It’s time to frame and drywall the garage.
This is it: The biggest home improvement project I’ve ever started, and I’m a little nervous.
In theory it’s not that difficult.
My only problem is that my garage is unfinished cinder block on three of the walls, so I’m going to have to frame garage walls over concrete, which makes it a little more challenging.
Don’t worry, you’ll be there every step of the way.
Before you start, it’s important to know what you’re trying to get out of putting drywall up on your garage walls.
- Are you looking for a more finished look?
- Are you trying to save money and energy so you can use your garage year-round – no matter what the weather is outside?
- Or are you going all the way and turning your garage into a spare bedroom or man-cave?
You can learn a lot just by asking yourself these questions.
Believe it or not, the answer will tell you how far you need to go.
Level 1: If you just want a finished look and don’t care about any insulation, this will be the cheapest and easiest method. You can add some 1″x 3″ (or even 1″ x 2″) studs attached directly to the concrete block and mount the drywall directly to them. Because there’s no insulation in between, you’ll need to waterproof your garage walls before you start.
Level 2: Form and substance. If you want more than the basics, you’ll want to have some insulation underneath the drywall. Not only will this make your garage more comfortable year-round, it’ll help you save some money on your energy bill each month. This is the method that I ended up going with so you’ll get all the details below.
Level 3: If someone’s going to be in the garage for more than an hour or so per day (like for a guest-room or man-cave), then you’ll want to go all out here. You’ll want a thicker drywall, better insulation, more outlets and lighting. In theory, there’s nothing different from Level 2 to Level 3, but you’ll want to take more time in the planning stages. You (or someone else) will be living in this room, so you need to get it right the first time.
I ended up going with level 2: form and a bit of substance. I wanted something more substantial than just some wooden studs holding the drywall up. I wanted something secure that I could mount my garage track system so I can get my tools and garden equipment off the floor.
At the same time, the only thing that would be spending a lot of time in the garage would be my car. I didn’t need to go crazy with a ton of extra outlets, lighting and interior design touches. My garage needed to look cool, but not like every other room in my house.
This definitely saved money overall. I could opt for a thinner drywall and less insulation and I didn’t have to call an electrician to add a bunch of outlets. I still plan on insulating my garage door, but that’s further down the road. I want to see how much cooler my garage is with the drywall and wall insulation make first.
Step 1: Attach the baseplate
If you’re doing something more substantial than attaching thin studs to the concrete block directly, you’ll need a solid base to the foundation. The frame we’re going to build isn’t going to be load-bearing, but we’re still going to make sure it’s solid enough to support anything you want to hang on it.
For this section, you’re going to need the following tools:
- Hammer drill
- 1/4 inch concrete drill bit (6″)
- 1/4 inch wood drill bit
- 1/4 inch x 3 inch split drive concrete anchors
- Masonry hammer
- Ear and eye protection
- Chalk line
- Construction adhesive
- Tape measure
- Pressure treated 2 x 4 boards
The goal: By the end of this section, we’ll have the base plate for our frame running all the way down one side of your garage wall, secured to the floor with concrete anchors and construction adhesive.
We’ll be using 2 inch by 4 inch pressure treated lumber for the baseplate.
According to building codes, pressure treated lumber is required for any lumber in contact with concrete below grade (ground level). This is because pressure treated lumber holds up better in wet environments and resists rotting than regular lumber. Remember that concrete is porous so moisture can freely pass between the concrete and the wood.
If you have any doubts, the extra dollar or two spent on pressure treated lumber is definitely worth your piece of mind.
Start by measuring 4 1/2 inches out from the wall at several points down the length of the wall, marking the distance on the floor. Ideally, the marks will be level across the length of the floor, but that will be extremely rare. Depending on the age of your house and how much it has settled after construction, there will be some bowing of the walls.
You’ll need a partner for this so you can snap a chalk line down the length of the wall. You’ll want to make sure that the line is 4 1/2 inches from the wall at it’s closest point. We need enough room for the stud while still allowing a little bit of breathing room.
Once the chalk line is down, this will form the boundary for the base plate.
Start by marking off every two feet (24 inches) in the center of the board. This is where you’ll be drilling for the anchors,
Depending on the length of your garage, you may have to adjust this to slightly more or less than two feet, but it’s a good rule of thumb. The goal is to make sure the boards will have enough connection points with the concrete to be secure, but not go overboard.
Once you’re satisfied with the number and spacing of the markings, it’s time to pre-drill the holes in the wood using a standard 1/4 inch wood drill bit.
Next, you’ll want to add some construction adhesive to the floor where the wood will make contact with the concrete. We’re going to be working one board at a time for this part so the adhesive doesn’t dry out while you’re working. The concrete anchors are really secure (trust me on this one), but it’s always worth it to go that extra step.
Once you’ve got the adhesive in a neat little line on the floor, it’s time to mess it up a bit.
Take the first board and place it on the floor, on top of the adhesive. Try to put it slightly off-center from your chalk line, closer to the wall.
Then…pick up the board and place it back down, but this time right up against the chalk line. We’re trying to spread out the adhesive a little bit so it makes contact with more of the board.
Now for the final step: the concrete anchors.
Concrete anchors look like a heavy-duty nail, with a little ridge near the tip. When you hammer the anchor into the concrete, that notch will actually spread out and anchor itself into the concrete itself.
We’ll need to drill into the concrete floor a little farther than the length of the anchor itself – right around half and inch farther. In my case, I’m using 3″ anchors, and a 2″ board, which is why I’m using a 6″ concrete drill bit.
If you don’t own a hammer drill, I highly recommend you rent one. It’ll make this next part so much faster and easier than using a standard drill.
If you’re not familiar with a hammer drill or why it’s different than a regular drill, here’s the bottom line: a hammer drill will add a hammering motion (hence the name) in addition to rotating the drill bit. It literally hammers the drill bit into the concrete while it’s drilling so it doesn’t just spin on the surface.
In short, it’s going to save you a ton of time and effort. Which is not to say that this is going to be easy. My shoulders were definitely sore after hammer drilling 20″ worth of holes in concrete.
In this step we’re going to go through the mounting holes one at a time. We’ve already pre-drilled the pilot holes earlier, but it’s very important not to drill more than one hole into the concrete at a time.
Imagine how much it would suck if you drilled all of the holes in your concrete floor only to find out that the wood shifted somewhere along the way.
So we’re going to tackle this one anchor at a time.
Break out the hammer drill with your six-inch masonry bit and let’s drill the first hole.
Note: Always wear ear and eye protection! Hammer drills are extremely loud, so protect those eardrums.
Drill the first hole, approximately 1/2 inch to an inch deeper than the length of your anchor. As I said earlier, my anchor is three inches long, and my baseplate board is 2 inches deep, so I used a six-inch masonry drill bit. If you have a longer drill bit, you can use a piece of tape to mark off where you should stop drilling.
Once the first hole is drilled, set the drill aside and grab your framing hammer (or any heavy duty hammer) and a concrete anchor. You’ll want to keep your eye protection on and take extra care during this step.
Press the anchor as deep into the board as it will go before you start hammering.
Once you’re sure the anchor is aligned with the hole you drilled into your concrete floor, you can be a little more aggressive with the hammer.
Congratulations! The first anchor is in place. Now you can double check that the board is still aligned to your chalk line and continue down the wall.
Once you’re finished, you should have a secure baseplate where you can mount the wall frame that we’re going to build in the next step.
Step 2: Build the wall frame
Now that the baseplate is secure to the concrete floor, I’ve got a good base to attach my wall frame to.
In this section, I’ve cleared out some space on my garage floor so I can build the frame on the ground and then lift it into place. This is much easier than building the wall frame in place (vertically against the wall). If you’ve got the option or can move things around to make it work, I highly recommend you build the wall on the floor.
For this section, you’re going to need the following tools:
- Pressure treated lumber (2 x 4) long enough to reach your garage ceiling at the highest point
- Table saw or miter saw
- Either 3″ framing nails or screws
- (optional) cordless drill with screwdriver bit
- Tape measure
- Eye protection
The goal: By the end of this section, you’ll have the wall vertically in place against your concrete wall and secured to the baseplate. We’ll level it out and secure it to the ceiling and side walls in step 3.
Important note: You’ll see in these pictures that I’m building the wall in three distinct sections. I’m doing this project on my own and the wall frame is pretty damn heavy. No matter how strong you think you are, you’re probably going to underestimate how heavy the wall frame is when you get it assembled. Be safe and chunk the project done into sections that you can easily handle.
We’ve already built the baseplate to secure the wall frame to the concrete floor. It’s like laying the foundation that we’ll be building on in this step.
Now, we’re going to build the wall frame, with it’s own top and bottom pieces.
Measuring and cutting the studs
Start by stacking two 2 x 4 pressure treated boards on top of your baseplate, next to one corner of the wall. We want to measure how long our vertical studs need to be at various points along the wall.
The thought here is that the distance from the three boards (baseplate, bottom frame and top frame) to the ceiling will be the same as the distance from the top frame and bottom frame once they’re installed. This just makes it easier from the start.
Take your tape measure and measure the distance from the boards to the ceiling at several points along the wall and keep track of the lowest number. In my case, my garage slopes downward from the left side of this picture (house side) to the right (garage door side). So my lowest point was next to the door going into my house.
Take that lowest measurement and subtract one inch from it. That’s the length of your vertical studs.
Why subtract an inch? When we build the frame on the ground, we’ll need to slide it vertically into place and we’ll need some breathing room to make it fit.
Don’t worry about the gap. We’ll take care of that in step 3.
Studs are placed every 16″ or 24″ along the wall, so you’ll need enough 2 x 4 boards to cover it. In my case, I went with sixteen inches between the studs.
Next, you’ll want to line up your studs together to get an idea of the shape and curve of each board.
When you line them up, pay special attention to the boards. In this picture you can see a couple of boards that were bowed out in one direction or another. If you’ve got extra boards (you did buy extra, didn’t you?), swap these out for different boards. It’ll make mounting the drywall easier.
This is the perfect time to look at your lumber and decide if there are minor curves that you can live with, or if the wood is so warped that your frame is going to suffer for it.
Once you’re sure that the studs you have are going to be straight, it’s time to start cutting them. As a reminder, we want to take the lowest point between the three boards (baseplate, bottom frame and top frame) and the ceiling and subtract one inch so we can move the frame into place later.
Measure off that distance for each board and mark a line.
Once you have all the studs measured, measure them one more time…just to be sure.
Measure twice…cut once.
Once you’re sure they’re all going to turn out the same length, make your cuts using your table saw or miter saw.
Assemble the frame
For my garage, I’m building it in three distinct sections. Two sections are simple 8″ frames. The third section will be 4″ to cover the rest of the distance but also has a section of pipe that I’ll need to work around.
For the two larger sections, I’m using two eight foot 2″ x 4″ pressure treated boards – one for the top and one for the bottom.
Since studs are placed every sixteen inches on center, we’re now going to mark out where we’re going to be mounting the studs.
Important note: Did you catch that part about the studs being 16″ on center? You can’t simply measure every 16″ from the end and expect that to work well. The drywall is designed in lengths so that it’s going to fit over the studs. But if you’re off in your measurements then you’re going to be constantly cutting drywall and creating more work for yourself down the road.
The easy way to fix that is to account for the width of the stud when you’re mounting them to the wall frame.
Studs are usually an inch and a half thick. So all we need to do is back out 3/4 ” from our measurement each time.
As you can see in the picture, I’ve measured 16″ from the beginning of my bottom plate and then subtracted 3/4″.
I then marked where the beginning of the stud will be.
I’ve also made an ‘X’ to remind myself which side of the line to put the stud so that the center point of the stud will be right over that 16″ line.
Continue down the line all the way until you reach the end, then repeat for the top frame.
Once you’ve got everything marked out, it’s time to lay them out on the floor.
Give yourself plenty of room on the top and bottom so you can drive the framing nails (or screws) into the top and bottom of the frame.
You’ve got the option of using either framing nails or screws for this part. Framing nails are stronger, but you’ll need a nail-gun and air compressor. In my case, I’m using 3″ exterior deck screws to secure my boards. They don’t have quite as high a shear-strength as the nails, but they’re easier to drive with your standard cordless drill.
From now on, I’ll just be saying ‘screws’ instead of “nails or screws”, but just know that the two are interchangeable for this section.
We’ll be using two screws per stud to lock them into place. I recommend starting at one end of the top frame and working your way along the line, but it’s not necessary. As long as you screw in every stud, you can do it in whatever order you like.
Line up your first stud so that the edge of the stud aligns with the line you made earlier and the bulk of the stud is over the ‘X’. See the image below if you can’t visualize this.
Safety tip: It’s going to be tempting to hold the stud close to the top frame to get leverage, but don’t. The boards can move when you’re driving in the screws and cause injury. Keep your hands out of the way – especially if you’re using a nail gun!
Your goal here is to have a nice 90 degree angle between the two boards so that anything that joins those pieces (other sections of frame or drywall) will fit flush.
We’re going to use two screws per stud, about half an inch from each side to get a good, solid attachment point.
Once you’re all lined up, drive in the screws so that they’re flush with the top of the board.
One down…a whole lot more to go. Repeat the process for the rest of the studs on both the top and bottom frames.
Once you’re finished assembling the frame and you’re satisfied that everything is secure and strong, it’s time to lift it into place.
This is where I wish I’d had a second pair of hands. If you’re tackling the project by yourself, do yourself a favor and break the wall into no more than eight-foot sections.
I had a helper, but she wasn’t much use in lifting the wall into place. 🙂
Once you’ve got the first section up, it’s lather, rinse, repeat for the remaining sections.
Again…break the project down into manageable chunks. If this was going to be a load-bearing wall, the steps would be different. Framing against a concrete wall isn’t as hard as it seems since the concrete is already bearing the load of your house.
Important note: If you built your wall in sections like I did, you’ll need to secure the sections to each other so you’ll have one secure frame for the entire length of your wall. I used the same 3″ screws that I used to secure the studs to the top and bottom of the frame.
Step 3: Secure the frame to the wall
Alright, we’re almost there. We’ve got the frame in place against the concrete wall. The only thing left now is to secure it so it’s strong enough to hang our tools and garage storage cabinets on.
This should go without saying, but it’s critical that the frame is secure against all four sides of the wall. Don’t even think about cutting corners here – safety first!
For this section, the supplies you need will depend on your situation. In my case, I secured the bottom of the frame to the baseplate, one side of the frame directly to the concrete block, and the other side and the top to the existing wall frame using spacers.
The goal: By the end of this section, your frame will be secure against the concrete wall and ready for insulation and drywall.
Let’s start with the easy part first.
Secure the frame to the baseplate
Way back at the beginning of this process you made sure that the baseplate was straight and level along the length of your wall. That work is going to make this section really easy because all you have to do is line up the bottom of your frame to the baseplate. You can use the same 3″ framing nails or screws that you used throughout the previous section. You’ll want to use one screw for every gap between your studs.
It’s helpful to have a friend in this section to make sure the frame doesn’t move while you’re busy screwing in the support anchors, but it’s not necessary.
Secure the frame to the ceiling
Depending on whether or not your garage ceiling already has drywall covering it, this section could be really easy or a bit of a challenge.
You’re looking for solid connection points above to top of the wall frame. This can be either a major ceiling beam or a smaller joist. Think of a beam as a large piece of sturdy wood with a high load-bearing capacity as opposed to joists which are smaller with less weight capacity.
I was lucky enough to have a solid beam running up the length of my wall that was wide enough for me to be able to secure my frame to it. That allowed me to screw my supports in at any point I chose.
If that isn’t the case for your wall, you’ll have two other options. You can screw the frame into the cross-beams running perpendicular to your wall, across the width of your garage. If your garage ceiling is drywalled already, this is the preferred option since it’ll be less messy. Alternately, if your ceiling isn’t finished already, you can add a small joist between the beams to give you a secure attachment point.
Important note: Most garages are sloped away from the house to help with drainage. This means there will usually be a very narrow gap at the back of your garage and a much wider gap at the front of the garage next to your garage door. It is common to have to use different widths of wood as spacers between the top of the frame and the ceiling.
For example, at the very back of my garage, I could secure the frame directly to the joist above, but midway down the wall, I was using a 1″ x 4″ board (as you can see below).
But, closer to the garage door I was using a 2″ x 4″ spacer. You can see in the picture below that the anchor is already in place. Don’t worry, we’ll get to that in a minute.
You don’t need to have the entire length of the wall fit snugly to the top of the frame. That’s the ideal, but it won’t often be the case.
What you do need is enough secure attachment points so that the wall will securely hold anything you’re going to put on it. I recommend securing the frame to the ceiling every 2-3 feet along the length of the wall. So if your garage is twenty feet long, you’ll want between 7-10 anchors attaching the frame to the ceiling.
Once you have your attachment points all marked out and your spacers in place, you’ll want to make sure your frame is plumb (i.e. straight up and down).
Grab your large wall level and check various points along the wall to make sure that the wall frame is straight. If you’ve done the previous step correctly, the frame should be fairly snug against the wooden spacers. You may need to use a rummer mallet to make small adjustments. Here’s where it’s useful to have a friend help you.
I recommend checking as many points you need to feel comfortable that the wall is plumb. For me, that was every other stud. I wanted to be absolutely sure that the wall was straight.
To secure the walls, I used various lengths of GRK fasteners, depending on the length of the spacer wood I’d used. At the narrow points, the 4″ screws since that gave me enough length to get through the top of the frame and the one inch spacer. When the gap was large enough to accommodate the 2″ x 4″ spacer board, I switched to the 5 1/8″ screws.
In total, I went for the upper end of my recommendations and had ten anchor points to the ceiling.
Secure the frame to concrete block
Once both the top and bottom are secure, the sides are secured based on whatever material is on the wall next to it. In most cases, one of those walls (usually the one with the garage door itself) will be concrete block.
Fortunately, if you’ve measured everything correctly up to this point, the edge of the frame should be snug up against the wall and this should be a piece of cake.
I used five Tapcon concrete anchors that were 1/4″ x 2 3/4″, spaced about 16 inches apart from floor to ceiling. It’s important to drill into the cinder block itself, not the softer concrete in between the blocks.
This wall was pretty straightforward, which is why I started with this side of the garage.
There was only one small pipe in the upper left corner that I needed to work around. There were no additional electrical outlets that I wanted to put on the wall, or any that needed to be moved.
In short…this is as easy as it can get. And even this non-handyman felt perfectly comfortable doing it.
There’s more to come, obviously. I’ve got the basic wall frame secured in place, but I’ll need to insulate it and attach the drywall before painting it.
Those articles are coming up next. Stay tuned!