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How to frame basement walls – Materials

Jun 05, 2013

Your basement finishing project is designed and you are ready to start purchasing materials for framing your basement walls. There are many products available for constructing walls but only a handful of these products are designed to be used as basement walls. We will explore the following three products currently used in most basement walls today. Wood framing, metal framing and SIPs (Structurally Insulated Panels).

wood studWood Framing for Basement Walls

(Worst Choice) – Currently the most widely used method for constructing basement walls. Primarily due to the fact that metal framing and SIPs tend to be harder to find and many people are comfortable with wood as a building material. It’s readily available and easy to use. However what you may not know is that wood framing, even pressure treated or moisture resistant wood framing, is the worst possible choice for building your basement walls. The fibers in wood provide a great source of food for mold, fungi and bacteria.

When the wood is placed in a damp environment, such as a basement, it acts like a sponge, sucking up any moisture and creating the perfect breeding gound mold/mildew. This process is enhanced by covering the wood with sheetrock to create a cool dark enviroment for the mold, fungi and bacteria to thrive. Fungi growth can lead to dry rot causing your basement walls to crumble and deteriorate. Mold spores in the basement lead to that awful basement odor and mildew smell. Mold spores can also cause allergic reactions and asthma attacks. Stay away from wood framed basement walls its just not worth it.


Metal Framing for Basement Walls

(Good Choice)

Not commonly used in residential construction but a very solid choice for constructing basement walls. Metal stud framing is widely used in commercial construction and is readily available through most commercial supply houses. Metal studs are cost effective, easy to transport and have no organic materials.

In most cases the metal studs are galvanized to help reduce rusting due to moisture. Like most unique building products it does take some practice to get good at framing with metal studs. However if you are familiar with wood stud framing you shouldn’t have much trouble using metal stud framing to build your basement wall.


SIPs for Basement Walls

(Excellent Choice)

The Structurally Insulated Panel, commonly referred to as a SIP, provides the best all-around performance characteristics for constructing basement walls. They consist of an insulating layer of rigid polymer foam sandwiched between two layers of structural board. The board can be metal, plywood or cement.

For your basement wall you want to use cement based boards. This combination of the expanded polystyrene foam (EPS) core combined with the cement board skin creates a completely waterproof, mold/mildew proof and extremely energy efficient basement wall system. The cost of SIPs tends to be higher than wood or metal framing materials. However, a well-built basement wall using SIPs will have a tighter building envelope and the basement walls will have higher insulating properties, leading to fewer drafts and a decrease in energy costs.

Also, due to the standardized and all-in-one nature of SIPs, construction time can be less than framed basement walls, as well as requiring less manpower. As a result, the total cost of SIP basement walls will, in general, be lower than metal or wood framed walls—by as much as 40%. The SIPs will also outlast metal or wood framing in the basement environment, further increasing the long term ROI the SIP basement wall.

We hope this article has helped inform you about some of the material choices available when you build your basement wall. If you would like to see more about constructing a SIP basement wall, please watch our short installation video.