DIY Unfinished Basement With Temporary Fabric Ceiling Cover

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Things You'll Need

  • Ladder

  • Metal measuring tape

  • Balsa wood strips

  • Keyhole saw

  • Staple gun

  • Staples

  • Fabric fire-retardant spray -- optional

  • Fire-retardant fabric

  • Scissors


Do not cover electrical outlets, heating ducts or furnace vents. Do not affix fabric near light bulbs. Reapply fire-retardant fabric spray periodically, according to the manufacturer’s recommendations. Use only fire-retardant or fire-retardant-treated fabrics.

Purchase fire-retardant fabric to cover a basement ceiling.

If you want to use a partly finished basement and cover the ceiling with something temporary until you can completely finish the space, consider fabric. Fabric will reduce the industrial feel of bare ceiling joists. Fire-retardant fabric is stapled to lightweight balsa wood strips installed as a frame along the walls. Rows of fabric are attached side-by-side to the ceiling joists, so you can easily access the ceiling by removing the impeding fabric. When you want to put in a permanent ceiling, just remove the staples and take down the fabric.


Step 1

Measure the length of each wall along the ceiling. Measure across the center of the basement ceiling at the widest point. In addition, measure the distance between each ceiling joist. You will need a ladder for this entire project. If you convert the feet measurements to inches it is easier to calculate the amount of fabric you will need. For instance, a 10-foot square room is 120 inches long and 120 inches wide.

Step 2

Measure and cut 2-by-1/2-inch balsa wood strips to the length of each wall at its widest point across the ceiling. Balsa wood strips are available in 36-inch and longer lengths. You may have to use numerous strips per wall laid end-to-end, depending on the length of your wall and the available lengths of balsa wood sold where you made your purchase.


Step 3

Determine the amount of fabric needed by using the measurements from step 1. When you purchase the fabric, get more than you need to account for overlap during installation. A standard fabric yard is 36 inches long and 28, 36, 45, 54 or 60 inches wide. Buy fire-retardant fabric from the bolt. Bolt fabric will be applied in strips along the ceiling joists in a train-track fashion. Fabric that is not certified as fire retardant should be treated with a fabric fire-retardant spray and allowed to dry prior to use.

Step 4

Frame along the basement walls by stapling the balsa wood strips flat against the ceiling joists, butting the wood strip sides against the basement walls. Install the wood along all walls. The spacing of your staples will be determined by the spacing of your ceiling joists. Saw the wood strips with a keyhole saw to make them fit exactly.


Step 5

Begin fabric installation in the corner of your choice. Hold the fabric end against the intersecting corner frame so that it fits into the angle of the corner. Staple the fabric to the frame, spacing the staples every 2 inches across the fabric end. You will stretch the long bolt of fabric strip across the ceiling in rows. Installation will be easier if a second person remains on the ground and assists in unrolling the bolt of fabric as you do the stapling.

Step 6

Arrange the long side of the fabric strip along the other wall. Staple the edge of the fabric every 2 inches along the wood frame until you reach the corner opposite the first corner where you began the fabric installation.


Step 7

Staple the end of the fabric to the wood frame on the wall. You may have to cut the fabric to fit.

Step 8

Begin the second row of fabric installation. One long side of the first fabric strip has not been stapled yet. You and your ladder will be at the end of the first row, but farther from the wall that you just finished stapling. Position a strip of fabric to form the second fabric row. Slightly overlap the fabric edges. This time you won't have a wall or frame to follow. The fabric strip will be attached to the ceiling joists.

Step 9

Pull the fabric taut as you work, gently pulling and stapling the overlapped edges of both rows of fabric to each ceiling joist until you reach the opposite wall. Staple the end of the fabric strip to the balsa frame, spacing the staples 2 inches apart. If you encounter duct work, cut the fabric to fit, leaving at least 24 inches of uncovered space around any ceiling obstacle. Fold the fabric edges under, and staple them to the nearest joist. Do not cover ducts or electrical wiring, as this poses a fire hazard.

Step 10

Continue stapling rows of fabric strips, securing the last row along the balsa strip at the other end of the room.


references & resources

Louise Harding

Louise Harding holds a B.A. in English language arts and is a licensed teacher. Harding is a professional fiction writer. She is mother to four children, two adopted internationally, and has had small businesses involving sewing and crafting for children and the home. Harding's frugal domestic skills help readers save money around the home.