A Guide To Framing Out A Foundation Wall

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Success or failure of a basement remodel hinges on how you frame out and finish the foundation walls.

The success of a basement remodel depends on how you finish the foundation walls. There are two ways to frame out a foundation wall. You can frame it out using 2X2 dimensional lumber, or you can frame it out with 2X4 dimensional lumber. The 2X4 framing offers three significant advantages, it's easier to assemble, it's easier to rough in electrical and plumbing, and it's easier to insulate.

This is a moderately difficult project that will take five to seven days to complete if you are working by yourself and are putting in eight-hour days. You can figure approximately two to three full days to frame out the walls, rough in the electrical, and insulate the walls. Two days to install the drywall and tape. One day to sand and finish coat. One day to prime and paint. Framing out the walls requires basic carpentry skills, roughing in the electrical is a little more complex. The material wise for an average size basement will cost you $900 to $1200. I will cover the framing out in this article. Working with Sheetrock will be covered in a future article.

This is an opportune time to pause and warn you that you will need to purchase a permit from your city's department of building Licenses before you begin this project. You will also need to arrange for and have all the required inspections performed. This is especially crucial where the electrical is concerned. The National Electrical Code and the local Authority Having Jurisdiction allows the resident homeowner to do everything a licensed, professional electrician can do. They also expect and require that the resident homeowner abide by the same rules as the professional electrician.

Material that you will need

2x4 or 2x2 lumber

2x4 green treated lumber

R-13 Fiberglass insulation or 1 and 1/2 inch rigid foam insulation

¾-inch thick Rigid insulation

12/3 w/Gr Romex cable

“New work” device boxes

Nailing plates

3 inch Sheetrock screws

6d hardened cement nails

Tools that you will need

Hammer

Hammer drill

3/8-inch drill/driver

Spade bits

32-inch carpenter's level

Plumb bob

Circular (Skill) saw

Ram driver

Razor knife

Check to see if you have a moisture problem

The first thing that you need to do before beginning to frame out the walls is to determine if you have a moisture problem. If your basement walls are only damp on hot, humid summer days, you are good to go. If your basement walls are leaking ground water or if water is entering around the top of the foundation, you need to solve this problem first. You may need to repair the gutter system and seal the foundation and basement walls. You may need to repairs cracks in the basement walls and seal them. Repairing a wet basement is beyond the scope of this article, so we're going to assume that you don't have a water problem and continue with this instructional.

There're two methods to choose from when framing out and finishing a foundation wall. I will cover both of them. If you choose to frame out using 2X2 dimensional lumber, you will need to install the Romex cable in ½ inch EMT (Thin-wall) electrical conduit to protect it from damage by nails and screws.

First method: Construct a conventional wall plate using 2X4 stud, single top plate, and sill plate

  • This is my preferred method because it provides plenty of room for roughing in the electrical and the plumbing. This method allows me to construct the wall plate on the floor of the basement and then slide it in place as a complete unit. This modular approach is easier and faster than first installing the top plate and sill plate and then fastening the studs in place between them.
  • Use the “Green” pressure treated 2X4 for the sill plate.
  • The first thing that you need to do is cut the sheets of ¾ inch insulation foam and fasten it to the foundation walls using construction adhesive.
  • With the foam insulation in place, slide the wall plates tightly against the foam ad fasten in place. Fasten the sill plate to the cement floor using harden concrete nails and the RamSet tool. Secure the top plate to the basement's ceiling joists with 3 inch Sheetrock screws.
  • Rough in the electrical and call for the electrical rough-in inspection before installing the insulation.
  • Install the fiberglass batting. Do not cover the insulation with a vapor barrier. A vapor barrier will capture moisture inside the wall, destroying the insulation and structural members.

Second method: Framing the wall out using 2X2 dimensional lumber

  • This method is used when space is a critical factor. When this method is used all electrical wiring must be ran in electrical conduit because it is impossible to maintain the 1 and ¼ inch distance from the cable to the front of the framing members required by Code. Electrical Metallic Tubing (EMT) or ThinWall, is relatively easy to work with but not as easy as Romex cable.
  • Fasten the ¾ inch blue Styrofoam insulation to the foundation walls using construction adhesive as you would when installing a conventional wall plate.
  • Fasten the 2X2 top plate to the ceiling joist using nails or screws.
  • Install the “Green” pressure treated sill plate “on-edge.” Secure the sill plate to the wall using hardened concrete nails or concrete screws.
  • Layout the position of the 2X2 studs. Cut the treated 2X2's to length and screw them directly to the walls.
  • Install the electrical and call for the rough-in inspection.
  • Cut and install the 1 and 1/2 inch pink rigid foam insulation.

Finishing the walls

You can finish the walls using the method of choice. You may want to use Sheetrock and paint it because it is relatively inexpensive. You might also want to use wood paneling. The choice is yours.

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Posted on Jun 1, 2015