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.
In This Post
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).
What type of paint/epoxy material and color is the floor?
I have like the quirkiest basement in history! Like I have a hardwood floor down there from a previous owner and I love it haha I want to turn it into an office now that I'm at home full-time, but I really don't want to enclose the ceiling. I really appreciate your ideas and I'm going to implement them to keep the ceiling exposed.
Whole area look fabulous. What actual type of paint (not color) did you use? And do you have any tannin bleed through from the wood? Did you use a primer first?
We also have a white painted out basement ceiling but our basement is lower in a 1950’s house. Another huge negative is sound control! If your bedroom is above the basement and you have hardwood floors that means there is subfloor and then hardwoods b/w trying to slee and whatever is going on in the basement. We can hear everything! Another negative is that debris falls from the ceiling—presumably subfloor particles. This is fine for work/office but you would not want it for a basement bedroom. I agree that the light reflection was amazing and it makes the ceilings taller and cheaper than finishing the ceiling.
Above she stated that She used Benjamin Moore
Your basement is inspiration. I’m showing this to my contractor! Could you share where you got the barn doors/hardware and what color you painted them? Thanks!
Did you paint the wires and the pipes?
Beautiful. The white wall drop that looks like white barn wood. What is that. Do you have a link to the product? Tia!
About your basement being cold...cover the concrete floor. I'm using dimple mat and 5/8" 4'x8' sheeting (it was $12 a sheet in Nov2019...now $38 a sheet Jan 2021). It makes a big difference. I also insulated the walls with dimple mat and 6"mineral wool insulation (covered with paneling).
I bought thermal/insulating paint just for the ducting. I don't want to add cold air in the summer or lose heat in the winter. I also plan on venting the basement heat ducts at floor level. It really doesn't help to dump warm air in at the ceiling.
I have lots of led shop lights in the basement...no dark areas. One quarter of the basement is dedicated to plants, so the led lights are on a timer. The plants are doing great, the Coleus are flowering right now (Feb2021).
Must be nice to have high ceilings.
Thanks for sharing. Your final work looks beautiful and still very cozy. This is very inspirational and I hope to get this done in 2021. I have very low ceiling, I want something low-cost, fast, and easy for a one-woman job, so this is the most viable solution. Would love to finish the floor like yours as well. I really wonder if renting the paint sprayer for one day could finish the job, I think it will depend a lot of the prepping and I am unsure how much of the existing lighting I should remove.
Just did my basement and love the exposed ceiling! I also painted it white Benjamin Moore of course, and am so glad I did. Definitely prime ceiling first. Old wood soaks it up. It took some extra time but it is well worth it. Did the walls with an almost white eggshell with a hint of blue/green in it. The floor is life proof sterling grey vinyl. For lighting I put up high hats every where, 26 in total and put in dimmer switches. My basement now looks like a boat house and I Love it!!
What sheen of paint did you use for your basement ceiling?
I used Benjamin Moore White Dove. You can see all of the places I use it here: https://www.sengerson.com/benjamin-moore-white-dove/
Great job, your basement looks fantastic. Wondering what sheen of white dove you used? Also did you spot prime the knots with a shellac based primer or not? If not, are the knots bleeding through the finish coat?
Thanks and again, a great job!
What did you do to the floor?
Hello, could you tell me the finish you used for your paint? Same for walls and ceiling? And your floor? Could you tell me what you did? Epoxy? And what color/pattern? Thank you for the inspiration!
You don't mention the floor...can you give us some info on this? It's stunning!
Are you painting right over wires and things exposed on the ceiling?
I love this idea. Thank you
How are you finding the noise level from the floor above. Trying to decide but unsure it might be too noisy.
What is your floor color? Is it painted concrete?
Did you paint the big ducts for heating and cooling too?
Your basement looks beautiful! I am trying to do the same thing now, but we sprayed a sample spot on the exposed ceiling, and the wood is starting to bleed through. It’s a 1951 house, so the wood is older. Did u have any issues with bleed through? Not sure if it’s b/c my wood is older. I really dont want to do black, and I’m hoping I can make the white work. Any tips if you had this issue, pls share. Thanks!!!
Prime the wood before painting.
I love this. We are going to do this with our basement due to us having low ceilings. We are still debating the wall color. Yours looks great!! What finish for the ceiling?
Just remember that, although exposed basement ceilings are an easy fix and trending now, you will be able to hear EVERYTHING that is going on upstairs, and downstairs. That would be a deal breaker for me.
A dropped/finished ceiling is something that could easily be added by a future homeowner if they felt inclined. I wouldn’t tear out an existing ceiling to do this, but painting an unfinished ceiling is one of those projects that adds utility now while not limiting options in the future.
This looks great! What color/paint did you use on the walls and on the floor?
Thanks! It was Benjamin Moore White Dove.
Can you provide clarity on the floor even if it is not diy