Tales of Painted Basement Ceilings and Pole Dancing Woes

When we sold our old house, one of the things we were most sad to leave behind was our finished basement.  We put in so much work to make that basement beautiful, so it really hurt to give it up. The movie room with all that amazing molding and those gorgeous cabinets?? I was sad to leave them behind. Click here to tour the basement in the old house.

BUT… our new house had a large unfinished basement space that we knew we could make functional for our family.

We knew going into this project that it would not be nearly as decorative and crown-mouldy as the old one. Mainly we just wanted a large open space to serve as a rec room for entertaining and another smaller room for J to have an office.   We also wanted some really big storage spaces that could be closed off to not see all of our ugly junk.

Here are the “Before” photos so you can see what we were working with.

Just a standard issue poured concrete basement.  Big, open space. No windows, no plumbing.  Very straightforward.

The Biggest Challenges

  1. Eight metal support poles to work around
  2. Super low ceiling height

One of the biggest, if not THE biggest, downsides to this house was the basement ceiling height.  The ceiling is SUPER low down there, at some points it’s barely above 6′-8″ high.  Considering my husband is 6′-2″ high, this was a serious issue. We knew that we would never be able to put in a sheetrock or drop ceiling down there because it would lower the ceiling height even further.

You can see the doors leaning against the wall here- they are 6′-8″ high and they barely wiggle under that air duct.

So, we needed to find a better solution.  At first we talked about spraying everything matte black for that industrial vibe, but I worried a dark black ceiling would visually lower the ceiling height even further. Then we considered spraying the whole ceiling bright white, but we decided that would not look good either with all the nails and junk that was sticking out of the rafters.

If you want to see an example of what a painted white basement ceiling looks like, check out my friend’s room over at One Project Closer:  How to Paint a Basement Ceiling with Exposed Joists for an Industrial Look

Soooooo we finally compromised on a matte blue color.

We chose Sherwin Williams Smoky Blue (SW 7604) in a flat finish.  This is the same color that we used on the ceiling in the old basement movie room, so we knew that we already liked the color.

Since there were so many pipes and ducts and things blocking different parts of the walls, I was really concerned that it would hard to figure out where the walls ended and the ceiling began.

To even everything up, we chose a line on the wall that was relatively clear from obstructions to use as our guideline. Everything above the line was sprayed blue and everything below that point was painted a crisp, clean white color.  (Sherwin Williams Westhighland White- 7566)

My AWESOME painter, Francisco, has done all the painting in our old houses and most of the painting in our new house too. He is the best of the best, so if you ever need a good painter in the Birmingham area give me a shout so I can give you his number.  Hola, Francisco! He sprayed the entire ceiling in just one day using his big industrial sprayer.

Ok, on to dilemma #2.

See alllllll of those red metal poles?  Since I did not want my house to fall in around my ears one night while I was watching Outlander, all eight of those metal poles had to stay in place.

They were also not in alignment with any main walls, which was frustrating.

I just had to figure out how to pole-dance my way around them. 😉

So I set out to draw up a floor plan that would hide as many of the metal posts as possible inside of closets or storage spaces.  Here is what I designed:

You can see from the Key that the small aqua blue circles are all the metal support poles.  The other circles are pendant lights and can lights that we added in the ceiling, so don’t let those confuse ya. I managed to work up a plan that placed five of the poles inside closets and left one more out in the unfinished area.

Just like in the previous basement, the J and his dad did all the framing and we hired out the rest of the work to subcontractors (sheetrock/paint/electrical/flooring).  We saved so much money doing it this way versus working with a contractor.  Semi-DIY is the way to go, IMO. We have access to a lot of really excellent subcontractors, though, so that helps.

When it was all said and done, we only had two exposed beams to cover up in the center of the large room. We were able to take it from this…

To this!

How awesome is that?

The other posts are hidden inside the closets.  Out of sight, out of mind. We didn’t box these in- they just got sprayed the same white color as the walls.

The two columns got trimmed out with 6″ Speedbase around the bottom and the top. It’s a simple but elegant way to finish off a sheetrock column.

Here is the office area we created right when you walk down the steps from upstairs.

And here it is finished!

The water heater and air handler right against the staircase, so we needed to have easy access to those.

To take care of that, J and his dad built out a big storage closet with two 3 foot wide doors that provide a 6 foot opening for easy access.

And here is that area with the doors closed- the door on the right leads to the storage area under the stairs, which makes an excellent storm shelter during tornado season.

Here’s another before shot of that area that leads to the stairwell.

And here is the finished area.

Back out in the big room we added a MASSIVE storage closet

This area will hold all my Christmas decorations, including the tree. In fact, we don’t even have to take the tree apart anymore.  It can just slide right into this closet full erect and still have plenty of room for other stuff!  It’s great!

This door leads out to the unfinished parking area of the garage and J’s woodshop.

I’m SO pleased with how the color scheme turned out. It’s neutral and manly but not too man-cavish.  The wood floors are the exact same ones we used up in my attic office.  They are a cork-backed vinyl that snap together really easily.  They are completely moisture resistant so perfect for a basement floor.

J bought these industrial pendant lights for really cheap from Amazon.  They are actually a hunter green color but you cannot even tell with that dark blue ceiling.  They just blend right in.

So there you go!

The Great Basement Remodel is almost complete.  We still need a few little things like doorknobs and door stops, but it’s already being used by the family.

I will be sharing how we decorated it very soon, so be on the lookout for those posts.  The office area is GOOOOORRRRGEOUS now!! I cannot wait to show you what the finished room looks like!



If you are interested in finishing out your attic space and want all the details of how we created this room, here ya go! (contains affiliate links)
Wall Paint: Sherwin Williams Superpaint in Westhighland White (Satin finish)

Ceiling Pain: Sherwin Williams ProMar 400 in Smoky Blue (Flat finish)

Flooring: Coretec 7″ wide Kingswood Oak from Carpet Express (ask for Gabriel, he’s awesome)

Base trim: 4″ white Colonial style baseboard

Doors: Jeld-Wen Smooth 5-panel interior prehung doors (various sizes)

Door handles: Kwikset Cove door knobs in Venetian Bronze

Pendant lights: Sea Gull one-light pendant, green finish

White switches and electrical outlet covers

Don’t forget to pin these before and afters pictures to your favorite Pinterest board! 🙂


Like this post?  Come see how we decorated the office area here: 

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Speak Your Mind



  1. You are an excellent designer! Your new basement is fantastic!

  2. There are so many great takeaways in this fabulous room remodel. Truly wonderful work!
    It was such a treat to sit next to you at the Haven closing ceremony. I was quietly having a “fangirl” moment.

  3. Beth, it looks fantastic!! Love the color scheme!

  4. Wow Beth! What a gorgeous job! I grew up in the Midwest and now live on the East Coast. I miss having a basement! I can’t wait to see it decorated! You rock!

  5. What a transformation!! I love it! We will be finishing our basement next year- thanks for the inspiration and tips!

  6. That was super awesome! Spraying the ceiling gray was so smart! It looks terrific!

  7. Spraying the ceiling was sort on ingenious! Loving the transformation. My basement is already finished but you are making me want to rip out the drywall on the ceiling and industrial-ize it!

    • Yes, spraying it made it quick and easy work out of a daunting task.

      And never, ever rip out drywall unless you’ve got a water leak. LOL I wish we could have sheetrocked the ceiling for the acoustics, so enjoy your pretty clean ceiling just like it is.

  8. Beth! You guys knocked it out of the park. Wow! Now I have basement envy. ♡♡

  9. This looks amazing!! I am super jealous of that large storage space–that’s going to be so handy 🙂

  10. Lisa Mothersead says:

    Boy, you really have an eye for details and it looks great! Good job!

  11. Most excellent!!

  12. Wow Beth! That room is amazing!! I totally love that ceiling. Have fun in your new space!

  13. Wow! This looks fabulous! I love how you dealt with the low ceiling and that massive closet – who doesn’t need one of those! Pinned. You’ve inspired me to think about doing something to my unfinished basement.

  14. Oh, Beth! This is FABULOUS!!!!! I’m going to have to look into that moisture resistant wood floor for my basement if I get to buy the house I’m currently renting. I’d love to really turn it into a usable space. Oh, and that paint on the ceiling – stealing that too. And the hiding columns in closets. And…

    Heck, just come to Missouri and do mine for me! (Bring hubby and the cute kids and Francisco too). While you’re here, we’ll do my attic studio too.

  15. Looks amazing. I’m trying to decide between spraying light or dark for the ceilling. One question, what factors went into your lighting decisions, ie when and where to place pendant lights vs pot lights.

    • My husband bought six pendant lights so I just spaced them out around the room as equally as possible. The can lights were supplied by the electrician and we just put them in the areas that were darkest.

      We used LED bulbs so it is bright down there!

  16. Mario Rodriguez says:

    Awesome work! The basement looks spectacular!
    I’m looking to do the same with a basement of mine, I am looking to demo the whole basement and have nothing but the foundation, what would you say your cost was all in all? I’m trying to get an estimate so I can have an idea of what it would cost me. Thank you!

  17. My hubby and I have this exact problem in our basement. I would love to have a basement outcome such as yours, it fabulous. I will try to recreate this lovely basement of yours.

  18. Thank you so much for sharing this! We have a very similar basement and I have been stumped for years on how to deal with the ceiling of ducts, plumbing and such. Love how your basement turned out. Your design has definitely inspired me.

    • You’re so welcome, Tracy. When we walked through the house for the first time I was so sad to see how low the ceilings were in the basement. It was one of the biggest negatives about the house, but I think it’s totally turned into a positive now! 🙂

  19. How warm is this basement with no insulation just painted ceiling? But even thought it looks great!

  20. We’ve had a leaky kitchen ceiling for the past few years, so will have to pull out all the drywall that is now moldy. Instead of replacing the ceiling, we will be painting the exposed unfinished ceiling joists like you did in your basement. That smoky blue color would be perfect for us, and looks fantastic! Great choice, thank you.

  21. We are getting ready for giving our basement some love and this post is totally inspiring me! Can you tell me what your trim paint color is? I hope my basement turns out like yours!

  22. This is almost exactly what I’m looking to do in my basement, but I was wondering what kind of paint you used on the ceiling?

  23. Very nice! How much paint to finish the ceiling? Our basement is 1300 SF. I love the color. We close on a house in two weeks with a finished basement but unfinished ceiling. My wife and I are not in agreement on white or black (ultimately it is probably my decision). I like the Smoky Blue. I have been considering a midnight blue, but that is almost black.

  24. This looks great! We’re looking to finish our basement and want to stick with the basics. I hadn’t considered a painted ceiling. May I ask what do you budget for something like this?

  25. Did you insulate the exterior walls? If so did you use vapor barriers or just allow an air gap?

  26. Gorgeous! We have the same type of basement if not way scarrier, this gives me hope. We are starting the planning process. Did you ever think of leaving the big ducting silver?

  27. Currently starting a similar basement project. Your ducts looks so nice (they have been my biggest concern about painting), but yours look covered in some kind of cloth? What is that? Where do u buy it?

  28. For some reason I teared up when I finished this post! I’ve been so frustrated with out new house! A finished basement was at the top of my list because as a child i was terrified of the basement. I don’t know how I ended up in a house with another basement I’m afraid to go in but this post helped so much! our basement ceilings are ridiculously low and we didn’t know how we were going to make this work. Thank you SO much! This is a fix we hadn’t even considered and I know my husband will he on board!

  29. I can’t even handle how AMAZING this transformation is. Holy Buckets!! I’ve been scouring Pinterest for over a year gathering ideas on what we can do with our short tiny little basement and this is BY FAR one of the prettiest before and afters I’ve come across. Way to go, lady!

  30. This looks awesome! I’m curious about the sound with having the ceiling unfinished. Can you hear what is going on in the basement from your main level? And furthermore if you’re in your office is it pretty distracting if someone else is in the rec room?

    • There is no soundproofing at all. When we are in the basement we can hear everything that happens on the main level above us. Footsteps, voices, tv, etc. It’s not as bad when you are on the main level listening to what’s happening in the basement- it’s more muffled but still, sounds are distinguishable.

      My husband is the only one who uses the basement office and the kids are in school on the days he worked from home, so it was not an issue for us. He put the door between the two rooms to make it easier to heat the smaller room in the wintertime.

      It’s not a big issue for us since we don’t mind the noises when the kids are home (they are honestly not loud kids) but if you need to prevent the sound transfer an acoustical drop ceiling definitely helps with that.

  31. I was wondering if you insulated at all? We are wanting to put a couple bedrooms in our basement and was wondering how spraying foam insulation first would work. I was curious if you or anyone else had any knowledge or thoughts on that

    • We didn’t insulate the basement since it’s fully underground and maintains a constant temperature year-round. I did use the spray-foam insulation in my attic office space because they temps fluctuate WILDLY up there between summer and winter. It works really well in the attic but I wouldn’t waste money on it for an underground basement.

      Click here to see the attic post. https://unskinnyboppy.com/2017/03/attic-renovation-full-room-tour/

  32. Nancy Schipper says:

    We are going to be finishing our basement in much the same way with painting the ceiling a matte black or gray but worried about covering some of the flexible duct work we have. I noticed you had those as well. What did you cover them with? They almost looked bagged.

    I did The Comparison Trap bible study with you and other bloggers. Enjoy your work.

    • The ductwork is not bagged- that’s just the flex duct that’s been sprayed with the matte paint. The painter just sprayed directly onto the ducting and wiring without any issues at all. The only part of the ceiling that got taped off were the lighting receptacles.

  33. Definitely painting my unfinished basement ceiling. I will choose black matte leave my silver ducts, etc. I am a black, silver kind a girl! My question is, “Will the paint be able to cover and not peel on all the wiring?” 10 years of dust to clean. Lol

  34. Awesome! So is your painter in Birmingham, AL?? I would love to get his info if so….

    • Yes! His name is Francisco Rivera and I have another great painter named Luis Robles. I can email you their phone numbers.

      • Hi! We’re in the process of refinishing our basement. I’m using your approach, which is wonderful. Thanks for sharing! Do you mind sending contact information for both of your painters?

  35. Dean Eshelman says:

    So how did you insulate and finish the band board area between the floor joists??
    I am thinking of putting R-13 inuslation and then inserting a 1″ styro foam board, then painting that the same as the ceiling.

    • We didn’t do any insulation in the basement at all, mainly to save on costs. My husband is really the only person that uses it and he’s pretty quiet so noise isn’t too big of an issue. 🙂 The basement is underground 100% so the temperature stays pretty constant all year round at about 68 degrees. We didn’t feel the need to insulate, but if you do need insulation your idea sounds like it would work. Good luck with your project.

  36. So I like the color scheme and the idea of painting the ceiling. I have a few questions/ comments. I’m wondering about sound insulation and noise upstairs because I can hear everything going on in the basement without the ceiling being finished. Is that an issue in your case? Also you say the ceiling height is really low ( that’s why you painted) but in your photo of the guy painting he standing fully upright on a small step stool, and has his arm nearly fully extended. Photo looked really odd and seemed to make the ceiling look very high. Also I haven’t seen you answer many of the questions comments here.
    Nice job on the layout, color scheme and pole treatment

    • There is no soundproofing at all. When we are in the basement we can hear everything that happens on the main level above us. Footsteps, voices, tv, etc. It’s not as bad when you are on the main level listening to what’s happening in the basement- it’s more muffled but still sounds are distinguishable. It’s not a big issue for us since we don’t mind the noises but if you need to prevent the sound transfer an acoustical drop ceiling definitely helps with that.

      The picture of the painter is at the highest part of the ceiling. The ductwork around the outside edges is at about 6’9 at the lowest point, which is just an inch above the door frames. You can see pics of it in the photo with the water heater. So, if we had put in a drop ceiling that would have been the lowest point to install the ceiling and we didn’t want to do that.

      My husband is 6’2 and the painter on the ladder is about 5’6ish”. My husband didn’t want to feel like the ceiling was just a few inches above his head.

      We finished the ceiling of our previous basement with sheetrock and it helped with noise tremendously. The ceilings in that basement were WAY higher. We did not want that added expense for this house, but you can see the old house here: https://unskinnyboppy.com/2011/12/finished-basement-revealed/

      Hope that answers your questions and good luck with your project!

  37. I have 2700sqft of basement…I just finished all the Sheetrock and painted walls a light gray. My dream was a vinyl plank type floor, but worried about moisture ( I live in TN). Your refinish is absolutely amazing!! I wish your painter lived closer, It’s the next step I’m dreading. Have you had any issues with moisture and the flooring? Was there a particular SW paint used for moisture or just standard latex?

    • Hey Leigh,

      Vinyl Plank Flooring is 100% the best bet for a basement with moisture issues because vinyl doesn’t warp or rot. We have installed it in both of our basement remodels and it’s held up beautifully. I highly recommend it as long as it’s decent quality. Our basement is pretty dry (knock on wood) so we didn’t worry too much about moisture. We just used regular Super Paint from Sherwin Williams. Good luck with your remodel!

  38. I would be mad at the builder for all those poles. should not need that many, that close.

  39. Basement looks great! We are planning to finish our basement in the next few months. I love the color scheme. How did you cover up the insulation at the top of the walls/ceiling? We are struggling with what to do in that area.

    • Thanks Reilly,

      We don’t have any insulation in the walls or ceiling, so that’s not something we had to figure out. It’s usually only my husband down there at any given time so we didn’t need a sound barrier and it stays the same temp all year round since it’s a full basement. Sorry I’m not more help!

  40. Annika Wiesenbach says:

    With the low ceilings, do you find that you occasionally hit your head on the pendant lights? I’m curious because my basement also has a low ceiling, and when I finish it I was planning on sticking to can lights and sconces.

    • No, we hung the pendants so the bottoms were at 6’8″- same as the height of a doorway. My husband is 6’2″ and he has no issues with them at that height. Nobody elsethat tall has been down there yet. 🙂

  41. I also live in Birmingham and have a very similar basement. We are about to start working on it and want to spray the ceiling. Will you send me your painters contact information? Love your basement!

  42. Stephen Knight says:

    Looks Great. Nice work. However, your pictures of the after are taken at 4-5′ height. Should take at eye level for a better understanding of the space. Otherwise people might not fully understand what they are getting into.

  43. We are trying to paint our basement ceiling right now. My husband went to Sherwin Williams and they told him the duct work, which is just like yours, would peel or flake. Are you having any issues with this?

  44. Hey Beth!! Great basement. Question – does spraying the ceiling make it difficult for other contractors to find what they need? For example, plumber finding cold/hot pipes in case of an issues, or electrical finding correct wires? And how do you make sure everything in the ceiling stays up in a neat a tidy fashion? I really don’t want to replace my old drop ceiling with a fresher version, but I’m afraid in our older house (build in ’68) it will look unseemly. Suggestions? Thanks so much!!

  45. The basement looks great! We are fixing to start on finishing out our basement. Am in the Bham area. Would love any recommendations on any of the folks you used.

  46. Lauren L. says:

    Love this finished basement! It looks great!! I’m in a very similar situation with my basement and would love to pick your brain about a few things!!

  47. Jeff Rayford says:

    I think that for you to follow your project along and post pictures is amazing and your an amazing person for trying to help people in this way weather you get paid for it or not. I am still trying to convence my wife that this is the way to go and it’s been difficult but, with your testimony it should help alot! Thanks and I will be following your reports.

  48. So over a year later have you had any issues with dirt/dust/crud falling from the floor joists? A carpenter friend warned me this might happen, when I shared with him our (your) spray painted ceiling idea. How is it looking these days? Thanks!

    • Hey Ross, No, we have had no issues with that at all. It’s definitely getting dusty up in the rafters and on top of the ductwork but it’s not falling down to the floor. It still looks exactly like it does in these photos except the floor is covered in Thomas the Train toys. 🙂

      Hope this helps!

  49. I just deconstructed my old basement and ready to start fresh. Can you refer me to your sheetrock/paint/electrical/flooring subcontractors?

    I’ve also considered leaving the ceiling open. How did you address noise reduction from main floor activity?

  50. Thank you so much for this posting! Your basement is beautiful. We knew we wanted an open basement ceiling too, but I didn’t want black. Your basement was the only one I could find online with a blue-ish gray ceiling. We went one shade darker, but absolutely love it!!!! Thanks for the inspiration and example.


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