A Step-by-Step Guide to Finishing a Basement

Thursday, December 08, 2022

When you look around at your unfinished basement, it may feel like an impossible task to turn it into a livable space for you and your family since there’s so much work to do, especially if you’re planning on taking care of the project yourself. However, you can break the steps required for finishing your basement into three separate, manageable categories — walls, ceiling, and flooring — and tackle each category one at a time. 

The tools needed to complete your project largely depend on the materials you choose to install, but you can count on likely needing the following: a circular saw, a caulk gun, a hammer, a nail gun, nails, a tape measure, a masonry drill, insulation adhesive, and utility knives. You should also have the proper safety gear, like gloves and goggles, on hand to protect yourself throughout the renovation. 

Things to Consider Before Starting Your Basement Renovation 

Before starting your renovation, you’ll need to apply for building permits and check your local building code. If your basement doesn’t meet code for ceiling height or exits, you’ll likely have to bring in professional reinforcements to help you complete your project.  

Your local building code will also outline rules and special considerations concerning vapor barriers, fire performance, and more, which may affect the materials you buy and the steps you need to take to finish your basement. When in doubt, consult a professional contractor for guidance. 

While planning your renovation, you should also test your basement for moisture, humidity, and dampness. If the levels are high, you’ll likely need to take steps to waterproof the area and also choose materials that are water and moisture resistant. 

Steps to Finish Basement Walls

Your basement walls will require the most work to finish, as you’ll need to insulate and frame them before installing wall panels or drywall. 

How to Insulate Your Basement Walls 

If you’re handling your basement reno without any outside help, rigid foam insulation is a great, DIY-friendly, and moisture-resistant option to insulate your basement. Several companies sell rigid foam insulation, but you’ll find their installation processes are very similar and commonly include the following steps: 

  • Caulk all the seams between ceiling and rim joists with silicone caulk. 
  • Measure the wall from the floor to the ceiling and mark the measured height on the rigid foam panel. Using a utility knife, score the panel and snap the board along the scored line.  
  • Apply a spray foam adhesive to the back of the rigid foam insulation panel, especially in the corners and along the edges.  
  • Place the panel against the wall and push firmly. Cut the next panel and place it securely next to the first one.  
  • Continue to install the panels along the walls following steps one through four, making sure to mark and cut out areas for electrical outlet boxes before installing. 
  • Cover seams with tape and fill in large holes or cracks with low-expanding spray foam. 

If your wall studs have already been installed, you’ll likely want to opt for fiberglass insulation or spray foam insulation instead: 

  • Fiberglass insulation is sold in batts or rolls that are designed to fit standard walls and ceilings with framing spaced 16 or 24 inches apart on-center. It’s easy to install yourself, however, fiberglass insulation can trap moisture and lead to mold or mildew growth. 
  • Spray foam insulation is a polyurethane foam that’s sprayed in the space between basement wall studs with a hose and gun and then expands. While we recommend hiring a certified contractor or technician to install spray foam, you can buy do-it-yourself kits online or at your local hardware store. During installation, be sure to follow the instructions provided with your kit from the manufacturer. 

How to Frame Your Basement Walls 

Once you’ve installed the insulation, it’s time to frame your walls. This is an important step that must be completed before installing wall panels or drywall: 

  • Draw a chalk line on the floor four inches from the wall. 
  • Measure the length of your wall and cut two 2x4s to size — these will be your top and bottom plates. 
  • Subtract 3 inches from the previous measurement and cut your studs to size. This accommodates the thickness of the two 2x4 plates, which are 1 ½” each. 
  • Set the top and bottom plates side by side on the floor to mark spacing for the studs. The first stud will be offset by ¾”. Mark every 16” to indicate the centers of the studs.  
  • Place your bottom plate along the bottom of the wall, aligning it with the chalk line drawn in the first step. Secure the bottom plate using a masonry drill and nails, adding a supporting nail at each 16” mark. 
  • Using a nail gun instead of a masonry drill, install the top plate by following the same instructions for the bottom plate. If your ceiling joists run parallel to the top plate, add a blocking board between the nearest joists every 16 inches to attach the top plate to. 
  • Align the studs with the 16-inch marks made earlier and insert nails on each side of the stud at a 45-degree angle. 
  • Repeat steps one through seven until all your basement walls have been framed. 

Before installing wall panels or drywall, you’ll want to complete any electric, plumbing, or air duct work that will run inside the walls. This part of your project should not be DIYed. Hire a certified professional to complete it for you.  

How to Install Trusscore Wall&CeilingBoard on Your Basement Walls

Basements are moist and humid spaces that are one drop of water away from the start of a mold problem and one storm away from an expensive and time-consuming renovation. As a result, we recommend installing moisture-resistant panels like Trusscore Wall&CeilingBoard instead of drywall — which is prone to water damage — to protect your space: 

  • Install wall panel trim in the corners of the room, at the top and base of each wall, and around any openings like windows or doors. 
  • Depending on the dimensions and design of your space, panels may need to be cut to length. Vertically insert the first panel into the top, bottom, and corner trim pieces, then use a level to ensure straightness and fasten to the stud every 16” or 24”. 
  • Continue installing the remaining Trusscore Wall&CeilingBoard panels across all desired areas, cutting/notching panels for window or door openings as appropriate. Fasten panels through the screw flange along each stud. 

For more detailed instructions on how to install Trusscore Wall&CeilingBoard, download our Installation Guide. 

Steps to Finish Basement Ceiling 

To finish your basement ceiling, you have two choices: install a drop ceiling, or install drywall or ceiling panels directly to the joists. A drop ceiling is best if you have to cover exposed piping, wiring, or ductwork. You can buy drop ceiling installation kits online or at your local hardware store. Follow the installation instructions that are provided with the kit. 

If you don’t have obstructions hanging below your joists, you can easily finish your basement ceiling using Trusscore Wall&CeilingBoard: 

  • Trim out the ceiling area. Cut your trim to length and install around the entire ceiling perimeter. 
  • Install panels perpendicular to the joist direction. Start by sliding the tongue edge of the first panel into the J Trim, leaving the screw flange exposed. Fasten the panel through the screw flange at each joist. 
  • Continue installing the remaining Trusscore Wall&CeilingBoard panels until complete. If your ceiling dimensions exceed the longest available panel length of 20’, use H Channel Snap In Trim to join panel sections. 

It’s important to remember that Trusscore Wall&CeilingBoard does not serve as a thermal barrier but may be readily installed on top of wall assemblies that are. For more detailed instructions on how to install Trusscore Wall&CeilingBoard, download our Installation Guide

Steps to Finish Basement Flooring 

In an unfinished basement, your floor is likely a slab of cement. Before installing flooring, you’ll have to install a subfloor to help keep your basement dry and warm: 

  • If your basement floor is uneven, you’ll first need to create a flat surface using self-leveling compound (also known as liquid floor underlayment or floor resurfacer). A concrete grinder can be used to level high spots. 
  • Once the compound is dry, check to ensure the floor and any dips are now level. If not, repeat step one.  
  • Cover the slab with polyethylene sheets (or another vapor barrier) to the cement with an adhesive, overlapping the seams by at least 6”. Seal the seams and edges with sheathing tape. 
  • Measure the floor from wall to wall and mark the measured height on the rigid foam insulation panel. Using a utility knife, score the panel and snap the board along the scored line.  
  • Apply a spray foam adhesive to the back of the panel, especially in the corners and along the edges. Place the panel against the floor and push firmly. Cut the next panel and place it securely next to the first one.  
  • Place sheets of plywood cut to size on top of the insulation and install the plywood with a masonry drill and concrete screws. 

With the subfloor set, you’re ready to install flooring. In a basement, you can choose to install vinyl, tile, or carpet. Vinyl flooring is easy to install and is water resistant, tiles are polished and easy to clean in the event of a flood or leak, and carpet can be dried out or replaced if you experience water issues. However, it’s best to install flooring that’s waterproof or water resistant to avoid headaches further down the line. 

Follow the installation instructions for the flooring type you purchased. If you aren’t comfortable, consider hiring a professional to install it for you. 

Once you’re done with all these steps, your basement will be officially finished, and it’s ready to be furnished! Happy decorating! 

Your Basement Is Only As Good As the Materials You Choose



Trusscore Wall&CeilingBoard are interlocking, interior PVC wall and ceiling panels that are lightweight, low maintenance, and outperform products like drywall and FRP.

Learn More


Trusscore SlatWall is a high-strength, on-the-wall organization system that’s easy to install and seamlessly integrates with Trusscore Wall&CeilingBoard.

Learn More