How to Cover Concrete Walls in a Basement

Are the concrete walls in your basement an eye-sore? If so, there are multiple ways you can cover the bare concrete to create an eye-catching focal point in the space. From painting to tiling to drywall, there are products out there specifically designed to cover concrete walls that will let your style shine.

The type of material used to cover the concrete walls in your basement will determine the overall process. Do you need to apply primer before you paint? Do you need to clean and level the wall before tiling? What about drywall? Can you put it directly on concrete?

We will address these questions on how to cover concrete walls in a basement so you are more equipped to get the job done the right way, the first time.

Why Cover Concrete Walls in Your Basement?

While a bare concrete wall in a basement is functional the way it is, there are several benefits associated with covering the wall.

  • Seal the concrete – the most functional purpose of covering a concrete wall in your basement is to seal the concrete to prevent moisture from entering the basement. It is common knowledge that basements tend to be damp and susceptible to mold. By covering the concrete wall in your basement, you are more likely to keep the outdoor elements outside by creating a better seal.
  • Update the space – basement renovations are common for homeowners who just moved into the area or are finally getting to turn the basement space into their dream hangout spot. Covering the bare concrete wall with the material will liven up the room and give it a more finished look.
  • Create a focal point in the room – even if you aren’t planning on doing a complete basement remodel, covering a bare concrete wall will create a focal point in the room and can ultimately make the space feel larger.

Why Cover Concrete Walls in Your Basement?

Covering Concrete Walls in a Basement

Now that we know the benefits, we can now learn how to cover concrete walls in a basement, what materials to use to cover the walls, and finally the completion process.

Paint

Painting a concrete wall in a basement is one of the easiest and least expensive ways to cover the wall. While it is simple, there are several steps you need to take before applying the paint.

Step 1: Fill any holes or divots in the concrete with concrete filler.

This filler cancels the need for a paint primer as it prepares the concrete for the paint. Using this filler also means that you are using less paint as you will not have to fill the holes in the concrete with the paint.

Step 2: Clean the surface of the concrete.

Using trisodium phosphate or TSP, clean the concrete surface to remove any dirt and dust particles along with oil and grease so the paint goes on smooth and does not discolor. You will need to mix the TSP solution with water based on the package recommendation. A general conversion is one gallon of warm water to one-fourth cup TSP.

Trisodium Phosphate (TSP) Warm Water
¼ – cup 1 Gallon

Work this cleaner into the concrete with a wire brush to get the entire surface cleaned and ready for the paint.

Step 3: Let the surface dry completely.

After applying the concrete cleaner, let the surface of the concrete dry completely. The TSP may cause bubbling on the surface of the concrete. Let the TSP continue to bubble for approximately 15 – 20 minutes, then wash it away. Ensure to get all the TSP mixture removed.

Let the wall dry for a minimum of two days before applying the first coat of paint. When the wall has completely dried, it should feel somewhat like sandpaper.

Step 4: Apply the first coat of paint

Once the concrete wall is dry, wipe it down, then apply the first coat of paint starting with the perimeter of the wall. Starting on the outside of the wall will better equip you to get an even coat completely across the surface.

It is easiest to apply the initial perimeter coat of paint using a paintbrush as it is more versatile than a paint roller.

Step 5: Scrape the paint surface.

Allow the first coat of paint to fully dry, then inspect the wall to ensure that there aren’t any bulges in the paint or areas where the paint did not stick to the wall. If you find these areas, use a putty knife to scrape away the rough or imperfect surface and smooth the edges out with sandpaper.

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Paint doesn’t always like to stick directly to concrete. Therefore, it is likely you will find at least one section of the wall where the paint doesn’t fully adhere to the wall. Luckily, a second and even third coat of paint should do the trick.

Step 6: Apply second and final coats of paint.

Before applying the second and final coats of paint, ensure that any dust produced from sanding parts of the wall is gone to prevent bubbling up on the next coat of paint.

Continue to apply additional coats of paint until you have reached the desired color and overall finish to your concrete wall.

Tile

Tile is another material frequently used on basement concrete walls. While the process is a little more detailed than painting, the reward you receive with the detail is one you will enjoy for years to come.

Step 1: Clean and scrape the wall.

For tiling to go on a concrete wall cleanly, you will need to clean the wall from any dirt or grease, then chip away any protruding pieces. If you try to put the tile on with these concrete pieces still intact, it won’t allow the tile to go on level. This will result in issues later down the road, not to mention the likelihood of the tile cracking and breaking.

Ensure to get all dust particles and grease off the wall to ensure the tile firmly sticks to the wall when applied.

Step 2: Determine the tile design and layout of your tiles.

Using the tiles you have purchased for the wall, set out the design you would like to create on the wall. By doing this, you are better able to finalize the layout you originally intended. If you don’t lay out the design, you are more likely to apply the wrong tile in the wrong spot, which can sometimes be tough to reverse.

Step 3: Mix grout and apply to the wall.

Using a bucket, pour some of your powder grout mixture along with the necessary water conversion that is available on the grout bag. Mix the grout thoroughly, getting all the powder incorporated into the wet portion.

Once the grout is mixed, apply it to the wall using a putty knife or similar tool. Only apply enough grout for a small section. If you put the grout on the wall in too large a portion, it will dry out before you can place the tiles. Put enough grout on the wall for three tiles at a time max.

Step 4: Place tile on the wall with spacers

Starting from the bottom of the wall, begin to place your tile on the already grouted surface. If you start from the top of the wall, you risk the tile slipping out of place as there is no bottom structure to hold it in place.

Once your first tile is on the wall, place a tile spacer on the perimeter of the tile to provide the necessary space between the first and second tile.

Step 5: Repeat the process

Repeat the grout application, tile placement, and spacer insert process until the wall is covered in your desired tile design.

If your design includes different tile sizes, ensure to place spacers between all tiles to keep the layout in place.

Step 6: Remove spacers and apply between tile grout.

Once the tiles are firmly in place and the grout has completely dried, remove the spacers. This may cause small pieces or crumbles of grout to fall off the wall.

After all the spacers are removed, mix a small portion of grout and apply between the tiles to fill any holes or gaps. It is okay to get the grout on the tiles as it washes off easily.

Step 7: Clean excess grout from tiles.

Let the tile grout dry, then, using a wet rag, rub the dry grout crumbles off the tile for a clean, smooth finish.

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Once the tiles are clean, sit back and admire your freshly tiled concrete wall.

Drywall

Drywall is used for interior walls between wooden frames in most homes across the country. Drywall is also a material that works to cover a concrete wall. However, remain mindful that drywall should not directly be attached to a concrete wall as the moisture from the concrete can cause molding.

Step 1: Seal the wall and insert a barrier.

As previously mentioned, it is vital to insert a barrier between the concrete wall and the drywall to prevent molding. Before applying the drywall, you will need to seal the concrete with a concrete filler.

Once the wall is sealed, apply a barrier to the wall, such as a foam sheet. The foam sheet will keep the drywall from directly contacting the concrete, preventing future moisture and mold issues.

Step 2: Assemble a barrier wall to hold the drywall.

Assemble the barrier wall on the ground to fit the concrete wall. Once the barrier wall has been assembled, stand it up against the foam sheets on the concrete wall and secure it in place with concrete nails or screws.

Connect the barrier wall to any connecting walls with a drywall backing.

Step 3: Insert insulation and apply drywall.

After the barrier wall is in place, fill the empty sections with insulation, making sure you fit it tightly.

Once the insulation is in place, cut the drywall to fit the barrier wall and secure it in place. Try to apply screw through the drywall into the barrier wall support approximately 16-inches apart. Repeat this process until all drywall is in place.

Step 4: Tape studs and edges.

When the installation process is completed, ensure to tape or mud the studs and edges to portray a smooth finish. This smooth finish will allow you to paint the drywall with ease when it comes time to finalize the wall.

Covering Concrete Walls in a Basement

 

FAQs

Now that you know how to cover concrete walls in a basement, let’s take a look at some other common questions you may have as you move along the process.

How can I make my concrete walls look better?

There are multiple ways to update your concrete walls to give them a more attractive finish. Paint the wall a vibrant color to make it a stand-out feature in your home. Or try adding a tile design to or drywall to give the cold concrete a warmer feel.

How do you make an unfinished basement look nicer?

Refinish the concrete basement walls to give the space a more appealing look and a warmer feel. Cover the concrete walls with paint or wood paneling to give them a more attractive appearance.

How do you hide concrete walls?

Concrete walls can be hidden by large features like cabinetry or greenery. The best way to hide a concrete wall is to paint it a neutral color or install drywall around it so it is not as noticeable.

What can I put on my concrete basement wall besides drywall?

While drywall is the most common material used for walls, it isn’t the only option to cover your concrete basement walls. Use bright colored paint or a unique tile design to bring your concrete wall to life without the hassle of installing drywall.

What can I put on my concrete basement wall besides drywall?

Conclusion

Covering your basement walls doesn’t have to be difficult. While the best way on how to cover concrete walls in a basement may not be agreed upon by everyone, there are multiple ways to efficiently cover concrete walls to give a warmer feel to your basement.

If you’re tired of your plain, concrete wall, consider painting it a bright color to make it stand out and become a focal point of the room. Or, try tiling the wall with a unique design to make the area specific to you. Lastly, if you prefer a more traditional approach, consider drywalling the concrete wall to give you full access to hang decor from the wall.

Whatever your reasoning for covering up the concrete wall in your basement, the possibilities are endless.

Conclusion of Covering Concrete Walls in a Basement