Building a Small Wall

I just wanted one small wall.  Honestly I had no intention of finishing my own basement.  The house was only about five years old and for the most part it had all of the space we needed.  As most home improvement projects do, it started off with a very small desire. If you want to learn how to finish a basement, this is a great first step.

I wanted a place to organize some tools and paint supplies.  Specifically, I wanted to put up a piece of peg board so that I could then put all those cool hooks and stuff on there and just be captain organized.

That idea sort of swam around in my brain for several months.  Each time I went to the basement to get something I reminded myself that I really did want to get this stuff organized.  I suppose I just didn't have a real flash point.

My New Dewalt Miter Saw

DeWalt mitre saw. Mmmmm so choppy.

This isn't mine but its close.

Then along came my DeWalt 10" miter saw.  For Christmas, I half jokingly said that I'd like a power saw as my present, sometimes more commonly referred to as a chop saw or a miter saw.  

Up until then I only had a hand saw.  I had been watching a million home repair shows and if there's one awesome thing that they do it's cut wood, really, really fast.

Wouldn't you know it, my loving and  caring wife bought me a power saw.  A shiny yellow implement of construction.  Problem was, I had little idea of how to actually use it and was at a loss as to how to get started on my peg board wall.  

The saw sat in our basement for about a month completely untouched. I still didn't have what I needed to build one small wall.

Instructions... Yes, you need to read them!

You see, what I was missing was an instruction book, or two or three.  Yes, I'd seen the home improvement TV shows.   No, those do not prepare you in any way to actually do what they are doing.  In fact, the stuff you really have to do is glossed over in a about 5 seconds.  They are all about the emotion of the homeowner and the reveal and the ooooh and the aaaaah.

So I went to the book store near my office during lunch, browsed around, and viola… a book about building a wall stared me right in the face.   I bought it on the spot.   Okay, so now I have the book on framing a wall and I have the following tools and supplies:

  • I have the book  (I setup an Amazon store so you can buy the same basement finishing books I bought)
  • My shiny new Dewalt 10" mitre saw
  • I have a drill and some drill bits
  • I have some screws.
  • I have the wood (2 x 4s)  and a tape measure

I had bought the wood earlier in the day, which is a whole other blog post "how to buy lumber" but a very important one.   So I go down to the basement on a cold January weekend, shouting to my very pregnant wife,  "Going to the basement, going to cut up some wood and build a wall".  Saying this out-loud made me laugh.  I honestly had zero idea of what to do.  Having the book and the tools is one thing, actually doing it is another.

My First Wall

I did end up building a very small and rudimentary wall that weekend.  Yes, it took me all weekend.  You can read the gory details in my upcoming post on wall building.   The wall was stable enough to hold my peg board.  "And the boy was happy."  But, as the story goes, "the boy was not happy for long".

The Unprotected HVAC Stuff

The Unprotected HVAC Stuff, before I built an awesome wall around it!

I was proudly showing off my new wall and peg board accomplishment to my wife while our two kids were playing with a small soccer ball.  Their ball kept accidentally hitting against our heater and hot water tank.

Wheels turned, light bulbs went off.   What this problem needed was something I was itching to do again, build a wall!

You can probably start to see where this is now headed.  I did build that second wall to "protect the furnace" from errant play.  By then I had started to figure out walls so I thought I might as well just build a small room for the HVAC equipment.

Since I had that done, I thought I'd go ahead and wall off the storage area and expand my original peg board wall into a full blow manly workroom, I mean... craft and present wrapping room.

The rest is history.  Once I started in with getting permits and electrical I decided I have to do the whole thing. It makes perfect sense to finish my own basement!   Building one small test wall is a great first step.

building a small wall

Slightly different angle but the HVAC is right behind this now finished wall. I insulated to absorb some of the noise.

Just start already

Don't worry about having all of the right tools or even knowing exactly what to do.  Just go to Home Depot, buy some 2x4s and some screws, and go home and build a small wall.  Then put some shelves up or some peg board.  It's a "test" wall, so don't worry about messing up.

Are you about to frame your very first wall?  Do you have a question?

Leave a comment below.   Or email me directly.

basement finishing jasonIf you liked this article please share it with family and friends - for the right person doing your own construction projects can be extremely rewording and is a great way to build confidence.

Cheers -

Jason

 

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Questions and Comments

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  1. Louie B says

    Glad I found this site. I’m not ready to finish my basement yet (money plus one room needs a new floor instead of its grungy floor from 1880) but I dream of my basement being finished. Literally, I stand there staring at what I want to go where. And aside from a class I took I don’t know anything about being handy. But I think I’m smarter than a monkey. And the previous owner of my house left a TON of lumber in the garage. So… you’ve inspired me to “build a small wall”.
    I look forward to reading through the rest of your site.

    • says

      Louie – Thanks for commenting! That’s exactly how I was I hoping readers would start to think. Start first, then think and plan. Sounds a little backwards but if you try it and love it then the other hurdles will quickly fall away.

      If you try it an hate it, then you haven’t wasted a lot of time with grandiose plans. Plus, one wall has value on it’s on. If you have your phone or camera handy take a few before and after shots and email them to me, I’d like to start a section of the site where people can share their forays into home improvement. – Jason

  2. Bo says

    I’m not handy at all..and I’m going to try to tackle framing some walls in our new house. The outer walls are already framed, insulated and wrapped but would like to frame a bathroom and utility and hvac.
    Any tips?

  3. Wale says

    Hello Jason, I’m pretty confident I can do it because you make it seem so easy. I’m taking notes like i’m in class. However, when I look at the whole space, a lot of things can be scary. For example, how do i go around beams, pipes, vent and all that. Plus the builder already put up insulation directly on the wall. Do I remove them or……lots of questions.

    • says

      Wale – Keep reading grasshopper… all the answers you seek are here. Sorry, got a little KungFu nostalgic there. Beams pipes and vents are basically all the same process. Check out this article on framing ductwork. Here’s another on framing around basement poles. And finally one on basement insulation.

      Hopefully those will help. Yes, you can totally do this, you’ve already done more than 95% of people just by researching the topic. I would’t classify it as “easy”, it’s challenging at first. But once you get into it, you’re going to say to yourself. Okay, this really isn’t all that complicated. You will finish your own basement! Good luck! – Jason

      ps. When you’re ready, no pressure, check out my basement finishing ebook and video series. The price is reasonable and it has everything you need to get through finishing your own basement.

  4. Rex says

    My basement is already studded with walls, which is great, but that’s it. So the only thing that keeps me from doing anything is A/C. My HVAC is obviously down there along with my hot water heater. But the A/C duct work all pipes into the main house (a ranch, with full unfinished basement). What I don’t know is, since my next steps would be insulation and drywall (I assume), should I have A/C running in the basement? It’s not moist down there, but will I have problems if the space isn’t A/C controlled with regard to sheet rock and insulation?

    • says

      What up Rex – So the next step would be electric (assuming that’s not done yet), then insulation then drywall. So for my basement I added just two “registers” both along the main trunk line and so far so good. There is no extra A/C control. If I turn on the heat on the main level, the basement gets some heat, likewise with the AC. I have a walk-up basement and it doesn’t seem to matter if its the dead of winter or the middle of summer – it stays fairly comfortable.

      In my opinion, you don’t need extra control or more than a few extra registers. Hope that helps.

      Cheers – Jason

  5. Diem says

    Hi Jason- have you heard of Insofast (www.insofast.com)? We are looking to do our basement (DIY) with a help from a relative. Would you personally recommend these insulated panels? They seem too good to be true! I don’t know if I can trust all the reviews online because I’m scared they may be attached to the company. Please help!

    Thanks!
    Diem

    • says

      Diem – I’ve seen their website but I haven’t heard any feedback from anyone who’s used them yet. I can’t recommend them but I don’t not recommend them either. My recommendation is to stick with tried and true lumber based framing and insulation. Once I see the pros using this system on a regular basis, I’d then be more apt to recommend them. If I hear anything, good or bad, I’ll come back with an update. – Jason

  6. Jayson says

    When you are doing your first bottom plate on this wall and it is a corner so your first stud is 3 1/2 inches from the end and you want another bottom plate up against it is there a trick to keeping it at 16″ centers? Mine did not come out perfectly even.

    • says

      Jayson – Hmmmm…. I’m not 100% sure what your asking. If we’re talking just slightly off, then it’s not a big deal. And at one end of each wall that meets a corner you probably won’t have a 16″. It may be 12″, 3″ or anything, as long as the gap isn’t MORE than 16″. I’m not sure that answered your question – but hopefully it helped in some way. – Jason

  7. Brian Teeters says

    Looking to finish my basement at some point, the previous owners framed everything in and did some electrical (one outlet in each room which isn’t NEARLY enough). I haven’t started yet as I am running cabling into the upstairs walls first (Cat 6, Coax, Surround Sound).

    My question is that since it is already framed in should I put flooring down first or start with the drywall? I ask because it would seem to me that you would want some spacing between the concrete floor and the drywall.

    • says

      Hi Brian – Flooring typically goes last. I actually had the same question about the gap for the drywall. When you, or someone else (recommended), installs the drywall they will leave a small gap between the concrete floor and the bottom of the drywall. This gap is typically 3/8″ to 1/2″. If you go with carpet and pad flooring – this will be enough space. If you go with a simulated wood product or stone – then you would install a 1/4″ moulding between your base moulding and the floor.

      Walls before floors. Floors are always last.

      Cheers – Jason

      • Dave says

        Jason – I’ve read some books which advocate putting down 2x3s onto the concrete, then covering with plastic, then install a subfloor – all of which would put the exposed side of the subfloor about 2″ from the concrete. What are your thoughts? Benefits? Drawbacks? (Cost comes to mind). Have you ever read/heard of doing this?

        • says

          Yes! I’ve seen this several times. However, I can comment on the benefits or costs as I haven’t really investigated it thoroughly, nor have I done it myself. Just to note – you do not HAVE to have a sub-floor on the basement. It’s definitely more expensive and if you stick with carpet, stain or a vinyl laminate product you should be fine without it; unless you have some major moisture issues that you can’t resolve before hand.

          – Jason

  8. Rob says

    Did you use construction screws or nails for framing? I’ve tried searching the International Residential Code but it just seems to talk about nails. Does that mean I can’t use screws? I’ve heard people say screws take longer but I can’t imagine it taking longer than it takes my wimpy arm to pound a 16d nail in.

    • says

      Hey Rob – I used nails. But I also used a nail gun, so no wimpy hands arm problems for me. I did meet a guy who did all his basement framing with a regular ole hammer and nails, he said it took a long time to learn but once he practiced it was no problem. I HIGHLY recommend a framing gun. Screws will take a long time. There nothing wrong with using them, but they are more expensive as well. Hope that helps – Jason

  9. Tony says

    Hey great site! gives me the confidence that i can start flirting with the idea of putting up some walls. One question for you though – i keep reading about how you should leave a gap to allow the wall to breath – how does that work with insulation and stuff? -Tony

  10. Dan says

    OK slightly more complex. I’m building a partition wall in an already finished room. i.e. I can’t see the studs or joists etc. So here’s my problem: although I cut the top plates and bottom plates and studs to the right sizes (they are snug – I already tried it)… I can’t find the roof joists/rafters. My stupid stud finder finds nothing, rare earth magnets find nothing, so I’m stumped. Any ideas how I can get the top plate nailed on to at least get started?

    • Dave says

      When I had to install a partition wall, I cut away the carpet & padding where the bottom plate went (down to the subfloor). I was able to follow the nail lines to establish where the joists were. I also removed the sheetrock on the ceiling & this allowed me to see where the trusses were (the wall was running perpendicular to the roof trusses). It sounds like you are building on top of the floor covering & under the dry wall? Maybe my way was overkill, but it allowed me to anchor directly to the underlying framework. I’m interested to hear Jason’s answer on how to tackle this otherwise.

      • says

        Sorry, it shouldn’t appear that way. I’m building my wall right onto the bare concrete. I’m with you… I do NOT recommend building a wall on top of carpet, padding or other flooring – if you can avoid it. – Jason

  11. Dave says

    I’m finally getting around to organizing my work shop – and find that I need to build a “practice” wall (or two). I was fortunate to grow up with my dad teaching me how to do rough framing, solder plumbing, run basic wiring (but still intimidated to go into the breaker box). So my question to you is: What trade(s) did you find were best handled by paying someone else to do vs doing it yourself? Thanks for this great site – hope to visit often as I start this journey.

  12. John says

    Hello Jason, I will be starting the framing for my whole basement this weekend. I have seen many different post about what to do for insulation behind the walls. I have seen foam sheets, I have seen plastic, I have seen regular insulation, and I have seen spray….My question is do you have to do any of these? Can I just frame and then drywall or do I need some type of barrier? My basement does not leak and the walls do not sweat.
    Thank you
    John

    • says

      Hi John – Congrats on starting! You do no have to have insulation or moisture protection, especially if you have no signs of water or moisture issues currently. The only insulation I had was was the builder put on the foundation walls – this was a fiberglass with foil front. Read here for more details. – Jason

  13. Donna says

    Hi Jason! We are in the process of developing our basement. We finished the Dricore floor and now we are about to tackle the framing. My biggest worry is still those darn permits. Can we go ahead and finish framing and put in the electrical before we have the permit? We are putting in the application for it tomorrow. We also have spray foam insulation being done in about 2 weeks (they will have their own permit) so we are a bit tight for time. Ideally we would have taken longer but things have happened that require us to get it done asap……….
    What happens if the spray foam is done before they inspect the rest??
    Thanks, love your site!

    • says

      Hi Donna – Technically you’re not supposed to start any work until the permits have been issued. BUT… in realty the first inspection isn’t until your framing is done. So you “could” spray insulation, build a floor and do all the framing… then go buy permits and turn around a week later and call for your first inspection “framing”.

      The only risk, besides the fact that “technically” you shouldn’t start work without a permit, is that your design is somehow rejected. In my experience this its very rare that they would reject a design as long as there’s nothing crazy in there… but it’s possible.

      The go getter in me says… go ahead. The Dad in me says… you should’ve planned ahead, now stop and go get that permit.

      Jason

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