dusty/dirty basement

I have an old home in brooklyn (1896) with an unfinished basement with rough concrete floors.
My plan is eventually to renovate the basement as living space but that's a future plan - not a NOW plan.
Right now, the basement is very dusty and dirty. I've read up a bit about priming/sealing the concrete and possibly painting some of it to keep the dust down, but I also think that the ceiling is part of the problem.
Its a very old plaster (and lath?) ceiling with various pipes and such.
I really have two questions. One, is it worth knocking off all the plaster, putting insulation in (because I'm there) and screwing up drywall? I.E. putting in a new ceiling. If so, are there any resources on ceilings that people like?
Second question is am I just going to end up having to re-do the ceiling when I renovate, or if I do a decent job am I likely to be able to do the walls and floor long after I've done the ceiling?
If it is not a good idea, is there any cheap easy way to "seal" the ceiling so it's not dusty? It's old plaster with multiple repairs (old and new) where pipes or electrical were run.
-Ben
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I seriously doubt that the old plaster on the ceiling is the source of any significant amount of dust. If the basement is not currently an occupied space, I'd just leave it as is, and take the ceiling down and replace it as part of the renovations. What are the walls?
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Walls are brick/stone... definitely a big source of dust.
I guess I'm thinking that all the dust and old pipes and wires in/on the ceiling are also a source of dust/dirt, so that if I clean up and treat the walls I still might have dust - which would be disappointing.
Right now I just want the basement to be usable as a work space... everything gets dusty down there so I only have boxes of things and things covered in plastic. I'd like to be able to leave tools and such down there without having them get dirty, and walk around without getting dust everywhere.
Maybe you're right, just a real good cleaning and some sort of concrete sealant... hold off on the ceiling until I'm ready to renovate.

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Thanks,
The asbestos has been removed already when we bought the place.

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wrote:

Before you go tearing down anything in the ceiling you might want to make sure the heating pipes are not insulated with asbestos-based pipe coverings. A place as old as yours is very likely to have them (my 1921 house does).
These things often deteriorate and flake off, especially at the joints. You'd want to stabilize them first by painting them solidly with exterior latex trim paint, or have them removed by an asbestos abatement crew.
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Still, be careful in case the dust contains remnants of the asbestos.
With all that dust, sounds like at least, you don't have moisture problems.
Sounds like a good cleaning followed by painting with a concrete sealer. Much of the dust that troubles you now may be just recirculating around the room. After vacuuming every surface, go through with a leaf blower to dislodge any more dust and vacuum everything again.
A paint or epoxy concrete sealer will do better than a water sealer which wont stop new dust from grinding off the surface of the cement. For the ceiling, if it is not flaking off in big pieces, a good paint job should prevent any plaster dust from forming. You can treat the walls the same as the floor with a concrete sealer like seal lock or similar. You should seal them anyway even if you plan to frame a wall in front.
If the concrete floor is uneven, rough, badly cracked or just unattractive, you might be able to pour a thin coat of self leveling (concrete) mix over the whole thing and make a new surface. Leveling now may save you a step later if you decide to tile or put in just about any flooring surface. You can prep the old floor with a wire brush and vacuum unless it has large oil stains.

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Thanks,
I find the whole concrete sealant thing confusing. Everything I read says it should be breathable, but then all the promotional materials of stuff I find on the web or in the store proudly state it's "moisture blocking" abilities.
I want it to breathe, right? God forbid there is moisture, I don't want it rotting away under or beside my building for years on end.
Same goes for painting masonry.
What's a good source on various brands, etc?
-Ben

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Sealant and breathable are not terms usually used together unless you are takling about the fumes generated during application. Unless you are wallpapering with gore-tex, blocking water and air usually happen together. I would never use a breathable sealant (oxymoron)
Moisture alone will not rot stone or concrete. you need something organic or for the water to be flowing. Sealing water into or behind a (masonry) wall is what you are supposed to do.

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