How to Paint Basement Water Pipes on the Ceiling

Basement ceilings, with their exposed water pipes, ductwork and wiring, lend a somewhat industrial, gloomy look to your basement. Installing a suspended ceiling can be pricey, but painting the ceiling is a relatively inexpensive project. Painted white, a basement ceiling looks higher and brighter, and the clutter of ducts, pipes and wires is minimized. For a more dramatic look, paint the ceiling flat black. Whether the basement water pipes are PVC or metal, they can be painted as long as they're cleaned and primed first.

Things You'll Need

  • Dropcloths or builder's paper
  • Grease-cutting dishwashing detergent
  • Bucket
  • Rags
  • Masking tape
  • Primer
  • Airless sprayer
  • 6-inch paint roller
  • Water-based paint

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Protect the floor with dropcloths or builder's paper.

Add a few drops of grease-cutting dishwashing detergent to a bucket filled with warm water. Dampen a cloth with the mixture. Wipe down the water pipes to remove surface oil and grime.

Cover shut-off valves with paper and masking tape.

Spray the entire ceiling and pipes with oil- or shellac-based primer, using an airless sprayer; water-based primer is an option for PVC pipes. If you're only painting the water pipes, use a short-handled 6-inch roller and paintbrush.

Allow the primer to dry as indicated on the label. Shellac- and water-based primers typically need about two hours of drying time, while oil-based primer requires at least eight hours.

Spray the entire ceiling and pipes with two coats of water-based paint, using the airless sprayer. If you're only painting the water pipes, use the roller and brush.

Tips & Warnings

  • Builder's paper can be bought inexpensively by the roll at most paint or home-improvement stores.
  • If you're painting the entire ceiling and have copper water pipes, consider masking off the pipes and leaving them unpainted as decorative accents.
  • Turn off the pilot lights to your furnace and water heater before using any solvent-based primer or paint. Strong fumes may be enough to spark an explosion.
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