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What Kind of Paint Is Used in Basement Drywall?

John Stevens J.D.

The interior sides of basement walls were traditionally left uncovered. But modern basements are sometimes covered with drywall to increase their aesthetic appeal. Older basement masonry walls can be covered with drywall, provided that a vapor barrier and foam insulation are also installed. Bare drywall, however, can be painted to increase the basement's attractiveness. Painting basement drywall requires an application of primer and paint. Latex primer is commonly used for basement drywall, and either alkyd or latex paint is applied over the primer.

Masking and Draping

Latex paint is traditionally used for drywall.

No matter how careful you are, chances are good that paint will inevitably splatter when applied to the wall. For this reason, it's important to take reasonable measures to avoid paint splatters on furniture and carpeting. Because lightweight items can be carried easily, move them out of the basement. Move larger items to the center of the room and cover them with plastic for added protection. Use drop cloths to protect the floor. Avoid buying cheap drop cloths, as the paint can soak through. Spend a few extra dollars and purchase 9-oz. canvas drop cloths. If the walls feature a baseboard or the doorway includes molding, cover them with painter's tape and press a putty knife along the entire length of each piece to avoid seepage.

Making Repairs

If the walls have any dents, cracks, or paper tears, now is the time to repair them. All three repairs can be performed with spackle, a pliable material that hardens when dry. For cracks, scrape away any flaking drywall pieces and apply spackle over the crack with a putty knife, then sand the spackle down after it's dried. If the wall is dented, simply fill the dent with spackle and sand it down. Because the exterior side of drywall is paper, sometimes the paper can tear away from the wall. Trim away the torn piece and apply spackle over the damaged area.

Preparing the Wall

The importance of preparing the wall for paint cannot be overstated. Simply put, the cleaner the wall the better the final result will be. If the walls are painted with a gloss finish, roughen the surface with fine sandpaper to give the new paint a good surface on which to adhere. You might be surprised at how much dust accumulates, even on a vertical surface. Vacuum the walls to remove the majority of dust particles. Wash the walls with soap and water to remove any grease and dirt. If you notice small, green dots on the wall, the dots are probably mold. If you keep your clothes washer and dryer machines in the basement, mold can often develop if the basement isn't well ventilated. Wipe the moldy area down with a mixture of 3 qts. of ammonia-free detergent and 1 qt. of bleach, then wipe the wall down again after about 15 minutes.

Priming and Painting

Take comfort in knowing that the hardest part of the job is now over. All that's left is priming the wall and applying the paint. Flat latex primer is commonly used for drywall. It's easy to clean up, dries quickly and is fairly inexpensive. Paint around the edges of the wall before painting the center section. Use a polyester or nylon paintbrush to apply the primer around the edges. Don't use a bristle brush with latex paint, as the bristles will absorb the water in the paint and weigh the brush down. Roller brushes are typically used to paint the center of walls, with a 9-inch brush being a fairly standard size. Remember to use only a polyester or nylon roller sleeve since you're applying a latex primer. The wall is ready for paint after the primer dries. Alkyd or latex paint can be used here, but alkyd paint usually takes longer to dry and is more expensive than latex. Read the back of the primer can closely for the type of paint recommended by the manufacturer.