Lowe’s Basement Project – Painting an Unfinished Basement


Ah painting, the thing I hate most.  I think this is one of those things you either like doing or just flat out despise.  When I started thinking about the paint, this is the first time I thought we actually had a big basement.  Actually it’s not too bad.  We just had to focus on painting the walls, floors, stairs and new wood.  So in reality I guess I was lucky.  We didn’t have to paint the ceiling.

I really didn’t want to have tons of different colors in the basement.  I also knew I didn’t want really bright colors.  I knew this was a basement I would play in with my kids when it was either cold or raining outside.

Painting Tips

Before you paint you always want to make sure your surfaces are prepped such as scrapping and sanding.  The big thing you want to make sure there is nothing loose on the surface you are painting.  The two biggest things are old paint and dirt.  You will need to scrape any old paint away which surely is a pain.  Before you paint, wipe your surfaces off to make sure there is no dirt as the paint will stick to the dirt instead of the walls.  Also if you have a high gloss paint, like we did on the stairs, you really need to prep this.  If you just try to paint over a high gloss, especially on stairs that take a lot of abuse, you will get chips and more.  You need to have a surface paint can bond to.  High gloss is not the best surface for this.

Painting the Walls

Since our basement still leaks water, I wanted to try a paint called drylock.  After talking with the guy at Lowe’s, this wasn’t the product for me.  The biggest reason is with drylock you have to have bare walls for the product to work and the company to back the warranty.  Since we already had paint on the walls, we just went with an off white paint.  The basement has plenty of lights, but only 5 small windows for natural light.  The ceiling is brown because it is unfinished and we were going with a grey on the floor.  So we knew it had to be a lighter color.


Painting the Floor

This was actually trickier than I thought.  We needed to find something that would take abuse, water wouldn’t affect it, is easy to clean and is not slippery.  Plus we had two layers of paint on the floor that were peeling, so I knew that would be a pain to clean.

The first thing was trying to tackle and clean the old paint from the floor.  They make plenty of tools and accessories that will do this.  There is also plenty of chemicals that will do the trick.  We didn’t want to go with chemicals for two reasons.  First, the smell.  We didn’t want to smell the chemicals for weeks.  Second, I was a little afraid because if we didn’t completely clean all the chemicals off the floor, what would happen after we apply paint and get water in the basement or something else?  I ended up going to our local rental store and renting a floor buffer machine.  They had an accessory that had small little scrapers on the bottom.  This way it just takes off the paint and doesn’t effect the concrete.  This way is messier and does require more muscle, it also creates a fair amount of dust.  We found that it wasn’t too bad if you had someone follow you with a vacuum.  Now it didn’t take off all the paint, but about 80% of the paint. The other paint was down and wouldn’t flake off.  We did have to work by hand along the walls as the machine would not get that close.

For the paint we went with an epoxy.  There are different types of floor epoxy, but we went with a 1 part epoxy instead of having to mix two parts together.  We went with a 1 part because if we ever have to touch it up, I can just open the can and apply the paint.  No mixing or worrying about matching or anything else.  We also went with a flat paint instead of a higher gloss paint.  Higher gloss paint will be more slippery which a slippery concrete floor and kids probably wouldn’t be a good fit.  That is also why we didn’t end up coating the floor.  We thought about adding a sand or something else to give it texture and help with traction, but then it would make it hard to clean with a mop or something else.  These are just some of the things you will have to look forward to when you are working on your basement.

Tip – If your using a one part epoxy and will be using more than one can, get a 5 gallon bucket.  What you want to do is mix all the paint in a clean 5 gallon bucket so it all matches.  Even though the paint comes off the same factory line, there can still be a little variance in the color.  The reason I know this is because we didn’t do it with our basement and I can see the difference.  Not a huge difference and not sure if anyone would ever notice, but I do see it.  This brings me to another tip.  Read the directions.  If I would have taken 5 minutes to read, I would have known to do this first.


Painting the Stairs

The last item I had to worry about was painting the stairs.  I didn’t want a flat paint because it was on wood and it wouldn’t look right.  However a paint with a shine would be slippery.  On the other hand if I did a paint with a shine and added sand, it would be a pain to clean with a paper towel or rag.  Little bits of the paper towel rag would be left behind.  We decided to go with a gloss for easy clean up and a nice shine.  What we did was buy a package of sand to add in the mix.  We took a small bucket and poured some of the paint and added some of the sand until we had the consistency we wanted.  We then put about a 2″ strip of paint on the steps for tracking when walking up or down the steps.  Once that dried, we went over it with the original paint.  That way we still had the high gloss look, but still had traction on the steps.  By painting over the strips we painted with the sand, we did lose some traction, but there is still ample traction for when it is wet.  Well we feel it is ample or at least until someone slips down the steps.


These are just some of the fun things you have to look forward to when working on your basement.


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