was halogen, but I see that LED models have become more available.  They also throw less heat, so that is certainly a bonus.

Our light did get covered in paint and we had to clean it several times throughout the process. Since the LED style light does not get as hot, it is possible it could be covered with a clear film of some kind to protect it, but that is only a thought.

Do be sure to read and follow all safety directions for any lighting that you use.


The basement was pitch dark once the ceiling lights were covered and the windows were covered.  The construction light was not only our only source of light, but it also provided very good lighting for the painting job.

Protect furniture and other items with tarps

We were able to move all items out of the half of the basement portion that we were painting, but although they were in the other half of the basement that was tarped off, we still covered the furniture with plastic tarps because the fine mist can work it’s way over and under the divider.  The paint mist wiped off easily enough, but why let it collect, if it doesn’t have to?


Wear painting gear

Spraying paint up into the ceiling means the overspray mist will need to go somewhere, and gravity dictates that it will go down, onto the person spraying.  Thus a paint suit, safety glasses and a good safety mask or strongly suggested.  Old clothes, including long sleaves and a bandana or hat will work in a pinch.  Keeping several pairs of safety glasses and several safety masks handy to switch out with is also very strongly recommended.

Example:  Ken’s safety glasses were continually getting fogged over with paint mist, so he had to keep changing out his pair of safety glasses about every 20- 30 minutes and I had to keep cleaning his spare pairs of glasses.  Because the paint was just a light mist, it did clean off the glasses rather easily with a little dish soap and paper towel.


Cover door way – Create a walk way

Covering any doorways to other parts of the home, and, laying paper down to create a walkway for the painter will come in very handy to keep the over spray from reaching the rest of the house, as well as allow the painter to walk outside or in other areas of the house when needing a break, (which they will most likely need, as our painting job took up most of two whole days.)


Paint half the room at a time

Because there were some items in the basement we could not remove, we painted half the basement ceiling and walls at a time and then rotated everything so that we could paint the other half several weeks later.

Ken used duct tape and made make shift tabs on the end of the plastic tarping.  He then stapled those duct tape tabs to the ceiling beams in order to divide the room in half for painting.


Paint ceiling and walls same color

Although our primary goal was to paint the exposed basement ceiling, we also decided to paint the cement basement walls the same color.  I highly recommend doing this for two reasons.

1) There are a lot of nooks and crannies in the meeting place between an exposed basement ceiling and the cement basement walls.

2)  The extra work and cost for tarps to mask off all the walls may not be worth the savings in paint.  Having said that, it is a personal design choice, but it did work our very well for us.


During painting

The amount of preparation for painting was a lot, but well worth it, once the paint spraying began.  The main challenge during the painting process was keeping a small paint roller and paint brush handy for any paint drips that happened.   This only seemed a problem near the duct work areas.  When drips occurred, we would touch them up with the paint brush or roller, as needed.

We purchased our paint in 5 gallon buckets and used a total of 12-14 gallons for 1500 square feet of paintable surface. (We used Glidden Duo, which is a paint and primer combined).

Also remember to: stay hydrated, wear old clothes, and plan for a long day but successful day of work!


Cleaning after painting

Follow the directions for cleaning the sprayer and have at least 3 clean, large buckets ready for the process of cleaning the machine.  This is another time when having that 2nd person (assistant) involved will really come in handy.  The cleaning process requires filling the buckets up with clean water, dumping the waste and then refilling with water several times, as well as moving the hoses from one bucket to the other, while changing the machine’s speed and operating dials.

I was worried that we had not cleaned the machine properly, but when we started the machine up for painting the second half of the basement, (several weeks in between both painting sessions) the sprayer started right up, no problem.

Once we were finally done, we cleaned and packed away our Homeright Airless Power-Flo Pro 2800 Paint Sprayer.  Without a doubt, I will be using it again for some other larger paint projects in the near future.



From poorly cared for man cave to respectable basement t.v. area

As far as the basement goes, beforehand, there were so many distractions and mismatched ceiling parts, that I got uneasy every time I went into the basement.  It was a visual overload of depressing ceiling parts and pieces, blah!!




Now that all of the ceiling parts match, and in our case the walls, too, the basement has taken on a fresh, clean and unified look.  It is much more tranquil to enter the basement without all the distraction from before.  It’s so much cleaner feeling.  The layers of paint have actually insulated the basement and have filled in all the nooks and crannies that were virtual welcome signs to insects and spiders.

A basement makeover done with a painted exposed ceiling, painted floor and 25 "use what you have" decorating ideas for the furniture and decor - StowandTellU.com

Once we were done with all the painting, I was determined to continue to save money, so here are 25 ways to that I found to shop my home and use what I already had to bring the decor style in the basement together.

See more Before and Afters and how much the total $$ cost was, here.

Disclosure: I received free product in exchange for writing this post.  All of the following tips and opinions in this post are exclusively my own. All suggestions are based on personal not professional opinion, only.  See full disclosure, here.


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41 Responses to 15 Tips for Painting an Exposed Basement Ceiling

  1. Tuula @ The Thrifty Rebel February 22, 2015 at 12:51 pm #

    Wow Amy! What a big job! Your basement ceiling looks a millions times better now. It’s amazing how painting it gives it that fun industrial kinda vibe, where before it had an unfinished basement kinda vibe. It really looks fabulous!!!

    • Amy February 22, 2015 at 8:36 pm #

      It most definitely had the unfinished basement kinda vibe, lol. Thanks Tuula xo

  2. Sherry February 23, 2015 at 6:55 am #

    It looks really good! I couldn’t imagine painting all of that with a brush! We’re thinking about getting a sprayer. I have 6 outdoor rocking chairs that need paint. Thanks for the review!

    • Amy February 23, 2015 at 8:18 pm #

      Sherry, one of Homeright’s paint sprayers would work great for your rocking chairs. Good luck!!

  3. Erin February 23, 2015 at 8:17 am #

    Since you painted ductwork, did you have to use paint that was rated for high temperatures?

    • Amy February 23, 2015 at 8:14 pm #

      Hi Erin, we did not use a painted rated for high temperatures. Our heat never goes much higher than 72 degrees (F). We haven’t seen any chipping of the paint or had any problems with the paint on the ducts. We did, however not paint the duct work directly connected to the furnace. We left that small section without paint. The paint I did use is called Glidden DUO paint and primer combined. I hope that helps.

  4. Cheryl in Wisconsin February 23, 2015 at 9:03 am #

    That looks incredible! It went from a distraction to an architectural element that adds to the decor!

    • Amy February 23, 2015 at 8:27 pm #

      We are really enjoying the new look and cozy feel and I’m glad to be able to still think straight whenever I’m down there now!! Thanks, Cheryl

  5. Shanna Gilbert February 23, 2015 at 6:12 pm #

    It looks so much better Amy! I have that same sprayer and I love it! My hubby has come away from projects looking just like yours lol!

    • Amy February 23, 2015 at 8:50 pm #

      Thanks so much, Shanna, for introducing me to Homeright in the first place. Seeing some of the projects you’ve done with Homeright paint sprayers gave me the confidence to pull off this basement project!!

  6. Feral Turtle February 24, 2015 at 8:41 am #

    What a difference Amy. I think it was so worth all of yours and hubby’s hard work. It really turned out beautiful. Looks like a fantastic paint sprayer. We were actually looking at sprayers last week and Rob said he would prefer an airless. I use the air compressor sprayer and love it but would love to try one of these babies out.

  7. Indianabound March 2, 2015 at 7:12 pm #

    Great job! I’m really impressed with the determination that you and your husband have. Such an amount of work! Besides it looking very nice it will cut down on bugs and speeds – always a good thing!

    • Amy March 2, 2015 at 9:33 pm #

      Yes, it did take determination, as in almost a year and a half between Ken and I working full time and on different shifts and then there’s the blogging, lol. Having less bugs and spiders is definitely in my top ten list for why I’m so glad we finally did the makeover. Thanks so much for stopping by and good luck if you ever go ahead with your basement project!!-Amy

  8. Indianabound March 2, 2015 at 7:13 pm #

    I meant “spiders” of course, not “speeds.”

  9. Marilyn April 2, 2015 at 7:00 am #

    was there any concern paint would seal/cake up screws, bolts, pipe joints, washers, etc— items that need to be worked on & adjusted in the future?

    Also, where are you located? Is the basement a seasonal use room, or all the time? Obviously it’s not “finished” — but did you make other significant upgrades to turn it into a living space apart from furnishing?


    • Amy April 2, 2015 at 10:55 pm #

      Hi Marilyn,

      Thank you so much for stopping by. In answer to your questions:

      There was concern about sealing over certain pipes, ducts, etc. I did research to find that many other people who used a paint sprayer on their basement ceiling painted over just about everything and years later, still had no regrets. What we did, however, was we tape off the furnace and hot water heater, and the pipes/ ducts that came directly off both of those units. We also taped off the Electical box and wires that fed directly out of the box to the first junction. We felt pretty comfortable that everything else would be fine with latex paint coverage.

      We are located just outside of Chicago, so this is an all year basement. We also painted the floor (I am working on that post now) but between painting the ceiling and the floor the basement was so much warmer this winter. It was warmer done there than on the first level! Oh and we also put texture on the walls to give it a more “stone-ish” look. I have a post up on that on the blog.

      My sister-in-law is a realtor and when she came over to see it, she said it could be listed as a finished basement. I really didnt’ do this update to get a better listing, I was just wanting the basement to be more cozy because we want to rent this townhouse and move closer to my sister.

      Anyways, lol, I hope that answered your questions. It’s my favorite part of our townhouse now. If you have any others, drop me a line. Thanks and have a great weekend ~ Amy

  10. CJ April 2, 2015 at 3:06 pm #


    • Amy April 2, 2015 at 11:00 pm #

      HI CJ,
      I used Glidden DUO in an eggshell sheen, purchased from Home Deopt. It’s paint and primer combined into one, so we didn’t have to do any priming and the paint had very good coverage, so we only had to give everything one good coat of the paint with the paint sprayer. I hope that helps and GOOD LUCK with your basement painting project!!

  11. Karen April 12, 2015 at 5:14 pm #

    Came here from Hometalk. This is astonishing!! Doing this asap. Can I ask what color you used. It is so soft and creamy but bright and fresh. Thanks for this great post.

    • Amy April 12, 2015 at 8:55 pm #

      Hi Karen,
      Thanks so much for coming by. I used color Bavarian Cream from Behr, but, the color is not showing up the way it totally looks, lol, if you know what I mean. The lighting in the basement gives off yellos, so in photos, I’m adjusting the color to kill some of the yellow, and its showing up a little more light and creamy than it really is. So having said that, if you find a sample of Bavarian Cream, go a bit lighter and creamier than that color. Gosh I hope that helps, and good luck with painting!!! Amy

  12. Kevin July 23, 2015 at 3:55 pm #

    I am going to paint my basement ceiling very soon and in the midst of preping right now. Your post is very helpful in my prep, but the one thing I can not seem to find out information anywhere is about insulation. In between each floor joist that connect to an exterior wall has pink insulation in it to keep the heat in and cold out. Any blog that talks about painting the ceiling never talks about the insulation. Did you guys paint over any pink insulation or did you cover up that insulation or even take it out and put spray form in between the floor joists on outside walls?

    • Amy July 23, 2015 at 7:14 pm #

      Hi Kevin,
      Great question and I forgot to mention that detail, but yes, we removed the pink fuzzy fiberglass type insulation and filled those gaps with spray foam. My husband is a perfectionist so he sprayed and filled several times, trimming off the excess as neatly as possible after each layer dried, or was close to almost dry. Then he would spray more and trim some more until he was sure he had the best insulation. Use a blade to trim it down as best you can, and once it’s painted, it will blend very nicely. Doesn’t have to look perfect. He did this around the windows too. Feel free to ask more questions if you have them. I think you will love it when you’re done.

  13. Miss Sara Anne Persons September 22, 2015 at 3:10 am #

    Question about the insulation as well are you referring to the fluffy insulation from the top of the interior blockwalls

    • Amy September 22, 2015 at 10:23 pm #

      Hi Miss Sara,

      Yes. Often the fluffy insulation will be pushed into the gaps where the wood ceiling meets the concrete wall. What we did in these areas was pull out some of the fluffy insulation and replace it with the expandable foam insulation. We filled the gaps with the foam insulation, allowed it to expand fully, and then we trimmed off the excess with a sharp edge. The foam edge may not look perfect, but once you have sprayed paint over this area you will have a much cleaner look than if you had just left the fluffy insulation. I hope this helps, but let me know if you have any more questions. Thank you for your question ~ Amy

  14. traggs February 19, 2016 at 11:00 am #

    This post is going to be GREAT for helping me get started on my basement/bar area. One problem I anticipate is above and around the pipes. The angle seems as though it would not be spray-able. Is it hard to get coverage up there? I can see my self trying to spray from too many angles and then having the paint cake up, drip, and not cover the nooks and crannies. How did you tackle this aspect?

    • Amy February 19, 2016 at 10:25 pm #

      Hi Traggs,
      Thank you for your question. Regarding spraying around/on top of the pipes, here are a few tips will hopefully help. The first one is that if your paint sprayer has an adjustable nozzle, try to turn it down to a lower stream. Secondly, if you have a couple of larger pieces of card board handy, try holding a piece of the card board in front of the pipe area while you try to spray the ceiling parts above the piping, then once you’re satisfied with the ceiling coverage, go back over it with out the card board covering the piping. Lastly, keep a tray with a paint brush and small roller nearby because there will still mostly like be some dripping and the brush and or roller can help you to soak some of that excess paint up.

      I hope these answer your question, but please feel free to ask any other questions you may have. We were so pleased with ours and really hope that this post helps anyone who is trying to fix up their basement, too. Regards ~ Amy

  15. LA March 14, 2016 at 1:13 pm #

    Hi Amy! First off, thanks for the detailed instructions and helpful tips. Your basement looks so welcoming now! I have a question about prep, which I didn’t see mentioned in your previous post. Given that most basements are a bit dusty and sometimes cobwebby, how did you tackle cleaning the ceiling before the rest of your painting prep? Does it need to be absolutely spotless before painting begins, or is the sprayer forgiving of a little residual dust on wood beams? It can be tough to get rough wood entirely clean.

    • Amy March 14, 2016 at 5:42 pm #

      Hi LA,

      That’s a GREAT question, and I probably should update both posts with some details on how we cleaned the ceiling in preparation for painting, because we did have to give the ceiling several thorough cleanings before we painted. Thank you for asking this question.

      To clean the ceiling we used a good shop vacuum and several vacuum attachments and basically vacuumed into every hole, crevice and corner, along all the beams, and then along all the flat ceiling surfaces. We used the brush attachment to get above the duct work as best we could, and then used hot water and a vinegar solution (a gentle solution will work too) with rags to wipe down the tops of the duct work as best we could. There was a lot of dust and debris along the area where the ceiling meets the walls, so we made sure to go over that several times. If I remember correctly, we probably went over all surfaces about 3 times thoroughly.

      As we were decluttering the basement in the prior months, I was cleaning the ceiling with the vacuum, which made the final 3 cleanings a lot easier. I would say there was still a few cob webs and several areas on top of the duct work that we just couldn’t reach. The paint took to all of those places fine and we just had to accept that in those places we were painting over some dirt. But with the thorough cleaning that we did, there wasn’t many areas that were an issue. We used a paint/ primer combination and all in all, I didn’t see any areas that did’t take to the paint. I hoped this helps. Once again, thank you for taking the time to ask this question, and please don’t hesitate to ask any others. Good luck with your basement project!! ~ Amy

  16. Judy Gaaskjolen March 22, 2016 at 9:26 am #

    You said you used Glidden Duo paint. You also mentioned the color Bavarian Cream from Behr. Did you have the Glidden paint mixed using the color formula from Behr color samples? Why did’nt you use Behr paint? I prefer Behr paint over Glidden.

    • Amy March 22, 2016 at 4:07 pm #

      Hi Judy, 

      You are right, I used the Glidden Duo mixedto the Behr color Bavarian Cream.  We went with the Glidden over Behr because they were having a big sale on the Glidden paint.  Like you, I really like Behr, but we were trying to save wherever we could.  The Glidden Duo worked out great, though I’m sure the Behr would have too.  I apologize for forgetting to mention that detail.  Thanks and let me know if you have any other questions -Amy

  17. Carl in Chicago May 9, 2016 at 4:59 pm #

    Wow, it really does make a difference. What do you think about using black paint instead? People say that it makes the basement ceiling look taller?

    • Amy May 9, 2016 at 8:57 pm #

      I think black paint could be just as striking in the right setting. I’m no expert, but I’ve seen exposed ceilings in restaurants painted black and it does seem to make the ceiling go on and on. Thanks for stopping by, Carl!


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