DIY Basement Wall

When the homeowner decides to expand the home living space and finish the basement, there are many elements to plan for – location of electrical outlets, plumbing needed, and flooring. Many homeowners are intimidated by the prospect of building walls but rest assured, with a little common sense and the right tools, it's a snap to conquer a DIY basement wall.

The first walls to consider in the basement are the exterior walls; that is, the walls that will be built adjacent to the exterior concrete or block walls. After the basement's exterior walls are done, the focus will shift to the interior walls.

These walls define bathrooms, bedrooms, game rooms, and the like. After the interior walls are framed, the electrical work, and the plumbing are done, the drywall work can begin.

You'll do your framing using 2” X 4” studs. Pick boards that are not warped in any direction. Wall framing has three components – a bottom plate, a top plate, and studs.

Exterior Wall Framing

First nail the bottom plate to the floor. It is easiest to do with a powder actuated nail gun. Otherwise use a hammer to drive cut nails. Whichever method you use, wear safety glasses.

Nail the top plate. There are a couple of ways to accomplish this; you use a hammer or a nail gun. A nail gun gives the most problem-free experience; hammering at this angle is uncomfortable! Apply two nails at each joist. You'll need to cut your 2” X 4” periodically so that they will break in the center of the joist.

Now, beginning in any corner, stand a stud up against the wall between the top and bottom plate. Toe nail the stud to both plates. Nail the next stud to the first stud, the 2” side of the first stud to the 4” side of the second.

Next nail the third stud such that its 2” side is in turn against the 4” side of the first stud and its 4” side is in contact with the 4” side of the second stud. It is difficult to explain without drawings but give it a shot; the result should be that the intersection of your studs match the intersection formed by the bottom and top plates (90 degrees). This is so your drywall will have nailing surfaces.

Go ahead and build all corners now.

Add the Studs

Lay out the studs now. Begin with your measuring tape laying on the floor in the corner and extend it along your bottom plate. Make a pencil mark on the side of the plate every 16 inches. This is the center of the stud, not the edge.

Continue filling in the studs in the basement. Remember to start with 16 inches. Next, cut the studs to size and install them. Toe nail the bottom and plumb the stud with your 4' level. Toe nail the top.

Now you can attach the tip of the measuring tape to the edge of that stud and mark the others on 16” and the rest of the studs should also be plumb. (Mark an “X” next to the mark indicating that the mark is the edge of the stud on top, unlike the bottom mark.

Build the Interior Walls

Basement interior walls can be built on the floor and stood up. Measure the floor to ceiling at several spots so that you can take the shortest height for the wall a use spacing shims where you need to. Before standing the framed wall up, strike a chalk line on the floor so you know where the wall goes. Use the 3-4-5 method making sure that you're perpendicular to your exterior wall.

On walls going perpendicular to the ceiling joists, nail to them. If going with the joists, you'll need to install 2” X 4” nailers between the joists to have something to nail to.

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