Epic Basement Renovation!




Introduction: Epic Basement Renovation!

A warning to the weak willed! A basement renovation can be trying to your patience, the patience of your co-dwellers, and that of your credit card! That said, it's also a whole lot of fun! After all, who wouldn't want to smash stuff with a giant hammer, fill a room with concrete dust, or paste huge sheets of styrofoam to the walls? Yeah, I couldn't think of anyone either.

This is a massive instructable, containing over 430 photos for your viewing pleasure. The different stages of the renovation will be separated by title pages, where you'll find a list of the tools you'll probably need, and materials you'll likely use. Feel free to use any or all of the different sections in your own renovation as required.

Now for the disclaimer: I am not a general contractor, nor do I have any construction training per se. However, I'm a very handy guy, I read a lot of books and how-to websites, and got plenty of help from my elders. The information presented in this instructable is as accurate as I could manage, and chances are nothing will go terribly wrong. If you're ever unsure of what you're doing, then stop, step back, and take a few minutes to think about it. Read instructions over again or find a second opinion.

Now, grab your sledge hammer and demolition saw, it's time to get started!


Planning and Permits
Foundation Inspection
Repairs and Waterproofing
Built-in shelving
Baseboards and Trim
Final Steps and Conclusion

Step 1: Planning

OK, put the sledge and saw back down, you won't need them for a while. Instead, grab a tape measure, some graph paper and a pencil. It's time to make some plans.

First, draw a scale drawing of the space you're planning to renovate. Include the outside walls, interior supporting walls, existing doors and windows, existing ductwork, plumbing fixtures, and any other immovable objects in the room. You likely won't be touching these (and I won't tell you how!) so you'll have to plan around them.

Next you have to consider what the new space will be used for. Are you going to put in a bathroom? An extra bedroom? Perhaps a workshop or office... Take your time to really think about what you want to build down there. After all, it will be more or less permanent, so you want it to be a useful space for a long time. You should also resist the urge to carve up a basement space into a lot of small rooms - it will end up feeling like a dungeon.

Also remember that each type of room will have a few requirements stipulated by your local building code that you must follow. For instance, a bedroom will probably need a large window for egress (emergency exit) if there is no secondary exit in the basement. Take these requirements into consideration as you make your plans so that you don't get stuck later on (or worse yet, receive a failing grade from the building inspector!)

In this instructable I will be using my own renovation as an example. I started with an 11x22 foot space that was divided into two rooms, a workshop and an empty room. Well, empty aside from a rather quaint toilet stall!

Step 2: Planning - Part 2

It's important to know what you're getting into before you start a renovation, both in terms of money and time spent. It's also very important that you determine beforehand whether you are capable of doing the work - if not, you should hire a contractor or at least get some help from someone who knows what they're doing. If you encounter any serious structural issues (say, a cracked foundation), you must get them fixed by a pro before continuing with the renovation.


The renovation will probably cost you more than you planned for. Chances are, you'll need a few more 2x4s, a few more pieces of drywall, a few more tubes of glue and a few more boxes of screws. On the plus side, you only have to buy what you need, and no more. I'll go over estimating costs in detail in each of the sections, but if you're planning a complete renovation like I did, be prepared to spend thousands.

Also don't forget to factor in the cost of tools. If you've got a fully stocked workshop then this cost will probably be negligible, but if you've only got a few screwdrivers, a hammer, and a power drill, you're going to have to get a whole lot more. Fortunately, now is a good time to go out and buy all those fun power tools you've always wanted! In most cases it will be cheaper to simply buy the tool than it would be to rent one, especially if your renovation spans a few months.

Finally, I highly discourage you from starting a renovation unless you can afford to finish it. Don't buy anything with a credit card unless you've got the funds in your bank account to pay the bill that very day. One of the worst situations you can get yourself into is a half-finished renovation and nothing in the bank.


If you're like me, you have very little spare time. Between work and helping raise an infant daughter, I'm lucky if I can get an hour of time for myself these days - and usually I have to be super quiet because the little munchkin is napping! With that in mind, you must be prepared for two things. First, that the space you're working on will not be fully usable for several months. And second, that you will not have time for much else during the time you're renovating. Sure, you can work in stages, but that space won't be functional until the floors are installed, paint is on the wall, and outlet plates are screwed on - and all that stuff comes at the very end.

Oh, one other thing - it's important that you prepare your co-dwellers (especially a spouse or significant other) for what's in store. Make sure they understand that their house will be torn apart for a while. Make sure they know that you'll be tracking dirt through their house, driving to Home Depot a lot, and staying up late hammering in nail after nail. The renovation will impact their life nearly as much as it does yours.

Step 3: Get Approval

So, you've got your plan all drawn out? Check!

Do you have permission from your significant other to spend thousands of dollars at the local hardware store? Yay!

It's almost time to pick up that sledge hammer, but there is one more thing left to do: Get a building permit. Where I live, a building permit is required for basement renovations. Without it, the city can force you to tear everything out if there's a problem, and your insurance company can refuse to insure your house.

Fortunately, at least where I live, it's pretty easy to get a permit. All I needed was a scale drawing of the planned renovation, indicating the locations of walls, doors, windows and plumbing. The size of the windows and doors and the ceiling height also need to be marked down. The permit will cost you a few hundred dollars depending on the size of the renovation. Later on, the building inspector will want to see the permit when he/she comes by to inspect your work. They will probably come three times, once for structural work, once for plumbing and electrical, and once more for a final inspection.

Of course, you can proceed with the renovation without a permit, but do so at your own (legal) peril.

Step 4: Demoltition - Intro

Okay, NOW it's time for the fun part!

Tools you may require:

Sledge hammer - for taking down concrete block walls, for separating 2x4s, and generally hitting stuff really hard.
Large Pry Bar - for pulling nails and prying off drywall
Small Pry Bar - for pulling nails
A Large Hammer - for prying out nails, for hitting the pry bar, for smashing out drywall
Demolition Saw - for cutting through 2x4s and other framing members
Power drill - for removing screws
Side Cutters - for cutting electrical wire
Dustpan, garbage bags - for cleanup
Vacuum with fine particle filter - for cleanup
Angle grinder with masonry disc - for smoothing out concrete
Fan - for fresh air, and blowing dust out the window
Ear, Eye, Hand, Foot and Breathing protection - To save yourself from the Pain of a construction injury

Depending on how "finished" the space already is, you may need to rent one of those large garbage bins for all the debris. Smaller jobs, or rooms with little work done to them, may only require a lot of industrial-strength garbage bags. Find out from the city what you can and can't throw out in the regular garbage.

Step 5: Demolition - Tearing Down Walls

At its most basic level, demolition consists of one basic rule: smash stuff until it's lying on a heap on the floor. But, we are not so primal, so here is a more civilized way to go about it.

1. Start by removing anything from the space that isn't nailed down. The only thing that should be in the room you're tearing out should be the tools you need for the job.

2. Shut off the power to the space. Turn off the power at the breaker or fuse panel. Better yet - turn off the power to the house and remove the space you're working on from the circuit entirely. This will keep you safe as you smash through walls, remove electrical fixtures and cut wires. Once the power is off, go around with a circuit tester and MAKE SURE there is no power present. From now on, your power tools will be running on extension cords plugged in elsewhere in the building.

3. Start smashing! Remove everything down to the concrete walls and floors - it's better to redo everything. It will also allow you to inspect the foundation for cracks and leaks - issues you'll want to fix before going any further. Most of the stuff you tear down can't or shouldn't be used again. Here is a short list of stuff you're likely to remove, and whether you should bother keeping it:

Drywall: Throw it out!
Trim (baseboards, etc): Keep if it's in good shape, and only the long pieces
Electrical outlets and switches: Keep if they are the style you wish to use. Throw out old dimmers.
Light fixtures: Throw out or give away on Freecycle
Electrical wire: Keep only newer, plastic-jacket wire, and long pieces only.
2x4s and other structural stuff: Keep long pieces, remove old nails. Note these pieces should not be used in new construction, they're good only for bracing and firewood.
Old nails, screws: throw them out!
Concrete: throw it out
Old flooring: throw it out in a safe manner!
Old insulation: throw it out in a safe manner!

4. Clean up your mess! Toss all your debris in garbage bags or in the big bin parked in your driveway. Sweep up and vacuum all the saw dust and drywall dust on the floor. Store any pieces you saved in a safe place.

Step 6: Demolition - Inspecting the Foundation

Now that you've stripped the walls and floor bare, you can inspect the foundation for leaks and cracks. These are issues that will only get worse with time, and will cause major headaches if left unfixed.

Here are some things to look for:

Hairline fractures (or worse!) that run along the wall.
Cracks in the floor
Mold (black, red, green - it's all bad!)
Pools or drips of water
Condensation, or damp walls and floor

If you find any issues similar to those listed above, call in a pro to get it checked out! They are all signs of foundation movement and moisture penetration.

Step 7: Minor Foundation Repairs

During the process of demolition, I managed to pull a few chunks of concrete out of the wall. This happened where the previous owner had used concrete nails to attach strips of wood directly to the wall. The damage to the wall was minor, so I patched it up with some concrete repair compound. There were also a few drill holes from old screws, which I also filled in.

Fortunately for me, the previous owner had already painted the concrete walls with a moisture-proofing paint. If your walls and floor are bare, then I'd suggest doing this prior to putting up any of the walls.

Step 8: Insulation - Intro

A few months before starting on my renovation project, I had an energy evaluation done on my home. The results were surprising, especially concerning the basement. As it turns out, most of the heat leaking out of the house was leaving through the basement walls, especially the section between the ground outside and the main floor. Just 18 inches of concrete wall above grade was responsible for 25% of my heat loss! Obviously, insulating the basement walls makes all kinds of sense.

Unfortunately, insulating a basement wall is not as easy as slapping on some fiberglass batting. There are issues of moisture to contend with, and if you don't do it properly then you risk setting up a perfect little habitat for growing toxic mold.


Concrete, despite its ability to crush your foot most effectively if dropped, is not solid. It is porous to water, and conducts heat pretty well, too. Drywall, vapor barrier and fiberglass insulation also permit the movement of moisture, though to a lesser extent. It is important to remember this, because it means that moisture can enter from both sides of the interior wall - from the moist ground outside, and from the moist air inside!

The goal here is to minimize the buildup of moisture between the concrete wall and the inside of the walls you're about to put up. That means you have to do two things: Prevent moist interior air from reaching the cool concrete wall (thus preventing condensation), and preventing moisture that seeps through the concrete from building up inside the wall.

After doing tons of research, I found the answer. What we're going to do is paste styrofoam panels directly onto the wall, creating an airtight barrier around the perimeter of the exterior walls. Moist warm interior air will not be able to reach the cold concrete walls, and the moisture that seeps though the concrete is stopped because it has no air gap to evaporate into. In addition to this, the foam inhibits mold growth adding further protection. No vapor barrier is needed!


In my case, I used three layers of insulation. I started with two layers of foam insulation, 2 inch and 0.5 inches thick, staggered for maximum restriction of air movement. Once the stud walls were installed I stuffed in 3.5 inches of fiberglass insulation. This provides an R-value of 27 on the top half of the wall, and R13 on the bottom half.


Large Caulking Gun - used for dispensing the foam adhesive
Hand Saw - for cutting foam sheets and fiberglass batts
Utility Knife - for cutting foam sheets
Tape Measure - for measuring, of course!
Carpenter's square - useful for accurate measurements
Permanent Marker - for drawing cut lines on foam


4x8' 2" thick styrofoam sheets, as required
4x8' 0.5" thick styrofoam sheets, as required
Vapor barrier sealing tape - for sealing seams between foam sheets
Fiberglass batting, for 4" stud wall construction with 16" on-center spacing, rated for basement use
Foam adhesive, 800mL tubes, as required
Great Stuff insulating foam

Step 9: Insulation - Pasting on Foam Panels

Before you start, make sure the walls are clean and dry. If you're planning to expand the windows to comply with building codes, do all that first. If you have plumbing running directly along the wall, move it out a bit if you can. You don't want to bury pipes under layers of insulation.

The process is pretty simple. The 2" foam panels will have lips along the long ends that are designed to fit together. When you measure each piece of foam, make sure that the panels are aligned properly for a good fit. Simply measure the space in which the foam panel will fit, and mark out anything that needs to be cut out. Try to leave as small a gap as possible between the edge of the foam panel and any surfaces it butts up against.

Dry fit the foam panel, and trim as necessary. When you're satisfied with the fit, grab the caulking gun with foam adhesive and lay a 1/4" bead in a wave pattern along the back of the foam. Stick the foam into place, then gently peel it back again. Leave the glue "open" for a minute or two before sticking the foam back onto the wall. This process aids in fast and proper adhesion.

Now, just work your way around the room, filling the entire outside wall surface with the foam panels.

If you're putting on a second layer, as I did, the process is the same. Measure, cut, fit, glue, and stick. When fitting the second layer, make sure that it totally overlaps the seam of the layer beneath. This will further reduce airflow and improve the performance of the panels. Go one step further and seal all the seams with Tuck Tape.

The insulation step is done for now, until the framing and electrical are installed.

Step 10: Insulation - Adding Fiberglass Batts

With the stud wall in place and all of your electrical wiring installed, you can finish off the insulation with a layer of fiberglass insulation. This isn't absolutely necessary, but it boosts thermal resistance to a healthy R27, in precisely the location where your house is leaking the most heat.

This is one of the easiest steps of the renovation. However, you must wear adequate personal protective equipment. Wear eye and breathing protection, and make sure all your skin is covered, especially your hands! Fiberglass can give you a rash, and is very dangerous if you inhale it.

With a knife, slit open the bag of insulation. It comes compressed so do this carefully - it will expand rather quickly! The walls in our renovation are framed using 2x4s with 16" spacing, so if you get the matching fiberglass size the batts will fit in there perfectly. Simply slide each batt between the studs, being careful not to compress the batt too much. If it doesn't fit, then use a knife or saw to cut the batt to size, don't try to squish it in.

In spaces where an electrical box is located, cut a notch in the fiberglass to fit around it.

That's all there is to it. Make sure you clean up carefully after you finish - you don't want to transfer fiberglass particles to other clothing, or track it around the house on your shoes. I suggest getting started with the drywall soon, so the fiberglass is exposed to the air for the least amount of time possible.

Step 11: Framing - Intro

In my opinion, framing is the most enjoyable part of this process, second only to smashing stuff with a sledge hammer. There's a certain joy in seeing the walls take shape, skeletal as they may be.


A basic wall consists of three members: the top plate, the bottom plate, and the studs. The top plate is horizontal and runs along the ceiling, and the bottom plate, also horizontal, runs along the floor. The studs are vertically aligned and run from ceiling to floor.

There are two basic methods for erecting the walls. You can build wall sections flat on the ground and raise them into place, or you can attach the top and bottom plates and fit the studs in between. Since the walls, ceiling joists and floor in the room I'm working in are all somewhat uneven, I decided to use the second method to save my sanity.


Hammer - for hammering nails, of course.
Power drill - for turning in screws
Miter Saw - for cutting studs
Hammer Drill - for drilling holes in concrete
A high quality concrete drill bit - because the one included in the box of screws is garbage.
Measuring Tape - make sure it's one with metric markings
Four foot level - to make sure everything is level.
Laser Level - not necessary, but makes things so much easier!
Plumb bob - for aligning the top and bottom plates
Hand saw - for special cuts
A Few Clamps - to hold studs in place while you nail or screw them in
Marking implement - pencil, marker, whatever - as long as it can write on wood and on concrete.
Eye, ear and breathing protection - power tools are loud and make a mess. Protect yourself!
Nail Gun - this is optional. It's certainly faster than nailing by hand, but they're expensive to buy or rent.


2x4x8 lumber - Lots of it! You'll be placing one every 16 inches, and using even more around windows, doors and corners.
2x4x8 Pressure Treated lumber - for the bottom plate only
10D Bright Spiral Nails - Boxes of 'em.
2.5 -3" long construction screws - useful for securing studs before finishing the job with a few nails
4" long Tapcon concrete screws - for attaching the bottom plate to the floor

Step 12: Framing - the Bottom Plate

The bottom plate is the base of all the walls you're about to build. It will be secured to the floor using Tapcon concrete screws, and the studs will be nailed and/or screwed onto it. Since it will be in contact with the concrete floor, it must be pressure treated in case of moisture issues.

When you select the lumber for the bottom plate, make sure it is straight, flat, and without any warps or twists. Before you load each piece onto your cart at Home Depot (or wherever you get your lumber), sight along the length to look for defects. If you spot anything, put it back. To reduce headaches later on in construction, the bottom plate (and the top plate) must be perfect.

*Note: Don't go lumber shopping with a spouse or child. They'll go nuts with boredom as you spend an hour or two sorting through a skid of wood looking for the best pieces. Trust me.


The bottom plate will determine where all of the walls are, so make sure you position the pieces carefully. Place the 2x4s close to the wall, with no more than a 1/4" gap between the wood and the wall/insulation. For long spans requiring more than one piece of wood, make sure that the pieces are parallel. At corners, double check your angles - 90, 45, etc. It pays to take your time here.


Nothing complicated here. Measure twice, cut once with the miter saw. Strive for an easy fit with no gaps between pieces.


Grab the hammer drill and install the masonry bit. The drill should have a gauge on the side, that you can use to control the depth of the hole. In this case, the hole will be the length of the screw plus a bit of margin (say, 1/2" extra). With the bottom plate in place where you want it to be, drill straight through the center of the wood and into the concrete, perpendicular to the floor. Drill the first hole near the end of the piece, about 6" from the end. It may be necessary to pull the drill out a few times, so the concrete dust can escape. It helps to stand on the wood as you're drilling to keep it from moving around.

With the first hole drilled, drive in a Tapcon screw using the power drill. I suggest using a socket head bit to do this, it slips a lot less. Don't drive it all the way in just yet. Again, it helps to stand on the wood so that it stays flat on the ground.

Now, go to the other end of the bottom plate, realign the wood if necessary, and drill a second hole. Drive in another Tapcon. Now the bottom plate won't move, and you can go ahead and drive in a few more screws along the length of the bottom plate. At the very least, place one every two feet or so.

Continue in this manner with the rest of the room. Take extra care when aligning interior dividing walls - they should be perpendicular to the outside walls (unless you have something avant garde planned). In places where a door will be, place the bottom plate right across the gap - that section will be cut out later when the door frame is finished.

Step 13: Framing - the Top Plate

Obviously, the top plate must be absolutely parallel and in alignment with the bottom plate. If not, your headache will be enormous and your curses loud and profane.

As with the bottom plate, it's essential that the top plate lumber be as perfect as possible. Take your time to pick good pieces, and you will be rewarded later with easier installation and less scrapped lumber.

Take a moment to check out the joists above you. They will cross the room lengthwise or widthwise, and it's onto these joists that the top plate will be attached. Where the top plate is perpendicular to the joists, this process is easy. Just screw the top plate onto the joist wherever they cross. Where they're parallel, you may first have to nail in a few small pieces of wood that span the distance of the joists, and then attach the top plate onto them instead.


This is probably one of the trickier parts of the process. The best way that I found to do this is to line up one end using a plumb bob or laser level, screw it in, and then line up the other end. Check the alignment using a straight 2x4 held against the top and bottom plates, with a four foot level held against the 2x4. With everything lined up at the two ends, go ahead and drive screws into each joist.

Move around the room, attaching a top plate directly above each bottom plate. Take your time, and get it right the first time.

Step 14: Framing - Studs

Okay, here's where everything will start to take shape! Most building codes in North America will specify a 16" on-center stud spacing. This means that each stud will be 16" away from its neighbour, if measured from the center of each stud. This will change when you hit corners of course - you may have a shorter section.

When planning out the placement of the studs, it's important to remember the drywall step. Specifically, will you have somewhere to screw the drywall onto? This is critical for corners, because you will need to make sure a stud is in place - for outside corners, a stud placed right at the end, and for inside corners a stud at each end of the meeting walls. You can always shove in an extra stud if you make a mistake, but why waste wood?


With placement rules in mind, start at one end of a wall and mark the center of where the first stud will be placed. I prefer to mark the side of the bottom plate. Stretch out your tape measure, and mark out the locations of the next studs along the wall, at 16" intervals. Your tape measure may even have these intervals conveniently marked for you.

Now, using a laser or plumb, transfer the marks to the top plate as well.


Measure each stud position very carefully. You don't want it too tight or too loose. Too tight and you might pop some nails (if you can force in the stud in the first place!), too loose and you'll have to waste time with shims. That's why I suggest you use metric to measure the studs. It's much easier to remember an exact number down to the millimeter, than it is to mess about with feet, inches and fractions. Mark the measurement on the stud with a pencil or marker.

With the miter saw, cut the stud precisely down the outside of the mark. When you fit the stud back into place, it should stay upright but be easily removed.


The easiest way to attach the stud is by first driving in a screw at both ends with a power drill. Holding the stud in place at the top with one hand, slowly drive in a screw so the stud doesn't shift. Then, move to the bottom. Once the screws are in place, quick check the stud with a level.

Now you can finish the job with a few nails at both ends of the stud, without worrying about the stud shifting left or right due to the force of the hammering. Put at least two nails at each end, on opposite sides of the stud. After driving in the nails, check to make sure the stud is level one last time.

Now, repeat a few dozen times.


The ceiling in my basement is only about 6'6", so I ended up with one 18" piece of cutoff for every stud. These pieces are perfect for placing horizontally between the studs! Cut each piece to the proper length (just under 15" or so) and nail in place in a staggered pattern. There's no requirement to do this, but it adds a significant amount of structural rigidity to the wall.


Windows and doors have special requirements when it comes to framing. Read up on how to handle them in their respective sections.

Step 15: Framing - Building a Soffit

The big, ugly return air vent cannot be allowed to make itself seen in our beautifully finished room! It will be enclosed in something called a soffit - a frame built around the vent that can be covered in drywall. This same method can be used to enclose steel H-beams, vent pipes, water pipes and other ugliness that would detract from the look of the room.

The soffit is built on the ground and then lifted into place. First take careful measurements, making sure to leave a bit of space between the inside edge of the soffit and the vent. Also remember that the wall underneath the soffit will need to be specially constructed, since the top plate can't be screwed to the ceiling - it will be secured to the wall instead.

The soffit is constructed of 2x2s, 2x4s, and half inch plywood. Start by cutting a piece of plywood that extends from the ceiling to down below the vent. You may need to place more than one piece end-to-end. Then screw 2x2s onto the edges on either side of the plywood for the entire length. This will create a rigid, perfectly straight cover for the face of the vent.

Next, create the "top plate" for the wall beneath the vent, which will extend the length of the soffit. This top plate will eventually be supported by studs on either side of the vent and by supports anchored into the wall. Between the top plate and the plywood piece, cut short pieces of 2x4 that rest on top of the top plate, and attach to the back of the plywood cover. Very careful measurement is required here!

With the aid of a helper, hoist the soffit into place over the vent, and screw it into the ceiling joists and onto the studs at either end of the soffit. It should now support its own weight. Finish the wall below the soffit by installing studs as usual every 16 inches.

To make the stud wall beneath the soffit stronger, use some scrap pieces of 2x4 to build a bracket. The bracket should be anchored to the wall using Tapcon screws, and screwed onto the stud close to the top plate. Use one or more brackets depending on the length of the soffit.

There you go - the soffit can now be drywalled just like any other wall!

Step 16: Electrical - Intro

Things are really starting to come together now. The walls are framed and you can start to tell what the room will look like! It's time for the next step, electrical!

Now, you may have heard from others that you must have a licensed electrician do this type of work. If you're not familiar with basic electrical theory, perhaps that's what you should do. However, most electrical work is pretty simple and straightforward, so all you really need is for a professional to inspect your work once it's done! You could have an actual electrician do this for you, or have the building inspector do it. Either way, it's a good thing to do if only for some peace of mind.


I will be telling you how to hook up the three most basic elements of an electrical system: outlets, lights, and switches.

Inside each jacketed wire you will find three wires, a bare copper wire (ground), a white insulated wire (neutral), and a black insulated wire (hot or live). We'll keep it simple and say that the electrical current flows from black to white. The ground wire is a safety net; if something inside an electrical device shorts out, current can flow through the ground wire instead of through you.

Outlets in a circuit are all connected in parallel. This means that each outlet will get a ground, neutral and hot wire attached.

A switch is connected differently. An ordinary single pole switch is connected in series with the hot wire, and the neutral wire passes right by. Turning off the switch will therefore cut off the current going to the light fixture - an important safety feature.


Power Drill - for drilling access holes in studs
Spade Bits - for drilling large diameter holes that the wires can fit through
Wire cutter/Stripper - used for cutting electrical cable and stripping off insulation
Screwdriver - for mounting electrical boxes, and for securing wires to terminals
Hammer - for mounting electrical boxes, and for attaching cable clips


14 gauge 3-conductor (2 conductor + ground) household wire
Rectangular junction boxes - for outlets and switches
Octagonal junction boxes - for branching cables, and for some light fixtures
Octagonal junction box cover plates - to cover boxes used for branching
Yellow and Orange Marrettes - used to join two or more wire ends together (note: Marrette is a brand name)
Cable Clamps - for attaching cables to the studs
10D nails or 1" construction screws - for attaching electrical boxes to studs

Step 17: Electrical - Attaching Junction Boxes

Picking where outlets and switches will go is sometimes harder than you may think. You want to make sure that outlets will be placed where they are needed, and that switches are in logical positions where anyone could find them in the dark.


Back in the 50s and 60s, people didn't have many electronic gadgets. Often, one or two outlets for an entire room were enough. These days we're wired up to our eyeballs so more outlets are called for. In my renovation, I placed outlets about every three to four feet. I'm not planning to use all of them, but they are ready to go if I need them.

Outlets are typically placed about a foot off the ground, except in some special cases. In my new workshop the walls are lined with tables, so the outlets are placed about a foot higher than the table top. In a bathroom, you may want to place an outlet above the sink so you can plug in a shaver or electric toothbrush.


Switches are typically placed four feet off the ground. You may only need a single switch, or a whole bank of switches for controlling different lights in the room. If the room has more than one point of entry, you may want to connect a switch near each of the entrances. In this case, you'll need to use double pole switches (also called three-way switches) and a four-conductor cable (bare, white, black, red).


The lights you choose for your project may come with special mounting hardware, as mine did, or they may simply attach to a standard octagonal junction box. Lights can be wall mounted or ceiling mounted depending on the style. When deciding where to locate your lights, you must first decide what the purpose of the light will be - is it meant to light a specific area, or is it simply accent lighting? Consider where furniture, doors, shelves and workspaces will be when the room is finished and plan ahead.


The junction box may have a few spikes on one side - this is the side that goes against the stud. Line up the box so that the open end sticks out past the edge of the stud about 1/4". Hammer it in so that the box stays in place on its own, then make it permanent by driving a few nails through the holes at the top and bottom of the box.

Octagonal junction boxes can be bought with or without spikes. In this case, once the box is in position, use construction screws instead of nails. Since you can easily access the inside of the box you can use shorter fasteners, and screws are faster.

If your lights use special hardware, follow the supplied instructions when you're mounting the boxes. In my renovation I used flush mounted pot lights, which attached directly to the joists using special hanger brackets.

Step 18: Electrical - Running Wires

With your junction boxes in place, you can being running wires. Before starting, I suggest drawing out the path that the wires will take. You can use a copy of your blueprints for this. Try to make the paths as efficient as possible - this will save you time and money.

In my renovation I used a junction box mounted in the ceiling to divide the power coming from the breaker panel into two circuits: one for the outlets and one for lights. From there, the outlets are all daisy chained, to keep the amount of wire used to a minimum. The wiring for the lights is a bit different - the wire passes through the switch before connecting to the lights. They are also daisy chained.


You will need to drill a few holes here and there, so the wires can pass through the studs and top plate. Using your wiring diagram, locate every place where a wire must pass through a stud, and drill a hole there. Try to drill the holes an inch from the rear of the stud, if possible. The hole you drill should be just large enough to fit the wire or wires that are passing though - and no larger.


In most cases, you can pull a long piece of wire off the reel, without cutting it yet. Start at one end of the run (say, outside an outlet box), and run the wire up along the studs feeding the wire through any drilled holes as you go. Try to avoid twisting the wire if possible. Leave about a foot of extra wire at each end of the run. Then, cut the cable from the reel.

The junction box will have four or more tabs, two on the top and two on the bottom, which you can bend off to feed a cable through. Bend off a tab closest to the incoming wire, and feed the wire through. An integrated clamp inside the box can then be tightened down to hold the wire in place.


With one wire fed into a junction box, you can begin nailing the wire to the stud using wire clips. Place the first one a few inches away from the junction box, and spaced every 12-16 inches afterward. Where the wire turns a corner, nail a clamp at the beginning and end of the turn, leaving a small amount of slack in the wire so it doesn't have to make a sharp angle. Try to keep the wire nice and flat against the stud, avoiding twists. Work your way along the length of the wire until you reach the end of the wire.

Note that you can run wires parallel to each other along a stud, but I wouldn't recommend more than two to a side. Also, never stack wires or use one clip for two wires.


I often start with this wire. It is usually the longest run, especially if you have to cross the house. In my case, I had to fish the wire through the joists and across the rec room ceiling, a task accomplished using two long 1x1s with bent nails on the ends. You may wire it up to the outlets and switches in the room you're renovating, but don't connect it to the breaker panel just yet.


Since the outlets themselves will sit on top of the dry wall, you can't hook up the outlets or switches just yet. For now, just take the foot long pieces of wire hanging out of the junction boxes and roll them back over themselves, then tuck them into the box and out of the way.

Step 19: Electrical - Connecting Outlets and Switches

Once the drywall is up you can install the outlets and switches.


The outlet will have five screws, two on each side and one on a tab near the bottom. The screw at the bottom is ground. The pair of screws on the right are "hot", and the pair on the left are "neutral." You can also tell the difference between the two by looking at the size of the outlet holes - the smaller slot is hot and the larger slot is neutral. The round hole is ground. You will be connecting the black wire(s) to the hot side, the white wire(s) to neutral, and the ground wire to (you guessed it!) ground.

Take the wire and strip back the plastic jacket all the way to the edge of the outlet box. Once you get good at it, you won't need much wire to work with. If you're new at this, leave a bit of extra. Cut the black and white wires so that 6" or so protrudes from the outlet box. With wire strippers, strip about three quarters of an inch of insulation off each end. Cut the ground wire so that about 8" protrudes from the wall.

With needle nose pliers, bend a small loop into the end of each wire, including ground. Feed each wire end under the appropriate screw and tighten it down. There should be a minimum of copper exposed outside the edge of the screw when you're done. If there is any excess wire, trim it down with side cutters.

With the outlet wired, you can tuck the wires back into the outlet box and screw in the outlet using the built-in screws. Make sure the ground wire isn't touching the neutral or hot screws on the sides of the outlet! When you tighten the outlet in place, make sure it's perpendicular to the floor.


A regular single pole switch will have just two screws. The hot (black) wire of the incoming live wire will connect to one screw, and the hot wire from the outgoing wire will connect to the other. The white and ground wires are simply connected together, end-to-end, using marrettes.

The process is almost identical to tat of wiring up an outlet. Strip back the plastic jacket, and cut the wires to about 6 inches. Strip 1/2" off each end, but only put a loop in the black wires. Start with the white and ground wires: Hold the two white wires side by side, with the tips lined up. Twist an orange marrette onto the wires, until the wires begin twisting around each other. You should be able to tug on the wires without them pulling out of the marrette. Repeat for the ground wires. Then, tuck the white and ground wires back into the switch junction box.

Now, secure the two black wires onto the screw terminals on the switch. Tuck the black wires into the switch box, then screw in the switch. Make sure the ground wire is not touching the screw terminals on the switch!


Depending on the lights you're mounting, the connection method will be a little different.

Some lights, like basic single-bulb fixtures, are designed to be mounted directly to an octagonal junction box. They have screw terminals that the white and black wires attach to, and the ground wire is connected to a screw terminal inside the junction box. The light is then fastened to the junction box using the included screws.

Other lights are designed to be mounted to the same junction box, but have wire leads instead of screw terminals. In this case it's just a matter of matching colours - white to white, black to black,. and ground to ground. Use marrettes to tie the ends of the wires together. Then, attach the light fixture to the junction box using the supplied hardware. This hardware can differ, so follow the included instructions.

The inset pot lights I used my renovation used their own special junction box, which was mounted directly to the light fixture. The fixture attached to the joists in the ceiling using special brackets. If your lights are like this, then follow the supplied instructions.

Step 20: Ductwork - Intro

During my renovation I didn't have to do much with the ductwork. I installed a second cold air return (since the basement didn't have one), and installed a few register covers.

The usual rules apply when working with sheet metal: measure a few times, and cut carefully.


Shears - for cutting sheet metal
"Nibbly" cutter - for tricky cuts in sheet metal that you can't do with shears
Power Drill - for drilling starter holes in existing ductwork
Tape measure - for measurements
Permanent marker - for writing on sheet metal


Flat sheet metal for ductwork - the raw material that ducts are made of
Pre-made ductwork pieces - for installing new vents or ducts
Register covers - to cover and protect vents
Aluminum duct tape - not the cloth stuff!
Straps - for securing ductwork to joists and studs
Screws - the perfect thing to attach straps to wood

Step 21: Ductwork - Install a New Cold Air Return

When the energy efficiency inspector checked out our house, he suggested I add a cold air return in the basement. This improves air circulation throughout the house - in the summer, cool basement air can be pumped to upper levels to help cool the house.

The main cold air return duct passes straight through the workshop area of my renovation. I decided to install a vent in the end of the duct, as far from sources of sawdust as possible. Before enclosing the duct in a soffit (described later), I did the following:

First, measure the area where you want the vent to be. There are many different sizes of vent covers available, just pick one that first best. With the vent in hand, decide how large the opening in the duct should be. In my case, it was the area in the center, not the outside edges! Transfer those dimensions to the duct using a permanent marker.

You will need to install a small duct that runs just from the edge of the main duct, to the vent (which, in turn, rests on top of the drywall). So that you have something to attach that duct onto, you'll be cutting tabs into the main duct. Inside the rectangle you drew on the duct, draw a smaller one about 1" smaller on each side. Then, draw lines between each of the four corners.

With the drill, cut a hole on each of the corners of the inner rectangle. Then, with the shears or nibbly cutter (whichever works best for you), cut out the smaller inner rectangle. Then, cut along the diagonal lines that link the corners of the two rectangles. Fold the tabs outwards as neatly as possible, and try for a clean 90 degree bend.

Cut a small piece of sheet metal to act as a bridge between the hole in the main duct, and the vent. It should be made to fit tightly around the outside of the tabs, and wrap all the way around. You may want to leave this step until you're ready to install the drywall.

Now, go off and install the soffit around the ductwork as described later in this instructable. When it comes time to drywall the section where the vent will be, transfer the dimensions of the vent opening to the drywall surface. Then, cut out the opening. Fit the drywall in place, and slide the small piece of ducting you made earlier into place. Everything should line up properly. Screw on the drywall.

Using aluminum tape, attach the tabs to the inside of the small piece of ducting. Try to keep the tape as smooth as possible, and be sure to seal up any air gaps. Finally, attach the vent cover on top of the vent hole.

Step 22: Drywall - Intro

Welcome to what is perhaps the most challenging part of a renovation. I must admit, before starting this project I knew virtually nothing about how to drywall, and at best I'm still a novice. All of what I learned (and indeed, much of the work) can be attributed to my father in law, who did this stuff for years.

First, a bit of background. Drywall is basically a sheet of gypsum encased in paper. It comes in a number of different thicknesses, 1/2" being the most common. 5/8" drywall is often used in bedrooms because it resists the spread of fire a bit longer, thus giving any occupants more time to escape. There are also different varieties, most notably "greenboard" which is moisture resistant (but NOT waterproof). It is used in bathrooms, though not in the actual shower or tub.

Drywall is fastened to stud walls using drywall screws, or it can be glued directly to foam insulation. It is typically 48 inches wide (the width of three studs), and anywhere from 8 to 12 feet long. The gaps between drywall boards are filled with drywall compound, a sort of quick-drying plaster that is easily sanded smooth.

In this renovation I chose to use plain old 1/2" drywall for the walls and ceiling.


Utility Knife - used for scoring and cutting drywall
Drywall Saw - a small, aggressive handheld saw used for cutting drywall
Power drill - for screwing in drywall screws
Drywall dimpler bit - a special bit used for drywall screws, that creates a recessed "dimple" in the drywall surface surrounding the screw
Measuring Tape - should be obvious by now!
Drywall T-square - used for drawing perfectly perpendicular lines on drywall
Shims - used to elevate drywall off the floor during installation
Deadman - a "T" shape made of 2x4s used to support drywall being mounted on the ceiling. Essential if you're working alone!
3", 6" and 10" drywall trowels - for laying down drywall compound
Small and large corner trowels - for neat corners
Metal Shears - for cutting corner braces
Assorted sanding pads - for sanding drywall compound
A Vacuum with a fine particle filter - For cleaning up the mess
Breathing protection - because inhaling drywall dust can't be good for you.
Laser Level (the type that draws a vertical line on the wall) - fantastically useful device, this is!


Drywall - I used regular 1/2" sheets for everything. Estimate one sheet for every four feet, plus some extra
Drywall Screws - Each 4x8 sheet gets about 30-35 screws.
Drywall Compound - get the "dust control" stuff, it's nicer to work with.
Durabond 90 - a high-strength drywall repair compound useful for filling large gaps and covering corner braces
Drywall tape - used to bridge the gap between drywall sheets, giving the drywall compound something to adhere to

Step 23: Drywall - Mounting Sheets on the Walls

I actually think this part is pretty fun. Measure the space, cut the drywall sheet to fit, and screw it in place. Well, it's a bit trickier than that. ;)

I'm going to explain how to mount a sheet of drywall on a wall first, even though you typically start with the ceiling. The reason for this is that at the corners, where the wall and ceiling meet, it's a lot easier to get a sheet of drywall on the wall to fit perfectly. Thus, the drywall on the wall covers any gaps left behind by a sheet on the ceiling.


Before mounting the first sheet of drywall, take a moment to plan where you are going to start. Chances are, most of your walls will not be an exact multiple of four feet, so at least one sheet of drywall will have to be shortened to fit. Ideally, that cut edge should be placed so that it's buried in an inside corner. Conversely, try to line up the nice factory-finished edges at outside corners.

Start by measuring across the wall to determine how many sheets will be required. With that number in mind, make note of where the shortened sheet will be (ideally, in a corner). You can do this sheet first or last, it doesn't really matter.

Lay a sheet of drywall on the floor. Make sure the floor is clean, and that you have room to work all the way around. With the tape measure, first determine the exact height and width of the wall section to be covered. Note that with 16" on-center stud wall construction, a full sheet of drywall should line up perfectly with the studs, with the edge of the drywall lining up with the center of the stud. Transfer those measurements onto the finished side of the drywall. Reduce the height measurement by about 1/4", so the drywall can be elevated off the floor. Next, locate any outlets in that section of wall, and mark out where a hole needs to be cut for the outlet.


There are two main ways to cut drywall. Each has its benefits.

The first way is to score along the cut line with a utility knife, so that the paper and a bit of the gypsum are sliced through. A good, sharp blade is essential. Then, just snap the drywall board along the line. It happens very easily! With the knife, cut the paper backing to complete the cut. This results in a nice straight line with a relatively clean edge. The downside is that you can only do straight lines, and the cut must be from end to end.

The second way is using a drywall saw. Operation is simple - just cut the board with the saw. For interior cuts (say, to cut a hole for an outlet), you don't even need to drill a hole - just push the point of the saw through the drywall. The drywall saw also allows you to cut corners and curves in the drywall, but at a price. The edge is more ragged than a scored cut, and it makes a lot more mess.


This step is made a whole lot easier with the use of a laser line. This is a simple little tool that draws a perfectly level vertical line on the wall. Before putting the drywall on the wall, mark the locations of all the studs on the floor, using a marker or piece of tape.

Place two shims on the floor where the drywall will go, then lift the drywall into place. It should fit evenly and flush against the corner or adjacent drywall sheet. Check for good fit around outlets and vents, and trim if necessary. Increase or decrease the thickness of the shims for proper fit against the ceiling. Once everything fits, drive in a few drywall screws along the edges, where you're sure a stud is located. Do the edges first, using about 7-10 screws along the height of the wall.

Now, line up the laser line with the stud markings on the floor, and finish the job. The laser line should indicate the exact center of the studs behind the drywall sheet, eliminating any guesswork.

Continue in this manner until all your walls are covered.

Step 24: Drywalling - Ceilings

Before I started, I thought drywalling a ceiling would be really hard. As it turns out, it isn't too bad. It certainly helps to be tall, too - my head is only 2 inches from the finished ceiling.

The process of drywalling the ceiling is very similar to the walls. Measure to fit, and screw in place with drywall screws. The trick is holding the sheets in place while you're working. It can be done if you're working alone, with the right tools.


This process is similar to walls, with one big difference: To make it easier, place the sheet face down on the floor, and mark dimensions on the back of the drywall sheet instead. For me at least, it's easier to picture how the sheet will fit on the ceiling, simply by lifting it straight up and into place. Mark height and width on the sheet, and any holes that need to be cut (say, for recessed lighting).


Cut normally, but be extra careful when you score lines. Make sure that when you snap the sheet, you don't tear away any of the paper on the finished side.


OK, here's where things get interesting. The easiest and fastest way to hold a sheet of drywall on the ceiling is with two helpers. Simply position the drywall and drive in screws. You can even use the laser line tool for screwing onto the "blind" joists - if you position it back far enough, it will draw a line on the ceiling as well. Line it up with the joists on either side of the drywall sheet, and use the line as a guide.

If you're working alone or with just one other helper, you'll need to build something called a Deadman. It's basically a T-shaped support that is slightly taller than the height of the ceiling. It can be made with 2x4s left over from framing.

To use a Deadman, measure and cut the drywall sheet as above. Lift the sheet into place, and have your helper shove a Deadman under each end of the sheet. It should wedge in place and hold the sheet firmly against the joists above. Once the sheet is screwed in place, unwedge the Deadman and move to the next section.

You can do this if you're working alone too, but I don't recommend it. In this case, prop one Deadman up against the wall, and set the other one in a place where you can reach it from a standing position. Carefully lift the drywall sheet into place, and rest one end on the Deadman leaning against the wall. Quickly (before your arms give out), reach over and grab the second Deadman and shove it in place at the other end of the sheet. Align the sheet, and firmly wedge both ends in place. Screw in place with lots of screws before the crazy thing collapses on your head.


  • The ceiling covers a large surface area, and it's possible that you may have to line up not only the nice factory-finish edges, but also the rougher ends. In this case, you may want to bevel the edge slightly with a very sharp knife, which will make finishing easier and neater later on.
  • You may end up in a situation where the end of a piece of drywall hangs in mid-air because there is no joist to screw it onto. In a case like this, attach pieces of scrap 2x4 between the joists at 12" intervals prior to screwing on the drywall sheet. With these in place, you'll have something to attach that loose end to.
  • When measuring the drywall for the ceiling, pay close attention to whether the walls actually meet at a perfect 90 degree angle. They might not, in which case you'll need to trim the sheet accordingly or it won't fit properly.

Step 25: Drywalling - Corners and Taping


To protect outside corners from damage, metal corner braces are nailed onto the drywall. If something were to smash into the corner, the metal brace takes the majority of the impact, often without suppering much damage at all. A bare drywall corner would be damaged by even a light impact with something hard.

To attach a corner brace, first cut it to size using metal shears. It should fit from the ceiling right to the floor. Press the brace onto the corner with one hand (or have a helper hold it), and nail it in place using drywall nails. The brace should be as flush with both sides of the wall as possible. Drive in nails at regular intervals, making sure not to damage the drywall or brace with an errant hammer blow.


Some people hate this job, but it's not so bad. Drywall tape is used to bridge the gap between adjacent sheets of drywall, so the drywall compound has something to cling to. Otherwise, it would sink into the gap and you'd have to go over it half a dozen times. Drywall tape should be applied anywhere that two drywall edges meet, both on flat sections of wall and ceiling, and in inside corners. It's not necessary on outside corners, because the corner braces perform double-duty in that regard.

It's important to be neat. There should be no folds or wrinkles in the tape, and it should be as straight as possible. For corners, try pre-folding the tape before laying it in place. Use a putty knife to push the tape into the corner for a nice, sharp angle.

Step 26: Drywalling - Where to Use Durabond

Durabond, a brand of high-strength drywall repair compound, is pretty nifty stuff. When it dries it's very hard and strong. When you use it, try to avoid applying too much, because you'll spend forever trying to sand it down. In this case, it will be used on the outside corners for added strength, and for filling any gaps that drywall compound alone can't handle.


Durabond comes is sold in powder form, so you have to mix it yourself with water. The "90" in the name refers to the drying time - 90 minutes. In a tub you don't mind throwing out, mix the Durabond with tap water according to the instructions on the box. The result should be a smooth grey paste, that sticks to walls without running.


Using a trowel or wide putty knife, apply the Durabond paste along the corner brace, covering the metal completely. With a long, even stroke, skim along the surface to achieve a smooth finish with no bumps. If you scrape too deep and reveal nail heads or edges of the brace, reapply some more Durabond and try again. Scrape any excess back into the tub, unless it gets contaminated with debris. Do both sides of the corner in this manner, working quickly before the Durabond dries.
This process has a bit of a learning curve, so start someplace less noticeable if possible.

To repair a large gap, use a smaller putty knife to force Durabond into the gap. Then, with a wider putty knife or trowel, skim along the length of the gap to smooth it out. Make sure the filled area is not raised above the surface of the drywall, or you'll spend a long time fixing it later.

As soon as you're finished, immediately clean off your tools. Durabond will stick to metal and ruin the fine edge necessary for achieving a smooth finish. Wipe off the tools with a clean rag, then wash off any residue in water.

Step 27: Drywalling - Applying Drywall Compound

The process of applying drywall compound is often called mudding or skimming. The basic idea is to apply one or more layers of drywall compound (mud) to hide imperfections in the wall - most notably, gaps and screw heads. Between each layer, the dried 'mud' is lightly sanded to maintain a smooth finish.


Drywall compound is usually sold pre-mixed in big tubs. Try to get the "dust control" kind if you can, it makes cleanup easier later on. Just open the tub, mix it up with a clean stir stick, and you're good to go!


You may have noticed that the edges of the drywall sheets are slightly beveled. This is done so that drywall compound can cover the gap and drywall tape, without creating a raised vertical stripe. Start with a narrower trowel, 6 inches is perfect. Just slop on the mud, roughly flattening it against the wall as you go. When the entire length of the gap is covered, skim lightly over it again to get everything smooth and even. Again, this takes a bit of practice to get just right, but I'm sure you'll figure it out soon enough.

To cover the screw heads, use a small 3" putty knife and simply skim over the dimpled area. It takes very little mud to do this, and you can often do five or six screws with a single scoop of mud.

When you're done, clean up any extra mud that slopped onto the wall or floor before it dries. Be sure to wash off your tools as well - mud doesn't stick to tools as much as Durabond, but it sure is easier to clean off while it's wet.


Corners are tricky. I like to use a 3" putty knife to glob a thick layer of mud all along the corner, then use a wide corner trowel to skim over it for a smooth finish. This is probably the hardest part of skimming, and it will take you a while to get it right. Again, I suggest starting in a dark corner first, an moving to the more visible locations when you're more confident in your skills.


Previously, you applied Durabond to the outside corners, to cover the metal corner bracing. Once the Durabond is fully dry, you can skim over it with mud for a nice smooth finish. Use a wide trowel that covers from the corner to well past the edge of the Durabond layer.


When drywall compound dries, it turns from a light grey colour to white. It will be hard to the touch, and will feel warmer than damp compound. Usually, this takes a few hours to a full day, depending on the temperature , humidity, and air movement in the room.

The first layer can be sanded using a more aggressive sanding pad (100 grit), mounted on a sponge sanding pad. It doesn't take a lot of pressure, so go easy. You only need to remove the worst of the irregularities. My father in law likes to use a pole sander for this, but I prefer to get up close and do it by hand. Go over everything, using your hand to feel for bumps.

In corners, use a special sanding block with abrasive sides that meet at a 90 degree angle.

By the time you finish, the room will be filled with clouds of dust and nearly every inch of you will be covered in a thin layer of dust. When the dust has settled, sweep up as much of it as you can with a broom, then take care of the rest with a vacuum.


The second layer of mud goes on much like the first, though you will be covering a wider area. Instead of the 6" trowel used for the first skim, use a 10" trowel. As before, glop on some mud and skim it smooth. If you work carefully, this may be the last layer you have to do.

Some of the screws may need a second layer of mud as well. Use the same 3" putty knife as before.


For this layer, switch to a higher grit sandpaper, such as 150 or 180. This will leave a smoother finish. Carefully sand everywhere, making sure not to remove too much material. Take special care to blend the edge of the mud into the wall, for a nice smooth transition. Use long sweeping motions for better blending.

When the sanding is done, go ahead and clean yourself and the room once again.

Hopefully, you'll only need to do two skims, but in some areas three may be required. It shouldn't take more than that, though.

Step 28: Painting - Intro

Most people have done a little painting before. The biggest challenge here is preventing the paint from going places you don't want it to be. GO ahead and pick up a few dozen colour swatches. When you've decided on a colour (or colours!) come on back and we'll go over the basics.


Paint Brushes - Small and medium should be enough.
Paint Roller - makes painting large areas so much easier
Paint pan - for use with the paint roller
Edging tool - for precise lines in corners, without having to use masking tape
Drop sheets - optional, only needed if flooring is already installed.


Paint - you'll need primer and a top coat in the colours you chose.
Masking tape - to mask off small details

Step 29: Painting - Ceiling

It's a good idea to start with the ceiling, because any little drips that fall onto the walls will be painted over.

Before you start painting, it's a good idea to brush off any leftover drywall dust that's still clinging to the drywall using a broom or rag. Make sure you have plenty of light in the room you're working on. If you haven't connected the lights yet, then use a portable worklight or work during daylight hours.

Clear everything off the floor, because drips may occur. There's no need to cover the floor with a drop sheet unless you've already installed flooring.


The primer serves two functions, it helps to seal the drywall, and it provides a base colour for the topcoat, so that the colour matches what's on the swatch. It also helps cover over pencil marks and other blemishes so they won't show through. You can use white primer, but usually you can get it tinted a shade or two lighter than the topcoat.

With a medium brush, paint around all of the corners and anywhere that you can't reach with a paint roller - lights, vents, etc. You can work directly from the paint can if you like.

Once the small sections and corners are done, you can start using the roller. Set the roller tray in the middle of the room, and fill the bottom of the tray with paint. Dip the roller in the paint and use it to draw a bit of paint up onto the ridged section of the tray. Then, roll the entire surface of the roller in the paint. Roll the paint roller along the ceiling, painting in 4 foot sections. When the paint on the roller is exhausted, repeat and continue.


Once the primer is dry, check for visible blemishes in the surface of the drywall. Often an even layer of paint on the surface will help reveal bumps, dips and other imperfections that weren't visible before. If you notice any defects in your skimming, simply break out the drywall compound and slap it right on top of the primer. Once it has dried, paint over the section you repaired with primer.


The method here is the same as the primer, only with a different paint. This time, be especially careful with your workmanship - make sure the entire surface is covered with no missed spots and no lighter areas with less paint. It's easier to correct problems now, while the paint is still wet, than going over them with a small brush when your wife points it out a month later.

Step 30: Painting - the Walls

The process here is the same as the ceiling, but with one catch - how do you avoid accidentally getting paint on the ceiling?


Professional painters will do this without any extra tools - with a high quality brush, simply paint along the inside corners in a precisely straight line, with the edge of the brush right in the corner but never touching the ceiling. It sounds simple enough, but when you're working above your head, your arms get tired really fast. On taller ceilings, it's very difficult to reach that high AND get the precision you need.

Luckily, there is a tool to help. It's basically a long, flat piece of metal or plastic that you can push into the corner and paint against. It's like mobile masking tape.


You probably won't need much masking tape while painting. But, it can be useful in tight areas where a larger tool won't fit. It's great if you're planning to paint stripes and other patterns on the wall, though. When applying masking tape, make sure the surface is clean and dry. Press firmly, especially on the edges, so that paint can't wick underneath. Also remember that masking tape has a limited "working life," often printed on the package. Painter's tape usually has a work life of 7-14 days depending on how much you want to spend - so make sure you finish any work soon after sticking it down.


Try not to paint the outlets, switches, and light fixtures. That is all.

Step 31: Installing a Door - Intro

A door requires extra framing and careful measurement, so make sure you account for these things while you are framing the walls. The tools are mostly the same as what are used in framing the walls, but there are a few more materials you'll need. I used a pre-hung door in my renovation.


Nail Punch - for driving finishing nails below the surface of the door frame
Screwdriver - for mounting door hardware


"Pre-hung" Door - basically a door already mounted in a frame
8D finishing nails - for nailing the door in place
Shims - for shimming the door in place
Door hardware - door handle, latch and catch, usually sold together in a package.

  • NOTE: If the ceiling in your basement is lower than 7 feet, double-check to make sure the door you selected will have proper clearance. If a standard-height door (80 inches high) is too tall, you can get a shorter door (78", or a custom height).
  • NOTE 2: Pre-hung doors come pre-assembled to open on either the right or the left. Make sure you select the right one based on how you want it to open.

Step 32: Installing a Door - Framing

A door frame needs to be strong, to support the weight of the door and the force of opening and closing (opening and slamming?). We'll be adding extra studs on either side of the door and across the top.


Doors are available in a number of different widths, the standard being 32". When you buy a pre-hung door, measurements are provided for the "rough opening" that is required for the door to fit into. The rough opening is slightly larger than the door frame on all sides, so that you can insert shims to precisely align the frame for smooth opening and closing.

With the aid of a tape measure, mark out the width of the rough opening on the bottom plate where the door will be. Then, transfer those measurements to the top plate using a plumb or a laser line. Measure and cut one stud for each side of the door, and nail them in place on the outsides of the marks. Make absolutely sure that these two studs are perpendicular to the floor, and perfectly parallel to each other.

Now, measure the height of the rough opening and mark it on each of the studs you just installed. Make sure you're measuring from the floor and not the top of the bottom plate. If the flooring you're installing is thicker than 1/4", make sure you compensate for this by placing the door frame a bit higher. There is a small gap for flooring built into a pre-hung door, but not a lot.

Measure and cut a piece of 2x4 that will span the width of the rough opening and nail it into place. Nail another block between this piece and the top plate, if you have room.

Finally, cut two more studs and attach them directly beside the ones that are already in place. Make sure you secure these extra studs to the top and bottom plates, AND onto the adjacent studs. Double check everything one more for proper level and squareness.

Once you are satisfied with the rough opening, you may cut the section of bottom plate that spans the door opening. Use a hand saw to cut flush to the edge of the studs on either side of the frame.

Step 33: Installing a Door - Mounting the Door

This can get a little fiddly and perhaps a bit annoying. Unpackage the door and lift it into place into the rough opening. Make sure you have it opening in the right direction! The door frame will extend past the edge of the studs about half an inch (the width of standard drywall!). When you're lining up the door, make sure that the frame remains centered on the studs so that it lines up properly when it comes time to put on the drywall.


Shims are usually used in pairs. They are about 1/4" at the thickest end, and taper to a point. When sandwiched together with the thick end of one against the thin end of the other, they form a "flat" spacer or adjustable thickness. Moving the thick ends closer or further apart will change the overall thickness, while remaining flat.


With the door frame roughly centered in the rough opening, you can begin inserting shims between the gaps. Use the shims in pairs as described above, adjusting for thickness to fit the gap. The goal is to use the shims to get the door frame parallel and perfectly square, so that the door opens and closes without resistance. As you work, continually measure the frame with a tape measure, checking the distance across the door (these measurements should all be identical) and from corner to corner (these two measurements should be the same). Insert shims at regular intervals, with at least 4 per side. Use more around the latch. It's okay if the shims stick out like crazy, they will be trimmed later.

Once you're satisfied that the door is square, you can begin nailing it in place. Here's where it gets frustrating: many of the shims will move as you're hammering. Be patient, and be prepared to readjust things a lot. Using 8D finishing nails, drive a nail straight through the frame and shim, and into the stud. Use two nails per shim, on either side of the door. Don't hammer the nail in all the way just yet, in case you need to pull it out to make a correction.

As you drive in the nails, continue to measure the door to make sure it remains square. Once all the nails are in and the frame is square, you can go ahead and drive each of the nails all the way in. Use a nail punch to drive the nail 1/16" below the surface of the frame. Later, prior to painting the door, fill the holes with wood putty.


With a utility knife, score each shim flush with the edge of the stud. Then, snap off the shim. It should break off cleanly, but if it doesn't then trim it down with a utility knife or a handsaw.


Later, when the door is painted, you can mount the door hardware. The pre-hung door should have a pre-drilled hole for the latch, handle and catch (in the frame), that is compatible with most of the door hardware sets you'll find. Pick one that suits your decor, and install it according to the supplied instructions.

Step 34: Installing Windows - Intro

No, don't recoil in fear - we're not installing that type of Windows! The small hopper-style windows in my basement were installed in 1953. Needless to say, while they were in OK condition, they were about as energy efficient as a screen door.

I was very wary going into this part of the renovation, and to be honest I'm still not 100% sure I did it right. I read as much about it as I could, but you'd be surprised at how little useful information there is out there. Don't even bother asking for help at a hardware store, they were completely useless!

So here goes - if you're a pro and wish to correct any mistaken advice I've given, please feel free.


Demolition Saw (Reciprocating Saw) - for cutting out the old window frames
12" recip. saw blade - it needs to be long so you can reach all the way across the frame from the edge of the concrete foundation.
Pry Bar - for prying out the frame
Hammer - for use with the pry bar and chisel
Jigsaw, recip. saw, table saw, or the like - for cutting new wood frames
Angle Grinder with masonry disc - for cutting away old concrete
Cold Chisel - for chipping away old concrete
Large caulking gun - for use with construction adhesive
Hammer Drill and bit - for driving concrete screws through the new frame
Level - for proper alignment of the window
Vacuum - for cleaning up sawdust and concrete dust
Ventilation fan - for blowing concrete dust out the window.
Eye, ear, breathing and hand protection - 'cause this is gonna get messy
Measuring Tape
Marking Utensil


Windows - get nice energy efficient ones made for basement windows (no nailing flange)
Pressure treated 2x6 and 1x6 lumber - for making the new frame
Construction adhesive - for gluing in the frame and window
Silicone caulking - for sealing small gaps
Foam backer rod - for filling large gaps
Tapcon concrete screws - 3.5" with countersunk head for securing the fame to the foundation

Step 35: Installing Windows - Removing the Old Windows

My old windows were made entirely of wood, with the frame embedded in the concrete when it was poured. I suppose it would have been possible to pop the old window out, do a bit of trimming on the frame, then put in the new window. But, I wasn't sure what condition the wood was in (side note: perfectly fine) and so I decided to yank everything out.

First, I unscrewed the old window panes and set them aside. I haven't decided yet what to do with them. Make sure that you do all this when the weather is warm and clear, since you'll be working inside as well as out.

Now for the fun part! With the demolition saw, cut straight through the vertical parts of the frame, close to where they meed the top and bottom sill. You must be patient here, being careful not to cut into the concrete. This is more to prevent damage to the blade than the concrete! Work in the blade until it is flush with the edge of the concrete at both sides of the frame. To get a better angle and to prevent fatigue, you may have to work from either inside or outside the window.

Once you've cut each of the vertical parts of the frame, jam a pry bar in there and try to get them out. This will be difficult. You may even have to cut the frame a third time in the middle so it pries out easier. Eventually, it should come out and leave a relatively smooth concrete surface behind.

To remove the top and bottom frame pieces, cut each of them through the middle as above. Get the pry bar in there and slowly wiggle them loose until they pop out. There were some loose pieces of concrete that broke loose while I was doing this. Don't worry, you can fix this later if you like.

With a vacuum, clean out any debris that's left behind.

If your windows were like mine, you'll probably see some ridges left behind where the window frame used to be. They correspond to grooves cut into the frames - working together, I assume, for a better seal between the concrete and wood. These ridges will have to be removed as well. Chip away as much as you can with the chisel and hammer to start - this is much cleaner and faster than using the grinder. Use the grinder only for smoothing out what's left - I found this out the hard way.

Hit the area again with the vacuum to clean out all the dust and debris.

Step 36: Installing Windows - Dry-fit and Measure the New Frame

I advise against installing the new windows directly against the concrete. Instead, we're going to build a new frame out of pressure treated lumber, and set the window into that.

The windows I bought were customer returned units that just happened to fit perfectly. I was lucky. I suggest getting windows made to fit, rather than fitting pre-made windows into the space you've got.

The frame will be made of 2x6 pressure treated lumber. In my case, it was just about the right width to fit inside the wells left behind by the old frame. The lumber will be cut to size, glued in place, then screwed in place with Tapcon screws. I have pity for the next person who tries to replace these windows!

Start with the bottom sill. In my case, the width of the 2x6 had to be trimmed by about half an inch to fit. I cut it to the proper length first, then trimmed off the edge with the reciprocating saw (a table saw would be easier to use, if you've got one). Pop it in place to ensure a good fit. Leave it unglued for now, until the rest of the frame is finished.

Next do the top of the frame in a similar manner. Cut and trim to fit, and dry-fit the piece. Finally, finish with the side pieces, making sure they are a snug fit against the top and bottom parts of the frame.

With all the frame members dry-fit and holding together with friction, measure the new opening. Add about 1/4 inch to 3/8 inch to each dimension (1/8" to 3/16" on all sides) and order a window in that size. Chances are, the only window commonly available will be a double swing-out slider. Be sure to get a nice double glazed energy efficient window if you can.

Step 37: Installing Windows - Installing the Window

The first step is to permanently attach the frame to the concrete. Remove all the frame members, taking note of where they go.

Again, start with the bottom first. Lay a thick bead of construction adhesive around the perimeter of the wood on each of the sides facing concrete. Paste it down. Do the top next - hold it in place with one of the side pieces. Finally, glue down the side pieces, putting glue on the sides facing concrete and the top and bottom frame pieces.

As soon as everything is glued in place it should be screwed down. I used two screws for the side pieces and three for the bottom. I didn't put any screws in the top because there was very little to screw onto. Drill straight through the wood and into the concrete using a hammer drill, then drive in the Tapcon screws with a power drill.

Once the glue is dry you can install the windows. I used the same construction adhesive to glue the window in place as I used before. First, dry-fit the window to work out spacing. The fit should be close, but not tight. If the fit is too loose you can insert shims. If it's really loose then you can glue in a 1x6 to fill the gap.

The glue will be applied to the frame, and the window will be slid into place. Apply a double bead of glue all around the inside of the frame where the window will be. Hoist the window into place, ensuring that the inside of the window faces into the room (obvious, I know). Then, wiggle it around until it's positioned properly. Immediately wipe off any excess glue that got squished out with a damp rag.

The fit with my windows was so tight that I didn't need any shims. However, yours might. Using the shims in the same manner as you would for shimming in a door, center the window in the frame so that it is level and perfectly perpendicular. Use a small 12" level to help get it perfect.

Once the glue is dry, look for air gaps. Try to spot light shining through or feel for air movement. Any small gaps can be filled with adhesive, and larger gaps can be filled using a piece of foam backer rod.

The last step is to seal up everything with a bead of caulking. Apply the bead where the wood meets concrete, where wood meets wood, and where the window meets the frame. Do both inside the window and out. Use a damp finder to smooth out the caulking for a nice finish. When the caulking is dry, paint the wood frame with weatherproof paint.

Step 38: Installing Windows - Build a Window Box

Once the framing is complete and the drywall is installed, you will want to install a window box to hide all the insulation, concrete and bare frame that are exposed. In my case, the box ended up being nearly 12 inches deep, thanks to the thickness of the concrete wall, the few inches of foam insulation, and the stud walls on top of that.

The window box should be made of something that won't be damaged by a little bit of water. Stay away from MDF and plywood - use solid wood like pine instead. At my local Home Depot, they had 12" wide, 3/4" thick jointed boards for a very good price.

I decided to install each piece on its own, though you may be able to build the window box on the floor or bench and slide it into place. In my case, the top of the window box actually slants up to meet the window frame, making it impossible to slide the box in.

Start with the bottom piece. Measure it to fit flush against the window frame, and flush with the edge of the finished (drywalled) wall. It will span the entire width of the window frame. Chances are, you'll be putting stuff in the window box, so use wedges under the wood to make sure the bottom is level front-to-back and side-to-side. When you're satisfied with the fit, nail it in place with finishing nails. If the box will be stained, you may want to glue it instead so there are no nail holes to fill.

Do the top next, in a manner similar to the bottom. Measure to fit, so the board is flush with the window frame and with the wall. In my case, with the angle on the top section, I had to precisely measure and cut the edge facing into the room so that trim applied to the window would sit flat. If you're nailing the top piece by hand, it's a good idea to start the nails on the ground. This will make it much easier to attach the board later on.

The sides go in last. Measure carefully, since the distance between the top and bottom may be different at the front and back of the window box (this is especially true if the top is on an angle like mine is!) Cut to fit, and dry-fit the sides before driving in any nails. As with the top, I recommend starting all the nails on the ground, then finishing them off with the board held in place.

When all four sides are finished, fill the nail holes and any gaps or knots with wood filler. Paint the window box with a paint that will withstand moisture - you never know when you'll accidentally leave the window open in a thunder storm!

Step 39: Install a Built-In Shelving Unit - Intro

This is a mini project which you may or may not want to do. You can modify a wall that's already installed, or you can do it as part of a larger renovation. It was inspired by a project I saw at ReadMade.com.

Some walls are a waste of space. Sure, they provide privacy and a place to hang a picture. But they could do more. In this case, I took a 32" wide space and turned it into a multi-level shelving unit that holds hundreds of CDs and DVDs, all the while protruding just an inch into the room. That's right - the shelf is built into the wall! All the tools you need to do this will be scattered around the room if you're in the middle of a larger renovation. If you're modifying an existing wall, here's what you'll need:


Miter Saw - for cutting the shelf pieces
Jigsaw - for cutting the backer panel
Power drill - for driving in screws
Sanding block or hand held power sander - to give the shelves a nice finish when they're installed
Small Carpenter's Square - for precision marking
Short Level - for perfectly level shelves
Measuring Tape
Meter stick (yard stick)
CDs and DVDs - for reference measurements


1x6x8 Pine shelf boards - as straight as possible! Be picky when choosing.
4x8 sheet of cheap shelf backing board - flat on one side, rough on the other
Construction Screws - 2.5 or 3" long
Construction adhesive - for gluing the shelf backing onto the wall studs
Assorted dry walling stuff - left over from dry walling the rest of the room.

Step 40: Install a Built-In Shelving Unit - Installation

The shelf can occupy the space between one or two studs, or a custom width. During construction, I specifically left out a stud, in order to install my shelves. These shelves will be installed after the stud walls are in, but before the drywall is up.

First you will need to decide on shelf heights. Using your CDs, DVDs and other knick knacks as a reference, work out the heights of the shelves you'll be installing. I decided on four CD-height shelves, and two DVD-height shelves. When measuring, make sure you include the width of the wood and leave a gap for easier removal of the CDs and other media. To make it easier, I cut two short pieces of the shelf board to use as spacers, equivalent to the height of a CD plus the gap.

Start at the bottom of the shelf. Place a 2x4 horizontally across the bottom, equivalent to the height of three 2x4s. Make sure it's level. Screw it in place, using construction screws, through the stud and into the end of the horizontal piece. Do the same thing at the top of the shelf.

The wall behind my shelf is rough concrete, which needed to be covered with something smooth and even. If the wall behind your shelf is just the back of a piece of drywall, then you can leave it as-is. Otherwise, read on. Measure and cut out a piece from the shelf backing board, to fit from ceiling to floor and across the span of the studs supporting the shelf. Slide it behind the stud wall, between the studs and concrete. Glue it into place against the studs, using wedges to hold the backing sheet against the studs.

Now, cut a piece of shelf board to fit between the studs, and fit it in place on top of the bottom horizontal stud. Using the carpenter's square, scribe a line from the center of the shelf board around to the other side of the stud. Drive two screws through the stud along the line and into the shelf, on both ends.

Using the spacers, work your way up the shelf, cutting shelf boards to fit and screwing them into place. Make sure the shelf is level both side to side and front to back, using the short bubble level. Be careful when turning in the screws with the power drill - the shelf boards are thin. The screws should be driven perfectly perpendicular to the stud, and at slightly lower speed than normal.

Step 41: Install a Built-In Shelving Unit - Finishing

The next step in installing the built-in shelf is completed during the drywalling stage. Drywall will be wrapped around the studs supporting the shelf, but not against the back.

Drywall right up to the edges of the shelf boards normally. Try to get the finished edge of the drywall to end here. Using scraps of drywall left over from drywalling the rest of the room, cut pieces to fit between the shelf boards, with a tight fit from top to bottom and reaching from the back board to the front edge of the drywall mounted on the walls.

Screw each small piece of drywall into place with drywall screws, or glue them in place with construction glue. There will probably be a gap between the pieces of drywall where they meet, which will have to be filled in. Start by taping around the shelves with masking tape. The tape will prevent any drywall compound from getting on the wood.

If the gaps are small, simply cover them with drywall tape, and drywall over the corner as you would any other corner. If the gap is large use some Durabond 90 first. Note that no metal corner brace is needed here, as there is little chance of the corner being damaged by falling furniture. Keep the masking tape in place until the walls have been painted.

Once the walls are painted you can finish the shelves. Start by sanding the shelves with a power sander or a sanding block. Then, paint the shelves with stain or latex paint.

Step 42: Flooring - Intro

Well! If you've made it this far, then hopefully your spouse is breathing a little easier. ;) Your new room is practically ready to to be used, but one major thing remains - flooring. As attractive as a concrete floor may be, it's a good idea to cover it with something a bit more attractive.

I chose to use glueless snap-together bamboo laminate flooring. It's durable, easy to install, and looks cool, too!

Laminate is pretty easy to install. Here's what you will need:


Jigsaw - for cutting laminate planks
Meter stick - for measuring
Carpenter's square - for accurate 90 degree cuts
Mallet - for driving planks together
Scissors - for cutting underlayment
Utility knife - also for cutting underlayment
Marking implement - a pencil works well


Laminate Flooring - Estimate the square footage of the room, plus 10% extra
Underlayment - I found a nifty 3-in-1 product that's perfect for this task

Step 43: Flooring - Install the Vapor Barrier

As a minimum, you will need to install a layer of vapor barrier between the concrete and the flooring. In fact, it's even specified in the warranty for the flooring I bought! Without vapor barrier, moisture can seep through the concrete and into the flooring, causing it to swell and grow mold. If you're using regular vapor barrier, the process is similar to what I'm about to describe, except you'll need to use vapor barrier tape to seal the seams.

While shopping at Home Depot I found a nifty 3-in-1 product made specifically for basement laminate flooring installation. It's basically a layer of foam pellets encased in vapor barrier and a vapor-permeable layer. Moisture that seeps through the floor can penetrate the bottom layer, then dissipate through the gaps in the foam pellets instead of collecting in one place. The vapor barrier prevents the moisture from reaching the flooring. The foam pellets perform triple duty: in addition to providing an air gap, they also absorb impacts to the floor and insulate against sound and heat loss.

The product I used has a built-in flap along one side with an adhesive strip. The underlayment is rolled out and laid side-by-side on the floor, with each flap overlapping the previous piece. The exception is the very first piece, which has its flap cut off because it overlaps the wall. This flap can be saved and used elsewhere for sealing gaps.

The pieces of underlayment should be laid out flat on the floor, with about two inches running up the wall so that the flooring is completely enveloped. It will later be trimmed. You can lay out the entire floor, or do one section at a time (as I did).

Step 44: Flooring - Installing Laminate Flooring

l chose Pergo Presto laminate flooring for one of the rooms in my renovation. They have instructions posted online, so I'll just summarize what I did and let you read the manufacturer's instructions here. The flooring that you buy might require a different process, but hopefully the pictures and tips will be helpful.

Once you've bought your hardwood or laminate flooring it's important to let it acclimatize to the environment in your house. That means it'll basically sit around for a week before you can do anything with it.

This laminate is the standard click-together glueless floating floor. That's right - it doesn't get attached to the floor or anything else in any way! It's simply held down at the edges by the baseboard (and in the middle by gravity, I suppose). I guess that means you can take it with you if you move out...

Use a carpenter's square to draw cut lines on the laminate. Precision is important here, and it will minimize the amount of scrapped boards.

I found the best way to cut the laminate is with a jigsaw - it cuts like a hot knife through butter. You can also use a table saw, if you have one. Use a blade with a high tooth count for a cleaner cut. Also be sure to support the board on both sides when you're cutting. Don't let it break off or fall on the floor, because pieces may chip off, rendering the plank useless (or at least smaller, since you'll have to cut the chipped part off).

If you're cutting in the same room that you're installing the floor in, make sure that the sawdust doesn't sneak in under the vapor barrier - that's food for mold.

Plan ahead and think carefully about how to do doors and other tricky bits. The doorway was probably the hardest part for me, since the flooring had to go under the door frame a bit.

Step 45: Baseboards and Trim - Intro

Welcome to the final step of your basement renovation! With the light at the end of the tunnel gleaming a brilliant yellow-white and with fresh air giving life to your dust-clogged nostrils, surely every hammer blow from this point on will be a drum beat of victory.

But enough of my prose, let's finish this thing off so we can get started on something else!

Baseboards and trim aren't expressly required for a room to function nor are they required by any building code. But the room will surely look unfinished without them. In the following steps I'll show you how to put trim around the windows and doors, and how to put baseboards around the perimeter of the room.


A vehicle capable of (safely) transporting 14 foot long baseboard planks
A miter saw with a high tooth count blade - for fine cuts to trim
A hammer - optional, I recommend using a nailer for this task
An electric or compressed air nailer - for fast nailing of trim and baseboards
Measuring tape
Putty knife
Marking implement


Baseboard planks - these typically come in 14 foot lengths. Add 10% for waste when estimating.
Trim planks - slightly different from beseboard planks, meant for doors and windows. 8' lengths.
Wood filler putty - to cover the nail holes and patch small gaps
Finishing nails - either loose nails if you're putting them in by hand, or 1 your nailer.
Sandpaper - fine grit (200 minimum) to sand off excess putty.
Paint - to paint the baseboards and trim once installed.

Step 46: Baseboards and Trim - Door and Window Trim Installation

Here is one task where you really have to take your time to get it right. It also helps tremendously to properly calibrate your saw for accurate cuts. When joining edges of trim or baseboards, you have to take a lot into account, including the angle at which the boards will meet, whether the walls are exactly 90 degrees to each other, and how baseboards may meet up with trim (say, at the door). Knowing those angles, you can set your saw to cut the trim perfectly - reducing repair work later and boosting your own pride!

In my basement I used two types of trim, baseboards and window trim (used on the door and the windows). The two are very alike, though the baseboard is slightly wider. The baseboards also come in 14 foot lengths compared to the window trim at 8 feet - make sure you have a way to transport it, and a place to store it!

It's a good idea to start with the door trim, since it's usually the easiest to install, and the baseboards butt up against it. Measure the opening with a tape measure and transfer the measurement to the trim. In my case there is no room for trim along the top of the door frame so I just did a 90 degree cut on both ends. If you have enough room for trim along the top of the frame, you'll need to cut the trim at 45 degrees at the mark. When cutting, you may want to cut the trim a little long (say, a few millimeters) and trim it down later if you need to. It's better to cut too long, than too short!

Fit the trim in place over the door frame, overlapping all but about a millimeter. Check to make sure that the corner cut at 45 degrees matches perfectly with the corner in the door frame. When you're satisfied with the fit, nail the trim in place with a nail gun. Make sure the nail penetrates the trim and a sufficient amount of drywall or wood - the trim should not pull off easily. If you're worried, you can glue the trim on first, but this shouldn't be necessary.

Window trim goes on in a similar way. Start at the bottom, cutting the trim at 45 degree angles on both sides so that the trim fits together like a frame. Again, measure very carefully, ensuring that the cut edges of the trim line up perfectly with the corners of the window box. When everything fits, nail it in place with a nail gun. As with the door frame, make sure the trim is firmly fastened to the wall.

When the trim is installed, you can cover the nail holes and any gaps with wood filler. When the wood filler dries, sand it smooth with sandpaper. Then, paint the trim in whatever colour you choose.

Step 47: Baseboards and Trim - Baseboard Installation

Wow, nearly finished! The baseboards are pretty easy to install - the trickiest part is cutting them accurately. With a compound miter saw, there are two ways to cut the baseboard, horizontally or vertically.

To cut vertically, the saw must have a large enough blade to cut the entire height of the baseboard. If it does, just set the saw to cut at 45 degrees (the same setting you used for the window trim). The baseboard is laid flat against the fence.

To cut horizontally, angle the blade on its side using the adjustment screw on the back of the saw. The baseboard is then laid flat against the table of the saw. If your saw is like mine, it only adjusts to 45 degrees in one direction, so you'll have to flip around the saw or the workpiece for some cuts.

With very long spans of baseboard, it's easier to mis-measure or lose accuracy. Measure the length of the wall with a tape measure and transfer that measurement to the baseboard, but add a few millimeters to the length. Cut as accurately as possible - when cutting horizontally, it's easy to mess up the cut by making it too short. Experiment with a piece of scrap board if you need to.

Hopefully, the few millimeters of length that you added will result in the baseboard piece bowing outwards when you try to fit it in. Just shave a few millimeters off the end of the baseboard until it slides in place perfectly. I recommend starting with the longest piece first, just in case you screw up - that way, you can still re-use it on a shorter length of wall.

When you're satisfied with the fit of the baseboard, nail it in place with a nail gun. I put a few globs of glue along the length of the baseboard for added strength.

When the baseboards are in place, you can go back along each piece and fill the nail holes with wood putty. Any gaps between boards can also be filled with putty. Large gaps may need more than one application of putty. When the putty is dry, sand it smooth with fine grit sandpaper.

And now, for the last big step! As with the window trim, paint the baseboards with a layer or two of interior latex in your desired colour. Be careful not to get any paint on the floor or walls - wipe off any specks of paint immediately with a rag.

Step 48: Finishing Up

Well I guess that's just about it! There are a few more small things here and there to take care of, but you should be in move-in condition by this point. Here are a few more small things to take care of:

Reinstall Doors: If you removed the door to install flooring and trim, put it back on again.

Fix damage to painted walls: You may have taken a few nicks out of the paint while moving long pieces of baseboard. Grab a small brush and fix them using leftover paint.

Install shelves: If you're installing wall-mounted shelves, do that now.

Mount pictures and other wall ornaments: This may create a small amount of dust, do it now before vacuuming everything.

A final clean-up: Remove any tools that are lying around. Clean them off if they are covered in sawdust/paint/drywall dust/wood filler/glue/etc.

Vacuum and dust: Vacuum the floors, dust the shelves and walls, clean the windows.

Step 49: Conculsion and Thanks!

Well this concludes the longest Instructable I've ever written. I hope it will be of value to you. I certainly learned a lot during this half-year process! I highly encourage you to try a renovation like this yourself - just take your time, read a lot, watch a lot of DIY TV shows, and attend seminars at your local Big Box home improvement stores. If you screw up, remember that pretty much anything can be fixed.

I'd like to thank all of the friends and family who helped me along the way:

John, for helping me move materials, for showing me how to drywall, for help with framing and with pretty much everything else! I don't think I could have done it without you.

Gunther, for helping move materials, for doing most of the painting, and for other help along the way. Oh, and for cash and gift cards to help pay for materials.

Joel, for smashing down the concrete wall and helping remove all the debris. It was a dirty job, and I am thankful for your help!

Joanna, for your constant encouragement and help with framing, for watching the baby while I toiled away, and for approving many tool purchases!

To the rest of my family, thanks for your constant encouragement, praise, and advice. It was all helpful and is appreciated.

And finally to God, for (hopefully) being cool with me staying home from church to work away on this. I'll try to make it up to you someday. :)

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    10 months ago

    Hi, this is a great account of your work, really nice job. I live in a 100 yr old home with basement windows that need to be replaced and I am planning on making it a spring project so thanks very much for explaining how you did it all because it's exactly how I want to do mine... The window box and framing look really nice, I hope mine comes out like yours did, and I will be sure to use your step-by-step above as reference. Thanks again


    5 years ago

    Hi..what laser level were you using? I've been looking for one that wont cost a fortune.


    6 years ago

    Extremely helpful! Hat off to you!


    8 years ago on Introduction

    Looks nice! I was wondering how your floor is holding up after a few years. I've been doing some research on waterproofing my basement and I have not seen anyone else use that type of vapor barrier...just other (and much more expensive) options that I am hoping to avoid. Have you had any problems with moisture seeping through or causing problems underneath the flooring?


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    No moisture or mold issues as far as I can tell. But, we have a relatively dry basement. Before starting on a basement flooring project I'd suggest doing a moisture test - tape a 1 square meter piece of plastic to the floor and let it sit for a week or two. If no water condenses under the plastic in that time, then you're good to go!


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    Good to know, thanks! I just found out during the inspection that the house I'm buying has already been waterproofed, so at least that part is already taken care of :) Will still do a moisture test regardless.


    10 years ago on Step 5

    Most likely, those are spaced like that (the staggered pieces between the studs) as a fire block. This is code in some areas. It prevents, or at the very least slows the spread of fire up the interior of the wall. Homes built without these in an exterior wall may find their attic on fire before they even know there is a fire in the wall.


    10 years ago on Introduction

    Think I'd be wearing steel toe cap boots during the demolition. Nails through the instep are not nice....


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    Agreed.  And for most of the renovation, I did!  Many of the pictures taken here were, *ahem*, posed a little...  ;)


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    Beautiful work, and a stunningly complete 'ible
    Well done.


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction


    I have plans to do a bathroom this summer.  Hopefully I'll find the time to do it!


    10 years ago on Step 9

     Did you have to use anything to hold the foamboards in place while the PL300 was curing or are they light enough not to require that? (The user manual that comes with it says you need to use some type of a fastener to keep things under pressure until cured. ) Also, how long did it take in your case to dry?


    Reply 10 years ago on Step 9

    Nothing in particular.  I stuck the boards down, pulled them off for a minute or two, then stuck them back on as per instructions.  After that, they stuck all by themselves quite nicely.  The foam boards aren't heavy at all, and PL300 is very, very sticky.

    I'm not sure how long they took to dry.  Unused glue squeezed from the tube and left in the open air took about a day to get rock hard.


    10 years ago on Step 8

     What would happen if/when adhesive eventually fails? Would  you rely on the studs holding the foam and things remaining airtight?


    Reply 10 years ago on Step 8

    Presumably the adhesive is intended to be permanent.  But, in the unlikely event that it does fail, the second layer of insulation pasted on top, plus the tape, plus the studs on top should hold it in place.


    10 years ago on Step 10

    I love Roxul too, I'm planning to use it for my basement reno, as well.
    but dude, Roxul isn't fiberglass -- it's mineral fiber, so it doens't make you as itchy as fiberglass though.  You still need the breathing / eye protection like you describe. :D


    Reply 10 years ago on Step 10

    Yeah, someone informed me of my mistake on a different step.  Whoops!  But, it doesn't really matter which you use; either fiberglass or mineral fiber (aka rock wool) will work here.


    10 years ago on Introduction

    Have you noticed a significant change in your energy bill from the fiberglass insulation? I'm debating on whether or not it's necessary with the foam panels...I am on a very limited budget...


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    Hard to say how much more of a difference the fiberglass makes, since it was installed at the same time as the foam.  The top of the wall feels *slightly* warmer than the bottom, but that may be because heat rises.

    Think about it this way:  a basement renovation is something you're likely to do once.  It'll cost a few hundred more to pack in more insulation, but in the long run it's worth doing really well.  The foam panels will likely give you your minimum R-value to meet code, but I'm a fan of exceeding code where possible.