How to Hide that Awful Ductwork

Scenario:  You want to finish your existing basement into the perfect lower-level living space, without it feeling like a “basement.” Creating a homey and inviting space that matches the rest of your home is the goal, but if you have a typically-designed lower level, you face an issue that is unique only to this part of the house: ductwork.

When ceilings are low and ductwork hangs even lower, it can be tricky to finish off a basement with a unified look while keeping the overall design from looking haphazard. You’re not renovating a warehouse, you’re renovating your home! To get the results you want and avoid remodeling mistakes, put some thought into the ductwork ahead of time.

Building codes differ, but usually the ceilings of a finished basement can be no lower than seven feet (except for small portions of the space).  If the layout of your ductwork allows, framing out a multi-level ceiling in a unified manner or tying the ceiling in with a unique floorplan will add interest and keep the space from feeling cramped.  Consider these ideas for how to adjust your ceiling:

Create a tray ceiling

Framing a border around all edges of the ceiling creates a tray in the center that will be a focal point for the room.  This treatment looks best when it defines the layout below so make sure to take the furniture placement into account.  For added interest, try painting it a different color than the rest of the ceiling or add lighting inside the cove – it will give the room character and make it pop.

Drop the ceiling in one area to create intimacy

In addition to hiding ductwork, soffits are great for defining space.  Dropping a ceiling in a certain area – such as over a bar, dining area, or craft space – can be a less-imposing alternative to putting up a wall, in terms of visually breaking up space. This lets you keep your open floor plan but helps you distinguish between the different sections of your basement.

how to hide ductwork in your basement

Create faux rafters

This can be done with or without ductwork.  Create long sections (as thin as possible) that are evenly spaced to mimic rafters.  When trimmed with moulding, this technique creates a coffered look which is less formidable than lowering the entire ceiling.

Use unique soffits when framing out ductwork

Rather than building an unexciting soffit (or “bulkhead”) by framing only around the duct, try using unique soffits that serve as well-thought-out architectural details and add character to the space.  Consider arches or other shapes, or finish the bulkhead with a different material, such as wood or brick to make your soffit stand out.

Incorporate ceiling framing with wall framing

Create a layout where the walls correspond with the framing of the ceiling.  This creates a cohesive, intentional-looking appearance and as an added bonus, building out walls creates a great space for closets, built-ins, or feature items such as recessed wine refrigerators.

When you can’t beat ‘em – embrace them!

Depending on your style, the ducting and piping in your basement’s ceiling doesn’t have to be hidden by framing.  Using a paint sprayer to cover all of the ceiling contents with a solid color not only creates a unique, modern feel, but it eliminates the labor associated with framing out the ceiling.  Use very dark or very light colors (think black or white) for this application, and incorporate thoughtful selections and furnishings that compliment this industrial or loft-like feel.

The best thing to remember when finishing the lower-level ceiling is to make it look purposeful and unified.  Avoid trying to hide ductwork in a haphazard way, and instead embrace the occasion to bring interest and architectural detail to your finished space!

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Let the Renovation Roadmap Guide Your Renovation

When renovating your basement to hide ductwork, you may be uncertain about how to pick a contractor, find the right building materials, or choose the best paint swatch. A home renovation, even a small one, can feel overwhelming—but it doesn’t have to.

The Renovation Roadmap is an step-by-step program designed to guide you through the home renovation process. With helpful worksheets, videos, budgeting tools, and much more, you’ll have everything you need to transform your home on time, within your budget, and in alignment with your goals and vision.

Are you planning a home renovation? Learn more about the Renovation Roadmap and start your remodeling journey today!

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