Basement ceilings are often ugly, cluttered, and ignored. Until someone wants to turn it into an apartment. Or add extra living space like bedrooms, family room, or home theater. Then the ceiling has to be dealt with. The number and type of basement ceiling finishing options are innumerable–only dependent on the homeowner’s imagination.
Before Finishing the Basement Ceiling
When planning the basement ceiling finishing, take into account the following:
- Soundproofing – Footfall noise from upstairs or speaker noise from downstairs easily travels through uninsulated ceilings. Spray foam insulation, mineral wool insulation, and rigid foam board insulation are good soundproofing products that can be installed before the final finish is applied.
- Duct Access – Before covering the ceiling, consider access to plumbing, HVAC, and electrical wires. At the very least, ensure that they all appear to be in good working order. Some ceiling finishes make access difficult and/or expensive.
- Height – When turning a basement into an apartment, ceiling heights have to be at least seven feet. Most ceiling finishes will lower the height–some by quite a bit. Low ceilings can also add to a closed-in claustrophobic feeling.
10 Basement Ceiling Ideas
Some of these ideas can be used on their own, in combination, or they can inspire homeowners to add more creative touches. Tastes, color choices, and individual preferences all help to make basement ceilings a personal statement.
Drywall is used on more basement ceilings than any other product. Inexpensive and easy to work with. Once it is installed, drywall can be painted or textured. It acts as a base for many other ceiling finishes like beamed ceilings, wallpaper ceilings, coved ceilings, coffered ceilings, and more.
Before installing drywall insulate the underside of the floor above for soundproofing and insulate the rim joists against cold. Accessing pipes and ducts is impossible without removing the drywall and replacing it with new product.
Suspended ceilings or drop ceilings are the next most popular basement option. They have the advantage of providing instant access to the services and framing of the basement ceiling. Tiles are 2’ x 2’ or 2’ x 4’ and can be lifted out easily wherever needed. They have insulation and soundproofing qualities.
Suspended ceilings no longer just look like an office product. The tiles are available in multiple designs and some are even colored. Suspended ceilings are more complex to install than drywall but do not require taping, mudding, and painting.
Exposed beam ceilings add a rustic look to the basement. Beams can be part of the framing left exposed, recycled recovered beams, or manufactured faux beams. Faux beams are available in kit form. Easy to install. Non-structural. Install faux beams over new or existing drywall–smooth or textured.
The majority of the ceiling can be painted or textured drywall, plank, or a suspended ceiling. Or any other type of finish that appeals to the owner.
Exposed unfinished ceilings are becoming more popular. The entire areais painted–including ducts, wires, pipes, framing, and undersides of the floor above. Any color can be used but white and black are often chosen. All HVAC, electrical, and plumbing are easy to access and work on.
Another option that combines soundproofing and finishing is wet spray cellulose insulation. It is applied on the underside of the floor above and on all framing and ducting. Cellulose is a good soundproofing material and will not fall off once it is dry. It is a popular application on commercial ceilings–even in restaurants.
Installing fabric on the undersides of the floor joists is a quick and easy way to cover a basement ceiling. Bolts of cloth can be stapled on with strapping added later–-if desired. Different fabrics and colors can be used in each room or to highlight sections of a family room–like the bar area.
Wood Plank Ceiling
Wood planks–such as tongue and groove cedar or knotty pine–attached to the bottoms of joists provide a soft warm feeling. Installing reclaimed planks gives a rustic feel. Add faux beams for a heavier look and feel.
Finish the planks with paint, stain, oil, or leave them natural. Installing beams provides the opportunity for contrasting colors and textures. Wood planks can also be installed around existing beams and framing members.
Wallpapering sections of the ceiling–such as over a bar–gives the feel of a special place. Use wallpaper around the ceiling’s perimeter as a feature. Wallpaper only adheres to certain surfaces. Not to textured ceilings or some types of paint.
Installing wallpaper overhead is more difficult than installing it on walls–but the positive change in the basement is worth the effort.
Drab-looking ceilings can be re-invented just by some creative lighting. Add modern fixtures, recessed lighting, wall sconces, or even strings of lights that change a room’s focal point. Install and use dimmer switches to alter the feel of a room–or section of the room.
Coved ceilings are rounded corners at the junction of walls and ceiling in the form of a concave arc. They can be relatively small or fairly large curves reminiscent of older lath and plaster finished homes. Foam and MDF cove moldings are available in millwork sections of building supply outlets.
Wood framing kits are available that fit in the 90-degree corners to provide rounded backing. Drywall is then applied onto the curve, taped, and painted. Cove molding is often painted different colors to present a contrast.
Installing trim like crown molding at the junctions of the ceiling and walls changes the look of the basement without having to change the ceiling. Crown mold is available in wood, MDF, or foam. Depending on the product, it can be painted, stained, or oiled.
Other types of moldings that improve basement ceilings are light medallions that are installed around fixtures. They are usually made of foam and can be installed with adhesive or screws and painted to blend in or to stand out.