How To Hide Ductwork In A Basement

The homeowner has two choices when buying a house with an unfinished basement. One choice is to leave the basement unfinished and make it what many call a utility room or storage area. The other choice is to finish the basement and make it an area to entertain, relax, and possibly live in. Be sure to take care of the eyesore that is your ductwork. How to hide ductwork in the basement? You can paint it to match the ceiling, make a tray or soft ceilings, create a drop ceiling, or create faux rafters to name a few.

Let’s take a look!

What is Ductwork?

One of the many parts of your HVAC system is called ductwork. Ductwork is simply used to circulate the warm and cold air throughout your home. Your air conditioning unit circulates the air through the ductwork and into the vents of your home. Typically, ductwork is created from galvanized steel, and in the basement, they are installed to the ceiling or bottom floor registers of the home.

Paint Ductwork to Match the Ceiling

If you decide to paint the ductwork to match the color of the ceiling you are simply masking the ductwork. This solution is the least expensive way to hide your ductwork. Keep in mind that the colors will blend in with the ceiling, but the structure is still visible. Use latex paint that will stick to the ductwork, ceiling joists, and plumbing pipes. Tape the shutoff valves that are visible so that they don’t get painted into position.

Create Tray or Soft Ceilings

Creating a tray ceiling or soft ceiling is also a great way to hide your ductwork in the ceiling of your basement. Adding a tray in the center of the ceiling will become the focal point of the room. Be sure to review the furniture placement in the living area to ensure that the layout looks good above. Also, you can paint the tray a different color from the ceiling to make it stand out. Additionally, consider adding lighting to make the tray look good.

If you prefer, you can create a soft ceiling by installing soffits or bulkheads around your ductwork. This soft ceiling is created by installing 2x4s from the supports to the joists that surround the ductwork. Adding a long piece of lumber along the bottom of each support will create a frame around the duct. Framing of a soft ceiling should be done so that nothing touches the ductwork. Essentially, you are encapsulating the ductwork and sheetrocking the frame so that it is not noticeable. If you prefer, you can use plywood to cover the ductwork frame and just stain the wood for a classy wood finish.

Drop ceiling can cover duct work

Design a Drop Ceiling

Designing a drop ceiling will provide separate space that covers the ductwork. Hide your ducts, electrical wires, plumbing pipes, and floor joists with a drop ceiling. This works if you have a high enough ceiling and prefer a more accessible and smoother consistent look to your basement ceiling.

Create Faux Rafters

Creating a faux rafter is an option for a basement even if there is no ductwork in the ceiling. Make long sections evenly spaced to look like rafters. Trim or molding the new look sections will give a coffered look. This is easier and less costly than lowering the ceiling.

Use Flattened Ducts

Deciding to use flattened ducts is also an option. Instead of going the traditional route of rounded or square metal ducts, you can opt to use flatter rectangular-shaped ductwork. They are wider and shallower than other ducts. The same airflow circulates through and the ductwork is flatter to the ceiling joists. Be sure to paint them, build a soffit around them, and created a dropped ceiling to hide the ductwork.

Other Recommended Maintenance

Now that you know about hiding ductwork in the basement, let’s take a look at a few areas of maintenance.

If you are in the process of finishing a basement, remember that GFCI outlets are required. This is because the basement can have access to water or flooding so to protect against electric shock, you need to have the GFCI outlet. The GFCI will also trip the breaker if it feels there is an overloading of power.

Another area is air quality in the basement. You always want to be breathing in the best air in your home. Keeping the humidity level at 60 percent is key in the basement. If it is higher than that, you risk the growth of mold.

Lastly, replacing an HVAC is expensive and not something many people think they will need to do. Some of the things to consider are longevity, energy efficiency, and functionality.

Finished basement with a dropped ceiling.

When Do I Call A Professional?

Getting the right HVAC professional to make the proper replacement or repair is important. As a homeowner, you don’t want to get stuck hiring someone that has no experience. Keep in mind that replacing ductwork doesn’t mean that the air conditioning system will work any smoother. In most cases, the total unit would likely need to be replaced. Hire your local home inspection team to inspect the condition of your air conditioning unit. They can recommend any repairs and a reputable professional HVAC contractor.


If you want to get your HVAC system to last a long time, you must conduct the proper maintenance. This includes getting your ductwork cleaned and your filters regularly changed. Take the initiative to maintain your air conditioning system and hire your local home inspection team to ensure it is working properly. Reach out to House Inspection Associates to conduct an HVAC system inspection and a full home inspection in the Virginia, D.C., and Maryland areas.

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