Basement Walls

Home improvement tips for basement walls.


The Basics

Foundation walls are usually made of poured concrete or stacked concrete blocks—not the most attractive surfaces. Fortunately, you can cover basement foundation walls quickly and inexpensively. Attach wood furring strips, Z-shape channels, or 2x4 studs to flat, dry masonry walls, then add insulation and cover the strips or studs with drywall. Such treatments give walls a smooth, even surface that accepts finish materials such as paint, wallpaper, or paneling. This type of wall system makes it easy to install electrical wiring, television cable, speaker wire, and telephone lines.

If basement walls are bowed or out-of-plum, build a stud wall in front of them to ensure a flat, plumb, finished wall surface. In this case, the stud wall is not attached to the masonry wall. Just like a partition wall, the top plate is attached to overhead joists and the bottom plate is nailed to the concrete slab.

Get free estimates from local foundation professionals.

To make your basement more energy-efficient, fill the spaces between the furring strips with rigid insulation. Or fill spaces between 2x4 studs with fiberglass batt insulation. In cold climates, you may want to include a vapor barrier during the insulation process. The vapor barrier, typically either separate plastic sheeting or treated paper attached to one side of the fiberglass batt, is designed to prevent warm air from condensing inside the cooler insulation. You should not install a vapor barrier in warmer climates because moisture moves both into and out of the house for significant portions of the year.

Partition Walls

Because partition walls don't have to support the weight of the house, they are easy to construct and install in virtually any basement location to create separate rooms. This versatility also makes them ideal for camouflaging posts and other obstructions that can't be moved.

Typical stud-wall construction is sufficient for partition walls, but don't stifle your creative instincts. Curved walls or walls made of glass blocks are simple ways to enhance a basement. Also, you can open a windowless room to other areas of the basement by adding a window to an interior partition wall.

Be sure to insulate partition stud walls that define noisy spaces, such as the laundry room or home theater, or private spaces, such as an office or bedroom, following the sound proofing guidelines on the next page.

Sound Proofing

Building materials are getting lighter, but that makes them more prone to transmitting noise rather than blocking it. To control sound, try these 5 strategies:

  1. For partition walls, apply a bead of silicone caulk to the front edge of 2x4 studs and top with a sheet of drywall. Secure the drywall to the stud using nails or screws. To this drywall sheet, apply additional beads of caulk that align with each stud. Apply a second sheet of drywall. This second sheet, along with the caulk, helps dampen sound.
  2. In lieu of two layers of drywall, install acoustical fiberglass batt insulation within interior walls and ceilings, especially around noise sources, such as laundry rooms, bathrooms, and media centers.
  3. Caulk floor, wall, and ceiling edges. Noise can escape through joints where walls meet the floor and ceiling.
  4. Other noise-reduction building products are also available, such as acoustical wall framing, floor mats, and acoustical caulk.
  5. Adding textiles to your room can help absorb sound. Carpeting, fabric on walls, and even upholstered furnishings diminish noise transmission.
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