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Basement Studio Lighting


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We have a walk out basement and I'm about to create a work space down there. The Sheetrock is up on the walls but we're still discussing/arguing on the ceiling and lighting. I would prefer normal Sheetrock ceilings but hubby wants the drop ceilings which I hate. My real question for the group is on lighting. The space runs the whole depth of the house. The front has a sliding glass door and a window however we live in the woods with just enough space cleared for the house so there isn't a ton of natural light. The rear of the space has no windows. Can I get recommendations on lighting from those of you working in basement studios? Number/spacing and type. Thanks!

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why would he want drop ceilings?  they are so much harder to install and are always ugly to look at.  does he want to install the kind of lighting in offices?  you need brighter light than that.  if it is YOUR space why does he get a vote?

 

sorry, my idea of good lighting is to have a standard hospital operating room and then add several swing arm lamps with 100 watt bulbs.  probably one above each work area.   my wheel is built into a table which has 3 of these so i can aim light where i want it.  not a factor of age, my vision is corrected to 20/15 so it is above average.

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I had a basement studio for 13 years with no windows, it was a 100 year old house.  I painted the ceiling and walls a off white so the room wouldn't be harsh with the florescent lighting.  You can get florescent bulbs in warm white or soft white now,  they use a lot less electricity and you don't feel guilty about having a lot of them and leaving them on.  If your husband insists on a drop down ceiling there are some panels on the internet that are plastic and some what interesting.  My ceiling was really low and I would splash clay on it somehow.  The plastic panels are lightweight and tend to rattle with a gust of wind or a fan aimed the wrong way.  I should mention that my lights were utility shop lights and a desk top swing arm lamp.   If we finish our basement were going to put suspended ceiling in, I protested at first but we have had two plumbing problems (broken valves) that flooded the basement and would have ruined any sheet rock ceiling.  Denice

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The nice thing about drop ceilings is that you have access to all the electrical, plumbing, gas and heating lines that live there, so if you ever need to make a change it's super easy. And with a studio, there's a good chance you'll need to make a change at some point, like if you decide to get a new piece of equipment and need to put in another outlet. I've had to do that for my wife's sewing studio in our basement, as well as get to some plumbing when we had a leak. Drop ceilings are not as pretty as sheetrock, but you can get some really nice ceiling panels nowadays. With can lights they actually look really good. I've even seen one where they used nice maple plywood for the panels with black frames. Do not use big fluorescent light boxes, as they look awful and make the ceiling feel lower. We replaced all the boxes in our basement crop ceiling with cans and I'm very happy with how it looks. Put the ceiling in with as little drop as possible so you don't lose a lot of height.

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When I renovated my basement two years ago, I went with High Output Fluorescent bulbs/fixtures. These are not the same as regular fluorescent tubes. I balked at the price at first, a two-bulb fixture is about $60, compared to $20 for a regular two-bulb fluorescent fixture. But standing in the Home Depot I could tell how much brighter and smaller they are. My main space is about 15 x 25 feet, and two small High Output fixtures makes the space incredibly bright. I have another area of the basement where I store finished pots, and pack/ship, and one High Output fixture is plenty of light for that area.

 

When I have the basement lights on at night, and go outside for some reason, the light coming from the basement windows looks like a UFO. Good thing my two adjacent neighbors know it's a pottery studio. Otherwise, I'm sure they'd wonder the heck I was doing in the basement.

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Thanks to all for this great input!  There are many answers to the why of drop ceilings on both sides.  My husband and I work for different companies but we both work from home so that's a lot of togetherness!  We now try to keep the harmony on household projects ... will never forget a VERY contentious goldfish pond/waterfall we built years ago ... so we try to compromise when possible.  My husband has become the most easygoing person in the world (age and health scares change your life) so if I said NO drop ceilings he would say ok.  His reasons for it are the same as Neil and Denice mentioned ... access and disaster.  Although since it's only about 6 years old and we don't have to deal with freezing temps very often, hopefully no disasters.  My reasons against it are pure prejudice although I have worked out a project making our own panels from furniture grade plywood that would negate the visual objection however the cost to do that space would be pretty high.  As Denice did, it will also be painted off white/cream both to brighten and mitigate any glare.

 

I'm also trying to keep future use in mind.  Since we do WFH the other two bedrooms upstairs are converted to office space so we currently have no bedroom for our visiting children.  There will likely be a Murphy bed in this space since the remaining portion of the basement is projected to be alternate living space (ie game/den/MIL suite).  The bathroom is already functional, it just needs finishing.  The laundry is also down here.  Eventually we want to build a separate workshop/studio with it's own ventilation, etc. so I don't want to do anything to the basement that we can't easily reverse/convert.

 

My other objection is that drop ceilings and fluorescent fixtures seem to go together and at least the old style give me a headache.  Maybe the ones that Denice and Mea mentioned would not do that.  Neil, how far apart did you space your cans and what kind of bulb do you use?  We are lucky enough that even once we install the ceiling to get under the ductwork, we'll still have standard 8 ft ceilings.  We could get them to 9 ft if we were willing to redo some of the ductwork but at this point I don't think that extra foot is worth it.

 

Oldlady I agree with you on the task lighting so this will be in addition to the individual work area lighting.  I do have some vision issues ... mostly just because I've lost the visual acuity I had pre bifocals ... seems like that was the start of a downhill slide!

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High Output Fluorescent bulbs/fixtures.-thats also what I use in most of my studio-better light cheaper operating cost.I use two bulb and 4 bulb fixtures with color matched bulbs 

The drop ceiling is for access as Neil says-its really what you want for later access.

Mark

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We have the standard 2'x4' panels, and a long, narrow basement. If I remember correctly, the cans are spaced every other panel in both directions, so every 4 feet across the width and every 8 feet down the length. It lights it up pretty well, although having a couple in specific work areas would be nice. We got the cheap ones with white collars, and we're using 75 watt equivalent CFL bulbs in them, no filter or screen. Prices can vary greatly, and you can get LED's with reflective collars if you want to pay for them.

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They make a LED florescent shaped bulb now and they are super efficient. You will need new fixtures for them and that is what I would get if starting fresh like you.

The drop ceiling is the best option for basement to do future work later above.

Mark

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You might want to look up local Electrical Distributors in your area. They will have a wider selection- or can order for you - of lighting products.

In an ideal world you'd like Indirect/Direct lighting. If Fluorescent - go T8. T8's are efficient, and replacements can be easily obtained at you local home store.

There are good 'Troffers' that will be glare free and fit right in your drop ceiling (sheet rock too).

LED is where the lighting market has shifted, but they might be a little pricey for most home studios.

Stay away from the LED T8 Lamps (Fluorescent replacements). The quality, in my opinion is poor, and the cost is high. Better to stick with T8 if that is the other choice.

If you do go full blown LED, do check into how serviceable they are. If they can't be maintained, they should be avoided.

 

I've been in the lighting business for quite sometime so if you want to hit me with any questions, I'd be happy to answer them.

 

Good luck.

Marc McMillan

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Thanks Mark and Marc ... I appreciate the tips.  Now I have specifics I can research. 

 

Marc you mentioned serviceable ... are you talking bulb replacement or things like ballasts on fluorescent fixtures?

 

Re: work involved in sheetrock vs drop ceiling ... because our ductwork hangs below the joists we would have to install 2x4 standoffs to attach the sheetrock to then the finishing work required to make sheetrock seams look nice ... not nearly as easy to do on the ceiling as it is on the wall.  I've always thought that popcorn ceilings came about because they were trying to hide poor finish work and they just became a defacto standard.

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the basement in the house we are buying has drywall ceilings and open floor joists.. Thankfully they did not cover any plumbing or water shut offs ... I am just going to paint the rafters and walls white , floor gray and hang lights up.. We are going to make drying racks with wheels on them so we can move the pots easier from throwing room to glaze area to kiln room...  

 

If I were to add a ceiling in a basement and I had to cover any type of plumbing I would put in a drop ceiling.. easy access .. you want to be able to replace repair anything above the drop ceiling, the panels pop rite out..

 

 Drywall = cutting/replacing re seaming and doing all the texture over again, every time you have a leak or problem..

 

I like drywall better because of the finished look.. But in some areas such as a  basement with plumbing, its not the best idea ...

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As everyone has said coving your ceiling in a basement with rock may be a poor idea. Lets say you want to add an electrical outlet upstairs or fix a leaky pipe then digging thru new rock is not the way to go.

I vote dropped ceiling

Now as to popcorn sheetrock-thats a fast CHEAP way to cover the seems. It takes longer to do smooth wall (sanded seams)(cost more)-just look at any cheap motel for heavy popcorn use

I do smooth wall and then roll a slight stipple texture with a rollor with mud before painting.

As to the lighting Marc said it best use the T-8s thats what I have in my studio-I have lots of 2 and 4 bulb fixtures with a mix of different bulb colors so the light is vary natural looking (the K numbers? if I recall) maybe Marc can speak to this?

Mark

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Judy,

RE: Serviceable - if you go full blown LED (with boards not lamps) some manufacturers don't do a good enough job of making it easy to replace the boards if they go out. Same thing with the drivers (like a ballast). As such when it dies...you have to replace it. Not good.

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why cover it up at all?  personally i would suggest you leave everything exposed and simply paint it all white.  here in CA its become the "hot thing" to have exposed ceilings in commercial buildings, galleries, restaurants, etc and I see no difference doing it in a basement - but then again i don't know what your basement looks like :)  leaving things exposed will not only allow you access to plumbing, electrical, etc, but you gain more vertical height and have full access to all your joists above in case you need to suspend something in your studio space below.

 

for lighting, i wouldn't hesitate to install LED lighting.  it's simply where we're at with modern tech and doesn't make sense to go backwards.  i was just at Costco last weekend and saw fluorescent-style LED shop lights for $30 and contemplated swapping out my entire garage for them.  haven't looked at catalogs yet, but if costco carries them at good prices you for sure can find them cheaper at an electrical supply.  these are not the replacement LED bulbs that go into fluorescent fixture, but instead a true LED fixture.  all over my campus they've replaced lights with LEDs and they are RIDICULOUSLY bright in person.  i want to say the spectrum is somewhere near 6000k, since they look like pure white/daylight instead of the yellow you get from fluorescents. have seen people use them in warehouses and shops - lit up like a stadium, awesome!

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We lived with dropped ceilings installed by the prior owner, and discovered they make a great place for rodents to travel. Any movement caused dust and debris accumulated in the space fall wherever the shock and vibration traveled through the panels. Plus, the loss of so much head space was claustrophobic.

 

Pulled it all out and sheet rocked with flush mounted thin lighting. Plenty of light. plenty of headspace. No more dust falling. We don't mind exposed pipes and electrical as much as we thought we would. In fact, bright paint makes the few drain pipes visible in the space a design feature versus an eye sore.

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why cover it up at all?  personally i would suggest you leave everything exposed and simply paint it all white.

I went with the "no ceiling" solution. The contractor sprayed all of the rafters white, and all of the pipes and conduits disappeared. My basement has a low ceiling, maybe 7 ft, so the extra headroom and white paint made it feel a lot taller.

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My studio, like the rest of my basement, has exposed joists.  So  you can see the wiring, both new and left over knobs, from the old wiring, plumbing, and the radiator piping.  

I have no intention to paint most of it.  Though, in the basement bath, the previous owner used a high temperature paint, on the radiator pipes.  It's a metallic paint, and I like the look of it, so I may continue it throughout the rest of the basement, including the studio.  

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