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Basement Ceilings

For a Fully Finished Basement, Add a Drop, Drywall, or Wood Ceiling

A basement cannot be said to be finished until it has a ceiling installed. Without one, the eye will be drawn to the maze of plumbing pipes and electrical wires running overhead. Several options are available when finishing a basement ceiling. Learn what they are and how much they cost in this consumer guide from Home Improvement Educator.

Basement Ceiling Options

If your basement isn’t completely finished, but is rather an informal hangout for poker, table tennis, and the like, heavy-duty fabric should provide an adequate ceiling. Basements meant to serve as living spaces, however, are better off with one of the following ceiling types:

Suspended Ceilings: Acoustical paneled ceilings, or "drop" ceilings, consist of removable ceiling tiles held in place by a lightweight metal framework. The tiles are typically 2ft x 2ft or 2ft x 4ft and come in hundreds of styles, textures, and colors. Suspended ceilings are perfect for basements because they allow easy access to the infrastructure above the ceiling. It’s possible to use a drop ceiling only in a key access area and install a solid ceiling (see below) over the rest of the basement.

Drywall Ceilings: For a completely finished basement look, consider a drywall ceiling. Apply some texturing and a custom paint color for an individualized look. Wood Ceilings: Beaded lap siding or wood paneling can add a nice touch to a basement. Match the wood to your decor by applying one of dozens of stain colors. The wood can also be left in its natural state or simply clear coated for a more rustic look. And if you have the budget to indulge in some high quality craftsmanship, there are endless possibilities for a decorative wood ceiling.

Need-To-Know Basement Ceiling Information

Tempting as it may be to install a solid ceiling system throughout the basement, you need to keep in mind that repair and service technicians need access to different areas of the ceiling. Obviously, it’s unrealistic (not to mention expensive and messy) to cut and patch the ceiling each time work is performed. Using a suspended ceiling in conjunction with a drywall or wood ceiling – or at the very least installing access panels – is therefore recommended. Other considerations to keep in mind when finishing a basement ceiling are discussed below.
  • Instead of bringing the entire basement ceiling down to the level of the lowest hanging pipe or ductwork, a framed chase can be installed over specific areas, thereby allowing the rest of the ceiling to be built at a normal height. This multi-leveled look has the added benefit of making the room seem larger than it actually is.
  • Beaded or decorative crown molding installed around the inside corners of the basement ceiling gives the room a more inviting feel.
  • If you do decide to go with a solid ceiling, it's a good idea to install access panels in key areas so that workers don't damage the ceiling. The panels, sold in many different sizes, are commonly installed around plumbing cleanouts and electrical junctions.

Basement Ceiling Costs

The following prices are national averages only; actual costs vary by location and from contractor to contractor.
  • Finishing a ceiling with drywall (including installation, mudding, sanding and painting) costs $3 to $4 per square foot. For an average-sized 300 square foot basement (10ft x 30ft) this works out to a total cost of $900-$1,200.
  • A suspended ceiling averages $1.50 to $3.00 per square foot of ceiling space (depending on the materials chosen) installed (or, approximately $450 to $900).
  • Wood siding or paneling typically costs $3 to $5 per square foot installed (the higher prices are attributable to more expensive materials). For a typical 300 square foot basement, expect to pay $900 to $1,500.
  • Installing crown molding costs $3 to $5 per linear foot ($240-$400 for a 10 x 30 basement).
  • Adding access panels to a ceiling might cost $50 to $100 per panel.

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