Basement Makeover #413

Basement Makeover #413

This week, HandyMa’am® takes on a number of projects dealing with turning her basement into her home office. Included in the process are: hanging and finishing drywall, installing a suspended ceiling and putting in moisture-resistant flooring.

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Projects of the Week #413a

Frame Out New Wall

On this week’s show we turned my partially finished basement into an office. As we became empty nesters, I moved my office into one of the vacated bedrooms. However, as the family continues to grow, we have many visits from children and grandchildren. Some live out of town, while the others enjoy «sleepovers» at grandma’s. It’s clear, I need to reclaim the bedroom! With a full basement to work with, it seems the perfect place to relocate. I’m sure there will also be room in the future for a play-room/family-room — but first the office …

Many years ago, we added lighting and outlets (always check local codes when doing electrical projects), walled off the utility/storage area, installed a drop ceiling and painted the exterior walls and floor. It gave us extra space for Ping-Pong, a TV for video games and other family activities.

Before beginning this project, we cleared the area of as much «stuff» as possible and removed the old ceiling and hanging bookshelves that had been installed for books, tapes, videos and other games.

What You Need:

  • Chop saw
  • 2 X 4’s (some pressure treated for sole plate)
  • Drill / driver & bits
  • Chalk line
  • Speed square
  • Ladder
  • Safety glasses
  • Dust masks
  • Plumb bob
  • Pencil
  • Hammer
  • Tape measure
  • Work gloves
  • Hammer drill & masonry drill bit
  • Masonry screws
  • Workbench/work surface
  • Long level/straight edge
  • Helping-hand stand
  • Electrical wall box extenders (for existing outlets)


Mark for soleplate (2 X 4’s on floor) and header (2X4’s get attached to ceiling joists:

  1. Measure out from wall (at each end), width of 2 X 4 plus 1/8″ (we also had to add for depth of our electric conduit that is attached to the concrete walls
  2. Went up from mark on floor and dropped a plumb line to mark ceiling joists (at both ends). The reason we started at floor and worked up was because our wall slanted into the room slightly at the bottom.
  3. At the marks, snap chalk lines — one on floor for soleplate and one on the joists for header.
  4. We used «pressure treated lumber» for soleplate because of moisture that tends to come up through a basement floor
  5. Mark on soleplate where studs will go, every 16″ on center
  6. Place soleplate on chalk line
  7. Drill holes with hammer drill (good for concrete) in between where every other stud will be
  8. Secure soleplate to floor with masonry screws
  9. Install header (regular 2 X 4’s) on marked line (drill pilot holes and attach with all purpose screws or nails
  10. Measure from header to soleplate for EACH 2 X 4 upright / stud
  11. Basement Makeover #413
  12. Cut stud to size
  13. Position in place and make sure it’s plumb
  14. Secure studs to soleplate and header by «toe-nailing» all-purpose screws or nails on both sides of stud. (To toe-nail, install screws or nails at an angle, first through the stud and then into the soleplate or header

Continue down the wall until you run into an «obstacle» — (we had an outlet and a window) — depending on the obstruction, may require a different approach — here’s the way we handled the outlet & window.

For studs that would fall directly over an outlet (switch or other small obstruction):

  1. Skip the stud that would be located over the obstacle and install the next one.
  2. Attach horizontal 2X4’s above and below obstacle between the studs on either side of the obstruction
  3. Install stud (that would have fallen directly over the outlet): measure between the upper horizontal 2X4 just installed and header at the point where stud will be attached, cut to that measurement and install — do the same between the lower horizontal 2X4 and soleplate. This keeps the studs 16″ on center.

Here’s the way we handled framing around the window:

  1. Similar to the outlet — attach the stud just before the window, skip placement of studs that would go over the window and then install the first one on the other side.
  2. Measure from soleplate to header on both sides of the window and cut studs to that measurement and install.
  3. Measure between these studs above and below the window, cut 2X4’s to that measurement and attach.
  4. Measure from each end of the 2X4 just installed below window and soleplate, cut studs to those measurements and install (this board actually gets installed adjacent to the upright framing the window — see picture)
  5. Attach studs between 2X4 under window and soleplate, where original marks were made to keep them 16″ on center.
  6. Do the same above window if needed — in our case the header was immediately above the 2X4 framing top of our window.
  7. We attached a plastic «J» channel along the inside of 2X4’s framing the window — our windows have metal frames and could cause damage to drywall placed against them. This channel will protect the drywall from moisture

Projects of the Week #413b

Installing Car Siding

We put tongue & groove wood planks, referred to as boxcar siding, on the bottom half of the wall. We attached the planks horizontally — this way if water happens to get in the basement, we’ll only need to remove the bottom boards that are damaged. After the drywall was installed on the upper half of the wall, we put chair rail molding on top of the car siding, which finished off the area where the two meet.

What You Need:

  • Box Car Siding (tongue & groove solid wood planks)
  • Tape measure
  • Chalk line
  • Nail gun & nails or hammer & nails
  • Level
  • Safety glasses
  • Chop saw
  • Helping-hand stand
  • Step stool
  • Pencil
  • Scrap of car siding
  1. Strike a level chalk line along soleplate 1″ above floor (to make sure boards will be going level)
  2. Position first board along chalk line, tongue side up, and nail in place at each stud. We used a power nailer and installed the nails at the bottom of the tongue — the groove of the next board will cover the nails. (Don’t nail directly into the tongue or groove of next board won’t slide over it)
  3. We used a power miter saw (chop saw) to cut adjoining boards at 22 Ѕ degree angles — the seam is less noticeable cut at an angle than if they are cut straight up and down.
  4. Check level as you go along — and install complete bottom row
  5. Second row: cut first board of row so the seam is offset from previous row and edge ends over a stud. For following rows offset so that the seam is not directly over the previous two or three rows — by doing this the seams will be even less noticeable.

    TIP: If necessary tap board in position before nailing — place a piece of scrap car siding over plank and tap with hammer until it’s level.

  6. Measure and mark for outlets (or other obstructions) and cut out using jigsaw.

Projects of the Week #413c

Install Drywall / Mud & Tape

We attached drywall to the top half of our newly framed walls. We hung our drywall vertically for a couple of reasons (OPTION: could also hang horizontally). By installing the drywall vertically, it made the pieces smaller, lighter weight and easier to work with (we were only lifting sheets approximately 4’X4′, instead of 4’X8′). Also, the drywall sheets are finished on both sides (wrapped finished edges). We placed finished edges together, which made a concave seam. It’s much easier for a beginner/non-professional to get a nice smooth finish doing it this way.

What You Need:

  • Drywall
  • Pencil
  • Tape measure
  • Straight edge
  • Utility knife
  • Drill / driver
  • Drywall bit
  • Drywall screws
  • Ladder
  • Stepstool
  • Safety glasses
  • Scissors
  • Masking tape
  • Plastic dropcloth
  • Drywall tape
  • Drywall compound (mud)
  • Mud tray/pan
  • Drywall knife (several sizes)
  • Drywall sanding sponge
  • Primer
  • Paint

General directions for hanging drywall:

  1. Measure and mark for the size piece of drywall you’ll need (mark on front side of drywall)
  2. Place straight edge as a guide along the marks and score at that point using a sharp utility knife.
  3. Snap drywall from back side along scored line
  4. Cut paper from back side of drywall along snapped line with utility knife (bend pieces and use channel as cutting guide)
  5. Position drywall and secure to studs using drywall bit and drywall screws. Screws should be install about every 10 to 12 inches along each stud. A drywall bit on a drill will install screws to the proper depth — slightly dimpling the drywall.
  6. Before applying drywall compound to seams of drywall, tape plastic over car siding to protect it from spills
  7. We used self-adhesive mesh drywall tape along seams. Cut tape to length and press over seam.
  8. Place drywall compound (mud) in mud tray/pan and press it back & forth against sides using a drywall knife — called working the mud
  9. Apply mud over seam with drywall knife

    TIP: Keep knife clean — Every time you apply a swipe of mud to wall, wipe off knife on edge of tray.

  10. Let dry 24 hours
  11. Scrape off high spots with drywall knife, or sand using sanding sponge
  12. Apply a second layer of mud, using a «wider knife»
  13. Again, let dry and sand — if necessary apply another coat of compound in the same manner — using yet a wider knife.
  14. Prime and paint.

We also primed and painted the existing walls — because we were painting such a bold color, we had the primer tinted — we then applied two coats of our finish paint.

Projects of the Week #413d

Install Suspended Ceiling

The most popular way to finish the ceiling of a basement is to install a suspended ceiling (drop ceiling) — The one reason, it’s the easiest, and you can still access electrical, plumbing, heating/cooling duct work, etc.

On this week’s show, we touched on the major steps of installing a suspended ceiling. When we were shopping for the tiles, there was plenty point-of-purchase literature that was very helpful in the planning of our basement ceiling. It helped figure how many tiles, grids, lag screws, etc. would be needed for our project and included a graph to help with our layout.

What You Need:

  • Drill / driver
  • Bits + special bit for eyebolt (lagbolt)
  • Tape measure
  • Pliers (may be needed to help twist wire)
  • Tin snips
  • Utility knife
  • Straight edge
  • Level
  • Safety glasses
  • Drywall screws
  • Chalk line
  • Lag screws
  • Reveal edge cutter
  • Pencil
  • Ladder
  • Stud finder
  • Ceiling tiles and grids


Here are the basic steps for installing a suspended ceiling. As always, we recommend following the directions from your particular manufacturer. However, this will give you the general idea of how it’s done:

  1. Planning the layout is the most important part… Very similar to laying out for a tile floor — draw the room to scale on graph paper… find the center of the room both ways and then adjust the centerlines so that there will be equal sized tile on each side of the ceiling.
  2. Snap a level chalk lines, or draw a level line around the perimeter of the room ѕ» above where you want the ceiling height to be.
  3. Install «wall angles / wall grids» on the level line. They hold ceiling tiles that rest against wall. Cut wall angle to length — can use tin snips or hacksaw (we used tin snips). For inside corner cut 90-degree angle — for outside corner cut at 45-degree angle. Install along chalk line using self-taping drywall screws into studs (used stud sensor to locate studs).
  4. Snap a chalk line across joists where grids are to be located. (first snap should be along the adjusted measurement across the length of the room) then measure over every two feet and snap chalk lines — this is where the main tees will be installed.
  5. Install lag screws (or screw eyes). Install at 2′ intervals with special lag bit that attaches to drill. Then, attach hanger wires (we used 18 gauge wire).
  6. Hang main tees to wire running across ceiling joists — pull each hanger wire through the round hanger hole in the tee — check level and bend hanger wire up and around, twisting the ends to secure. Twist wire tightly (3 Ѕ full turns). If the nearest hanger hole is not directly below the screw eye, adjust the hanger length accordingly.

TIP: The holes in the main tees that will hold cross tees must stay in alignment.

  • Trim the main tee at the wall so that the slot lines up with the first row of cross tees.
  • Insert ceiling panels — install corner first and then one row at a time. Install some ceiling panels, then cross tees as you go (it makes it much easier.
  • Install cross tees…. Push cross tee ends through main tee slot until you hear a click.
  • Cut ceiling tiles with utility knife and then «reveal» cutting tool for the style tiles we installed: Measure and mark on the tiles where they need to be cut to accommodate obstructions OR for tiles that will be installed along the walls if they will be less than full tiles. Place straight edge along marks and make a couple passes with utility knife and snap. Once the tiles are cut to fit, we needed to cut a «shadow,» or recessed area, which seemed a little intimidating initially. However, once we practiced a few times, it was a snap to get a perfect trim. There is a special tool that is designed to give the perfect reveal — it has a razor blade positioned in such a way that with two passes the exact amount is removed.
  • Projects of the Week #413e

    Install Floor / Carpet Squares

    When choosing flooring for a basement and method of installation — keep in mind basement floors are not only cold because they are in contact with the ground, they are often damp as well. This moisture can penetrate the carpet, forming mold & mildew, loosen adhesive on floor tile, or warp wooden flooring.

    We opted to install dimpled, gray plastic material that water cannot permeate. The dimples form air pockets under the flooring, which helps insulate and allows the concrete to «breathe» and dry. Any moisture in the air under the plastic will be vented toward the wall area and dries, not absorbed into floor coverings. You can install a laminate floor directly over. However, for carpet or vinyl tiles you will need to install 5/8″ underlayment. We are actually installing ѕ» tongue and groove plywood and then we will lay Berber carpet squares.

    What You Need:

    • Tongue & groove plywood
    • Knee pads
    • Carpet squares (self adhesive)
    • Dimpled heavy-duty grey plastic membrane
    • Marker
    • Utility shears or scissors
    • Packing tape & tape gun
    • Drill
    • Circular saw
    • Router
    • Safety glasses
    • Flat brackets
    • Awl
    • Level
    • Wood glue
    • Dust mask

    Directions for installing dimpled plastic material:

    • Roll out dimpled plastic material, measure and cut — can use utility knife or scissors. Product should be placed within about 3/8″ on all sides, along wall
    • Overlap sheets on smooth edges, interlock row of dimples (dimples go down toward floor). Dimples allow concrete to breathe, moisture moves towards side walls & dries out along the way. Plastic barrier will keep floor warmer (provides insulation) & drier
    • Tape seams together with packing tape and dispenser
    • Repeat — overlapping the previous piece and taping in place until the area is covered.

    Don’t work too far ahead! Two widths gives you enough space to begin installing the finished floor (or in our case the plywood sub-flooring)…

    Directions for installing plywood underlayment:

    • We installed the plywood as a «floating» sub-floor — meaning it was not anchored to the concrete floor.
    • Begin by laying full sheet of plywood in corner, again staying 3/8″ from wall — this allows for any expansion and contraction
    • Cut the next piece of plywood in half — you want to off-set the seams — lay a bead of glue on each side of the tongue — place cut side against the wall and gently push tongue into groove of previous piece
    • When joining flush ends of plywood (there was no tongue & groove on the ends), first apply wood glue on the end and put in position. Using a router with a ѕ» bit, cut a groove deep enough for a bracket to lay flush with the plywood, and span across both sheets, slightly longer than the brackets and secure brackets in place with screws.

    If the walls are not square — ours (and most) aren’t — you may need to cut small pieces of plywood and glue in place.

    When you reach the opposite wall, scribe for cut… Cut and install same as before… continue covering entire floor.

    NOW, you’re ready for the carpet squares…

    • Find center of room snap chalk lines (do dry run with carpet squares and adjust lines so that there are equal-sized tiles on each side)
    • Remove protective cover — press in place — first four tiles are installed in the four corners where chalk lines intersect
    • Work one quadrant at a time, building toward the corners
    • Cut tiles with utility scissors or utility knife
    • Install base molding and/or quarter-round (shoe molding)

    TIP: We used one color (grey) and alternated the weave to make a checkerboard-patterned floor. Carpet squares are available in different colors. In designing, use another color carpet square to create designs / borders, etc.

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