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Furring Basement Walls

When finishing basement walls, one option is to build regular stud walls, and fasten them to the concrete or masonry walls. A stud wall goes up quickly, gives you room to add plenty of insulation, and ensures that the new walls will be straight, even if the existing walls are not. The disadvantage is you lose some floor space because of the thickness of the walls.

If insulation is not a problem and your basement walls are fairly smooth and straight, you may want to save money in materials and preserve some square footage by building the walls with 1x2, 1x3, or 1x4 furring strips. The layout is the same as for stud walls. The seams between drywall or paneling sheets must fall on a furring strip, and there must be a nailing surface in all corners and at ends of the sheets. The construction method, however, is much different. Furring strips are shimmed where necessary, then fastened with glue and masonry nails or with a power hammer, which shoots nails with gunpowder charges (see the “Tools to Use” box, opposite).

1. Plan the furring layout. Begin the job by marking the locations of the vertical furring strips. One easy way to do this is to position a sheet of your wall material in the corner of the room, plumb it, and strike a chalk line down its outside edge. Using this line as a guide and 16 inches as the center-to-center measurement, mark the locations of the other vertical strips along that wall. Measure and cut each strip to fit between the floor and ceiling. Cut each piece 1/2 inch short, so that it will be fastened a bit above the floor as a safeguard against flooding and settling.

2. Apply adhesive. With a caulking gun, squeeze a wavy 1/4 inch bead of construction adhesive onto the furring strip. As you finish, turn the gun’s handle to ease pressure on the adhesive, discontinuing the flow. Push the strip against the wall in its correct location, pressing firmly to help spread the adhesive.

3. Set adhesive. Pull the strip off the wall and lean it against another wall to dry and let the adhesive begin to set up. After letting it set for the time specified by the manufacturer, press the strip back into place.

4. Plumb and shim as needed. Check the strip for plumb. If a dip or bulge is noticeable to the eye, tuck pairs of shims behind the strip and wedge it into line. Double-check your work as the job progresses by holding a straightedge horizontally across four or five vertical pieces. Correct any gaps or bulges.

5. Drive in fasteners. Hammer concrete nails through the strip and the shims and into the masonry wall. On a brick or block wall, it often is easiest to drive the nails into the mortar joints. Use a baby sledge if you have one. Driving nails into concrete walls is extremely difficult; consider a power hammer.

6. Install the horizontal pieces. After all the verticals are in place, aligned, and secured, begin work on the top and bottom horizontal pieces. Measure and cut them one at a time. Apply adhesive, shim if necessary, and install them as you did the verticals.

Power Hammer - Choose a power hammer that loads quickly. It usually makes sense to rent a better-quality power tool, rather than buying a cheap one. Experiment with several types of loads to find one powerful enough to drive in the nails completely, but not so powerful as to drive them through the furring strips. Note: Follow the manufacturer’s directions carefully. A power hammer is literally a firearm, and is dangerous if mishandled.

Quart-Size Caulking Gun - On large jobs, this tool will pay for itself because adhesive purchased in large tubes costs less per ounce. It also will save you time and create less mess because you’ll need to change tubes 2 1/2 times less often.

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