Inexpensive Basement Finishing

Basement finishing

When the basement has been emptied, the utilities prepared and, if need be, the basement waterproofing has been completed it is time to put your basement finishing plan into motion. If the air still feels damp then a basement dehumidifier system can be installed when the heat exchange system goes in. if there isn't an exchanger already in place.

Framing the Basement

Framing the basement wall is to allow the interior walls to be finished off with drywalling. Otherwise there are foam sheets that can be adhered to the cement walls and then sealed to prevent heat loss. These products are also waterproof.

For finishing off the basement the wiring, pipes and ductwork cannot go in until the framing has been complete. In an unfinished basement there are still load-bearing walls with the utilities in place but if you have moved these walls then the new walls will have to be addressed.

There are two rules of thought when framing a basement wall. Both have their merits but also have drawbacks:

  1. 1. Vapor Seal: Some contractors will vapor seal the cement wall thus sealing the entire cement surface from the interior of the home. The plastic extends down to the floor and will go underneath the studs. He objection to this method is that once the vapor seal is placed on the interior side of the suds it will form an unbreathable area where water condensation can occur. This may promote a small amount mold between the wall or the water condensation could cause the fiberglass insulation to slough.
  2. 2. Pressure Treated Plates: These are 2' X 4' pressure-treated studs which sit directly on the cement floor. However, some building codes may not allow a treated board to place in the interior of a home. These boards can also be painted with a long-lasting marine paint or waterproofing agent to protect their integrity.

The plate, or bottom wall stud, is usually fastened to the floor with a powered gun like a Hilti or  Remington. Using a .22 caliber blank shell a fastener is driven through the stud and into the cement floor tightly and permanently affixing the plate. Because the basement floor may be uneven framing the wall on the floor and then lifting it is not advisable. Put the plates down first and then measure the ceiling joists to get the position for upright studs and then snap a line. The header will be nailed to the joists and then the studs will be cut individually and placed at 16” centers. The corners will have two studs nailed together to equal the width of the stud wall forming the adjoining wall.


Fiberglass batt insulation is the favorite for walls because its cheap and easy to put in. Rigid foam sheets can also be used but they have to be cut to fit. Depending on the thickness it can provide a greater R-value than fiberglass batt.

Another great product is closed cell spray foam. Unlike the urea formaldehyde insulation of the past the new urethane foam does not have the carcinogenic off-gassing that tainted the foam insulation industry.  It is applied between the studs in a thing sheet that quickly expands into a thick foam which gets into all the cracks and crevices allowing no air leakage, a major heat loss factor in fiberglass-filled walls. When the the excess foam is shaved off the walls to stud depth and then the drywall can go right over top.

The Walls

With the insulation in place the drywall can go up. A lot of do-it-yourselfers put up the walls and then hire a taper to finish them off. A professional can do a perfect job with half the mess at ¼ the time. Leave a ½ inch space between the bottom edge and the cement floor to prevent “wicking,” the soaking upward of water, in case there is ever a water spill in the basement.

The Ceiling

Unless you want a luxurious statement in your basement a drop ceiling is perfect because:

  • Cheaper than drywalling the ceiling

  • Easy to install

  • You can set the level where ever you want below the joists to accommodate ducts and pipes.

  • The utilities are easy to reach and maintain

  • The patterns can be easily changed out.

Sub Floor

Floors can be accept studs, vapor seal and be insulated just like the walls. Some homeowners will place 1” rigid foam sheets on the floor and then 2” X 2” studs right on top. Either way you can then sheath it with 3/4” plywood or oriented strand board (OSB).

A product had surfaced with the foam and OSB sandwich together. These come in 2' X 2' squares which are placed down and glued together with the OSB side up. This is a quick wa to get the desired results.

With the basement shell now complete you can paint and begin placing the cabinets and fixtures for your new living space.

Posted by: TrustedPros
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