How to Build Partition Walls in a Basement

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You can build a basement partition wall with simple tools.
You can build a basement partition wall with simple tools. (Image: builder on a ladder image by Cherry-Merry from Fotolia.com)

Building new walls for a basement remodeling project is not as difficult as it may seem -- as long as they are simple walls that don't bear structural weight and won’t have electrical wiring or other utilities going through them. In fact, you can build partition walls without power tools, though power tools always make a construction job go faster, and with less physical effort.

Things You'll Need

  • Measuring tape
  • Level
  • Chalk line
  • Circular saw
  • 2-inch by 4-inch boards
  • Hammer and nails (optional)
  • Drill/driver
  • Wood screws
  • Air nailer (optional)
  • Masonry drill bit (optional)
  • Hex screws (optional)
  • Drywall
  • Drywall compound mud
  • Drywall tape
  • Drywall knife
  • Sanding block
  • Drywall corner bead
  • Drywall sander (optional)
  • Primer
  • Brushes
  • Roller brushes
  • Trays
  • Paint

Measure the distance from the floor to the ceiling in the area of the basement where you want to place the wall. Get exact measurements, since “close enough” is not workable philosophy in wall construction.

Measure the distance that the new partition wall must span. Mark this distance on the floor and on the ceiling above the floor mark. Use a chalk line to mark the outline of the wall on the floor and on the ceiling if possible. Stretch the chalk line string tightly across the distance, then snap the string to leave a mark. Make sure any ceiling and floor marks are level and properly aligned with each other.

Cut a pair of two-by-four studs to the length that corresponds with the the width of your new wall “run.” If your wall is to be 8 feet wide, for example, you will use two standard 8-foot-long studs. If your wall will be wider than 8 feet, you will need to construct it out of two longer studs, such as 12-foot-long boards. If your wall will be wider than 12 feet, break the distance down into two or more 6-foot or 8-foot units.

Lay these two studs down on the floor, on edge, separated approximately the same distance as the height of your wall. One of these studs is the floor plate, and the other is the ceiling plate.

Mark off every 16 inches along the length of the floor plate. Make a similar set of marks along the ceiling plate. You may have space left over -- not enough space to make up a full 16-inch mark when you reach the end of the plate studs. That is acceptable.

Count the number of 16-inch “center” marks you made. This is the number of vertical interior studs you must create next. If you have six marks, add four more studs for the ends of the wall (where the studs are doubled), for a total of 10 studs.

Measure and cut the proper number of vertical studs. They must be the height of ceiling to floor -- minus 2 7/8 inches.

Lay four of the studs down between the floor and ceiling plates, at either end of the wall, two studs per end. Place the remaining studs inside the wall frame, one at each of the center points of the 16-inch marks. All the inner studs should be sandwiched inside the two plates.

Connect all the framing together -- vertical studs to the two plates -- using hammer and nails, screws and a screw gun, or an air nailer. You are assembling the studs into a rectangular shape with double studs on the outside edges and single studs through the middle.

Lift the stud framing section upright, into a wall position. Move it into the correct position in the room so it comes into contact with the ceiling and/or an intersecting wall in your designated spot. If your ceiling isn’t finished (just open ceiling joists) make sure the wall aligns with some portion of the overhead joists so you can attach the ceiling plate to something. If the wall falls between two ceiling joists (nothing there but air), you will have to construct some kind of plate between the overhead joists to attach to the wall ceiling plate. Use lengths of two-by-fours to create these “spanners” in between the open joists.

Connect the stud section to the ceiling joists, to any side wall abutting the new wall, and to the floor, using nails or screws. If the floor is made of concrete, drill holes through the floor plate using a drill with a wood bit. Use a masonry bit to drill holes into the concrete beneath the holes in the floor plate. Attach the floor plate to the floor using a hex screw.

Measure and cut sheets of drywall to sheath the walls. Use drywall screws or drywall nails to attach the drywall to the studs. Every edge of drywall has to fall in the center, or on the edge, of a wooden stud. If an edge of drywall doesn’t have a stud beneath it, you’ll have to add an extra vertical stud to the framing to hold the drywall in place. Countersink the drywall screws or nails slightly. Test your wall. It should not move when you push against it.

Apply a thin coat of drywall mud over the line of screws with a drywall knife, then apply drywall tape. Apply drywall corner beading to any outside corners of the wall and on the inside corners where the new wall meets an old wall. Let dry.

Apply a second coat of drywall mud over the tape and corner beading and let dry. Sand the mudded areas smooth using a sanding block or a drywall sander.

Prime and then paint the finished wall to suit.

Tips & Warnings

  • You can cover the partition walls with paneling instead of drywall.

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References

  • "Not So Big Remodeling"; Sarah Susanka; 2009
  • "Renovation 3rd Edition"; Michael Litchfield; 2005
  • "The Visual Guide of Building and Remodeling"; Charlie Wing; 2009
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