Finished Basements and Project Budgeting – Ceiling Options

The cost of a finished basement is primarily related to square footage, assuming a few other factors.  

If the project involves solving wet basement issues or installing a weeping system or a drainage system with new sump pumps, then the costs will be based on other factors not directly related to square footage.

Regardless, there are a few budget planning options for reducing the overall costs for a new finished basement.  In this blog we will discuss ceiling options.  

In upcoming blogs, I will discuss in-depth about the list of budget factors below and how homeowners’ decisions can effect costs.

Here is the list of project budgeting factors for finished basements, for this blog series – 

  1. Ceiling options
  2. Flooring options
  3. Wall options
  4. Room layout planning 
  5. Heating and air-conditioning options

In today’s blog, we will look at four ceiling options along with their related costs –

  1. Industrial ceiling style with no paint
  2. Industrial ceiling style with a spray-paint finish
  3. Drop ceilings
  4. Drywall ceilings

Finished Basements – Industrial Style Ceilings

Industrial style ceilings are essentially unfinished ceilings, which of course is the best choice for saving money. Though an unfinished ceiling means you can look up and see all of the pipes, the wiring, the floor joists, the spider cob webs…everything…it also means reducing the costs significantly.

Unfinished ceilings that are not painted can look very raw, and may be an unacceptable finish for the homeowner. Though a coat of primer and a coat of paint applied by your local Main Line painter, spray painted onto the unfinished ceiling, can do wonders visually for the space. 

The fresh paint will also add to the new construction smell and feel of the new finished basement. And your friends and family will now think of you has hip, since industrial style ceilings are popular fashion in modern style city apartments.

Your local painter can assist in selecting the finish paint, but the proper primer must be an oil-based, blocking and sealing primer.  All primers are not the same!  Choosing the correct primer is pivotal for sealing the floor joists, sub-floor, and other items in the rough, open ceiling. 

And typically, the spray painting of a finished basement ceiling can be done in approximately two days. On day-one, it takes a few hours to tape-off-and-mask all the lights, smoke alarms, shut-off valves, junction boxes, and other items such as adjacent windows.  Then possibly the primer can be sprayed on day-one as well, after sealing-off all items that should not be painted.

Day-two is finish painting, and can be “push-dried” with fans or space heaters, in order to apply two coats in the same day.  During this process, proper ventilation is a must for the health of the workers and the homeowners, though this is not easily achievable unless there are windows in the basement or perhaps a basement walk-out door.

To reduce the number of coatings, the primer should be tinted to the finish paint color.  If black is chosen for the finish color – which is a very popular basement ceiling paint color, then the primer needs to be tinted to a deep gray – as deep of a gray as possible. 

Informing the local paint store professionals about your color choices, and how to tint the primers, is the best approach as paint products differ by brand or by chemical makeup.  

Finished Basements – Drop Ceilings

Drop ceilings are an affordable option in basements that have adequate headroom clearance.  From my experience, the key is to use 2’ x 2’ ceiling tiles, which are less susceptible to losing their shape and are easier to move around when accessing shut-off valves or electrical junction boxes or light fixtures.

The other important consideration with ceiling tiles is in the product.  Brand names like Armstrong, USG, or Genesis have beams, cross tees, and edge moldings that are wider, and constructed with a thicker metal. 

The choice of using the sturdier grid components, with thicker metal, is more expensive but well worth it.  Whatever you do, do not skimp out or look for savings with the thinner grid components that are made with thin metal. They are extremely flimsy, easily bent during an even careful installation, and will not result in a smooth finished look to the ceiling.

The bottomline with drop ceilings is that they are very practical. And now with vinyl ceiling tiles, you can remove and replace the tiles without damaging them. Plus the vinyl ceiling tiles can be cleaned with a spray cleaner and paper towel quite easily.

As a contractor, what is most practical about drop ceilings is accessibility to plumbing and electrical items. Drop ceiling tiles – especially vinyl drop ceiling tiles, can be easily removed to have full access to shut-off valves, junction boxes, and light fixtures.

And, heaven forbid, if there was a major water leak or burst pipe, you would be able to make simpler repairs to the drop-ceiling as opposed to having to rip down a drywall ceiling. 

Finished Basement – Drywall Ceilings

Drywall ceilings are for homeowners who want a more formal look, or for homeowners who simply do not like drop ceilings. 

As a Main Line contractor, I always try to steer my customers to first thoroughly review drop ceiling products in local stores.  From my perspective, aside of drywall ceilings costing twice as much as a drop ceiling, drywall ceilings in finished basements are just not practical.  

Over the life of the home, there may be multiple times when full access is needed to plumbing or wiring found in the ceiling.  And though access panels can be installed, the access panels only offer a small space to view, trouble-shoot, and repair any future plumbing, HVAC, or electrical issues.

Aside of drywall ceilings being much more expensive than drop ceilings, the drywall also has to be prepped, primed, and painted. This of course is an additional cost to choosing a drywall ceiling.

In closing, keep in mind that if planned properly, an industrial ceiling – or unfinished ceiling – can be finished at a later date with either a drop-ceiling or a new drywall ceiling.  

To plan for installing a drop-ceiling or drywall ceiling at a later date, the walls must be framed for full height and finished with drywall at full height as well. 

Even a drop ceiling can be replaced with a new drywall ceiling at a later date, though again only if the walls were constructed at full height.