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How to Finish a Low Basement Ceiling That Has Pipes Running on It

Heide Braley

Older homes present challenges such as low basement ceilings that new homebuilders rarely have to confront. Building codes for finished basements typically call for a minimum height of 7 feet. If your plumbing is only inches within that guideline, you really cannot install a drop ceiling.

Moving the plumbing and wiring would be very expensive, if it were even possible. The simplest solution is to spray paint the entire ceiling, pipes and all, as many restaurants and department stores do with their ceilings.

  1. Vacuum the ceiling with a shop vacuum to remove cobwebs and dirt. Wipe each pipe with a rag and all-purpose cleaning solution in a bucket of warm water, rinsing the rag often. Wipe down bare metal surfaces with mineral spirits and a dry rag.

  2. Tape with painting tape off anything in the ceiling that you do not want covered with paint, including lights, shutoff valves, heating/cooling vents or switches. Cover the floor and walls with tarps and tape to protect them from overspray.

  3. Remove everything from the basement and install a window fan facing out the window to remove the paint fumes from the room.

  4. Fill an electric paint sprayer with white paint or white paint lightly tinted with blue to create a more open feeling in the basement. Use a low-luster metal and wood enamel. This product is self-priming and ideal for coating metal, wood and plaster surfaces such as you might find on your basement ceiling.

  5. Put on a painting suit, hat, goggles, gloves and a dust mask, since there will be paint molecules suspended in the air.

  6. Paint the ceiling, starting at the side of the ceiling farthest from the fan, following the directions from the manufacturer of the paint sprayer. Sweep the nozzle from side to side and move on to a new area if you notice the paint starting to drip.

  7. Allow the paint to dry, following the recommendations on the paint can. Apply a second coat and again allow the paint to dry, leaving the fan exhausting the paint fumes.

  8. Remove masking tape from the ceiling, drop the tarps from the wall and roll up the floor tarps.