The stairs to my basement had worn lead paint on them and I had been meaning to repaint them since we moved in. I just wanted to be happier on the way to the laundry. The paint chip was in my purse for at least 4 years: Martha Stewart's "garden hose". After being painted, the stairs looked so nice, they made the sad brown beadboard on the wall look even dingier. I kept going... two coats of oil-base primer and 2 coats of latex later, things were getting downright cheerful.
I thought I was done, then a friend pointed out how terrible the old floor looked next to the freshly painted beadboard and stairs.
I had been planning to live with it, but she was absolutely right. Between the scars of long-gone linoleum tiles and the stubborn residue of decades of regular flooding, the floor was crying out for paint. I did a vapor test on the floor (tape a down 4 ft or larger square of clear plastic, sealing it all around the edges and wait for at least a week to see if moisture accumulates) and miraculously, there was no moisture after a month in the rainy season. I could paint!Concrete floors are known for peeling but I didn't want that. I scrubbed it with soap & water first and gave it a good hosing. Then, in order to give it an even better cleaning and necessary PH change for good adhesion, I scrubbed again with an acid-based biodegradable concrete floor wash from Home Depot that fizzed up like alka seltzer. After two days of dry time, I applied a special primer made for concrete. Finally, I rolled on 2 coats of latex floor paint allowing it to dry well in between. Ahhhhh, that's better!
Of course, then the masonry walls didn't look so great with their mildew stains. I treated them with "mold blaster", but they didn't seem truly clean until I sprayed a on mold stain remover which basically has chlorine bleach as the active ingredient. I'm hoping the dehumidifier we have now will control future mold. Don't kid yourself like I did when our previous dehumidifier broke- old houses need ventilation and dehumidifiers in the basement. Mold can grow if humidity is greater than 50%. Get a humidity gauge so you'll know for sure if it's dry enough.
With the basement empty, clean, and painted, something became apparent. The basement is actually a generously-sized space that would make a great studio!