How Much Does It Cost To Paint Basement Walls?

Basements are typically seen as dark, damp, dungeon-like spaces. But the reality is that basements don't have to be that way. Whether you simply want to liven up your basement or plan on using it as a living space, you might be curious how much it costs to paint the walls. We did the research to bring you the answer.

The answer depends on the size and finishing of your basement. On average, you can expect to pay anywhere from $3.23 - $6.58 per square foot to paint your basement. 

In this article, we will discuss the necessary procedure for painting basement walls based on what they are made of and how finished the room is. We will also explore the different materials you will need. There are many different kinds of paint, so we will explore the best paint to use for your basement and why. 

Woman painting wall using paint roller, How Much Does It Cost To Paint Basement Walls?

Can You Paint Poured Concrete Basement Walls?

The short answer to this is yes. You can paint your basement walls if they are made of concrete, but you have to be careful. The reason precaution is part of the discussion is because of mold. Mold in your home is unhealthy for your family as well as your property.

Empty basement in abandoned old industrial building with little light and a wooden stairs and cement walls

Out of the many materials you can list, it is an easy mistake to believe that concrete is completely solid. The truth about concrete is that it is very porous.

The texture in concrete leaves room for water to pass through. When water passes through concrete, it leaves minerals from the earth that crystalize and turn into a white powder called efflorescence.

Most basements have a lot of moisture in them. If this is your basement, don't be discouraged—you can still paint it. It is vital, however, that you read the rest of this article to learn about how to most effectively protect your basement from water damage and moisture.

What Kind of Paint do you Use on Concrete Basement Walls?

When selecting the paint for your concrete basement, you should choose an oil-based or latex waterproof masonry paint. Paint labeled as waterproof contains ingredients that are antimicrobial. This means it prevents the growth of microorganisms such as mold, fungus, and other harmful bacteria.

However, under the right conditions, those might still eventually grow mold which is why it is so important to prepare your walls properly before painting.


To prepare your walls for painting, begin by inspecting for water damage. If there is a lot of moisture in the air, try opening some windows and starting some fans to dry the room out. Airing the room out is also a good idea, especially when painting with masonry paint, because breathing in the fumes can be toxic.

Next, remove any old paint with a paint chipper, and look for cracks in the concrete. Fill the cracks in the concrete with hydraulic cement by placing and smoothing it over with a trowel.  This is referred to as keying.

Hydraulic cement is made to be water resistant and expand slightly when set. This means that when you are filling the cracks, you do not have to be extremely thorough. You do want to get a good amount in the crack and smooth it over, but fully loaded is not necessary.

After you fill any cracks, seal windows and other seals with waterproof caulk. Wait at least 24 hours until your next step.


Random-orbit disc sander held in grip of man's hand

Sanding concrete walls before priming them is a really important step. This step should be taken even if the walls were not previously painted. Sand the entirety of the walls three to four times with sandpaper that is 40-80 grit.

There will be particles floating around and on the floor when you have finished. Vacuum these up to make sure your paint job is not filled with dust particles. Then, wipe down the walls with a damp cloth. Do not soak your walls with water, but collect small sanding particles that remain with a wet towel.

Priming and Painting

Now you are ready to prime the basement walls. Use masonry sealant, which is a primer, and waterproofing sealer for concrete walls.

You can also use masonry sealant on cinder blocks. Coat the walls with masonry sealant by paint roller for the majority of the wall and a small angled brush for the edges and trim.

Once you let the waterproofing primer dry, it is advised to lightly sand the walls again with 40-80-grit sand paper. Sanding after priming will help better protect your walls from moisture.

A post-priming sanding of the walls will also help prevent peeling and cracking, especially during extreme temperatures.

Paint on your first layer of oil-based or latex waterproof paint. If you can find a semi-gloss version, that is recommended for better protection. Let this layer dry for two to three days and apply the second coat. In 72 hours, your basement is ready to use. 

What is the Best Paint for Basement Walls?

Spacious finished basement with carpet and hardwood floors

Above, we discussed how to paint concrete basement walls. The paint you should use is oil-based or latex waterproof masonry paint. If your walls are not concrete, there are a few changes to be made in the above instructions. 

If you have a finished basement, the painting process is the same as regular indoor painting. You will not have to fill cracks with concrete, nor will you have to sand concrete walls.

With a finished basement, apply waterproof latex primer to the stucco or plaster wall. Apply the first coat of acrylic latex paint and the second coat after that is dry.

How Long Does it Take to Paint a Basement?

The length of time it takes you to paint a basement depends on its size and level of completion. On average, it will take two to four days for the whole painting process. If you have a finished basement, your task list is shorter than if you have concrete walls.

With concrete walls, it is critical to sand and prime the walls. It also might take you some time to key any cracks. This is done by expressing a crack with a sledgehammer and chisel and then filling it with hydraulic cement.

Between keying, sanding, applying primer, and sanding again, that may be your first day of your four-day weekend of painting your concrete basement. 

If these are finished walls, forgo those steps. The time it takes to paint your basement with finished walls is the time it takes you to apply primer and your first coat. Your second coat goes on after that is dry which is normally work for the next day.

Should I Paint my Basement?

A basement in a house

You should paint your basement if you want to! If you have the tools and are aware of what to look out for, paint the heck out of your basement!

Keep in mind, however, the importance of managing water damage and mold. If you do not find a lot of moisture in your basement, odds are a DIY weekend will be perfectly safe. If  you have any hesitations about mold or water damage, call a professional to inspect the area. 

Also, remember that there are a number of tools and techniques used when painting different spaces. Know your space, and know your capabilities.

Do you have time to paint your basement? As mentioned, painting your basement is a big task and it will take at least two days. The time it takes depends on the size of the space, necessary prepping procedures, and how quick you work.

Also, consider climate. Colder temperatures mean more drying time. During higher temperatures, paint will dry quite a bit quicker as long as there isn't a lot of humidity in the room.

Wrapping Up

This is a project that has crossed all of our minds. Be sure to do your research and know your space. Taking preventative measures for moisture in the basement is necessary and helpful.

We learned that concrete is not as solid as we thought, and sanding, priming, and sanding again must be done before even a lick of paint is applied! Don't forget to use 40-80-grit sandpaper for this. Any more or any less will not produce the proper texture for painting.

We also reviewed the kinds of primer and paint to use. Oil-based or latex paints are best and help as a water guard on your walls. Waterproof masonry paint on concrete walls is the most suitable for the job.

For more articles like these, check out:

11 Basement Wall Color Ideas To Inspire You

How to Remove Paint From Concrete? [5 Simple Steps]

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