20 Feb 2013

Raise the Roof (also known as how we FINALLY finished our ceiling!)

Ok I have to be honest....I debated for a long time if it is even worth posting this.  It's a ceiling for crying out loud.  Who cares?  I can tell you that I don't even really care any more, I am just so freaking happy that it's done! But, since DIYing isn't always all pretty and fun (hello horrible baseboards and caulking), I figured I'd post about our basement ceiling....if nothing else than to declare my happiness that it's finally finished and to maybe help some other poor sap who's stuck doing their own basement.

The back story....

When we bought our house the basement was semi-finished.  It was framed in and drywalled.  We were stoked.  We figured we wouldn't really have much to do to finish it off.  WRONG.  Bit fat WRONG.  Yes, the drywall was up, but it was done horribly (a little fact we didn't notice before we moved in).  The seams were horrible, the plugs were done wrong, not a single wall was straight....I can go on and on.  We said more than one time that we should have just ripped it all out and started from scratch....but we didn't....we worked with what we had - which was a crappy start.  

We ripped off all of the upper drywall and fixed it all up.  Mudded, taped, sanded, sanded, sanded (I will NEVER do this again).  We hung doors, layed flooring, caulked, painted....and then...we ran out of money.  We had a mostly finished basement, but decided to leave the ceiling for a while until we had the money to finish it.  All renos we do in our house are paid for 100% in cash, so if we don't have the  money we just wait.  After recovering from a baby and maternity leave (which is a year in Canada), we finally had the money to finish off the basement.  

A hung ceiling was NOT my first choice. Actually, I did everything I could to resist it.  I really, really, really wanted a drywalled ceiling.  But as I already mentioned, the walls were already up, and if you are doing it correctly, a drywalled ceiling should go up before the walls.  If it goes up first the ceiling drywall can rest on the wall drywall.  Plus, I was so sick of taping and mudding that the thought of doing it above my head made me want to just curl up into the fetal position and stay that way for a while.  So, hung ceiling it was.  

Mr. Swell really wanted to contract the job out.  We actually had 2 guys come and quote, but it was just too expensive ($2K plus).  After much convincing, I finally wore him down and had him sold on doing it ourselves.  

We decided to go with 2' x 4' tiles simply because they were affordable.  I picked out the least ugly pattern that I could (there are some seriously hideous ceiling tiles out there!!).   We bought all of the tiles last spring during a huge sale at Rona.   

Mr. Swell worked away at the office side of the basement last winter while he was on his parental leave.  It was easy to do while Fin was napping, and was thankfully a relatively quiet job.  The summer rolled around and we decided to give the ceiling a break and to work on more fun outdoor projects.  Then the snow started flying again and we knew we had to get back at it. 

It took us another few months, but I am so happy to say that it's now done!  Thankfully I don't totally hate it.  Yes, it's a hung ceiling, but at least it's nice and plain...and it doesn't remind me of a school or a hospital, so that's a bonus.

Mr. Swell really did all of the work.  I held the level a lot and was the go-to snap line holder and measurer.  He did all of the hauling, cutting, actual hanging, grid figuring, etc.  

**the techni-coloured play mats are a lovely addition, right?  I loathe them...but they keep Fin's feet warm.

If you are ever in the situation of having to hang your own hung ceiling, here are a few of his tips:

Mr. Swell used the Armstrong ceiling planner tool to help him with the grid.  You just enter your dimensions, and it will show you how to hang your grid the most efficiently.  After manually planning out the grid on the office side of the basement, he discovered this tool and it saved him oodles of time. 

Using these corner caps made the whole job a lot easier.  After cutting a few corners without them and trying to get the perfect 45 degree angle with tin snips, he discovered these corner brackets and was one happy guy.  They do make the grid have more 'breaks' and lines, but in the end I think they make the whole thing look cleaner as every outside corner is consistent.

It can be done with a simple laser level.  Mr. Swell really wanted to rent a fancy laser level from The Home Depot that would project one line across the whole room (from the centre of the room), but it was going to be $70 for the day.  We were so close to renting it, but cheaped out and just kept using our small laser level.  We had to hold it against each wall and mark the line with a snap chalk line, but it worked and it saved us some cash.

Plan your lights.  We went with pot lights in all of the main areas.  They take some planning to make sure that they don't end up wonky places in the tiles.  You want them to be even on all of the tiles.  You also want to make sure that all of the lights are at least 2 feet away from the walls to prevent strong shadows being cast on your walls.

In the stairwell we installed 2 ALANG ceiling lights from Ikea.  They were affordable at $30 each and were super easy to install. 

Since we watch TV in the basement, they give off a soft glow that isn't harsh on your eyes while watching TV.   They are a little strange in that they are held together with magnets and zip ties, but so far they haven't fallen off the ceiling (that's how they are supposed to be assembled, we didn't choose to use zip ties....).

We bought one track light at Ikea (the TRAL for $30), to position above the fireplace.  Again, it was really easy to install, the only trick was to get it centred right on the fireplace.

So after almost a year and half of working on it off and on, we now finally have a mostly finished basement.  My plan for the next couple of weeks is to finish off the stairs (they need nosing and the baseboards need to be painted) and then I can show you the whole COMPLETED basement.  By the way, the ceiling (including lights) cost us just over $800.  

**On a side note....taking pictures of the basement has been quite the challenge, so my apologies ahead of time about some wonky colours.  I don't have a tripod yet, and getting a nice bright shot in a dark area is challenging   Have you also noticed how much our wall colour changes with light?  It is so much greener at night and in the darker areas.

Tell me, do you have a hung ceiling in your basement? Do you watch tv in your basement?  Do you sort of want to throw pencils into it while watching tv and see if they stick?  Or is that just me? (although I wouldn't dare put a hole in our brand new ceiling).

Linking to:

TDC Before and After


  1. Kelly - I know how pleased you are to be finished with this project. Im glad that you took the time to write about it too.

    I had never heard of or seen those corner caps before i read this. Thatll come in handy down the road I think!

    The majority of our plumbing is in the garage ceiling and we had to expose it for emergency repairs in order to close on our house a couple of years ago. We quite literally did tear apart our house before we owned it - it is AMAZING what a bank will let you do to get a foreclosure off their hands!

    Yeah, the ripped out drywall has still not been replaced - but I think from our own experiences - wed like for whenever we replace the ceiling - to make it one where we can easily access those same areas again, if needed.

    A drop ceiling would be ideal for that.

    1. Oh and p.s. - did I say how great yours looks?

      Because it does! The placement of the lights and everything, Mr. Swell "done good"!

      As for the interlocking play mats - If you ever get tired of the primary colors - you could always paint cute lil ladybugs or something on them. I saw a play mat makeover on the DIY Showoff last year. :)

    2. The caps were a such a huge time saver. We did a few corners without them and it was so finicky getting the angles exactly right with tin snips (as i am sure you know - tin snips are not the most reliable tool out there for nice straight lines). Thats crazy about your garage! I am surprised that your garage ceiling was drywalled - we hardly ever see that around here!
      Yes, Mr. Swell did a pretty great job, especially with the lights. And painting those mats is totally in my future. I have researched quite a bit how to do it, but have been holding off. Since we think we are probably going to move, I want to wait until we are in a more permanent play space before I pick a colour/design.
      Thanks for the comment!

  2. Yay to finally have a project done! It may not have been the funnest (yes, funnest) thing to do but at least its done and you dont have to worry about it anymore! Congrats!

    1. Ya, I am very, very happy that its done! It always pretty rewarding when you finish something after a year! Thanks for the comment.

  3. Good for you on saving big bucks on your project.

    1. Thanks Jody. Gotta love money in my own pocket rather than someone elses!


Your comments make my day. Seriously, they make me do little dances of joy (usually in my office chair - so its a chair dance of joy). If your profile is connected to your email address then I will email you back, otherwise please check back for a reply.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
Pin It button on image hover