How to Paint Basement Ceiling Joists

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Things You'll Need

  • TSP cleaner

  • Cloth or sponge

  • Drop cloths

  • Duct tape

  • Airless paint sprayer

  • Bucket of paint

  • Empty bucket

  • Primer

  • Protective clothing, goggles and painting mask

Going through the process of finishing a basement ceiling can be tedious. With the industrial-look design, which is is gaining in popularity, the unfinished ceiling is left exposed and painted, with all wires, duct work and joists showing. An unfinished ceiling provides extra headspace, eliminates a good deal of work and costs considerably less than a finished ceiling. Painting the joists and other fixtures of a basement ceiling is most easily accomplished with an airless paint sprayer.


Step 1

Clean the ceiling, pipes and duct work in the room to remove debris, dirt and grease from all the surfaces that will be painted. Use a TSP cleaner to make sure all grease is removed from the surfaces.

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Step 2

Cover everything in the room that will not be painted, including the walls and the floor, with drop cloths. Drop cloths can be held in place on walls with duct tape.

Step 3

Prime the airless sprayer for painting. Place the large, black "suction" tube into the bucket of paint and the smaller "prime" tube into an empty bucket. Turn the valve on the sprayer to the "prime" position and switch on the airless pump. Keep turning up the valve on the sprayer until paint starts to flow out the prime tube, then place the prime tube into the paint bucket to recapture the paint.


Step 4

Clip the prime tube onto the suction tube with the attached hardware. Let the pump continue running until air bubbles cease to emerge from the tube.

Step 5

Fill the airless sprayer with paint by switching the setting from "prime" to "spray," holding the spray gun over the empty bucket and pulling the gun's trigger. Stop spraying when paint starts to flow steadily from the gun.


Step 6

Spray the paint onto the ceiling in straight lines, overlapping each row about halfway to create a uniform paint job. Keep the gun roughly a foot from the ceiling's surface and as perpendicular to the surface as possible--in this case, straight up.


Light-colored paint will open up the room and make it look bigger, while dark paint will make the room look smaller.


Call a contractor or home inspector to check electrical and gas wires. Some of these may not be able to be painted or may require specialty paints. Open windows and doors where possible to prevent inhalation of fumes. Wear gloves, protective clothing, completely enclosed goggles and a face mask. The paint from a sprayer will not all stick to the surface. Much of it will end up back down on you when painting over your head. Do not let the paint rest in the sprayer for more than 15 minutes at a time or the paint will harden and won’t spray correctly.


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