Paneling on Basement Walls

Why not take advantage of all that wasted space down in the basement? It could be turned into a family room, a game room, guest quarters, of even an apartment space to rent out.

But to make any of this happen, the space has to be finished out. A floor covering such as ceramic tile, carpet, or laminate flooring will have to be installed. The walls will need to be finished, either with drywall or by installing paneling on basement walls. If it is in the budget, why not put a small bathroom down there?

Waterproof the Basement Walls First

Before finishing the basement walls they must have all cracks sealed and then the walls must be waterproofed. Water can get into a basement for many reasons but before covering them up, any water entry must be completely eliminated.

There are many waterproofing methods and products but the ideal way to handle the job is leave it to a respected waterproofing contractor. You can do it yourself but that solution is not ideal.

Prepare the Walls with Furring Strips

Let's say you have decided to finish the basement walls with paneling, always a popular choice. You are going to need a way to insulate the walls and attach the paneling. This can be done in two ways – either conventional framing or by using furring strips. Furring strips is the most economical of the two ways and the easiest.

There are two distinct ways to apply the furring strips to the wall. Either by gluing them up or by nailing them up. Nailing may be difficult depending on the age of the concrete walls. In this case a compromise is in order; use a construction adhesive such as Liquid Nails but use two or three nails to keep the furring strip in place while the glue sets.

Begin by attaching furring strips horizontally to the wall at both the floor and at the ceiling. Do this for the entire perimeter of the basement. Apply them with the wide side of the strip contacting the wall. This way, the thickness will match the vertical furring strips.

Now begin in one corner and attach furring strips vertically on the wall between the top strip and the bottom strip. Attach the next one sixteen inches down the wall. Use a four foot level to ensure that the furring strip is plumb. This will be important once the paneling starts going up.

Work your way around the room until all the strips are installed. If you have and windows in the basement, frame around them with furring strips.

Next Install Insulation

Insulation is an important part of finishing off the basement. It will more than pay for itself in heating and cooling bills, especially if your winters are severe. The type of insulation you end up using is largely a matter of choice.

The most popular are rigid foam insulation (the same thickness as the furring strips) and paper backed fiberglass insulation.

If you insulate with rigid foam, cut it to the proper height and secure it between the furring strips with construction adhesive. Stretch sheet plastic over the furring strips and and staple it up. This will serve as a moisture barrier.

If you choose to use fiberglass, install it with the paper side out (facing the interior of the basement) and secure it by stapling the paper sides to the furring strips. This will prevent the bats from settling and robbing you of their benefit.

Install the Paneling

This is actually the easy part of the job. Start in one corner and begin nailing up the paneling using color matching paneling nails. Make sure the first sheet ends at the center of a strip and all the others will fall into place. Leave a quarter inch gap at the bottom of the sheet.
When you are done trim the base with baseboard!