This is it: the biggest home improvement project I’ve ever started. It’s time to frame and drywall the garage.
In theory, it’s not that difficult.
My only problem is that my garage is unfinished cinder block on three walls. So I will have to frame garage walls over concrete, making it a little more challenging.
Don’t worry. You’ll be there every step of the way.
Before you start, you need to ask yourself why you want to drywall your garage walls in the first place.
You can learn a lot just by asking yourself these questions:
- Are you looking for a more finished look?
- Are you trying to save money and energy?
- Do you want to be able to 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?
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 insulating your garage, 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 cinder 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. This will make your garage more comfortable year-round and 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: Going all out. If you spend more than an hour or so per day in your garage, this is for you. You’ll also want thicker drywall, better insulation, more outlets, and even garage lighting for mancaves or bedroom conversions. Take some additional time planning in this stage. You (or someone else) will be living in this room, so you need to get it right the first time.
How to Build A Wall In a Garage: My Plan
I went with level 2: form and a bit of substance.
I wanted something more substantial than just wooden studs holding the drywall up. It’s essential to have something secure to mount my garage track system and Gladiator cabinets.
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 good, but not like every other room in my house.
This definitely saved money overall. I was able to go with thinner drywall and less insulation. I also didn’t have to call an electrician to add a bunch of outlets.
The plan was still to insulate my garage door, but I wanted to see how cool my garage is with the drywall and wall insulation first.
If you want to follow along with the entire process, here’s how I did it:
- Waterproof your garage walls with Drylok
- Insulate garage walls step by step
- How much does it cost to drywall a garage?
- How to drywall your garage
Step 1: Attach the Base Plate
You’ll need a solid base plate attached to the foundation unless you want to attach thin studs to the concrete block.
The frame we’re going to build isn’t going to be load-bearing. However, I still want 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. I’m partial to the DeWalt DWD520K
- 1/4 inch concrete drill bit (6″). I chose the DeWalt DW5518
- 1/4 inch wood drill bit. You can usually find these as part of a set
- 1/4 inch x 3-inch split drive concrete anchors. You can use longer anchors if you want, but I recommend at least 3″
- Masonry hammer
- Ear protection
- Safety goggles
- Chalk line
- Construction adhesive
- Tape measure
- Pressure-treated 2 x 4 boards
The goal: The base plate running down one side of my garage wall, secured to the slab with concrete anchors and construction adhesive.
We’ll use 2″ x 4″ pressure-treated lumber for the base plate.
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 peace of mind.
Start by marking 4 1/2 inches out from the wall at several points down the length of the wall.
Ideally, the marks will be level across the length of the floor, but that will be extremely rare. Your garage walls may bow out depending on your home’s age and how much it has settled over time.
You’ll need a partner for this so you can snap a chalk line down the length of the wall.
Make sure that the line is 4 1/2 inches from the wall at its closest point. We need enough room for the stud while still allowing a little 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 ensure the boards 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″ wood drill bit.
Next, you’ll want to add some construction adhesive to the floor where the wood will contact the concrete. We will be working on one board at a time, preventing the adhesive from drying out while you’re working.
The concrete anchors are VERY secure (trust me on this one). However, it’s always worth going that extra step.
Once you’ve got the adhesive in a neat little line on the floor, it’s time to mess it up.
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 allowing it to make contact with more of the board.
Now for the final step: the concrete anchors.
Concrete anchors look like heavy-duty nails, 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.
We’ll need to drill into the concrete slab a little farther than the length of the anchor itself – right around half an inch farther.
In my case, I’m using 3″ anchors and a 2″ board, which requires at least a 6″ concrete drill bit.
If you don’t own a hammer drill, I recommend renting one. This next part will be faster and easier than using a standard drill.
Hammer drills differ from regular drills by adding a hammering motion (hence the name) while rotating the drill bit.
It literally hammers the drill bit into the concrete while it’s drilling.
In short, it’s going to save you a ton of time and effort. This is not to say it’ll be easy, and my shoulders were definitely sore after hammer drilling 20′ of holes in concrete.
- 10 amp motor generates 50% more power with increased overload protection for added durability
- Dual Mode: hammerdrill / drill for versatility
- 2-Speed range for high-speed drilling or high-torque applications
- Soft grip handle and two-finger trigger for increased comfort and greater control
In this step, we will go through the mounting holes one at a time. We’ve already pre-drilled the pilot holes earlier, but it’s crucial 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 slab but later found out 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. It should be approximately 1/2″ to 1″ deeper than the length of your anchor.
As I said earlier, my anchor is three inches long, and my base plate 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.
Set the drill aside once the first hole is drilled. Next, grab your framing hammer (or any heavy-duty hammer) and a concrete anchor.
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.
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 base plate where you can mount the wall frame that we’re going to build in the next step.
Step 2: Build the Wall Frame
With the base plate secure to the concrete floor, You have a solid base to attach your wall frame.
In preparation, I’ve cleared out some space on my garage floor to build the frame on the ground and then lift it into place.
This is much easier than building the wall frame 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
If you don’t have a table or mitre-saw handy, you can usually find a local store to cut the wood for you.
The goal: By the end of this section, you’ll have the wall vertically in place against your concrete wall and secured to the base plate.
We’ll level it out and connect 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’ll probably underestimate how heavy the wall frame is when you get it assembled.
Be safe and chunk the project into more manageable sections.
We’ve already built the base plate to secure the wall frame to the concrete floor, and that lays the foundation that we’ll build on in this step.
Now, we’re going to build the wall frame with its own top and bottom pieces.
Measuring and cutting the studs
Start by stacking two 2 x 4 pressure treated boards on top of your base plate, 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 distance from the three boards (base plate, bottom frame, and top frame) to the ceiling will be the same as the distance from the top and bottom frames.
Using your tape measure, measure the distance from the boards to the ceiling. Do this at several points along the wall and keep track of the lowest number.
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 bowed out in one direction or another.
Swap these out for different boards if you’ve got extra boards (you did buy extra, didn’t you?). It’ll make mounting the drywall easier.
This is the perfect time to look at your lumber and decide if there are minor curves or if the wood is so warped that your frame will suffer for it.
Once you’re sure that the studs you will be straight, it’s time to start cutting them.
We want to take the lowest point between the three boards (base plate, bottom frame, and top frame) and the ceiling and subtract one inch to 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 in three distinct sections.
Two sections are simple 8″ frames, and 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 account for.
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.
Studs are placed every sixteen inches on center. Next, we’re now going to mark where the studs go.
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 your measurements are off, you’ll constantly cut drywall and create more work for yourself down the road.
The easy way to fix that is to account for the stud’s width when 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 would be.
I’ve also made an ‘X’ to remind myself which side of the line to put the stud to ensure the center point will be right over that 16″ line.
Continue down the line 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 floor space near the top and bottom. That way, 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, so opt for those if you can.
In my case, I’m using 3″ exterior deck screws to secure my boards. They don’t have 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.
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 will be tempting to hold the stud close to the top frame to get leverage, but don’t. The boards can move and cause injury when driving the screws.
Keep your hands out of the way!
Your goal is to have a nice 90-degree angle between the two boards so anything that joins those pieces (other sections of frame or drywall) will fit flush.
We will use two screws per stud, about half an inch from each side, to get a good, solid attachment point.
Next, drive in the screws 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, check to ensure it’s secure and strong.
Now it’s time to lift it into place. This is where I wish I’d had a second pair of hands.
If you’re doing this 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, and 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’d need to secure the sections to each other. The goal is to 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
We’re almost there.
With the frame in place against the concrete wall, the only thing left now is securing it so it’s strong enough to hang our tools and garage storage cabinets.
This should go without saying, but the frame must be secured 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 base plate, 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: Your frame will be secure against the concrete wall and ready for insulation and drywall by the end of this section.
Let’s start with the easy part first.
Secure the frame to the base plate
Way back at the beginning of this process, you made sure that the base plate was straight and leveled along the length of your wall.
That work will make this section really easy because all you have to do is line up the bottom of your frame to the base plate.
Use one 3″ framing nail or 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
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 the top of the wall frame – 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 instead of 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 to secure my frame to it. That allowed me to screw my supports 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. This is the preferred option if your garage ceiling is drywalled already since it’ll be less messy.
Alternately, you can add a small joist between the beams for a secure attachment point if you have access.
Important note: Most garages are sloped away from the house to help with drainage. Usually, there’s a narrow gap at the rear and a wider gap next to your garage door.
It is common to need 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. However, 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.
You 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 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 ensure that the wall frame is straight.
If you’ve done the previous step correctly, the frame should be pretty snug against the wooden spacers. You may need to use a rubber mallet to make minor adjustments.
I recommend checking as many points you as need to feel comfortable that the wall is plumb.
For me, that was every other stud because 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 size of the spacer wood I’d used.
At the narrow points, the 4″ screws 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.
I went for the upper end of my recommendations and had ten anchor points to the ceiling.
Secure the frame to the 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 made of cinder blocks.
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, but I’ll need to insulate it and attach the drywall before painting it.
Keep following along with how I insulated my garage walls here.