How to Frame a Basement Wall

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Framing is the heart of the basement finishing project, this is where you get to see your plans come to life. After spending a long time planning and budgeting you finally get to use your new tools and really start to build.

I remember when the Home Depot delivery truck showed up with a forklift truck full of 2x4s. I remember that this was the official point of no return, I had to finish my basement now. I was pretty nervous but it was time to prove that I know what the heck I am doing.

After I carried in the 2x4s to the basement and stacked them I was really excited to get started right away. I probably studied this part the most as far as watching YouTube videos and reading blog posts. It just looks so doable, and once you get the hang of it, it is.

The first day I started framing I said to my wife “Give me a few hours and I will probably have our first wall up!” I got her all excited. And I was too.

That was the last time I ever “guaranteed” success. 

A few hours later, she came to see the progress and I had literally gotten no where. I cut everything way too short. I set the shorter boards to the side, thinking if I keep doing that then I am going to have to spend a bunch of money all over again. So I gave up for the rest of the day, to move on to something more productive than butchering my wall studs.

The next day I tried it again, this time with a slightly different strategy. Guess what? It made all the difference. Instead of building the walls on the ground and trying to stand them up, I built the wall in place. It was so much easier and was a lot faster. I created the first two exterior walls, and I was so excited. I was ready to flip houses.

Within a few weekends, I had EVERYTHING framed, and it looked amazing.

Here is how you can have success from the beginning.

Material & Hardware

  • 2×4 Dry Kiln (Studs and Top Plate)
  • 2×4 Pressure Treated (Bottom Plate)
  • Shims
  • Nails
  • Concrete Fasteners

Tools

  • Chalk Line
  • Tape Measure
  • Pencil
  • 4′ Level
  • Speed Square
  • Clamp
  • Chop Saw
  • Saw Horses
  • Framing Nailer or Hammer
  • Concrete Nailer
  • Utility Knife
  • Ladder or Step Stool

Chalk Line

Start off by chalk lining the floor layout right onto the concrete floor. Not only will this provide you with accurate measurements of where the walls will go but you can do a walk through of the basement before any walls are even built. I highly recommend this because everything that is designed on paper doesn’t always add up to being practical. Erasing chalk is much cheaper than tearing down a wall.

Once you have chalk lined the floor layout you are now officially ready to swing a hammer. I would start with an exterior wall that doesn’t have a window or anything complicated around it. This is your first wall, let’s keep it simple.

Measuring 16″ On Center

Plates are the boards that run horizontally across the bottom and the top of the wall. The bottom plate that secures to the concrete needs to be pressure treated, the top plate should be kiln dried. You can measure the length of your wall and cut the plates to size. Next you can clamp them together so they are perfectly aligned and begin to make your marks for the studs.

Take your tape measure and extend it across the board all the way to the end. You will notice that your tape measure has 16”, 32”, 48” and so on in red so you can quickly see where the center of your studs will go. Typical framing practices have every stud measured 16″ on center.

Take your pencil and speed square and mark out a line 1 ½” from the start of your wall, that will mark your first stud. The width of a 2×4 is really about 1 ½” x 3 ½” (which makes a ton of sense). Mark an X where the stud will go. 

Next, move the tape end to the new line and make a mark at 15 1/4″, 31 1/4″, 47 1/4″, and so on. Draw an X on the side of the board where your studs will go, which is every 16″ on center.

Since you have your plates clamped together, you can easily connect the lines and draw across each plate to get the same measurement. Place the edge of your speed square along your line mark and draw a line across the two plates.

Securing Top and Bottom Plates

Take the bottom plate and place along the edge of the chalk line on the floor and against the wall. Take the top plate and place along the ceiling joists but don’t secure it yet. For now, just make a line at the edge of the plate along the ceiling joist.

If you have a scrap piece of wood take it and place it vertically against the outside of the chalk line and the line on the ceiling joist you just made. Hold your 4′ level up against that scrap board to see if your top and bottom plates are level.

Now that the plates are level you can nail the top plate in against the ceiling joists. To nail the bottom plate to the concrete floor you are either going to need a concrete nailer, or concrete drill. I used a concrete nailer (Ramset HammerShot) and put about 5 nails 3″ nails in each 8′ board. These tools are very loud, you should wear ear protection.

Nailing Studs

Measure from plate to plate to get your stud length. Do not assume they are all the same, the stud lengths may be off by 1/4″ or so, which you will notice and the stud won’t make contact with both plates. Always make sure the studs are level on both sides before securing it to the plates.

Also, since you are a beginner (like I was at the time) you may want to double check the stud measurements to make sure they are 16″ on center.

Take your time, be safe, and take before and after pictures!

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