The Tipping Point…Painting Exposed Ceiling Rafters

We all have that breaking point when it comes to renovations.  You know that moment when you just want to quit? When you look around and feel like there’s no progress? The moment when you feel like the finish line is so far away and yet you’ve already clocked hours and hours of hard work?  The point when you just want to cry and have a little pity party? Or maybe just want to plant a “for sale as-is” sign in the front yard? I hit that point last week.

For the past two weeks, I’ll get home from the money-making job around 5 and go right to work in the basement until about 10, 10:30…sometimes 11pm at night.  I swap out the heels for my paint jeans (which were formally my favorite pair of jeans that I tried to do quick paint-work in…and now they’re my favorite paint jeans), and go right to work.  After two weeks of those long days I hardly see an improvement.  And I was about to crack.  So I took a weekend off. That’s right, I didn’t do a thing in the basement all weekend.  I may have had family in town and couldn’t work on it anyway, but it was a good vacation from the work and I’m ready to get back at it.

First, let me catch you up…

Beautifying a basement is hard work when you’re working with a very tiny budget.  The exposed ceiling rafters in my 1926 basement are especially ugly.  There is no better word for it.  And most of it was now exposed since I removed the dropped ceiling that previously covered all the ugliness with it’s own form of ugliness.

I seriously considered just covering up the entire ceiling so nobody ever had to view those rafters again.  Or atleast until someone was brave enough to remove a ceiling I was considering to install.  I was drooling over the idea of installing a beadboard ceiling similar to what I did in my kitchen:

Or maybe a pallet or barnwood ceiling, like this idea from This Old House:

While these are all beautiful options (which I will store in my little basket of ideas for maybe…a future house) let’s remember that I’m trying to beautify for as close to free as possible.  Therefore, in the interests of staying to the smallest budget possible, I decided to paint the ceiling.  Paint would only cost $40 and I really like the look of a two digit number when it comes to spending.

Here are some exposed ceiling ideas I was considering:

(click the pictures to be taken to the original source)

I love the cozy, comfortable feeling of the bright white ceiling above.

And black ceilings make all the ugliness disappear – the pipes and electrical are hidden in those dark rafters.

I like the idea of painting the basement ceiling a different color, something unexpected, but still neutral…like a charcoal gray or a warm, chocolaty brown, or maybe the green in the picture above.
When I started thinking of what style would be the most cohesive with the rest of the house the decision was obvious.  The design of the basement is planned to be the same as the rest of the house…so painting the ceiling white made the most sense.
Before I could paint the entire ceiling I had to remove a very old ceiling (I hope it wasn’t asbestos) covering a 12 x 10 area.  The old ceiling was installed in sheets and was a fiber material that was flaking and crusting.  A nail every 6 inches held the board in place flush to the joists.  At one point, this ceiling must have covered the entire basement because Justin and I pulled 4 million nails out of the rafters that no longer served a purpose.
Here is a better look at the fiberboard ceiling.  If it’s asbestos…I don’t want to know.
The backside of the ceiling (facing the rafters) was almost pure black because of the dust build-up over the many years this baby was in place. I also had a ton of duct work and plumbing to work around (this may be why it was never removed). I even found an old galvanized pipe for plumbing that was no longer in use still hanging around (but not connected to anything). Not knowing what could be lurking above that old ceiling I carefully ripped the ceiling down chunk by chunk with my crow bar.   It took a few hours to remove the fiberboard because I didn’t want to snag electrical wires or other mechanicals.  Once the ceilling was down and the dust had settled in my lungs, I removed all the nails nails and oddities found hiding behind that fiberboard (stray wood boards, old telephone wires, hooks, old pipes, oh…and a mouse skeleton – EEK!) – but it was done and it was ready for paint and I felt better that there was less gross stuff in my house.
Using my Graco TrueCoat Paint Sprayer* (which is one of the best tools ever), I sprayed on 2 coats of flat ultra white latex paint, giving about a two hour dry time in between coats. I went through 5 1/2 gallons of paint to cover my 500 sq foot ceiling area. This was a time consuming and exhausting task because I would have to refill the teensy-tiny paint supply cup. One cup allowed me to put one coat of paint between the joists. Count the joists.  Multiply that by 2.  That’s a whole lot of refillin’. Most jobs that I’ve done with the sprayer only require a refill or two…  But it was still quicker than taking a paint brush or roller to the ceiling.
Here is what it looks like now.  I actually organized all my tools and moved everything over to the official “workshop” area (in the storage area that will be closed off) and replaced the desk with my workbench that has been sitting out in the garage.  I also painted the floor.  Why?  Well, because there were some missing tiles (which are probably the bad, scary, asbestos kind) and I wanted to encapsulate any of the adhesive so it wouldn’t release while I was working in the area.  Justin is convinced that I will have mesothelioma one day from working with all this old stuff, and this helped put his mind at ease (it probably didn’t do a thing).  Well, I guess it’s a good thing I have him to take care of me 🙂
This little nook area will end up being the designated workout space.  There is plenty of room for a treadmill and a yoga mat.  It may also be a future office area if I should ever need to transform the office space upstairs.

For the larger living area, all I had to do was paint it since I had already cleaned up the ceiling joists at the beginning of this project.  Here is a reminder of what it looked like before I moved in and before we took down the dropped ceiling:

And here is after taking down the fluorescent lighting and dropped ceiling:
Everything in the rafters was painted…cable wires, electrical, exterior of the can lights, HVAC, spiders, and dead mice yet to be found.
Ignore the whole furniture shuffle I have going on.  Spraying a ceiling is a messy job so everything has been shuffled, covered or boxed up to keep it from getting dusted with paint.  If you’ve been paying attention, you’ll notice that some drywall work has been done (I’m always behind in posting progress).
The white ceiling has already brightened up the basement.  Okay, so maybe there has been a little progress.
Here’s another look at the before and progress pictures…
I could stare at these updates all day…wondering where my sweat and hard work went.  I’m only partially kidding. 
I love projects that are done in a few hours and this definitely isn’t one of those projects.  These overhauls wear on me…and I don’t wear well. Just ask my parents, who had to endure a full kitchen renovation with me. They’re saints. Really. It’s a good thing I’m stubborn and I won’t stop until the job is finished. It’s always worth it in the end. 
I’m assuming a renovation is much like dieting and working out.  You work your butt off, sweating it out in the gym every day and watching every calorie.  There’s little to show for it after week 4.  You just have to keep the focus on the end goal.  There’s a big difference between -5 lbs and -50 lbs.  I think I’m right about at -25 lbs.  And those last 25 lbs are a b**** to lose.
Here is the budget breakdown so far.  Thank goodness I don’t charge for labor…
– Lighting and installation—> $180
– Paint ——————–>  $40
Okay, so maybe it looks like $220 in updates so far.  I promise that there are good results coming soon.
Have you ever hit a mid-renovation crisis? It’s the worst!  Thank goodness for before and after pictures to keep me sane.  What have you done to help cure the mid-reno crisis? Yoga, maybe punch a wall?  Do you keep on trucking or have you set down the hammer? 
Thanks for reading!
*A good paint sprayer is a great investment when you have a lot of paint projects planned. They help cover a large area in a very short period of time. While there is thorough clean-up involved of the sprayer and pump, the process of painting is at least 5 times quicker than a roller or brush. I purchased the sprayer 8 months ago with the idea that I would be painting the kitchen shelves (done), spraying a brush-stroke-free finish on moulding (done), spraying a basement ceiling (done), painting all interior doors (done), staining the privacy fence (sprint time), and many other projects to come – it was worth the investment. I would’ve spent this much just to rent a sprayer for the basement ceiling!

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