If good fences make good neighbors, good walls make good rooms. Stud walls—usually built of 2 × 4s—are the standard way to build home walls. Builders usually build walls flat on the floor, and then tilt them up into position. But existing homes usually don't have enough room, so it's necessary to build walls in place.
In the following, we'll show how to build a light-duty stud wall in place, piece by piece. And just to make things interesting, we'll build that wall in a heavily lived-in basement, where we confront the typical nightmares of basement construction: fastening to concrete, avoiding obstacles, and finding a way to build a straight wall more or less where it's wanted.
Step 1: Planning and Layout
You already have a general idea where you want to place the wall. Now let's get a realistic idea of where you can place it.
In this article, we describe a simple interior wall construction. While some of these methods apply to all walls, do not rely on these instructions if …
The wall will be bearing significant weight. A bearing wall would need doubled top plates and stronger headers over doors or windows, among other things.
The wall is on the exterior, either in the basement or above-grade. These walls face all sorts of insulation and moisture-barrier requirements that are too complicated for us to handle here.
Your decisions about wall placement depend on whether you plan to build in the basement or on a wood floor.
In the Basement
A 4' level is handy in this project, but it won't reach from floor to ceiling. Instead of springing for a super-long level, hold a shorter level against a straight 2 × 4 to plumb from floor to ceiling.
Try to place walls that run parallel to the joists—framing under a floor—directly under a joist. Otherwise, build a bridge of 2 × 4 between the joists, and screw the top plate to it, as shown in later photos.
Walls that cross joists can be screwed to the joists—if you can reach them. If pipes or ducts block your way, piece in the top plate, and build the wall around the obstacles. As we'll see later, in really crowded circumstances, you may not need a top plate.
Obstacles are the key problem in basements. In newer houses, the ceiling may be fairly clear, but in older places, ducts, pipes, wires, and who knows what else can interfere with placing the top plate. In our example, we decided to attach blocking—spacers—to the joist, and then attach the top plate under the blocking. By dropping the top plate, spacers can make it easy to fasten a dropped ceiling, if you choose to install one.