Framing for Basement Doors

When framing your basement walls you will need to account for doors.  What!  Doors?  Oh yeah, that's how we get in and out of rooms.  There's actually quite a lot to think about when it comes to doors.

Today I want to talk about some decision points about doors with respect to the framing stage of your basement finishing project.  I'll write a post at a later date dealing with everything else doors. By the way, you don't have to buy the doors yet to complete the framing.  I didn't buy mine until after the drywall phase.

Where Should my Door Go?

Design and plan for my finished basementI distinctly remember getting to the point in my third wall of framing where I knew I needed a door but I just didn't want to stop framing walls.

If you haven't sat down yet and really planned out your basement now is the time.  You can try to wing it with these door details but you're going to need to design your basement on paper at some point and this is a good spot to do it.

Handle Placement & Swing In or Out?

On your paper or electronic design it helps to put in some squares or something to represent furniture, ping-pong table, tv whatever you plan to have in that room.  You can see in the snapshot of my basement design that I placed some representative furniture, shelves, chairs and even the ping-pong table.

Once those were in place it was easy to determine whether the door should open left or open right.  In other words, on which side should you place the door handle.  Also, should the door be pushed in to open or pulled out?  Most doors are pushed in.  In fact for some places like closets - it may be part of the building code that they be able to be opened from the inside.

Consider a Wider Door

A wide doorway with a ping pong table

Love the 36" wide solid core door!

Standard interior doors are 32 inches.   This is fine for regular people and the occasional large object.  But in your basement you may have more than the "occasional" large object.  You may have some BIG objects that you want to put in your storage space, workshop or workout room.  In my case the storage room was at the end of a hallway, by design of course I love hallways, which didn't leave me with a lot of room to  maneuver.

So I suggest getting 36 inch doors.   I did just that and they are AWESOME! I installed 36" doors for my storage area and workshop and I'm kinda wishing that I'd put them in for the HVAC room, which has sort of become a secondary storage area.

The main storage area holds my lawn mower (in the winter) my table saw, Christmas stuff, an extra bed and mattress, etc.  There's no way I can squeeze them through a standard door, especially since my storage area is at the end of a hallway.  Check out that ping-pong table (left) that thing is a beast but fits in storage with no problem.  Note the wheels, everything in life should just automatically come with wheels installed.

TIP:  Funny story, and I swear I'm not making this up.  I actually framed in the walls for the  HVAC room with a big bulky chair sitting in the middle.  As I mentioned I only put in a 32" door for that room. I could not get that chair out of the room, I literally had to take it apart to remove it.  So make sure you have your big stuff out of the area before you put in those final boards.

Framing the Door Opening

Once you've decided where along your wall your door will be the rest is fairly easy.  You want to add 2 inches to the total width of the door.  So if your door is 32 inches then you want to framing width to be 34 inches.  If it's a nice wide door like a 36 incher then you need 38 inches of space.   Whatever you do don't try to be  smarter pants like me and frame it tighter.  Leave yourself the one inch of clearance on each side.  You will have to use some shims when you go to hang the door. That's a normal and expected part of the installation process.

TIP:  In case you don't read my door hanging post (or I haven't written it yet) don't forget that in the summer your door will swell in size slightly due to the humidity.  So leave a bit of room between the door frame and the door edge.  I thought I was Mr. Awesome door hanger guy with my super tight fit (in the winter).  To my surprise, as soon as the thermometer hit about 80 degrees  I couldn't close two of my doors.  I still haven't gone back to adjust them because it's a major pain.

The Bottom Plate

At first I tried to measure the bottom plate to just the right length but it ends up being much easier to just let it go across the bottom of the door way and then cut it out afterwards.  Just don't nail any section that's going to be cut out into the concrete.

The King Studs

The stud that frames the doorway should be as straight as possible.   On interior studs it's not a big deal if they're a bit off but for king studs a crooked one can really make installing your door much harder than it needs to be.

Solid Core Doors

Buy solid core doors.  This really has nothing to do with framing but I feel it's important enough to list here and under my doors post.   I now consider hollow flimsy doors un-American.  The sound, the feel, and the weight of solid core doors are just so much better.  It doesn't have to cost an arm and a leg, though it is a bit more.  I'm not talking solid wood here, just solid core. You can buy solid core doors from Home Depot.

basement finishing jasonI'm telling you, if you thought it was really cool to frame a wall, wait until you have one of the doorways framed in.  It's a great feeling.  You're going to love it!   You never thought you'd be excited to build a doorway but there's something primal about it that just makes you want to sit back and admire what you've created.

Cheers - Jason

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Questions and Comments

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  1. Adrienne says

    How do you remove a wall if it was put in the wrong spot? Specifically how do you remove a base plate when it’s been nailed into the concrete with the gun? My ex framed a wall but didn’t frame a closet which I now want the room to have. So I need to remove a portion of the wall- including the bottom plate so I can frame in a closet.

    Thanks!

    • says

      No wonder he’s an “ex” no closet? What the heck was he thinking. Removing it is pretty straight forward, you’ll need a crow-bar and a hammer or more likely a sledge hammer. You basically just knock-out the studs, then pry the top-plate off from the joists, finally knock the bottom plate loose with your sledge hammer and then either pry out the nails. Good luck! Enjoy some closet space! – Jason

    • E says

      Use a 48″ wrecking bar. Wedge it underneath the base plate near the concrete nails and pull it up. Beware that some of the concrete will come up with it. You have small holes in the floor, but you are probably going to cover them with some type of flooring anyway.

  2. says

    I have a regular basement door entrance and when the tempature changes in the winter time, I cannot close my door. What can I do to keep this door closed tight during winter. Do I need a steel entrance door?
    Thank you

    • says

      Hey Tony – I had the same problem. A wood door is going to swell with increased humidity. I think you just need some more clearance between your door and door frame. I had to remove my door from the hinges, trim off about an 1/8 of an inch (the width of the table saw blade) and then reattached it to the hinges. Then is closed just fine. Hope that helps. – Jason

  3. Derek Crawford says

    You don’t talk about the header when framing a door opening. What size header should be used? You mention a king stud but no mention of a jack stud. Advise?

    • says

      Hey Derek – For standard interior doors I used a single plain ole 2×4 for the header. The “King” stud was really just the last stud in the wall before the door starts and then the next stud after it ends, so yes, I did have King studs. I guess I just didn’t think of them as any different than the regular wall studs. I realize that’s a bit of a confusing answer – I’ll see if I can draw up a quick diagram or video to explain this better. Good luck! – Jason

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