Framing your basement walls is the true first step in finishing a basement. Get ready, because this is when all of your time spent researching, planning, and designing your basement will finally pay off. You’re like Rocky running the steps, pumping your fists, training so hard for your one chance at glory. Well that time is NOW! Do me a favor and turn down ‘Eye of the Tiger’ so you don’t wake the family.
The first time I pulled out the measuring tape and started marking out studs was a great feeling, and I hope you’ll feel the same way. If not, go ahead and turn ‘Eye of the Tiger’ back up. Heck, wake the neighbors it’s time to get pumped!
Okay let’s back it up, I just needed to get you psyched. Before jumping in with the pneumatic nailer you’ll have to decide what framing method you’d like to go with. If you’re here to learn about framing floating walls for your basement, click here to jump to the bottom where I get specific about my floating walls, a requirement when finishing your basement in Colorado.
After reading this post you may have questions, do yourself a favor and join my free Framing Forum. Say that three times fast.
As for framing your basement walls, there are two main methods that I’ve come across in my research:
Frame Your Basement – Methods
- Build the wall on the floor and lift it into place
- Build the wall “in-place”
It might seem like the “lift into place” method is the easiest and most logical. This is what I thought at first, but after the research it seems the better method is the “in-place method. It’s better for a few reasons:
- With the “lift into place” method you’re stuck building the wall 1/4-1/2″ shorter than it should be to allow for clearance when lifting. This means you have to use shims to make up for this lost space.
- The “in-place” method doesn’t require shims, meaning you’re left with a more stable wall (I do have a method that doesn’t require extra clearance or shims, check out the “Build on Floor Method” below)
- If you’re framing a basement on your own, the “in-place” method is far easier than the “lift into place” method
That being said, I had to take a different approach as I was required to build floating walls in my basement. As a result I had no choice and built my floating walls on the floor and lifted them in to place. If you’re not required to frame floating walls, I would recommend the “in-place” method as it will save you time overall. ESPECIALLY if you’re doing most of the work yourself, you’ll save a few headaches.
Frame Your Basement – Getting Started
Just get in there. Measure out that first wall and just go for it. It took me at least a few weeks before I mustered up the courage to get started, but there was no need for a delay.
I chose to build my first wall in a simple spot with no windows, no soffits, and the shortest length wall in my basement. I recommend doing the same, just to make it easy on yourself and build your confidence when it comes to some of the trickier wall placements.
For your first wall, do yourself a favor and run to Lowe’s/Home Depot/Your Local Lumber Yard and get just enough lumber for your first wall. If you’re like me and are planning on finishing your basement over weeknights and weekends, you don’t want excess lumber laying around for a long time. See below for my biggest challenge (or doh! moment) with framing.
Once you’ve finished off the first wall measure out your basement and place an order for the lumber to be delivered to your house. A heck of a lot easier than making constant runs to pick it up yourself and you’ll save yourself a ton of time. I’m not sure I saved a lot of money doing it this way, but I did save a lot of time, and to me saving my personal time is a lot like saving money.
Pressure-Treated Bottom Plate
I’m pretty sure this is required most everywhere, but not positive, so don’t quote me on this one. However, I needed a pressure treated bottom plate (2X4 board) for all of my basement walls, and if code in your area requires the same than you’re going to want some things:
1) Pressure-treated plate (duh!)
2) Concrete nail gun and powder loads
3) Nails for the nail gun (duh!)
4) Construction-strength adhesive
Noticed I said you’re going to WANT these things. You’ll need the pressure-treated plate and probably construction-strength adhesive, but you can get away without the concrete nail gun, it will just require a lot of time and effort on your end. I purchased a Ramset .22 Powder Actuated gun for about $90 from Home Depot and I can honestly say it was one of my favorite purchases of my entire basement finishing project.
The only downside to the cheaper gun I purchased was that it couldn’t handle a powerful load, meaning I had to purchase two different strengths of powder loads. In my research on this gun a lot of people said they had to take two shots to fully seat each nail in the pressure treated plate, one 4-power and one 3-power load. I found the exact same to be true, and ended up shooting each nail twice, starting with the yellow “4 Power” load and then finishing it off with the green “3 Power” load.
Something I would highly recommend is purchasing construction-strength adhesive and running thick beads underneath this pressure-treated plate before shooting your nails in. I found that if I didn’t use the adhesive, the board would sometimes wiggle and not be completely secure after nailing. This seemed to be the result of the concrete breaking and cracking instead of allowing the nail to go in cleanly. Fix that problem with A LOT of construction adhesive. I recommend the Loctite Construction Adhesive from Home Depot. Pay an extra buck for the premium stuff, because IT’S WORTH IT!!
Measure, Cut, and Mark Studs
Alright your pressure treated plate is down. Congratulations, time for a beer and a 10-minute break. 10-minute break complete, let’s tackle this wall.
You should have your length from the length of your pressure treated plate so cut two more plates the same length, a top and bottom plate for your first wall. At this point you’re ready to mark out the wall for your studs, 16″ on center. If you want to try and get away with 24″ on center you can, and if you’re not worried about any loss in the sturdiness of your wall you’ll save a few bucks on lumber doing it. I chose to go 16″ on center with all my walls, a few exceptions being some shorter walls surrounding my mechanical room.
Start by clamping your top and bottom plate together, I used two of my trusty Irwin Quick Grip clamps on each end. At this point you’re ready to mark out where your studs will be nailed. Here are the most common mistakes made when doing this:
- Not adjusting 3/4 of an inch for your first layout mark.
- Not following a continuous 16 inch (or 24 inch) layout.
- Not using framing square for layout.
- Not using straight plates.
- Placing studs on the wrong side of the layout mark.
At the beginning, measure 3/4″ in from inch the edge of the plates and make a mark. At this mark, I used a finishing nail and hammered it in to the side of one of the plates. I then hooked my tape measure on this nail, ran the tape measure down to the end of the plates, and then made marks every 16″ from the nail. It’s important to note that this mark that you make every 16″ DOES NOT represent the center of your studs, it represents the outside edge. I would remember this by placing an X on the inside of the mark, or on the side that I hammered the finishing nail. This X will represent which side of the mark your stud will be nailed. When you’ve made all your marks, use a square of some kind to go down your plates and make a line down both plates at each mark, remembering to put your X on both plates as well.
At this point the next step depends on what framing method you’re using to build your wall. If you’re here to read about floating walls, scroll down and check out the “Floating Walls Method.”
Building Wall In-Place Method
Time to get your top and bottom plates in place. Your pressure treated plate will act as your point of reference for translating a straight line up to your ceiling joists for nailing in your top plate. I used a State-of-the-Art Level you can see in the image above in order to do this. Basically you choose one of your straightest studs, cut it exactly to the height of your basement ceiling joists, and tape a larger level on one of the sides.
Now take the level you created and butt it up against the pressure treated plate. Climb a ladder and once the level is straight up and down, mark a line on your ceiling joist using your board as your guide. Do this a couple times along the length of the wall and you’re ready to nail your top plate in!
Nail your bottom plate to the pressure treated plate and you are ready to measure and cut your studs. Then nail them in lined up with the X’s you marked out earlier and you’ve got yourself a wall!
Build on Floor and Lift In-Place Method
Before measuring your studs and cutting, I recommend going along the entire wall and measuring from the pressure treated plate up to the ceiling joists. Do this in a few areas and take your smallest measurement, subtract 3″ for your top and bottom plate, then cut all of your studs to this length.
Layout your wall on the floor, line up your studs with the X’s you marked out earlier and nail your studs in from the top and bottom of your plates. When you’re done, lift up your wall and then set it up on your pressure-treated plate. By doing it this way you are avoiding having to place shims in between your top plate and the ceiling joists.
Floating Walls Method
I have a forum just for you, it’s free and it’s for people like you who are interested and have questions about framing floating walls. JOIN MY FLOATING FRAMING WALLS FORUM.
The grand-daddy of them all, floating basement walls. Because of expansive soil in Colorado, commonly called Bentonite, we are forced by code to build floating walls. Here’s a good explanation of why the soil expands. The height or “gap” between your pressure-treated plate and your floating wall can vary by area, but in my area a 1 1/2″ “float” was required.
I have friends and colleagues who finished their basements and had to repair slight heaving in their basement slab because of the soil expanding. From our inspector I heard a story of landscaping done incorrectly and as a result the water drained under the house. This caused the soil to expand and ended up cracking a granite countertop in the kitchen and breaking pipes because it lifted the foundation that much. Thankfully the area I live wasn’t subject to much expanding, but I know areas that are terrible and builders have gone bankrupt because the soil in some areas expanded so much and they had to spend millions of dollars redoing foundations the correct way.
Exciting stuff huh?!? If you’re here because you live in Colorado and are looking for advice on floating walls, you’ve come to the right place. I was pretty upset when I learned I would have to build my basement walls this way, I had major concerns about strength and rigidity, but in hindsight it really wasn’t that bad and ended up being kind of fun towards the end when I had the process down. The walls ended up extremely solid and practically immovable when done the right way.
You’re probably looking at my picture and wondering what’s going on there. I chose to use an extra plate on top of my pressure treated plate so that I could accommodate a standard 96″ sized stud without having to cut my studs. I consulted with my inspector first, but he said as long as the float gap wasn’t larger than 3″ that would be fine. Even though it cost me a bit of money to add an extra plate, I figured the time I would save by not having to measure and cut every wall stud would be well worth it in the end, and it was!! If you’re building floating walls I would highly recommend this method.
How To Build A Floating Wall
I’m assuming you’ve already completed two things:
- Pressure treated plate is nailed and glued down
- You’ve snapped a chalk line or marked lines up to your ceiling joists for your top plate
Time to start building your floating wall on the floor. Remember when you measure from your pressure treated plate to the ceiling joists, you’ll have to subtract 3″ for the top and bottom plate of your wall, along with minimum 1 1/2″ for your floating gap. So that makes a minimum of 4 1/2″ total you’ll have to subtract from this measurement to get the proper height of the studs for your floating wall.
If your ceiling is high enough, I highly recommend using my method of nailing an extra plate to either the top of your pressure treated plate or even one up on your ceiling joists to get your floating gap to 3″ or less with a standard sized stud in order to avoid having to measure and cut any of your studs.
Either way you’ll want to cut your studs to the proper height, mark out your 16″ on center on the top and bottom plates, then nail your studs in. At this point here is what I did to be sure the floating wall was flush with the pressure treated plate while still remaining strong and rigid:
- Lift your wall and rest it on the pressure treated plate
- Use clamps or have someone help hold the wall up while you drill holes every 24″
- Drill your holes straight down the bottom plate into the pressure treated plate
- Lift your wall and nail to your ceiling joists
- Grab your steel spikes and hammer them in through the holes you pre-drilled
– These need to be touching so you can hold a square up against your pressure treated plate and bottom plate of your wall
– Use the square to ensure your bottom plate is flush with the pressure treated plate while drilling
– I accomplished this by myself by nailing another extra plate to my ceiling joists then using clamps to hold the wall up as I nailed it in
I chose a drill bit size that was exactly as wide as my steel spikes. I wouldn’t recommend using a much bigger drill bit because then your wall can wobble a bit. I actually had to hammer hard to get them in and when I was done the wall was as solid as could be.
So there it is! Floating basement walls can seem daunting at first but by using this method you’ll always ensure a floating wall that is flush, solid, and ready for the kids to abuse.
Warped Lumber – My Biggest Challenge
When I ordered lumber I was ecstatic. I had finished my first couple walls and I was ready to frame out everything else. I measured, calculated, and ordered everything I needed. Delivery, great. Quality, great. Moving lumber to basement, not great but fine. Leaving lumber in piles unused for weeks, NOT GREAT!
When the lumber came delivered it was packaged up nicely and held tightly by straps. Undoing those straps and transporting them to your basement means they are now subject to the climate changes in your basement. In a couple weeks when I was finally ready to start using this lumber, it was warped to the point they were completely unusable. Frantically I called the lumber company and they would not issue a refund because it had been a few weeks. NOT COOL!
A lot of money was wasted on that lumber, and although I may have firewood for the next three years I’m not down with that experience. In conclusion, don’t order your lumber and transport it to your basement untied or laying in piles with the idea that you’ll use it in a few weeks. When you order it, get your framing done ASAP, and if you need to leave your lumber unattended for a long period of time do your best to stack it neatly in larger piles and even strap it together if you can.
Best of luck on framing your basement walls and please feel free to comment on your framing experiences or questions below!
when is more info on framing coming?
Hey Jason, I’ll be updating the entire website here shortly as I just passed final inspection. Stay tuned and I’ll shoot you an e-mail when I’ve updated the framing page!
Interested too please.
Awesome site!!!! Congrats on inspection…any updates on the framing yet?
Hey everyone. I’ll be updating the entire website next week, July 21st. Look for a lot more information including finished pictures and updated information. Thanks for your interest and stay tuned!
My walls and floor are anything but square and I don’t see anywhere that you’ve addressed that issue. I get the whole 3-4-5 method and I’ve got three intersecting 90 degree lines (picture large c shape but with right angles) and using a laser level I see that one leg if continued down the 47 foot wall moves from 6 inches from wall to 18 inches at other end. I’ve adjusted and adjusted and adjusted and can’t get the long runs to cooperate. House is built in 2007, Colorado so floating walls are required. Just going nuts here and I haven’t even started.
Great question. This would be my approach, and it became my motto after spending just under a year in my basement trying to solve similar problems, “Close is close enough.” 🙂
When all is said and done, I believe that a wall that is slightly off will not make any difference to your finished product. If you’ve done the best you can to get your corners at 90 degree angles, stick with your closest measurements and move on to the next phase. Unless you’ve got a bed or a huge piece of furniture sitting in the corner, no one will know the difference if you’re off by a few degrees. I have a few corners in my basement that are not exactly 90 degrees and you’d never be able to tell.
One of the drawbacks of finishing your own basement is that you will know every single spot where you feel like you messed up or made a mistake. In reality, when others look at those mistakes will they even see them?
As long as you’re as close as you can get, focus more on being sure your completed walls are perfectly plumb straight up and down, because that’s something you have complete control over. Good luck Jim and let me know if you have any other questions!
is the pressure treated sill plate required on structural slabs ( not slab on grade)
Not entirely sure I know the answer. My understanding of the pressure treated plate is very simple. In the case of standing water in the basement, the pressure treated plate won’t allow water to seep in and rot the wood. In your case, is there any chance for standing water or for it to get wet? If so, I would recommend the pressure pleated plate, but you’ll want to confirm this with an inspector.
By the way your posts are fantastic, especially about the floating walls. So do you have 9ft ceilings then? (if so I’m hoping to mimic the same thing and use 96inch studs with no need to cut) any updates on the piping sections? (i’m currently in debating whether to do the piping on my own or not..)
Thanks for the shout out. Yes we do have 9 ft ceilings so that’s awesome you’re going to try this out. I definitely would recommend it. Saved me a lot of time and measuring.
As for the piping sections, are you referring to the HVAC? Let me know if that’s what you’re talking about and I’ll fill you in on what I did.
Great! I was super worried that I’d have to cut a bunch of 10ft 2x4s. For piping i was referring to the PEX piping and installation. For instance what kind of PEX piping did you have and how was manipulating it? (the one that requires the metal clasp, the plastic expanders, etc.?). And also in regards to Pipe venting, did you have a vent pipe already running in the right location? or did you install one, or just use a wet vent? (or a coworker mentioned there’s you can use a cheater vent to cap it).
Lastly, though this is highly subjective if you were to do it again would you have paid someone, or was it doable enought to offset the price differential of hiring a contracter? (I’m an engineer and relatively handy on the carpentry and eletrical side of things, but have never dealt with pex pipes and have only dealt with repairing pvc and some copper pipes and not sure how much i trust myself to do the piping, but would also like to learn). A detailed writeup like you did on your framing would definitely quash any fears, but I definitely understand the amount of time and effort it takes for each of these writeup.
Any thoughts you have would be great!
Ah gotcha, yes the PEX. I will get you a detailed walk-through of my experience with PEX. I’ll try and post this on the bathroom page shortly.
All in all I was very happy with it. I used 1/2″ PEX piping from Home Depot. In conjunction with the PEX I used SharkBite fittings which I would highly recommend, saves a bunch of time and you avoid soldering if you have to tap into your existing copper pipes. For a couple joints I had to use the metal clasp method which required a special tool for crimping the rings. The connections which required this method were the shower valve and the shower head. Very easy to use as well. I had no experience whatsoever with PEX piping and everything went fine, I wouldn’t be too worried if I were you.
For the vent everything was already in place and vented properly, so I didn’t have to do any work in that department.
In regards to your last question I’ve got a few feelings. Without a doubt I would tackle a basement finishing project again. The cost savings were well worth it, probably in the range of $20,000 – $35,000 was saved. I spent around 9 months on the project, spending most nights and weekends down there. Here are the reasons I would do it again:
1) It was incredibly rewarding
– I still get excited thinking about the fact I finished the space all by myself.
2) The cost savings
– Totally worth it, and it allows you to maybe buy a few things for your basement you wouldn’t have considered before. For me those cost savings helped me justify the money I spent building a home theater.
3) I learned a lot
– When I’m confronted with other projects around the house I’m so much more confident in my ability to complete it and complete it properly.
It’s a tough question to answer, but in the end I would do it again. Thanks Michael and once I get that PEX walkthrough published I’ll let you know. Let me know if you have any other questions!
A quick heads up that I started in on the Finishing a Basement Bathroom page and I’ve included some information of PEX plumbing: https://www.howtofinishmybasement.com/finish-a-basement-bathroom/
Check it out and post any questions on that page if you’ve got them, thanks!
I’m a little confused on your build and lift technique. How does using the shortest measurement prevent the need for shimming? Seems like it would be the longest.
This method is a little different because instead of using the pressure treated plate as the bottom plate of your wall, I’m recommending shooting the pressure treated plate into the ground first. Then when you build your wall on the floor you can lift it up and have enough clearance because you’re saving 1 1/2″ from the pressure treated plate already being in place. Then you simply lift it up on the the pressure treated plate and it should fit snugly.
If you use this method you must use the shortest measurement from your pressure treated plate to the ceiling joist. If you use your longest measurement your wall will not fit in those areas with smaller measurements.
Does that make sense? You may be correct in that if your measurements from your pressure treated plate to the ceiling joist vary by a lot, you may still need a shim in some areas.
I did not use this method because I was required to build the floating walls. In my head I envision this method working. I’d hate for you to be the guinea pig but if you try it let me know if it works 🙂
Let me know if you have any other questions, thanks CJ and good luck!
That helps. Thanks so much. I think I will give it a try.
Best of luck and let me know how it goes!
Tony, your detailed “walkthrough” has been very helpful in planning out how to finish my basement, so thank you very much. Do you have any plans to put a detail of how you framed your doors? I’ve seen a few pictures online of leaving a gap around the sides and on top, with pieces of rigid foam on the sides. Is this the method you used? Also, any idea on how to put a pocket door into a floating wall. It would be great for the powder room but I can’t seem to wrap my head around how to put one in. Thank!
Awesome, I’m very glad to hear it! Yes I can definitely get you some instructions on door hanging, stay tuned and I’ll update you with some instructions. I did leave a gap around the sides and top but did not use rigid foam, instead I used shims and nailed through the door frame and shims into the framing.
As for the pocket wall in a floating wall, I might suggest trying to put your float at the top of the wall instead of the bottom. It probably wouldn’t make sense to do this in your entire basement, but this might be a solution just for that specific area. You would have to figure out how you’d disguise the float at the top of the wall. Perhaps you could butt right up against the ceiling with your drywall, caulk it, and paint over it?
Just a suggestion, but this may help you out. Let me know what you decide to do and I’ll be in touch with a door hanging walkthrough!
Thanks Tony will look forward to the details. I think we decided to go with a smaller sink vanity so we can use a normal door, just to keep it simple.
Cool site — lots of great info and I love the detailed pictures and the media room! I see you built a small “base” cabinet set-up, which I’m doing also for our basement, but want to add upper cabinets. Any ideas on how much those floating 2×4 stud walls will hold? Seems a little scary to have an extra ~350 lbs (3 24″ wide cabinets + contents) hanging from a suspended wall. Luckily, I’m spanning about 5 joists.
Thanks! Yes I love the cabinet media bay, it’s really nice to have everything together in one place.
So I would have no reservations about mounting cabinets on a floating wall. Remember the wall is still anchored to the ceiling joists, so you’re not losing any strength when you build a floating wall. The only thing you’re losing might be a little rigidity, but once you’ve got the drywall up there’s honestly no give to them.
As long as you know where you’re going to mount them, I’d put in a few 2×4’s on edge as blocking to provide more flexibility when mounting the cabinets. Other than that you’re good to go! Good luck and let me know if you have any other questions!
Great resource here! I too live in Colorado and I am about to start framing on my project. Curious what you did for fire blocking?
Good question. I had blanket insulation already installed in my basement and thankfully in most cases the framing compressed the blanket insulation just enough that there was no space between the wall and insulation to require fire blocking. In those cases where there was enough of a gap, I just threw up some 2X4’s cut to size. The inspector didn’t seem overly concerned about fire blocking and the insulation helped in my case.
Let me know if you have any other questions, thanks Cory!
Do you frame against the blocks or should there be an airspace between the block and frame? I was told to do this to prevent condensation problems. Can you help me?
Thanks for the question! So here’s a decent link to show fire blocking: Fire Blocking Image
I really haven’t seen any cases where they have airspace between the block and the frame. The goal of fire blocking is to block any air flow and make it more difficult for the fire to travel upwards. If you had any airspace I would think that would defeat the purpose.
I may not be understanding correctly, so please feel free to clarify if I’m not.
I’ve searched and can’t find any info about attaching a floating wall to a parallel engineered I-joist, or any type of joist for that matter. This will be an interior wall. One side of the wall will have tongue and groove pine and the other side drywall. This seems like a lot of stress on a single joist. This joist spans about 15 feet. Do you know if this is ok or should another method be used to anchor it to the ceiling? Thanks.
Thanks for the question. Yeah so this is a tricky one. I did a little searching as well and here’s a forum I found that talks about attaching a floating wall to an I-Beam: Hanging Wall From I-Beam
As for how much weight the joist can support, I would imagine you’d be fine supporting this wall, but I don’t know for sure. All of the ceiling joists I attached to I just nailed the wall straight to the joists.
Let me know if this forum helps you out or not, and if it doesn’t let me know and I’ll try to do a little more research!
Thanks Mike and good luck!
Great site and thanks for sharing your experience with the project! I noticed your basement walls were preconfigured with the same white insulation ‘blanket’ as mine (in Castle Rock). Did you place the pressure treated base piece back from the wall at all to accommodate for the insulation? I was thinking about a 1″ allowance?
Sorry I missed your comment, my spam filtering isn’t working like it should be. You may have already finished, but to answer your question you’re exactly right, I would give it an inch or two. When you’ve got the blanket insulation you don’t want your wall to compress the insulation to much or it will become ineffective. So give it enough space that the wall with rest against the blanket insulation or slightly compress it once you hang it up.
Hopefully that helps and please get back to me with any other questions you come up with during your basement finish!
Its a nice post and very useful for beginners like me. I have a question on how tight the studs to be fit between top and bottom plate in case of wall built in place? Should the studs be snug/tight fit or it should be around 1/8th inch shorter than the height of top/bottom plate to allow for expansion? I did build a wall that is very tight fit and noticing some warp in wood after the framing. So think I am doing something wrong here and wanted to correct this before other walls are framed.
Thanks for the question. So I would recommend a snug fit with your studs. Not so tight that you have to hammer each of them in, but a snug fit is ideal. A slight gap will be fine if that’s what you end up with.
As far as warping goes, if it’s a slight warp I wouldn’t even worry about it. Slight twisting will make no difference at all. I was so concerned during the framing stage with everything being absolutely perfect, but remember it’s all going to be covered up by the drywall anyways! Do the best you can and keep your stud distances consistent and you’ll be fine.
Best of luck and let me know if you have any other questions!
With the floating wall, how much gap did you leave between the floor and the bottom of your drywall? And did you trim out the bottom? Thanks.
Thanks for the question. Yes so there was a very small gap, I would say 1/4″ – 1/2″ gap when the drywallers were finished. And you’re exactly right, I used baseboard trim to cover the gap.
Let me know if you have any other questions!
Thinking about taking the same leap as you and finish my basement. Your site is very helpful, so thank you. One of possibly many questions I have is, when you build the wall in place, how do you nail the studs in? Do you just toenail it in place? Also did you hammer everything by hand or did you use a framing nailer?
Thanks for all of your help!
Sorry I missed your comment here. Yes so when you’re building in place you will toenail the studs in. It’s possible to get this all done by manual hammering, but I would highly recommend a framing nailer. You will save yourself TONS of time and energy in the long run!
Ask away with any other questions you’ve got and best of luck with your basement finish!
Another tricky one for you. My basement ceiling is 9′ in one area, 12′ in another.
The concrete has a staggered build, becoming thinner as you move up. I’m not looking to completely refinish the basement, only have hard walls and run electric. I’m considering building to 8′ throughout the basement. It will not touch the overhead i-beans therefore has not affect on the rest of the house. First, can I do this? I’ve not found code that says yes or no. Second, without affecting the main frame of the house, do I still need floating walls? I would have 1 foot+ expansion space across the basement.
Thanks for the question. So a quick question. When you build the walls, because you’re not anchoring to the ceiling joists or I-beams, how are you planning on anchoring the top of your walls? Are you going to shoot them into the concrete walls?
Let me know and I’ll see if I can’t answer your questions, thanks!
Basically I flipped the floated wall. Rather than the expansion space at the bottom, I have it at the top. I screwed 2X4’s across the ceiling joists plumb with my wall then ran 10″ nails through my top plate into the 2X4. I have 10″ nails set roughly 24″ apart and it’s made the walls very sturdy. So, if the floor were to raise, it would have to raise the wall about 7 inches before reaching the joists. Why? I didn’t like the concept of attaching that much hanging weight to the ceiling joists, especially along a wall where all the weight was along one joist. As I said, I couldn’t find anything in code that said I couldn’t do it this way, and I believe it meets the intent of the floated wall concept.
That’s awesome. I’ve ready plenty of forums where folks put the float at the top of the wall instead of the traditional bottom float. You should be good to go and this will meet code!
Nicely done and let me know if you run into any other questions during your basement finish!
I plan on putting a floating wall in the basement for mounting a TV. It will only be 6′ wide. I then plan on installing a stone veneer on the wall. What do I have to do to still allow for the shifting floor to move without damaging the stone? Will I need a gap at the bottom of the stone to allow for the floor movement?
Yeah good question. So you would have to get creative here, but would the stone veneer run from floor to ceiling?
I live in Colorado in a home that has a remodeled basement, but the contractor did not use the floating wall. Is there any way to convert a regularly framed basement to a floating framed wall short of ripping everything out and redoing it all?
Man this is a tough one. Are all of the walls finished (drywalled) or is it still in the framing stage?
Just curious – compared to “traditional” walls how much of a load (shelves, cabinets, pictures, etc) can be put on a floating wall. We had an interior wall added that helps to create a pantry space for my wife. Now we are curious as to how much weight that wall can support for her canning supplies and other pantry items.
This particular wall we are concerned about is running perpendicular to the joists. The joists are 16″ OC with metal crossing as the blocking.
Yeah good question. So with floating walls you lose absolutely no strength when it comes to “load”. If you think about it, your walls are still tied to the ceiling joists and that’s your support point. Anything that could potentially pull the wall away from the ceiling joists would be considered too heavy, but I don’t think you’ll ever run into that problem.
The only thing you may lose with a floating wall is a little rigidity at the bottom if things aren’t built tight, but even that won’t be a problem if you drywall everything correctly. So to answer your question when it comes to load you’ve got nothing to worry about.
Good luck and let me know if you’ve got any other questions!
When installing floor cabinets, do you attach them to the wall? I’m guessing you can’t, so how do you anchor the cabinets down? Or do they just sit freestanding on the basement floor?
Yeah that’s a good question. My approach might be to build the wall behind my cabinets separate from the other walls. You can put the float wherever you need it, so on the cabinet wall I might put the float one foot up instead of at the bottom. This way you have ample space to secure your cabinets to the wall at the bottom, then just run some caulk at the top.
Does that make sense? Let me know if you’ve got any questions and I can send over a diagram of what I mean.
Thanks Ryan and good luck!
To continue a previous question where the poster didn’t respond. Is there any way to convert a regularly framed basement wall to a floating framed wall? I just bought my first home in CO and the previous owner added two freestanding walls to the basement to create a small finished room. Each of the walls are finished on one side only and both sides are easily accessible. I’m hoping to float these walls without completely disassembling the finished portion of the basement. Is this possible? or should I tear it down and start from scratch Thanks,
Sorry for the slow response here, I’ve had a busy start to the year! Yes so I would think this would be pretty straightforward to do. The toughest part will be cutting through the studs without messing up the finish on the other side. I would actually put my float towards the middle of the wall where you wouldn’t have to deal with the nails in the studs at the top or bottom.
My plan would be to take a circular saw and cut a 4 1/2 inch gap in your studs. It won’t be perfect, but then nail a plate to the top and bottom of the gap, leaving you with 1 1/2 inch float. Then drill holes through the plates and hammer your stakes in. Let me know what you think and if you have any other questions! Might be a tricky project but with the right tools (i.e. proper saw to cut through the studs), it should be pretty straightforward.
Thanks Jon and best of luck!
When you have blanket insulation and have to frame 3 to 4″ away from the basement wall how do you extend the frame to match up with the windows?
Thanks for the question. So this space will actually be filled by the drywall and doesn’t need to extended in any way.
Here are probably the best before and after pictures of my same situation:
#1 – https://www.howtofinishmybasement.com/basement-bedroom-before-and-after-pictures/#jp-carousel-339
#2 – https://www.howtofinishmybasement.com/basement-bedroom-before-and-after-pictures/#jp-carousel-341
#1 – https://www.howtofinishmybasement.com/basement-bedroom-before-and-after-pictures/#jp-carousel-505
#2 – https://www.howtofinishmybasement.com/basement-bedroom-before-and-after-pictures/#jp-carousel-506
My advice for this situation would be to not build your wall too far away from the blanket insulation. I was told you can build right up against it, slightly compressing it, but not too much as that will make the insulation ineffective.
That will only leave a couple inches the drywall needs to extend past your window frame, making it durable enough. I would also be sure to make your window frame big enough to accomodate the 1/2″ drywall that will be installed all the way around.
Let me know if you have any other questions and best of luck on your basement framing!
Thanks so much Tony! One question about the 96″ stud for a 9′ basement ceiling here in Colorado. I’m doing the floating all approach with the double layer baseplate. When I do the math it comes up 3″ too short. I get 9″ when I add up two base plates (3″), air gap (3″), and 3″
combined for the top and bottom headers for the wall. What am I missing? I’d really like to use 8′ studs instead of cutting 10′ ones.
Thanks for the question! So I ran an extra plate at the top as well. I did this for two reasons:
1) I built and hung most of the walls myself, so I nailed a top plate up to the ceiling joists first and then and used this extra plate to hold and clamp my wall in place (lifted in the air) while I drilled and nailed in my stakes for the float
2) That helped make the gap even smaller so I could use the 96″ studs
I’m not sure if my basement may have been slightly smaller than yours, but it ended up working out perfectly for me. Are your ceilings exactly 9′ from slab to ceiling joist? If so, this might not be the best method as you’d be left with a 4.5″ float even if you added an extra plate at the top.
Let me know if that’s the case. Thanks Todd!
Thanks for the quick reply Tony. Mine seem to be exactly 9′, so I think I’m stuck with cutting 10′ studs.
Ah bummer. Yeah I didn’t think this method would work in all situations but at least you’ll be able to get precise 🙂 Look at the bright side right?
Best of luck on your basement framing and let me know if you have any other questions!
I read that the only walls that need to be floated are internal ones! That any wall up against the foundation doesn’t have to be floating!
Thanks for the comment! That’s interesting, where did you read that?
I’m in the middle of a basement remodel in Mesa County CO and after several years of work (started in 2011) I now see the requirement for “floating walls”. My initial reaction is #?*%!, how can any load bearing wall be built that way? Our house was built in 1965 and the upper floor joists are supported the entire length of the house by a load-bearing wall set on the concrete slab in the basement. This slab has a few cracks, but there is no evidence of any heaving after 52 years.
Haha, reading your comments gives me flashbacks to building my floating walls. I had the exact same reaction you’re having 🙂 I was initially really put off and annoyed that I had to take this additional step, but it really turned out to be much more simple than I thought.
My home was built in 2006 and we have some load bearing walls in the basement but those are supported by steel columns and beams instead of walls set on the slab. I would assume if your home was built in 1965 and you’ve had 52 years of no heaving, that the load bearing wall should be “grandfathered” in somehow and allow you to finish the basement without needing to rebuild that wall. Have you started the process already?
Where did get the insulation from? and it appears you tossed it on the walls and then plopped the frame on top of that. and this met the requirements? I am lucky and only have one exterior wall to cover. hehe
Also, was it building code to put a 2×4 over the treated base plate? or was that your personal touch?
Thanks for the page. I am also finishing a basement in colorado. So this page is perfect.
The insulation in our basement was actually pre-installed when we bought the house. It’s called “blanket” insulation and yes all I had to do was build my walls up against it. I lost a few inches but didn’t have to buy exterior insulation which saved some money. For your one exterior wall you can easily buy just standard or foam insulation and fill your studs with it after you’ve built your wall!
As for the 2×4 over the treated plate, no that was something I did to save myself time. It helped reduce the “float” or the gap in my floating wall so that I could buy pre-cut studs to the correct length and use them instead of having to measure and cut all of my studs to the correct length.
So glad you’re finding it useful! Always comment here with any other questions or issues. Good luck on your basement finish project!
First I want to thank you for putting together this website and forum. It is really informative. I live in Aurora, Colorado and after reading your websites and a few others, now I am thinking on taking this challenge too. I just wanted to know if that double plate on top and bottom didn’t give you any trouble during inspections and if that is the case then I want to do it as well as the height of my basement is only 107 inches which will leave about 3″ float space.
Great question. Yes the double plate gave me no problems at all with inspection. I ran it by the inspector beforehand just to be sure, but they had no problems with it at all. They did think it was a little different, but when I explained why I did it then it made sense to them. Saves a lot of time and energy for sure!! Let me know if you have any other questions as you go through your basement finish project and best of luck!
Thanks for all the info. into refinishing the basement in Colorado. Here’s my question: I understand the purpose of the walls floating as a concrete floor moves but what approach do I take if I’m installing a walk in shower (not a pre-fab) with tile from floor to ceiling? Will the tiles move with the wall or should I consider a specific method to ensure there is no cracking in the shower tiles?
Thanks for your question! This has been a tough one to answer over the years, but this is what I’ve come to understand. If you’ve got any evidence of heaving in your basement prior to finishing, a floor-to-ceiling tile may be more risky for your situation. Simply because if you do see any heaving you just can’t avoid cracking, there’s just nowhere for tile to move 🙂
I went with the floor-to-ceiling tile because we had no evidence of heaving over the course of about 7 years. The inspector told me it was very unlikely we would have any heaving unless something abnormal happened like the drainage for our home was compromised.
At the end of the day I always come back to this, you will always have damage in your basement whenever there is heaving. Whether that be damage to drywall, tile, a pre-fab shower or something else, it won’t be unavoidable. It would just be an unlucky situation and you’d have to repair something. My two cents is that if you like the look of floor-to-ceiling tile and you haven’t had any evidence of heaving, you more than likely to be safe and I’d go for it!
Hopefully this helps answer your question and let me know if you have any others. Good luck with your basement finish project!
Thank you for your informative website. It is well written.
I live in Centennial Colorado. I know I need to build floating walls on all my interior walls, but do I need to build floating walls along the outside foundation walls also?
Where can I find building codes for finishing basements in the area I live?
Hello Art! Best of luck in your basement finish project! Appreciate the kind words and glad you’re using the website. Yes you do need to build floating walls along the outside foundation walls as well. The best place to go for building permits in your area is your city building department. It should be a simple Google search in your case to call them up and get a permit. Let me know how things go and if you have any other questions!
I live in Denver. Do all walls in the basement need to be floating, or just interior walls? Thanks
Hey Jeff! Yes all walls would need to be floating, good question.
I noticed that my house in Windsor, Co has a wall in the basement that was constructed sometime in the past and was not floated. It is 2 by 4 ” wood stud construction. House rests a poured foundation with two “I” beams with 5 each 3″ support posts that rest on poured cement foundation piers.
The interface between the floor and the foundation piers has formed a tiny shrinkage crack even though the house was constructed about 30 years ago. There is no offset between the floor slab and the foundation piers for the support columns. The entire main floor has no cracks in the drywall or at seams. The floor has not moved in 30 + years in other words. Yet, I know this is a deviation of code in Colorado. I think I could use some lag screws and pocket screw the studs carefully to the top 2×4. I would use structural screws and pocket screw the studs to the top late as added strengthening to prevent sagging of the wall. Since it was a hanging wall that was not constructed supported from above. I would add structural lag screws to insure the connection of the top plate of the wall is held firmly by the floor joists. Then my plan would be to saw through the studs at the appropriate distance from the floor. Next I would put a new bottom support stud in place and connect the studs to it. Last I would remove the old floor plate, which was untreated wood, install a treated plate and do the usual large nails a pegs to hold the bottom of the wall firmly in place. I would attempt all of this on an existing finished wall and if careful enough I might be able to end up not running a drywall crack. Considering the stability of the floor, is this a crazy thing to do? What would an inspector likely recommend? Obviously I don’t want to start tearing walls out of a nicely finished basement if I can avoid it.
Hey Jerry! Man tough questions. Honestly I feel like if you haven’t had problems in a 30+ year old basement you shouldn’t have to worry about it! The best step would be to call your local city building division and they can give you a straight answer. Because it’s an older home, you might have no problems.
I am so glad to have found your site. The information has been extremely helpful. Unfortunately, we did not know this info before hiring a carpenter to put up a wall. And shame on us for not doing more homework on him. We thought he knew what he was doing and now he ended up putting up a non floating wall in our new Centennial CO home basement, and its drywalled 🙁 As we are not at all handy in and honestly wish we could do the work you recommended in your previous posts, We now have to find some one to do what you recommended. I figured it wouldn’t hurt to ask, but do you happen to know anyone local who could fix our problem. Thank you
Hi Tony – I have tried signing up for a few topics but I am not getting the registration email. I have checked my spam folder. Sorry for the wrong area to post in.
I have tried to register for the more info on floating walls but I have not gotten an email to finish registering? Is this site still being used?
I have a question on how do you frame a door if you have floating walls?
Hey Tony. Did you insulate your basement at all? If so, what insulation method did you use? Thank you
Hi Tony, How did you deal with wall which have door openings? If your floor floats from the bottom, then the door jamb needs to have a 3″ gap too. Otherwise, the jamb will transfer any pressures to the wall studs and essentially make the wall non floating.
I have seen some builders float the walls at the top instead of bottom for this exact purpose, but my building department wants a study from a structural engineer for any deviation. This typically runs $3,000 to $5,000. Too much to spend for a basement remodel.
The other option would be to leave a 3″ gap above the door and use some kind of slotted attachment from the jambs to the studs, but this seems like it would not offer enough strength and would require huge door casing.
Interesting & informative website, glad I found it. I have a 1978-built house in Aurora, CO with unfinished basement, just finished walls along basement stairs. These walls were floated but there is no longer any gap at end near bottom step (and maybe 1/2″ gap below top step), and drywall on one side of bottom step has buckled. There is also one damaged tape seam in upstairs stairwell, perhaps caused by walls below being heaved upward. My question is – is it okay to restore gap by cutting off bottom of wall studs (maybe 1-1/2″) and re-attaching bottom plate to it?