Let me begin by saying, I am not an expert at framing walls. Definitely a beginner. Before the basement project I had never done any basic framing, much less working from scratch. In this project we put in several walls and two doorways, one on a diagonal and one pocket door. We had to match up two walls in the stairway with the existing walls. It was pretty much a learn as you go thing for us, so take what I write and the accompanying pictures with a grain of salt. We are first-timers and sharing our experience. I had a hard time finding methods or tutorials for this online, so here’s what we did!
About a year ago we began with our basement project. Our goal was to split our basement in half. One side would be a useable family space (Dylan calls it the man-cave, but it’s family friendly!). With our family growing, our guest room got the boot…it became Jules’ big girl room. So the “finished” side of the basement would also serve as our guest room with a Murphy bed (a bed that folds down from the wall). The unfinished side serves as storage, laundry room, and workshop, as well as housing our water heater and furnace/AC.
Before we did anything to it, our basement was one large space with the staircase coming down in the middle. No built-in storage besides a few awkwardly placed wall-mounted metal cabinets. It has poured concrete walls, which are usually pretty good at keeping the basement a dry space. Ours has a couple of places where water seeps in, but it they’re on the workshop side and it drains near the laundry space. In the year and a half we’ve lived here before starting this project, the future “finished” side hadn’t gotten wet, so we felt okay about putting in a dividing wall with sheetrock.
The staircase was serviceable, but ugly. We knew we’d be replacing the treads and risers, but first we had to put in walls.
From the view below, it’s easy to see where the future walls would go. See where the floor had been painted red? That’s basically the part of the basement that we would “finish.” Here’s a little (not to scale) sketch I made of our floor plan…the “finished” side is on the right.
I keep putting “finish” in quotes because we didn’t plan to fully finish that part off with sheet-rocked walls and ceiling. We put in a dividing wall in the basement, but for the exterior walls we painted the concrete and we left the ceiling exposed because it was already only about 7.5 feet high and we felt that putting up drywall would make it feel even shorter.
First we took off the stair treads and risers. We cut down the treads to just as wide as the stringers (we kept using them during construction) so we’d have space to frame the walls, then install and mud the drywall.
Here’s our first wall! Using a plump bob, we dropped a line from the existing wall on the top half of the drywall, accounting for the 1/2 drywall we’d be adding on the stair side.
Here’s that same wall in place with sheetrock up. We had to cut out the top rail for the furnace, but we did go back and sturdy it up with a horizontal bracing just under the air duct. The horizontal pieces on the left were put in so we’d have a place to screw in the drywall.
You can see that the bottom half is green. Green drywall is made to be mold resistant, so it’s used in places that might encounter some water (like bathrooms). While we haven’t seen any water make it this far into the basement, just to be safe we used green board all around the bottom.
Here’s a view toward our diagonal door to the workshop. Originally we thought we’d have the doorway in line with the wall down that side of the stairs, but because of the low ductwork and pipes, we had to move it to the right. It turns out a diagonal door works better because we have enough room for fairly deep storage along the front wall of the basement, even deep enough for our large rubbermaid totes to fit. It also makes it easier to get large pieces of lumber into the workshop.
On either side of the diagonal doorway we used two vertical studs to support the weight. To sister the diagonal doorway with the short walls on either side I ripped a 2×3 with the circular saw set at an angle to fill the gap, then Dylan used long screws to join them together. Below you can also see that there is a 2×4 on the floor of the doorway. One tip I read when researching how to frame doorways was to cut a 2×4 the whole length of the bottom and to cut halfway through the bottom of the 2×4. Frame the doorway then cut out the bottom 2×4 with a Sawz-all easily, because the bottom half is already cut. This helps make sure the door opening is square, not twisted.
Once we finished with that side of the stairway, it was time to deal with the other side. This side we opted to leave open about halfway down. The space under the stairs we planned to use for storage we wouldn’t need to access often, like Christmas decorations.
After framing that wall we had to drywall both sides because it’d be visible from both sides. With the angle it was easiest to clamp the drywall to the studs and score along the angle before removing the drywall and cutting it to fit.
Okay, so how did we actually install all of these walls? We measured and built each wall to fit, then screwed them into the ceiling joints and adjoining walls, then used concrete anchors into the floor. Once we got on a roll it wasn’t too hard. First we drilled through the bottom 2×4, then used a hammer drill to drill into the concrete, and finally used concrete anchors to tie the wall into the concrete.
Simply hammer the anchor into the hole.
Then put on a washer and twist on a nut, using a socket wrench to tighten it up.
This wall isn’t going anywhere! If a tornado came through here, it might take the house, but these basement walls aren’t going anywhere!
Here’s the door we used in the diagonal doorway. It’s an exterior door we got from the Habitat ReStore. After getting it mortised for hinges and swinging well, I took it down and painted it white.
After all of that we took a break for a bit before finishing up the last couple of walls (which include a pocket door). I’ll be back sometime with that update!