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9 Basement Ceiling Ideas

Creating a beautiful space in your basement poses certain challenges. One is the ceiling. Wondering what to do with the maze of pipes, wires, and ductwork overhead? No worries. Here are a few creative ways to dress up your basement ceiling.

A basement kitchen with a breakfast bar and a painted wood plank ceiling. Ben McKean

The well of basement ceiling ideas runs deep, making it possible to downplay or disguise unsightly overhead features without sacrificing height. A new ceiling treatment can bring the style and finishing touch your basement remodel deserves. Whatever your budget, here are several basement ceiling options for you to choose from.

Cover the Ceiling with Fabric

Show off your bohemian side with a fabric ceiling covering. Staple sheets or other fabric to the floor joists overhead, allowing them to billow down in tufts. This technique softens the space while hiding the mess above.

For a more dramatic effect, use colorful parachutes or sail shades. Another option is to create a stretch ceiling using stretchy fabric clipped to a frame installed around the perimeter of the room.

Here are a few things to think about:

  • Fabric is easy to clean. Just vacuum or remove and throw in the wash.
  • Installing overhead lighting could prove tricky.
  • Makes access to the above utilities a breeze.
  • The design options with fabric are limitless.

Use Corrugated Metal

Add an industrial feel with metal. Purchase new corrugated roofing metal to complement your warehouse or steampunk design. You might consider upcycling old metal sheets for a rustic vibe. Install them between the joists for an exposed beam look.

When installing metal, remember the following:

  • Wear protective gloves when handling metal sheets.
  • When working with rusty upcycled pieces, seal them with a clear coat to prevent further rust.
  • Consider cutting the sheets in squares to create patterns.

Paint Everything

A gloved hand holding a paint roller, painting a ceiling white with an LED light in the background. iStock

Yes, you can paint all that! White will reflect light into what is typically a dark space and give the illusion of a higher ceiling. And a dark color, like charcoal gray, will help disguise plumbing, ductwork, and other utilities above. Whatever color you choose, an advantage to the “paint everything” approach is that you’re not sacrificing any height, if that’s an issue.

Here are a few tips for painting your basement ceiling:

  • Clean away any dirt or cobwebs.
  • Use a sprayer for more adequate coverage.
  • Choose a flat finish. Gloss attracts attention.
  • Prime bare metal ductwork beforehand.

Add Embossed Tin Ceiling Panels

Reminiscent of turn-of-the-century architecture, tin ceilings offer dimension, plus they’re lightweight and easy to install. They come in multiple designs and colors and new ones are coated to prevent rust. Embossed tin panels are typically 2-foot square and come in cases of 10-12 pieces.

A few notes on tin ceiling panels:

  • You can nail tin ceilings to a substructure such as plywood.
  • They can also be installed as a drop ceiling using a grid.
  • Tin ceiling panels cost much more than typical drop ceiling tiles.

Use Glue-on Ceiling Tiles

A super easy DIY option for your basement ceiling is glue-on tiles. Typically made of polystyrene or fiberboard, these tiles come in a variety of colors, sizes, and styles, and are also paintable. You’ll need to install a foundation, like plywood, to glue them to. But after that, it’s as simple as glue and stick.

With this approach, consider:

  • Ceiling tile adhesive comes in a tub and is applied with a putty knife.
  • You can apply construction adhesive with a caulking gun.
  • The plywood foundation could make utility access difficult.

Create a Sky Illusion

Have you ever noticed that most porch ceilings are painted sky blue? Why not do the same thing to cheer and brighten your dark basement? Install a material such as plywood and apply wallpaper or paint to achieve the illusion of sky.

Key things to note about this option:

  • The foundation could make access to plumbing and ductwork difficult.
  • Some skill with wallpaper is helpful.
  • If you’re an artist, this provides the canvas for your creativity to shine.

Install Beadboard

A basement kitchen with a breakfast bar and a painted wood plank ceiling. Ben McKean

Stylish but inexpensive, beadboard ceiling planks give your basement reno just what it needs. Beadboard pairs well with both contemporary or casual, homey styles, and comes prefinished in multiple colors. The planks have a tongue-and-groove edge making them easy to install. You can use them to cover everything. You can also install them between the floor joists to create an exposed beam look. The same considerations for wooden planks apply to beadboard.

Install Drop Ceiling Tiles

A little more complicated on the DIY scale, but definitely doable, is the drop ceiling. Drop ceilings require you to install a metal grid system that suspends below the ceiling and holds the tiles. To give your drop ceiling some personality, consider painting all or some of the tiles.

When deciding, here are a few things to think about:

  • This option provides a way to access the utilities under your first floor.
  • Because of the drop, you sacrifice a little headroom.
  • Adding overhead lighting is easier with a drop ceiling than some other options.

Dressing up your basement ceiling is a breeze with these ideas. Just choose something that works with your budget, your home, and your style.

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