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How-To Basements
Hometime Logo Dean Johnson
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Trans 1) Lower Level Planning Trans
2) Plumbing & Fixtures
3) Framing
4) Veneer Plaster Walls
5) Lighting
6) Finishing Details
7) Fun Extras

Lower Level Framing

The lower level area is often the least square and plumb; older basements are notoriously out of plumb/squareness. You may need to shim, scab, and/or plane board to get everything straight. We were fortunate that our lower level walls, joists, and slab were fairly level.


Hiding Beams, Pipes & Ducts In Soffits

We had a few walls and columns to frame in our lower level project, but most of those went in under new soffits so we decided to build the soffits first and cover all the beams, pipes and ducts right away.

Using the sketch provided by Dan Nepp, we first laid out the likely edges of the soffits with tape on the floor. That way we could double-check the symmetry before actually nailing any lumber in place.

That was after we had furred down the joists above with 2x2s to create a new ceiling height just below the bottom of a beam hanging down below the joists.

After final adjustments to the soffit layout, we plumbed up from the tape marks to the ceiling, marked the layout on the joists and secured 2x2 nailers to the bottoms of the joists to frame the top edges of the soffits.

We ripped 4x8 sheets of 5/8" OSB down to the height of our soffits and secured the top edges of those pieces to the 2x2 nailers on both sides of the beams, pipes and ducts we were trying to hide.

Next, we nailed 2x2s along the bottom edge of the OSB pieces to firm them up. We finished the soffits with 2x4 lookouts set flat and nailed in between the parallel 2x2s at the bottom of the OSB panels to form the soffit bottoms.



TIP: We wanted to keep the bottoms of the soffits as high as possible to save headroom, so we notched the 2x4 lookouts 3/4" to snug the framing up around the bottom of the beam we were hiding.

We did about 8 at a time: clamping them together, sawing a series of kerfs along the notched area 3/4" deep, hammering out the remaining "teeth" and chiseling out the waste. Notching allowed us to frame the bottom of the soffits 3/4" higher than we would have otherwise and it saved us 3/4" of headroom. Every little bit helps!



Building Basement Walls

As mentioned above, we did not have a lot of wall framing to do in this basement project since we wanted to maintain the openness downstairs.

In addition, the polystyrene forms used to create and insulate the foundation wall system come equipped with metal strips on the vertical surfaces which you can use to secure drywall or paneling. So we didn't have to "fur out" with 2x2's or 2x4's like you do on most concrete or block foundations to provide insulation spaces and nailing surfaces.

But we did raise several simple stud walls to frame an extension to our utility room and to extend the ends of the concrete block fireplace to make it more symmetrical in the layout.

NOTE: We used pressure-treated lumber on the bottoms of all the walls we built to prevent moisture rot, and we glued down the bottom plates with construction adhesive to avoid nailing or screwing down into the radiant floor tubing in the concrete slab.


Framing Walls Around Plumbing

adhesive on floor Once the ceiling framing was in, we moved on to framing the toilet cubicle in the new bathroom. But there were vertical vent pipes for the toilet and tub drains that had to be incorporated in the new walls.

When the plumber roughed them in, he followed a preliminary bathroom plan and located them behind the walls we were planning to frame in later on.

So as we laid the new walls out on the floor, we could actually use the vent pipe as a reference point and notched them both out to fit around the pipe. Line up the notches with the pipe and slide the framing into place.

The second wall ended up alongside the long wall right where we were going to put a short, perpendicular wall to frame the back of the cubicle.

We couldn't frame the usual corner there because of the pipe, so we ran the short wall from the foundation wall to the pipe, glued it to the floor and secured it to the ceiling framing and foundation wall.

Despite the gap, there was still enough framing to support the finished wall we'd be putting in later -- except right at the inside corner, where we had to add blocking in the long wall. notched frame for plumbing


Framing For A Low-Hanging Ceiling

new wall frame At this stage of the project we inserted a new header in a partition wall separating the bathroom from the activity/game room. That was to add a short bumpout for the new shower insert.

In the bathroom, there were low-hanging ducts and drain pipes running under the 1st floor joists, so we had to frame in a new ceiling below those.



nail gunFirst, we framed a soffit around the lowest pipes. Next, we secured a 2x4 nailer along the side of the soffit and a second nailer on the wall parallel to the soffit, making sure the bottoms of the two nailers were level.

Then we nailed 2x4s between the two nailers to frame the ceiling. But to save room, we nailed them in flat and as snug to the mechanicals as possible.


2x4 strongback NOTE: To make sure the 2x4s would be strong enough to support the finished ceiling, we also nailed a 2x4 strongback along the tops of those and securely braced the strongback to the 1st floor joists above the mechanicals.



Framing "False" Columns

sorting lumbar One way to hide the wood or steel posts often used in a basement to support the first floor is to frame a partition wall around them, but that wasn't an option for us since we wanted to limit the number of walls.

So we decided to hide each of our basement posts in a false column that we framed ourselves, using a style and pattern copied from the columns up on the home's main floor. Our thinking was to basically frame four short walls that together would create the column.

false columnThe framing was unique because the upstairs columns were recessed on each side. To duplicate those recesses, we notched out the center of the top and bottom plates for each side wall (a 4" by 4" square cut into our 2x6 stock) and framed the studs on two sides of those and used 4" 2x6 blocks down the back.


top view of columnWe raised the two longer parallel walls first, gluing them to the floor and nailing the tops into the soffit framing. Then we put in two shorter walls with the intention of covering the posts with a veneered finishing material.

Column Framing Detail

Here's an overhead view of the simplified plan we used to frame the columns. Feel free to print it out for reference.

You're looking at the column from above in this graphic, so the solid lines represent the top plates (bottom plates identical) each of which we notched out to create a 4" x 4" recess.

The dotted lines represent the 2x6 studs we used to fill out the column framing.

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