Framing Basement Walls

Framing basement walls is the first phase of learning how to finish a basement. I do love the smell of lumber dust on a cool fall morning.

Here's a great shot of my basement after framing the walls, soffit and support pole. Also, pretty sweet couch.

Framing basement walls was the first bit step to finishing my basement. Check out that sweet looking 1970s couch. Pimpin'

Don't worry, it's not as hard as it looks, but it's one of the steeper learning curves. Once you get the basic concepts down it's just rinse and repeat.

Some of the more intimidating steps are just leading up to the actual framing.

I had never used a framing gun, an air compressor, a chop saw or any of those tools before so most of my time spent initially was just learning how to set those up and use them properly. I've divided the posts for wall framing into two sections.

Framing Basement Walls - First Things First

Start here, hopefully this has answers to all of your pre-framing wall framing questions. You don't need any of the big boy tools to build one or two walls, you can start this weekend and be done the next.

One Small Wall -  You just need a little wall and you don't want to wait. No sweat, I get it.  I needed one too.  Here's a basic, low cost way to start learning how to frame basement walls.

Permits and Inspections - Have you been holding off because of permit questions, maybe this article will put your mind at ease.

Buying Lumber  - Not really sure how to buy wood?  Weird right?  But true, I didn't know either.  I wrote everything down and took some pics, check it out.

Existing Basement Wall Insulation - Keep it up or remove it before framing your basement?  You can't really start until you decide so might as well give this article a gander.

Design Your Finished Basement - All about planning your rooms - get out your crayons and your pencils or better yet, do it on a computer. It's work, but it's fun, you need to plan your basement walls.  I walk you through it and show my exact basement design.

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How to Frame Your Basement Walls

Taking the big plunge, getting a boat load of lumber delivered, having your permits, using some kick-ass tools, full-on basement framing nirvana!!

How to Build a Wall - Framing a wall on the ground and then lifting it into place seems to makes sense but ultimately it's the slow and hard way to do it for a basement project.  See why framing a wall in place is really the best way to do it.

Layout the wall design before framing basement walls

Installing Wall Blocking - What is blocking and why you'll definitely need some when you go to frame your basement walls. This seems simple now, but when I was just starting this blocking stuff was hard to grasp.  Hopefully this post will help you understand the concept of blocking.

Concrete Guns - (aka masonry guns, aka KaBoom!) - Ummmm Scary? Not really, this article tell you why you need one.  Securing a framed wall to the concrete floor has never been more fun.

How to Cover Basement Poles - Basement poles are unsightly but with a little forethought you can take advantage of this design challenge.  Start with a good design and proper framing.

Framing Around Duct Work -  Building a soffit (framing for your ductwork) is a bit more advanced than just putting up four walls and a door for a room.  The precision is important if you want it to look good in the end.  It took me about two weekends to get right, but the feedback I got was really great and I solved a noisy pipe problem along the way.

Framing for Basement Doors - At some point in your wall you're going to want to have a door. Trust me, I tried busting through a wall like the Kool Aid guy once in college, it's not as fun as it looks on t.v.

Framing Basement Windows - How do you frame around those short little basement windows?  That's what you're wondering right?  I was.  I gotcha covered.  It's easier than you think but it is a pain if you frame them wrong.

Fire Blocking - What the heck is fire blocking? How do you fire block. These answers plus the I reveal the previously unknown 9th wonder of the world.

Register Extensions - Until you get to this part of framing your basement this will make almost no sense   But... when you get there, come back here and read this. This took me 3 days to figure out, you can do it in one!

Once you've got framing about 25% complete you should stop and take some time to think about your electrical plan. You've probably got long extension cords all over the place by now, so you can watch TV or listen to the radio while you work. I had an extra fridge so I had it plugged in to keep my beers cold. The one little plug down there was really taking a beating.

Take a few weeks to learn and try out electrical wiring. The electrical phase won't affect your framing design to much but it will give you a couple of ideas and answer a few questions. Check out the electrical section.

Framing can also affect your drywall phase, be sure to get a brief overview of installing drywall before you start.

Jason - Framing basement walls is my gameSorry this section isn't completely "framed out" yet but I'll have the remaining articles and videos up soon. In the mean-time if you have a question feel free to email me or leave a comment.  I'm happy to answer it.

Cheers - Jason


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Questions and Comments

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  1. Andy says

    Hi Jason,

    We are finishing our basement and will be done with our framing by end of this month. We were wondering if there was an easy checklist of electrical items that we need to buy. We have some initial ideas of what electrical items go where but not a comprehensive list yet. Can you provide some guidance ?



    • says

      Andy, are you per-chance, a mind reader? I have a draft of that exact post sitting in my OneNote folder. I'll try and pull it together this week and post it up. If you're on the email list I'll announce it there and try to remember to post something back here. -Jason (UPDATE: Here is the list)

    • says

      Hey Tom - My electrical panel is in my storage area (unfinished) so I have not framed around it. But... what you need to do is account for drywall thickness (1/2" probably) and then set your wall back that far from the front of the panel. This way the panel door is nice and flush. Or, you can just frame up to the edge then just put a picture over the panel or a small swinging door that can be opened when needed.

      That's a great topic for a post, I'll add it to the list.

      - Jason

  2. Tamara says

    Hey Jason-

    We just bought a new home in Ashburn and are looking to finish one of the rooms in the basement. They have stapled blanket insulation onto the foundation walls, we are not sure if we should take down the existing insulation or just frame the walls with it there. What are your thoughts?


  3. Brian says


    Great site! By chance did you take into account the drywall overlap when framing an inside corner? Maybe I'm over thinking this step, as you can cut the one sheet that butts up against the other side in order to keep 16 O.C. I don't plan on doing the drywall phase, but want to make sure they have less to cut.

    Thanks again for all the wise tips and for pushing all of us that may have been too afraid to begin such a project.


    • says

      Brian - You're welcome and good question. Yes and no. No, I didn't at first. Yes, I went back and added some 2x4 blocking before the drywall crew came in. During the walk-through with my drywall guy he mentioned where I would need to add blocking. I marked those spots with a Sharpie pen and then added it in before they started. Took maybe an hour. The key was just remembering that where-ever a drywall sheet might end, you'll need some framing for them to nail into.

      Good luck finishing your basement, yes you can do it! - Jason

  4. Brandon Drury says

    In your Top Plate video of the Framing section, you dropped a plumb line off the side of the Top Plate to determine where to place the Bottom Plate. How did you know where to place the Bottom Plate in the other direction, e.g. end-to-end?

    • says

      I think I understand your question, you're saying if you have a long wall and you build out one section then need to extend it more, how do you mark where that goes? Right? What I did was snap a chalk line along the same line as the top plate of the existing (just framed) wall section. Then install the next top plate, plumb down from there. Of course, if I were to do it again, I go with one of these new laser levels - like this GLL2-40 from Bosch. (it's perfect for framing)

      • Carl says


        Question about laser levels, when it comes to finishing your basement which do you recommend someone buying to make things easier especially for framing, the GLL2-40 from Bosch or the Bosch GLM80 that you have on Amazon?


        • says

          Carl - For framing your basement I would recommend the GLL2-40. The GLM80 is used for measuring distances and horizontal planes. I use that more during design. I REALLY need to write an article on using the 2-40 for framing, it's on my short list.

  5. Chris W says

    I am just starting to look into finishing my basement and am thinking about the framing. It seems that metal framing would be best for a basement since it wont retain any moisture and have mold problems? I don't see you mention them, what are the pros cons?



    • says

      What up Chris - I'm anti-metal framing. There, I'm putting that out there. If you have a moisture problem your drywall will be effected first, so framing shouldn't be an issue unless you really just ignore completely the black stuff growing on your wall. Bottom line on that one is, don't have a moisture issue.

      The main reason I prefer lumber is that with metal framing things just don't "grab" as well. Hanging trim, electrical boxes, a dart board, etc. You just don't have wood studs to drive a screw into. Granted, you have metal studs, but it's not the same. Look, it's not HORRIBLE, but it wouldn't be my preference.

      If it makes you feel any better understand that although some of the pros use metal framing but most use lumber. Almost all of the professional big home builders use lumber. In this case, I'm following the crowd. Good luck finishing your basement! - Jason

    • says

      I'm not sure on this one. To be honest, I haven't put in flooring yet. I just stained by floor (albeit poorly). Stay tuned though - 2014 is the year of the floor for my basement. I'll let you guys know how it turns out and what I use. - Jason

  6. Phillip Morrison says

    I just ordered my framing nailer and look forward to starting my first wall next weekend. I went to your amazon website and saw the framing nailer you had on there and ordered it from the same site you did. I ordered the 21 degree nailer(same part number as one on your website) and then watched your framing videos where you said it was a 34 degree nailer. Is a 21 degree nailer going to work or should I look to get the 34 degree one?


    • says

      Phil - You should be completely fine with a 21 degree nailing gun. I couldn't find a 32 degree gun on Amazon that a used. As long as it's not a straight on framing gun, you should be good to go. Comment back here if this turns out not to be the case.

      Thanks - Jason

  7. Matt H says

    Hey Jason,
    I started framing my basement and your site has been extremely helpful and motivating. Question about framing and insulating the poured concrete walls. Did you use rigid foamboard insulation? I'm having a tough time finding 48" x 108" lengths.

    • says

      Hi Matt - Thanks for the comment. I personally did not use rigid foam board when insulating and framing my basement but a lot of people do, especially if you live in a northern state where winter temps can get quite low and the freeze line is deeper. Sorry, I'm not sure where to find that specific size. - Jason

  8. Pat says

    Hi Jason,

    We have some metal box outlets attached to the basement walls already. Since I want to insulate with XPS before framing, and especially since that will put my walls further out from the block anyway, I assume I should remove the existing outlets and wiring from the block walls and fill the holes, so I have as unobstructed a path as possible for insulating. Does that sound reasonable?

    • says

      Hi Pat. Yes, that's reasonable. Kind of pain, but it's the right way to prep before you start framing your basement walls. Good luck! - Jason

  9. Jim says

    My walls and floor are anything but square and I don't see where you've addressed that issue. I get the whole 3-4-5 method and I've got three intersecting 90 degree lines (picture large c shape but with right angles) and using a laser level I see that one leg if continued down the 47 foot wall moves from 6 inches away from wall to 18 inches at other end. I've adjusted and adjusted and adjusted and can't get the long runs to cooperate. House is built in 2007, Colorado, so floating walls are required. Just going nuts here and I haven't even started.

    • Corey says

      I'm in the same boat as Jim. I don't think my walls are as out of square as him, but that is the biggest hangup I have in getting started. Gettting everything square is a daunting task. How did you approach this. I'm guessing you were as anxious about this considering some of the other similar hang ups you describe in the book. Thanks.

  10. Patrick says

    I am landing on finishing the basement myself. Can you advise if there is a short list of common building codes I should be mindful of? My township said they use the UCC code. However when I found a version online it is very long and complicated. Is there a summary of code that is specific to basement projects?

  11. Robert McLay says

    Hi Jason,

    I have areas in my basement where I cannot attach the top plate to the joists at top, due to PVC piping, wires, etc... What is the correct way I should accomplish building the wall that will help me pass inspection. Do I somehow attach the wall to the concrete walls of the basement walls? I am really stuck on what to do and haven't found much online to help guide me.

    • says

      hi Robert - Really just two choices for dealing with this framing issues. 1. move the pvc piping / wires to be above and through the joists instead of resting below them. 2. lower your ceiling height by an inch or so using some blocking and the build the walls as would normally. Both are a pain in the ass, likely #2 is the least amount of ass pain-ery. - Jason

      • Robert McLay says

        Yeah, I can't run the pvc pipe, gas, etc... through the joists as the joists run the other way. There isn't any room there to get any blocking or anything as that stuff is inbetween the HVAC and the wall, so that means my wall would be 6 feet away from the foundation wall.

        I am trying to figure out a way where I could build the wall, attaching it to the cement foundation wall somehow and then connect the soffit for the HVAC into that wall. I am not sure how to handle the firestop though. I am also not sure if attaching the wall to the cement someway is code. I tried calling today but kinda got the brush off by the building departments saying that I should do my best and they would tell me what works and doesn't work when they come inspect. Problem is, I don't really want to do a ton of work and then have to rip it all down if it isn't up to code. I was completely frustrated and bummed by the answer from the building department.

        Have you seen anyone connect the wall to the cement wall and not take it up to the joists? And do you know if that would passs inspection?

        • Robert McLay says

          I'm really struggling with this wall. I am not sure how to go about building it. I am guessing that I am going to have to put some 2x4 pieces, nailed to the concrete wall with the cement gun, and then nail the studs into it somehow. But that is a complete guess...

          • says

            Hey Rob - Did you see my video on framing? You shouldn't nail anything to the wall. You'll nail studs to the floor and ceiling and then vertical studs in-between. I believe you're a premium member already? Watch the videos! All is explained. - Jason

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