A Stellar Cellar: Spruce up Your Basement Ceiling

by Marcus Pickett

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Basements have come a long way from the root riddled, spider stocked cellars of yore. Many homes are now equipped with finished basements that are functional as well as fun. From extremely drab to absolutely fab, the basement is one place in the home that's had a heck of a makeover in the last hundred or so years. With all its exposed pipes and dark shadowy nooks, the basement ceiling is a grim reminder of yesterday's trends in many modern day cellars. The situation is, however, not a permanent one. Many homeowners are finding out that their basement ceilings can be made, with a little effort, every bit as pleasing as the rest of a finished cellar.

Basement Ceiling Paint
The most direct way to change the feel of your basement ceiling is to paint it. A few cans of ceiling paint can add beauty to any dreary room. Before painting any pipes, they first need to be scrubbed down and left to dry. Depending on how long it's been left unattended, this can sometimes be quite a task. Ceiling paint should be used on the actual ceiling (after it has also been cleaned and prepped of course), while paint designed for metal should be used on the pipes. Since you'll be buying two types of paint anyway, some people opt to make the pipes and ceiling two different colors. If you're not that familiar with basements, you might want to check with someone who is, as some of the electrical equipment found there should not be painted.

Basement and Cellar Paint
Both basements and cellars present one glaring stressor to interior paint: moisture. Even finished basements may very well face greater moisture levels than the rest of your home. Naturally, the solution for basement and cellar paint is to use water-resistant products. In fact, using a high-grade water-resistant paint product, such as DryLok, can even help block and reduce moisture from infiltrating these spaces. Wine cellar paint is also useful in helping control the environment of your cellar. Wine should be stored in a place where the humidity stays between 50 and 70 percent.

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Basement Ceiling Ideas: Drop Ceilings
A drop ceiling is basically a grid of metal that holds up large tiles. It is installed below an existing ceiling. Because there can be a fair amount of space between the drop and original ceilings, it's easy to hide any exposed pipes. They are not difficult to put up, are inexpensive, and if leaks occur above them, replacing one or two tiles is a small job.

Before rushing out and buying drop ceiling materials, it's a good idea to measure the distance between the floor and the lowest exposed pipe. The new ceiling will reduce headroom (significantly in many cases). If low pipes exist in out of the way areas, the new ceiling can be installed below the original but above said pipes.

For the Handyman
If you're pretty good with a hammer and want to really remodel your basement ceiling there is yet another option. Frames or boxes can be built around ductwork and attached to joists in the ceiling. After all the pipes are framed, wood or drywall can be fastened to the boxes. The end results can be spectacular.

One important thing to remember about this technique is that inside those frames are pipes and ducts that may need to be repaired at some point. It's a good idea to make sure everything is in excellent condition before it is boxed in and access becomes limited. Ideally, excellent condition should include both an evaluation of structural integrity of the pipes and duct canals, as well as an evaluation of the insulation. Without insulation, you can be throwing money down the drain with higher heating and cooling bills.

Basement Remodeling Project Guide
If you enjoyed this article, check out our free Basement Remodeling Guide, which features expert advice, design & material comparisons, and custom price estimates for your remodeling project.
Marcus Pickett is a professional freelance writer for the home remodeling industry. He has published more than 600 articles on both regional and national topics within the home improvement industry.