How to Finish a Basement -- The Walls
First, determine the amount of moisture in your basement. If the walls are moist or there is some water in places on the floor you will want to address this issue before going any further. Your options for getting rid of water seepage include doing it yourself or calling a professional. Either way, there will be cost involved but it will be money well spent as it may prevent many problems down the road.
Next you must estimate the amount of drywall and furring strips you will need. Furring strips are long, thin strips of wood which are used to attach drywall to concrete surfaces. Assuming your ceiling is less than 8 feet from the floor, you will need one sheet of drywall and four furring strips for every four feet of wall.
Screw furring strips to the basement wall leaving a space of about ½ " from the bottom of the strip to the floor (to guard against water seepage). To do this, plumb the strips using a level and drill holes about 16 inches apart into the wall using a masonry bit. Use hardened concrete screws.
Most unfinished basement walls are not flat so shimming the furring strips is neccessary to create a flat plane for the dry wall. Start with the strip nearest the corner and use a long level to determine where shims are needed. The process should be repeated so that all the strips are plumb with the first.
The next step is to add insulation and a vapor barrier, both of which are available at your local home improvement store. Cut the insulation panel to size and press it between the strips.The placement of insulation panels between the strips will help minimize heat loss. The plastic vapor barrier helps to minimize moisture penetration and can be attached to the strips with a minimum of staples. (The more staples used, the less effective the barrier).
The drywall should be cut and matched with the strips -- remember placed ½ " off the floor. Cutting the drywall is a relatively easy task using a utility knife and a straightedge to mark the cut line on the drywall face. Just cut through the paper facing and snap off your piece toward the back of the panel. Then use the utility knife to cut through the paper backing.
Screw the drywall to the furring strips. The best way to measure is to snap a chalk line along the drywall at each furring strip, remembering how far apart they were placed. Use 1 ¼ " drywall screws and be careful not to screw so deep that you break the surface of the face paper.
Next, apply a layer of drywall compound in the cracks between the dry wall sheets, about 3 inches wide. Apply a strip of drywall tape and another thin layer of compound over the tape filling in all of the screw holes. Making the surface as smooth as possible will not be an easy task at first, there is a learning curve, but it can be accomplished with practice. After about 24 to 36 hours the compound should be dry. Scrape off any uneven ridges or lumps and apply a thin layer of compound with a wide putty knife. Sand smooth when dry.
What are you looking for: