Having an exposed basement ceiling is a new trend right now. In this post, I highlight all the considerations you need to think about BEFORE committing to keep your rafters exposed while finishing your basement.
Are you thinking about exposing your ceilings while finishing your basement? I'm going to share with you the reveal of our exposed basement ceiling that we painted white.
We had over 1000 square feet of space in our unfinished basement. One of the things I've always wanted was a space for me to record videos for this blog as well as have it become a photo studio, but I wanted to ensure that the space could be converted to a usable room if we were able to go sell it.
One of the most important things for this space was how much light the ceiling could reflect. The reason was because I need to have a lot of bright light and walls that reflect light for photography and videography. The space has absolutely no natural light. Having a white ceiling was very important to me for this reason. Leaving the basement ceiling exposed was a great option for us.
For my husband, he needed to be able to get to the wires and cords for the purposes of home maintenance. Not only that, drop ceilings would also take a longer time to complete our basement renovation.
What is an exposed ceiling in a basement?
An exposed basement ceiling is when the structural and mechanical designs like trusses, joists, beam and ductwork are left in their natural state. Often times, when a basement is finished, all of the rafters, pipes, and mechanical lines are painted in a single uniform color.
In the image below, you can see that we painted our basement ceiling white. I chose Benjamin Moore White Dove because it is the cleanest and true white I've used in our home.
What are some of the pros and benefits to having an exposed basement ceiling?
Increased lighting and reflection. One of the primary reasons why I was agreeable to the exposed ceiling was because I knew we could paint it completely white. The white would reflect off of the walls as well as off the floor during my photo sessions. If you have a dark basement and are looking to brighten up a room with as little electrical work as possible, having an exposed ceiling
Faster renovation time. Painting the entire ceiling only takes a couple of hours, at most. Waiting for work to be done on a drop ceiling could take an infinitely longer amount of time!
Extra height in the room. If you are wanting the room to feel more spacious, not having a drop ceiling means that you get at least half a foot of space back.
Ease of access during maintenance. The basement is where all of the wires, ductwork and trusses all meet. If you ever have trouble, it will take less time to troubleshoot and run your way through the wires will the ceilings exposed than having to remove drop ceiling parts to follow the duct or wire trail.
What are some of the cons and considerations for exposing a basement ceiling?
Difficult to heat. Our basement gets cold! If you have an exposed ceiling, the hot air tends to rise to the next room, making it a lot cooler in the basement.
Less energy efficient. To be honest, we did not put insulation in our basement because it was going to be a room for taking photos and doing media work. However, even if we did, an exposed ceiling would still cause this room to be less energy efficient due largely to using more electricity to heat in a cooler space.
More industrial look. If you are wanting a relaxed, cozy vibe, if you do it wrong, it will end up looking more industrial than a finished basement. I would recommend painting it one uniform, consistent color to create a sense of cohesiveness that will then transfer to a cozier feel.
What color should I paint a ceiling with exposed ductwork?
Typically, homeowners looking to finish their basement with the exposed look will generally choose white, black, or dark grey. Here are some things to consider when choosing the color paint you'll use when trying to mimic the industrial open ceiling design:
Exposed Basement Ceiling in Black and Gray. Cobwebs and dust balls can really stand out with a black ceiling. However, a black ceiling can make a space feel a little more cozier because it allows the furnishings to stand out and the dark ceiling allows the space to blend.
Exposed Basement Ceiling in White. Having a white ceiling allows the space to feel bigger. It is more noticeable when you have a exposed basement ceiling painted white. I used Benjamin Moore White Dove for our exposed ceiling in the basement.
How do you paint an exposed ceiling in the basement?
When we started renovations in our basement, the VERY first thing we did was paint the ceiling. The second thing we did was argue about the paint color (which I'll talk down below). Here are the tips I suggest when painting an exposed ceiling:
- Clean cobwebs off of rafters and ceiling to prepare the area for work.
- Review and ensure ductwork, cables, cords are nice, neat and tucked for a cleaner paint job.
- Use plastic tarp and tape to cover areas that will not be painted.
- Spray the ceiling with three coats.
Here were some of the products that we used at home to prepare the basement:
- CONTROL PAINT FLOW: Fully adjustable pressure to give you ultimate control of paint flow for any project size
- SPRAY PAINT UNTHINNED: Stainless Steel Piston Pump allows you to spray paint unthinned at high pressure
- SPRAY DIRECTLY FROM PAINT BUCKET: Flexible suction tube allows you to spray directly from a 1 or 5 gallon paint bucket
What type of lighting should I use with basement rafters?
You can use track lighting or recessed lighting. It really depends on the mood you are wanting. Use track lighting if you plan on having specific areas for certain activities. Use recessed lighting if you want all around good light. Use a pendant light if you want to add a vibe to the space.
If you choose the pendant light, make sure you measure your space. Depending on the pendant light you choose, you could potentially make the space feel smaller because of the room needed for the pendant light to hang from the exposed basement ceiling.
For me, I wanted focused light in the three areas of my studio. I also had some inspiration from a photographer friend who had white ceilings (but not exposed ductwork), and she purchased some industrial lights from Ikea. I actually went to buy them, and they were too big for my space.
- Four pivoting track heads direct and focus light where needed(90° rotatable of the light head and 330° rotatable of the main bracket))
- Dimming smoothly from 10% - 100%, flicker-free.Compatible with most Leviton and Lutron dimmers(Please refer to the dimmer list)
- 3000K warm white energy efficient 30W LED track light equivalent to 4*60W halogen. Integrated with LED chips, not bulb replaceable
So, I actually went to the hardware store and found these lights. I purchased three sets of baffle track lighting They work amazingly well in our space.
In the image below, you can see the two track lights facing each area. Notice how they blend in because they too are also white!
I also lighted the entry area from the main living area into the basement:
Here's a better look at my blogging/videography desk:
Exposed Ceiling Beams
Her are some other angles of our basement ceilings that we painted completely white. The walls are also the same exact color:
I hope that provides you some insight and considerations on painting your basement ceiling and exposing the trusses and beams. Let me know what color you painted yours, I always love a good debate with evidence for the hubs!
Check out my save or splurge comparison post where I talk about the Graco Magnum Airless Painter Review (it's the one I used for painting this ceiling).