How to Finish a Basement Ceiling

Finishing a basement ceiling is one of the steps in converting your basement into a livable space. Before attempting to convert your basement into a game room, extra bedroom, or another area, it is very important that any moisture problems be addressed properly. Once you are convinced that the basement will not leak, or is not overly damp, you can follow these steps to finish the basement ceiling.

Step 1: Measure the basement ceiling. Calculate the overall square footage of the ceiling. Then divide that number by 32, the square footage of a typical 4’x8′ sheet of drywall. Round up to the next whole number for the number of sheets of drywall you will require. Plan on purchasing one or two extra pieces to account for error during the installation process.

Step 2: Lift the first panel into place in one corner of the room. Run the panel so the longest side of the panel crosses the greatest possible number of joists.

TIP: To install drywall on the basement ceiling, you will need a helper. It’s preferable to have another person who is willing to stand on another ladder and help you lift and screw each piece of drywall into place. However, you can buy a tool that will hold the other end of the drywall for you while you screw it into place.

Step 3: Using 1 ¼ inch drywall screws, screw through the drywall and into the joists underneath. Screw into every joist, spacing fasteners 6 to 8 inches apart. Make sure there is a screw located ½ inch from the edge of the drywall.

Step 4: Work around any obstructions by drawing the necessary hole onto the drywall with a pencil, then using a drywall saw to cut out the area.

TIP: If you are cutting an opening in the center of a piece of drywall, use this tip. Draw your guidelines, then using your largest drill bit, drill through the part you want to remove. Then insert the drywall saw into the hole and cut out the area completely.

Step 5: Continue installing drywall until the entire ceiling is covered.

TIP: You may find as you finish the installation process that you will have to cut some pieces of drywall into smaller pieces. You can use a drywall saw, or use the scoring method and a utility knife. To cut drywall this way, score the back of the drywall along the cut line, using a metal straight edge and utility knife. Apply pressure to one side of the drywall to snap it apart. Use the utility knife to cut the front piece of paper and to detach the two pieces.

Step 6: Finish the ceiling by filling all of the screw head holes with joint compound using a putty knife. Tape and mud all of the seams between pieces of drywall. Allow the ceiling to dry completely before continuing.

TIP: Taping seams is tricky work for beginners. Plan on spending some time completing this step. Even then, you may find that covering the ceiling with a layer of texture to conceal flaws may be necessary.

Step 7: Prime and paint the ceiling with a long handled paint roller.


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