What Type of Paint Should You Use in the Basement?

When it comes to painting your basement, it’s not just a case of choosing any old paint as long as it’s in a color you like. Basements aren’t like other rooms in your home, and a very different kind of criteria applies to its treatment. While it’s tempting to think that paint manufacturers have created different kinds of paints simply as a marketing ploy to shift more units, this is one case where you really should be checking the label carefully: a universal paint that can be used in any room of the house would make things simple, but unfortunately, it just doesn’t exist. As The Spruce notes, different rooms in the house have different micro-climates and different level of humidity, with the result that niche paints are a very real requirement. If you’re not quite sure of the differences between the various options, there’s a wealth of information around to help you, starting with our comprehensive guide to choosing the best paint for basements.

The Unique Requirements of Basement Walls

Some people’s basement masonry walls are a little moist. Some peoples are downright wet. If you’re among either category, consider yourself Mr. or Mrs. Average. Basement walls are notorious for seeping water, and unfortunately, there’s precious little you can do to stop the problem at its root cause (short of knocking the walls down and starting over). There are, however, plenty of options to consider when it comes to minimizing its effect, starting with ensuring proper drainage and treating any cracks in the walls. Choosing an appropriate paint is also essential. And when we say appropriate, we mean waterproof….

Benefits of Waterproof Paints

Mold Resistant: Unless you don’t mind your basement smelling like a mildewing chamber, you’ll need to ensure that any mold is treated promptly and prevented from coming back. While there are plenty of temporary options on the market (pop into any hardware store and you’ll be spoiled for choice when it comes to moldicides), sealing the walls with a waterproof paint will do a far better job at keeping mold at bay on a permanent basis. The paint will effectively stop any water condensing between the drywall and concrete, minimizing the chance of mold forming.

Preventing Water Seepage: If your basement walls are made of concrete (as most are), then short of knocking them down and starting over you’ll never be able to stop all water seepage. You can, however, stop a lot of the small seepages that come through the small pores of the wall by applying a coat of waterproof paint.

Paint Options for Concrete Basement Walls

Although you might be dazzled by the number of waterproof paints on offer at most hardware stores, they all break down into one of four categories: acrylic, epoxy, latex, and urethane).

  • Latex Paint: choosing paint with a latex base has a number of key advantages. Firstly, latex is less prone to peeling or cracking than many other varieties, resulting in fewer re-coats down the line. It also has a super-quick drying time, minimal odor, and fewer fumes than a lot of other paints on the market. In addition to its excellent functionality and ease of application, it also adds a beautiful luster to your walls. Well-rounded protection plus a great aesthetic equals one seriously worthwhile investment.
  • Epoxy Paint: Stain resistant? Tick. Highly Durable? Tick. Satin Finish? Tick. There’s a reason that Epoxy paints tend to be many people’s number one choice for concrete basement walls. Highly resistant to cracking, peeling, and blistering, easy to clean, and available in a good variety of colors, Epoxy paints are a great option for basements.
  • Acrylic Paint: as Hunker notes, acrylic paints are generally not designed to take too much abuse: if your basement is well-trafficked, you may either need to consider another option, or, if you do opt for acrylic, you’ll need to invest in a sealer to help preserve and protect it from damage.
  • Urethane Paint: Urethane tends to be used primarily as a top coat and sealant, offering a very resilient (albeit tricky to apply) option to protect concrete floors and walls from damage.

Consider Color

Once you’ve chosen the type of base paint you want, the next step is to determine which color is the most appropriate. Unlike some rooms of the house where you can allow your own style and personal preference to fully guide your choice, you’ll need to apply a little more discretion when it comes to choosing the right hue for your basement. Light (or the absence, therefore) tends to be a major issue in most basements, so it’s important to consider which colors are likely to enhance what little light there is, and which may have the effect of making your basement even darker and dingier than it already is.

Pale, pastel based colors will usually work to make a room feel lighter and brighter, while darker colors will tend to absorb the light and make a room feel smaller and darker. You don’t need to avoid the dark side completely, but it’s best to keep darker shades to accents only, as opposed to the main feature.

Not all basements are alike, of course, so it’s always a good idea to assess what kind of natural light is coming in before making your final choice. If your basement is blessed by lots of sunshine, your color choices will open up dramatically. It’s also important to reflect on how you use your basement: darker colors can make a room look smaller, but if you want to use the space primarily as an intimate spot for late-night entertaining or as a stylish media room, it’s not necessarily a bad thing to consider colors on the darker side of the spectrum. Conversely, if your basement serves as a kid’s playroom, you may want to keep things lively, bright and cheerful with yellows, whites, and other light-enhancing hues.


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