Just build a wall. What could be simpler? There’s is a lot more to building a wall than you might think. Today I want to try and clarify a wall building concept that took me a long time to figure out and was really quite frustrating. It boiled down to which style of wall building should you do:
- Build your wall on the floor of your basement and then “lift it into place”
- Build your wall “in place”, nail each board as you go (a.k.a. “stick-by-stick” )
Build a wall, then lift it into place
Let’s talk about option “A” first, build a wall on the the floor and then lift it into place. Several of basement and construction books have photos of two people working together, building the wall on the floor of the room they are finishing and then lifting it into place.
From a visual standpoint this is the easier method to understand. This was the first method that I used. My “one small wall” was going to be about 8 feet long and I had plenty of room on the ground to build it.
It was a little tricky using this method solo because you need to hold the wood straight as you start to screw them together. (Yes, I recommend starting with screws because it’s easier to back out of a mistake. And yes… you will make a lot of mistakes at first.
4 Reason NOT to build a wall on the floor and lift:
- Can be difficult to do solo.
- Lifting into place means a gap that you’ll have to shim, no way around it.
- You won’t always have the floor space to build the wall
- It’s a slower method of building
I built about 3 of the walls on the floor and lifted them into place before I ran into a spot where I just didn’t have the room on the floor to do so. Then I had to learn the stick by stick method. Once I did, I never went back, it’s the only way to go. I highly recommended that you build your test wall on the floor but do the rest stick by stick.
Build a wall stick by stick (or “in place”)
The tricky part about building a wall board by board is that it takes some practice and testing to figure out exactly how to do it.
The toughest part for me was understanding that I had to use a plumb bob to transfer the location of the top plate to the floor. This is the only way to know exactly where to line it up so that the wall was plumb (straight up and down).
I’m going to give you my version of the steps below but I would still strongly recommend reading 2 or even 3 books that have a framing section that shows you how to do this. By reading it from several different perspectives, plus trying it out yourself, it should start to click.
(UPDATE: I’ve been looking all week for a YouTube video on how to do this but everything I’ve found is build on the floor and lift, looks like I may need to be the first. The books however, do have pictures and example)
[ I've included basement books that include this info at my Amazon store, an affiliate link. ]
8 Steps to build a wall in place for your basement
- Line up the top and bottom plates and mark where the studs need to go, starting from the end make a mark every 16″. (check your local code to see if this differs but 16″ on center is fairly standard). Don’t worry if you forget this step, you can measure each seperately, this just makes it easier.
- Nail your top plate to the ceiling joist. You may need some “blocking” if your top plates is parallel to the joists. If you’re working solo like I was then use a couple of quick-grip clamps to hold the top plate in place while you position it and secure it.
- Plumb down to the floor and mark two points for your bottom plate. Use a chaulk line to snap a line between these two points. Your snapped line will run parallel to the wall.
- Place your bottom plate on the floor and line it up on the line you just snapped. Even though you don’t have any vertical studs in place at this point your top and bottom plates should be almost perfectly aligned. DON’T NAIL IN YOUR BOTTOM PLATE JUST YET.
- Cut and install a stud (a vertical board for the wall) into the top and bottom plates. The stud should fit snug in between the top and bottom. It should be able to stand up on its on. If you have to really hammer on it to get it in then it’s probably to long. Take it down and trim a small amount off.
- Repeat step 5 until all of the studs are in place. You may have less than 16″ between the last two boards, that’s okay.
- Take your 4′ level and double check that the wall is plumb (up and down) and relatively flush on the service. By flush I mean that none of the studs are bowed so much that they stick out further than the other studs. If they do then you’ll have a hump in your drywall and your wall will look wavy. A bowed stud who’s hump goes towards the wall is better, the drywall will still be straight on the outside.
- Nail your bottom plate into the floor. I recommend a concrete masonry gun. Mainly because it uses tiny little bullets and you basically have a gun in your basement, very cool. You may see some videos/books where they glue it down first, I didn’t do that. Mainly because I messed up a lot at first and needed to be able to move the wall a bit. The contractors I consulted with said it was not a big deal to skip it (for a basement project).
TIP: If your bottom plate is not perfectly straight you may want to nail one end of the plate into the floor first and then use a small sledgehammer to knock the rest of it into alignment before you nail it down. You’ll know this because the bottom plate won’t line up perfectly with the chalk line that you snapped.
I hope that helps. Building a wall on the floor by yourself can be really frustrating. My second wall took me about two hours to prep and then when I lifted it into place it didn’t fit because one section of the basement floor was just slightly higher. It was killing me that I had to undo most of it and guess what, I had nailed it together so that was not easy.
Once you get the hang of how to build a wall stick by stick you can do it by yourself and it’s actually really fun. I promise you you’ll be sneaking down to the basement before you go to sleep to get one last look at what you’ve created.
Good luck, ping me with questions, I’m working on a video to go along with this article because I couldn’t find any that I liked to share with you online. If someone finds one please tell me!
Cheers – Jason