How to Frame a Basement Wall

The basement represents an opportunity to use all the square footage in your home to make a game room or craft shop. Begin by framing the walls.

How to Frame a Basement Wall

If your home has a basement that’s unfinished, why not turn it into an entertainment room, family hangout room, workout area, home office, basement spa or a wood shop.

First, ensure that your basement is fully waterproofed and mold free. You must be sure that there’s no water entering your basement through the floors or the walls. You will find basement waterproofing companies in the Yellow Pages which specialize in waterproofing and will come to your house to take an examination with a moisture meter.

If you find you need moisture proofing, the technician should be able to offer that service or suggest a basement waterproofing company in your region. When the whole basement gets the go-ahead, read on and learn how to frame a basement wall.

If you’ve already got wood framing skills, the learning curve here will be pretty flat.

Framing the Exterior Basement Walls

Note: Always consult your local structural building code with respect to basement wall framing. Some municipalities spell out how the top and bottom plates are attached. Some codes want the walls to be allowed to float.

You’ll frame your walls using 2” X 4” lumber. Be sure to select only the straightest and truest boards. You’ll find there are three components to your wall – bottom plate (it’s horizontal, it’s on the floor, it contacts your concrete basement wall), top plate (the bottom plate’s complement, which is nailed to the bottom of your ceiling joists), and finally the studs (they’re vertical, toenailed at the bottom plate, top plate). Before you start read this article about nails as well.

Secure your bottom plate to the floor. Use either a powder actuated nail gun, driving nails via a .22 cal blank or using a hammer with concrete nails. The powder gun is the best choice. Make sure you wear your safety glasses.

Now you can nail the top plate. There are two ways to accomplish this: hammer it up or use a gun. A nail gun is the best choice because hammering in the upside down position will wear you out! Use 2 nails on every joist. You will need to cut your 2” X 4”s to make them break in the middle of a joist.

Next, starting in any corner, stand a stud up to the concrete wall between your top plate and your bottom plate. Toe-nail it to your top plate. Now do your bottom plate. Next, nail the next stud to that stud, pressing the 2” side of your first stud against the 4” side of your second. Now nail the third stud so that its 2” side is also touching the 4” side of the first stud and its 4” side is contacting the 4” side of the second stud. It is a little hard to explain without illustrations but try it – the point is that the resulting intersection of the studs matches the intersection formed by the bottom and top plates (90 degrees). This is so your drywall will have nailing surfaces.

Filling in the Studs

Do the stud layout now. Starting with your tape measure on the floor in the corner, extend it along the bottom plate and mark the plate every 16”. This will be the center of the stud. Continue around the basement. It doesn’t matter what you end up with in each opposing corner; what counts is that you start with 16”. Go back to the corner you began at and cut the stud so that it fits snug but not bowing. Toe nail it at the bottom, plumb it with a 4′ level and toe nail it at the top. Now you can hook your tape measure to that stud and mark the others on 16” and the rest of the studs should also be plumb.

Lay Out Your Electrical Outlets

Do you already have electrical outlets everywhere you need them on the perimeter walls? Most likely not if your basement is currently unfinished. Even if you have them they might need to be relocated so they can be secured to the framing studs. Unless you are very familiar with electrical work, it is highly recommended that you consult with a licensed electrician. I have included some electrical safety tips here, as well.

Building Your Interior Partitions

Interior basement walls are easier to build on the ground and stand up. Measure the floor to ceiling at several spots so that you can take the shortest height for the wall and use spacing shims where you need to. Before you stand the wall framing up, strike a chalk line on the floor so you know where the wall goes. Use the 3-4-5 method to ensure that you are perpendicular with the exterior wall.

It the wall is going the opposite direction as the ceiling joists, there’s plenty to nail to. If not, you will need to add 2” X 4” nailers between the joists.