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My layout sits high at about 48". The basement ceiling is lower than a normal ceiling. I originally wants to create a coved ceiling out of masonite and then paint it to mimic the sky. That idea is quickly falling apart as I scope out the basement and realize just how much...stuff attached to the ceiling. Conduit rerouting, extra nails for who knows what, etc.

I'm considering painting it or having the area over the layout painted. It would be done in a sky blue color tinted lighter. I'm not looking forward to the job of moving everything to the other side of the basement though. Anybody have an experiences or opinions on doing this? Am I fussing over a detail that really won't matter? I'm in the Youngstown area in Ohio if anybody knows anybody that does this sort of thing.

Last edited by BillYo414
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If your really wanting to put in/on something for the ceiling, maybe just some model planes or hot air balloons?

If your particularly artsy though, I hear some folks do wonders with "lighted clouds".  Its like cloud chandeliers that glow (just do a google search!).  Have them along the ceiling and guaranteed no one will be looking at a lack of blue paint!

I'm with Donald on this. Sprayed flat black is the way to go. Everything above the layout just disappears visually, yet is totally accessible. Plus the paint helps seal in dust generators. Do as much as possible overhead first, then mask off the lights and anything else you don't want black, and have at it with a sprayer. Stick with one brand of paint. All flats are not the same! Do the ceiling first. The backdrop is next, then the layout.



And another vote for black. 

It's been a theater stage set trick for ages.  Surrounding items/surfaces painted black tend to not draw attention.  The eye is draw to the colors,  things that are most apparent in the light.

It's also a very common contemporary interior technique for inexpensive remodeling as well as new construction for restaurants, retail businesses, et al....girders/joists, HVAC ductwork, electrical conduits, etc., etc.., all painted flat black early in the interior construction process. 

Also, we're talking FLAT or MATTE gloss whatsoever

Yes, this tends to have a 'livelier' that reflects sound rather than absorb it, as with a drop ceiling and noise-absorbing tiles.  Yet, even though drop ceilings are usually white or light in color, they can be painted flat black.  OTOH, drop ceiling framework is the bane of folks who have to do service, maintenance, renovation of all that stuff above ceiling level.

But, as always, TEHO. 


I was just having this conversation with my son this morning.  I am in the process of tearing down my old layout and the false ceiling is coming out.  He asked what I am going to do for the ceiling with the new layout.

My response:  If people are looking up at the ceiling, then I didn't do a good enough job on the layout !

Flat Black is the way to go.    And for gosh sakes, don't buy cheap paint.  Buy the most expensive paint you can buy.

High quality paint solves 50% of all painting problems.

And, by the way, spray painting open basement ceilings and joists with flat black is currently the "in" and fashionable thing to do among upwardly mobile millenials.  So, you are not going to hurt the value of your house.


The good news is that my bench work has not started. So there is no layout to cover up. It's just that I do have boxes, lumber and a 4x8 test layout over there. I would need to condense/rearrange that stuff for the fourth time now. I'm being lazy and should stop whining.

I never would expected black to disappear but it really does. I was thinking about the plays I been to and layouts I've seen and I cant even really picture the ceiling. It's like my brain just didn't write it down because it doesn't exist.

The only reason I think I need to do something is because of the height of my blast furnaces. It doesn't draw the eye up but the wooden joists and rusty ceiling nails just stick out against the model. I set that model up on my work bench when it finished printing. There's a matte white wall in the background and I was really impressed at what I had even though it wasn't painted yet. I put it on the test layout and kind of hated it. It just seemed odd looking. I really think it's because the ceiling is subtracting from it.

I will look into a spray gun and this ceiling paint. I would rather get it done by someone because painting isn't my thing but I did just place that big old Lionel preorder so I probably should save my pennies and do it myself.

@BillYo414 posted:

I'm considering painting it or having the area over the layout painted. It would be done in a sky blue color tinted lighter. I'm not looking forward to the job of moving everything to the other side of the basement though. Anybody have an experiences or opinions on doing this? Am I fussing over a detail that really won't matter?

Personally, I believe that a painted ceiling, or at least a sound absorbing tile ceiling, improves the experience of operating your layout.  You are surely using artificial light, and the reflective properties of a painted ceiling soften and spread light.  Also, exposed rafters, conduits and pipes, distract the viewer's eye from the layout, disrupting the ambience.  Even if you have open beams and exposed pipes, they will not stand out if they are painted.  A light sky blue or a neutral pastel earth tone like I use, will not attract attention away from the layout.

In my case, the ceiling is painted a neutral earth tone that looks like a warm-toned pastel grey.  It's a standard Sherwin-Williams interior color and the whole house was painted with it when built.  I painted the walls behind the layout, and on its sides, a West Texas light sky blue while the room was empty.  Roger Farkash used a darker sky blue that I had purchased, plus various cloud colors which he mixed on a palette, to paint the backdrop, prior to the layout going up.

Good luck with your decision.

@BillYo414 posted:

I agree with your sentiment @dennish. I definitely didn't think it was relevant until I got the model on the test layout.

Here are a few hints before painting that will help you out...

If there are an nails coming down from above, take a dremel and cut them flush with the subfloor.  It will look better and helps with drips while painting.

While primer is not necessary, if you have sheet metal ducts that will be painted, you might consider priming them as the paint will stick better.  Without primer the paint will easily scratch off the duct work.

Other than that just make sure to vacuum the ceiling a bunch of times to clean out the dust.  I also recommend using a compressor and blowing the remaining dust out.  Nothing worse than when dust and paint meet!

When I repainted the white ceiling of my L-shaped train room, I primed the ceiling with two coats of KILZ to cover stains from a few water leaks from an unsealed joint at the roof. Then I repainted with CEILING WHITE paint.  A mistake.

Later on (but too late) I thought of a better design for the ceiling:
   Paint it FLAT BLACK
   Then string Christmas mini-lights (with all white bulbs) in random crisscross patterns to create a starry sky
   Install a separate dimmer circuit for the starry sky lights for a just-right effect
   I have a blimp with Santa on board; I intended to suspend it from the ceiling with a circular "flight path" by
        attaching it with high strength fishing line to a disco mirror ball motor.

Regrettably, this ultra cool idea never came into being.  Perhaps on my next layout ...

Mike Mottler     LCCA 12394


My ceiling is just dusty as far as I can tell.

My walls were extremely stained from water damage and I concocted my own solution. I sanded the walls with 36 grit sand paper and then scraped all the loose pieces off I could find. Then I rinsed with a rag and some water. Then I applied two coats of Aqualock and at least one coat of latex paint. I applied an extra coat if I could still see the stains. It sucked! I would like to never do that job again but I still have the entire basement to go so...yeah. But it was been very successful in terms of keeping moisture out and cob webs down and whatnot. So I supposed it was worth it.

A Question!!!!!!

After a month or so of making arrangements with my painter, AND moving EVERYTHING out of the basement, I am having the ceiling painted flat black Monday morning! Can't wait for it to be done so I can get back to work on the new layout!

My question is this:  For those who have painted the ceiling, did you paint the exposed fiberglass insulation around the sill plate?  Is the insulation paper-backed? Is that the side that got painted or was it the exposed side?  I have to install some insulation above an interior wall that opens to the other side of the basement.  Any help would be appreciated!

My painter has not gotten back to me and I have to put up insulation today or tomorrow.


I did not have any exposed fiberglass insulation when I painted my ceiling. However, I think exposed fiberglass, especially the pink side, would not be good. I'd expect it to act like a sponge. If you have the paper side facing into the room, you are probably okay. Another option would be to install blocks of rigid foam (think pink or blue) and seal it in place with expanding spray foam from a can. Depending on how deep the cavity is, you may need more that 1 layer. Or, put the fiber glass in, and cap it with the rigid foam. But don't compress the fiberglass too much. You need the air space for it to work properly.



Dennis, I have exactly the same situation as you.  There are fiberglass insulation blankets above the sill plates around the basement walls.  I got some black plastic sheeting from Home Depot and installed it in front of the fiberglass.  In some places I was able to stuff it in around the insulation without any fastening and in some other places I needed a few staples from a staple gun to hold it.

Here's a photo showing my black ceiling with black exposed beams and the plastic sheeting over the fiberglass above the blue-painted wallboard.


Here's a closer view of the black plastic.



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A blank canvas!!!  It would appear as though I am ready for paint!  Pretty close - just a little electric to finish up.  Oh,... and the rim joist insulation !  The last couple of picture shows what I am up against.  I am thinking the rigid foam for the opening above the interior wall.  Not sure on the exterior wall.

Pictures came out a little dark.  It is much brighter than it appears.  I will have track lighting down the center so the LED's can be turned off, if needed.


There is stuff piled EVERYWHERE! I guess I should count my blessings



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I have not even looked to see if I have insulation like that in my basement but I will check. I bought the stuff to convert my copper drain pipes to plastic. One leaks and the rest are probably rough on the inside since they're original from 1962.

I will look at the primer option. I just figured nobody would touch the ceiling so I might get away with paint alone.

This is the least fun I've had so far on the layout! But I know that the time to do this is now; not when the layout is up and models and whatnot installed. It'll be worth it!

Yes, this is an important decision, is there a way you could post a few pictures of your train room, floor, walls, ceiling, door ways, light fixtures, wall switches, and most important, the actual size of the train layout area. This will help.  Something else, is your train room in the garage in CDC01D9F-5148-4062-B9A3-7D867429663298D8F73D-0FA0-4D8A-8387-CB097B14938EDF3F1060-1F98-4E51-96CB-2BB6567B24C388038EB8-957E-4B1D-AAE9-13139BDEA6435A788461-0B22-4AB9-8E5B-A7A9A6A42E236B701D71-7C3E-41D4-99AB-58BC89BE587257D591F3-E8C1-4E7C-973A-7D0C28573DF4basement, or bonus room, Where?
Now, if you decide to paint the ceiling Black, I suggest satin sheen, and black color track lighting. Finished basement room.
My ceiling is 8’1 inch high, with white grid/white 2 by 4 panels, white track lighting all around and over the layout. Also, there’s a 60 amp breaker electric box designated only to the layout.
Bob Bartezek’s layout, a fabulously designed layout, has a black ceiling, black track lighting, the lighting is focused on the layout bringing your eyes directly to the area your seeing. When you go down the stairway into his World of Trains, you see a large trestle that’s meticulously made and to the right a 34 inch Millhouse Tutntable with many beautiful steamers ready for duty... A must see layout.... Awesome...

Good luck and get to work. Happy Railroading Everyone


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This my attic layout....1993-2003. I took a different approach......

My layout went against the knee wall and the pitch of the roof melded with the, I used a pale blue that I just continued on the ceiling. It seemed to work for me.

I definitely would do the black in a basement.....



These pics were taken about 1999-2001....



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Last edited by Putnam Division

Here's my solution to the fiberglass insulation - IT"S ALL GONE!  I spent the day Sunday (after church, of course!) pulling down the fiberglass bats and replacing with 1.5" rigid foam.  It worked well to plug the openings above the interior wall and it cleaned up the look of the rim joists.  A little caulk around the edges and I think we are good to go.  Waiting for the painter!

Stay tuned ...

Rim Joist Insulation 1Rim Joist Insulation 3Rim Joist Insulation 5Rim Joist Insulation 8


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Yes, it will need a second coat, but I believe my painter and his crew will brush it this time.  He used his airless sprayer straight out of the 5 gallon bucket.

He's back tomorrow to finish the ceiling and paint the walls.  I have much experience with painting in our apartments, but I simply DO NOT LIKE TO PAINT !

Ceiling 2Ceiling 4


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Last edited by dennish

Funny I happened on this thread. I am a retired commercial electrician and have worked on many restaurants,gymnasiums, meeting rooms, large classrooms, whatever. I have seen alot of these ceilings being painted flat black. It was kind of dissapointing after taking the time to run racks of conduit perfectly aligned with the building lines and being proud of what I had done to see a painter to follow up with flat black paint. The paint really does make things sort of dissapear. Neat electrical conduits are now hard to see. I will admit in the end that these flat black open ceilings really do look nice. Never really considered it in my basement.

However, last week my brother told me his daughter wanted her open joist basement ceiling painted flat black. So we went on a mission. He bought a new Graco airless sprayer and 5 gal of Sherwin Williams pro mar 200. Never used an airless sprayer before but it was very easy and it turned out fabulous. Not much mess at all. I am now convinced that I will be doing my open joist basement as well before I start my layout.

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