How To Paint An Unfinished Basement

There are several reasons to paint your unfinished basement instead of using drywall. Leaving exposed pipes in your basement can make plumbing projects easier by allowing easy access. Painting your unfinished basement can also make the ceiling look higher and lighten up this area. While this process may seem like a daunting task, we have researched many sources to bring you a concise list of how to paint your unfinished basement.

For a cost-effective alternative to applying drywall, painting an unfinished basement is possible. Painting your unfinished walls, ceiling, and floor will take less time and require fewer supplies than drywall. We will discuss a few steps to painting an unfinished basement in detail, such as: 

  1. Gathering equipment and supplies
  2. Cleaning your painting surface
  3. Ensuring proper conditions
  4. Painting your unfinished basement

The actual process of painting your unfinished basement and ceiling is only part of remodeling your space. You may find yourself wondering how to prepare your space for painting and what color you should choose. You may also wonder what color you should paint your basement and the best type of paint to use. We will answer all of these questions and discuss other closely related topics, just keep reading!

Unfinished new build interior construction basement renovation ground floor Inside, How To Paint An Unfinished Basement

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1. Gathering equipment and supplies

Planning for your project is the first step in painting an unfinished basement. Spending some time planning, in the beginning, will always save you time in the long run. Gathering supplies and equipment is an important part of the planning stage.

The list of supplies that you should gather is as follows:

Painters tape

Painter’s tape is designed to help keep edges clean when used over baseboards or on trim. You can also use it to cover things like outlets and door handles that you want to keep paint-free.

Using painter’s tape may seem like a cumbersome task, but it will be worth it in the end. Preparing your space with painter’s tape will prevent accidents and simplify clean-up. 

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Click here for painter’s tape 3-pack on Amazon.


A primer should be used before painting, especially if you are using a light color such as white. Two or three primer coats are recommended, especially on various exposed pipes. Using a primer will save you time, energy, and money by preventing the need for painting multiple coats. 


Oil-based paint works better with a paint sprayer but requires paint thinner for clean-up. Latex paints can be used with a paint sprayer but will need to be thinned with a bit of water to prevent them from clogging the sprayer.

You can also clean up water-based latex paints with water. Epoxy should be added to your paint for a hard, scuff-proof surface if you plan to paint your concrete basement floor. 

Paint sprayer

Spraying your unfinished basement is a much easier task than rolling the paint. If a paint sprayer is available to you, it comes highly recommended for efficiency.

Click here for a paint sprayer on Amazon.

You will want to ensure that your sprayer hose is long enough to reach every surface in your basement. If a paint sprayer isn’t feasible, you can use a paint roller and brush.

Personal Protective Safety Equipment (PPSE)

If you are spraying paint in your basement, you will want a respirator to wear while working, especially if your basement lacks adequate ventilation. You should also wear safety goggles while cleaning and painting your space.

Click here for respirator/goggle combo on Amazon.

Wearing cover-alls or old clothing can prevent you from ruining your clothes. You may also want to wear a hat or hair covering if you will be spraying paint, especially when spraying the ceiling above you. 

Flooring protection

Lay a drop cloth or tarp on the floor where you will be painting. Even the most careful painter can have spills and splatters. If you choose to leave your furniture in the room where you are painting, you can also drape a tarp or drop cloth over it for protection. If you are painting the floors, you will need to remove all furniture.

2. Cleaning your painting surface

Before you can even apply painter’s tape or drop clots, you should thoroughly clean your basement. If there is any insulation on the ceiling, remove it with a brush or broom.

Then remove any dirt or dust in any of the areas that you will be applying paint. Use a vacuum to clean up leftover insulation or dust and dirt from your basement floor before scrubbing your floors with detergent and a stiff brush.

3. Ensuring proper conditions

Any area that you decide to paint requires certain conditions in order to ensure optimal results. Test the humidity in your basement by applying a piece of tape to the bare clean concrete floors.

If moisture is present after leaving the tape for 24 hours, use a dehumidifier in the space to ensure a positive outcome. The temperature in your space should be between 40 degrees and 90 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Basement unfinished under construction residential home framing

4. Painting your unfinished basement


Now that you have gathered equipment and ensured that you have the proper conditions for painting your space, you are ready to actually paint! Depending on the color of paint you decide to use, you will need a coat or two of primer.

If you go with white paint, we’d recommend a shellac primer to prevent yellowing at joints that come through the white paint. Primer is especially needed if you are painting over different colored pipes. 


Once the primer has had time to dry, get ready to spray your actual paint. If your area is well primed, you should only need one or two coats of actual paint.

Spraying your paint on is the most time-efficient way to apply the paint and should only take a matter of a few hours, including dry time in between coats. Spraying your ceiling will require a long-reaching paint sprayer hose. 

How do you prepare an unfinished basement for painting?

The first part of preparing an unfinished basement for painting is to remove any furniture from the space. Make sure the entire area is clean; prepare your supplies as discussed. 

Cement is difficult to paint if your paint is not properly prepared. An epoxy additive is required for painting your cement floor. This will need to be applied and dried within a short time frame, so nothing should remain on the floor. 

Unfinished view on concrete floor construction of basement empty under construction of residential home

What color should you paint an unfinished basement?

Paint color is a matter of personal preference, but a few colors come highly recommended for use in an unfinished basement. White paint will brighten up your entire space and give your walls and ceiling a fresh, clean look but will require a shellac primer prior to painting.

Black is an easy color to use and will help to camouflage the unfinished details such as pipes and wires, but it will also make your space seem smaller.

Grey is a popular color in any home decor and will give your space the brightening effects of a light color while also helping to conceal imperfections. 

What is the best type of paint for a basement?

Epoxy floor paint is the best product for cement basement floors. A catalyst should be added to this paint that makes paint harden quickly. This is why you should plan on finishing the floor promptly.

Epoxy-fortified acrylic paint is the paint recommended for the remaining surfaces in your unfinished basement. This type of paint is known for its durability. Allow about five days for your basement paint to fully cure. 

How do you use an unfinished basement?

Unfinished new build interior construction basement renovation ground floor Inside, How To Paint An Unfinished Basement

An unfinished basement can be used for several things. It makes a great workout room since it is away from the rest of the house. This space is also great for food storage or to use as extra pantry space. If your home doesn’t have a usable garage or other workspaces, an unfinished basement makes a great workshop for building and woodwork. 

Final thoughts

Don’t let space go to waste in your home just because it is unfinished. An unfinished basement can be used for many things and give you additional storage or living space.

As in any other room in your home, there are no real rules when it comes to decorating, so have fun with it. We hope that the information that we have provided you helps and inspires some ideas for your unfinished basement space. 

Before you go, here are some other articles that may be of help to you:

Carpet Vs Vinyl Plank In The Basement – Which To Choose?

Best Lighting For Unfinished Basement Ceiling [5 Options Explored]

How To Make A Basement Smell Better [9 Helpful Methods]

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