Other Home Projects

Preventing Moldy Ceilings


Paint the Mold Away – An Alternative Workout

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Updated August 25, 2020.

During the summer of 2018 we discovered that the basement can get really humid. I suppose that I knew basements could be so, but chose to forget about it with the wedding, honeymoon, etc…

Our house is really well sealed otherwise and as a gift for something or other my parents gave us a new bulkhead for the basement.  When they originally helped me to build the house my dad created the bulkhead door out of plywood and we used an outdoor paint to seal it.  That did not, unfortunately, keep out the rain completely.  It was well built, but not quite enough to withstand the weather, even under the deck.  It began to rot away after being in place for about six years.

As a surprise, we came home from our wedding and Mom, Dad, and my brother had installed a new metal bulkhead before they came up to prepare for the occasion.  After returning from our honeymoon I got some quickset cement to seal the edges to the foundation.  After completing that and using a waterproof paint to coat the bulkhead twice, that area is pretty well sealed.  

Still, some moisture gets into the basement.

Stupidly, ok maybe just not smartly, I kept the basement windows open to let air flow and release some of the humidity.  This summer, my clever husband thought enough to look up how to keep moisture out of the basement finding that keeping the windows closed is better for this task.  Along with the exhaust fan he and my dad installed at the beginning of this summer, the basement remains much drier.  The exhaust fan in one of the windows is also excellent at keeping the dust out of the air in the workshop, which makes working on projects more comfortable.

So why am I talking about moisture?  A couple of summers ago my parents came and did a basement overhaul, building a gym in one corner for the exercise equipment they bequeathed to me when they retired further south.  (As I have mentioned in other posts and my About Me page, my parents are very handy and many projects get started when they come to visit.)  Well, it still gets damp downstairs and the ⅛” plywood we used on the ceiling of the gym seemed to attract the growth of mold.  At first I let it go figuring it would not get too bad and I would clean it up a little later.  Then, it got worse:

The whole ceiling was covered with this growth of a thin, whitish mold; not black mold which is more dangerous and should be removed by professionals.  Carefully checking the underside of the plywood was not affected, I determined the mold to be a surface problem.  After some research, I mixed up a half and half bleach water solution in a spray bottle and covered up.  I had on a respirator mask, old hoodie, baseball cap, shop glasses, pants, rubber gloves and old sneakers.  Every inch of skin was covered, just to be safe.  

Thoroughly covered and sweating bullets because it was August, I sprayed the entire ceiling down with this solution.  Plenty drifted to the floor needing to be wiped up later, too.  Even though that was just another job to do, the floor got sanitized, so…BONUS!

I let the bleach solution sit for a couple of days to dry out the growth, and checked the progress.  Lots of the growth had clearly died and receded, but a few previously large patches remained as smaller ones.  Thus, I suited up again and did a touch up spray to the areas needing more attention.

A couple days later proved this was all that was needed.  Now, a dusty fuzz remained on the ceiling.  Time to suit up once more and vacuum it away with the shop vac.  

Once the ceiling was clean, the room looked and felt better.  My next task was to ensure that the growth would not come back.  Remember, this is before the exhaust fan.  (We may have to get a dehumidifier, but we’re holding off to see if it is absolutely necessary.)  Thanks to my parents’ advice I went to the nearby Lowe’s and found a paint that prevents mold and mildew.  It can be tinted to match the color scheme of whatever room you need to paint, though white worked perfectly fine for me.  

The next step was to prep the room.  Since the Universal Gym was too big to move, that stayed put, but the rest of the exercise equipment was removed and drop cloths were laid on the floor.  I tossed an old sheet over the TV my husband and I had mounted on the wall.  Old sheets and tablecloths make excellent drop cloths, by the way.  

This time I suited up in my old clothes for projects and painting and opened all of the windows to ventilate the space.  The paint kind of smells worse than regular latex/acrylic because of the mold and mildew fighting properties in it, so moving air was more necessary than usual.

With a brush and paint tray I moved the step stool around the room to edge the ceiling, and around the lights.  

After that, I moved on to the roller.  I prefer using a smaller roller when possible because they drip less and give me more control.  Since I was up on stools and ladders, and the room is not that large, the smaller roller did not make the job take much longer than it would have with a larger roller.  Had I been able to find the broom handle we attach to the handle of the larger rollers, allowing me to work from the floor, I might have chosen differently.  Yes, I could have gone out and bought another handle, but I was ready to go and it only would have delayed the job.  I had the necessary supplies, so I began working with what was on hand.

Another benefit of using the smaller roller was that it was lighter and more maneuverable.  This was helpful when trying to go over the Universal Gym.  It also gave my arms a rest when I reloaded the roller brush with paint, and doing all of that overhead work: something to keep in mind if you have to paint a ceiling or overhead space.

About two thirds of the ceiling was painted when I noticed that what I had done was rather thin.  I stirred the paint again, repoured, and repainted a second coat.  The weather was so warm that the first coat was dry enough to go over it right away with another layer.  To finish up, I cleaned up my supplies and swept the floor.  I waited until the following day to move the other equipment back into the room just to make sure the ceiling didn’t need another coat.

At first I wasn’t sure that I liked the white color on the ceiling.  Though, being a basement gym it doesn’t really matter.  The color grew on me, and the room now feels much larger than before.  

We are nearing the end of the second summer with the paint protected ceiling and we have had no repeat issues.  Other things have come up.  They always do with home ownership.  However, the ceiling in the gym is not one of them.

If you have a damp basement that you plan to finish, this might be just the preemptive maneuver you need to make.  Of course, make the decision that is right for you and make it your own.

I hope to see you here again soon!


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