Create a Bright, Dry Space in a Damp, Gloomy Basement

Create an exercise space in an unfinished basement, but first coat the walls with Drylok to prevent excess moisture.

Yoga mats, dumbbells and exercise bikes. My wife’s growing interest in physical fitness had transformed our living room into a gymnasium. And my suggestions to work out downstairs were always met with, “I’m not working out down in that gloomy, cluttered basement!” So, it was either enjoy my morning paper and cup of coffee in my neighbor’s living room, or create a non-gloomy space for the Mrs.’ exercise equipment in the basement. After being turned away by my neighbors, I got to work.


Half of our basement was fully finished and occupied by teenagers; the other, unfinished half we used as storage. I decided to clean up, organize and partition off a section of the storage room and convert it into a workout wonderland. It was either that or evict one of the teenagers, but the wife resisted on that front. I couldn’t afford to fully finish the walls and ceiling; instead, I decided to brighten up the space with plenty of lighting and some fresh paint on the walls.

The block wall I chose to paint occasionally got damp if there were heavy spring rain showers, so I decided to use DRYLOK EXTREME Masonry Waterproofer. This product is designed to stop water seepage and keep the interior of the wall dry. Regular paint would have started to peel after the first wet season. I painted during a dry stretch in the fall but ran a dehumidifier in the room for a couple days just to make sure the wall had a low moisture content.


The last time I painted a block wall, the only colors available were white and black. Black isn’t much of a motivator, and I was afraid straight-up white would create an “insane asylum” effect. So I was thrilled to find out that DRYLOK EXTREME can be tinted to any of nine colors. I decided to go with a two-tone/wainscot look and chose platinum for the upper half and gray for the lower.

After sweeping the wall thoroughly with a broom, I snapped a chalk line 32 in. up and ran masking tape to the bottom of the line. Another option is to run the paint on the first section a little long and then snap a line, but sometimes the chalk makes a mess on the finished surface and is hard to clean up. I started with the top half so any drips on the lower half wouldn’t matter. Once the top half was dry, I pulled off the existing tape and used the painted line as a guide. I installed the second line of tape so there was about 1/8 in. of platinum paint extending beyond the tape. This ensured a small overlap and eliminated the chance of voids between the two colors.

I laid down a heavy first coat with a 3/4-in.-nap roller, and then went back with a brush and pushed the wet paint into all the mortar joints and minor recesses in the block (larger recesses should be filled with hydraulic cement first). I then made another pass with the roller just to smooth out the texture. It’s important that all the holes be completely filled. Even tiny pinholes can allow moisture through. I applied the second coat with the roller only.

Once the painting was complete, I threw down some snap-together rubber mats and moved the contentious equipment into the new workout room. My wife was thrilled with her bright, new space, and I was happy because it was a cheap and easy solution. The kids are a little disgruntled however—now that their mother is making more frequent trips downstairs, their dirty rooms are getting a lot more noticed. For more information on DRYLOK EXTREME or to see the brochure with color options, go to:

— Mark Petersen, Contributing Editor

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