When you think of finishing your basement to provide a cozy area that adds to your home’s square footage, you might think you can do it just as you would an upstairs room. You might think you could just nail up some drywall over the stud wall, spackle it, paint, and move in the furniture.
While you theoretically could do that an awful thing would probably happen. Your basement would flood. It would flood often. It would then mold. That’s gross and would very likely make you and your family and friends sick.
You have a simple solution available. Use the right basement wall panels and properly finish the basement as well as waterproof it before you move a single piece of furniture into space.
How Do the Wall Panels for Basements Differ?
I am so glad you asked. Like the drywall used in bathrooms, the wall panels used in basements were designed to withstand moisture. They can handle a damp or wet environment.
In fact, a bit of carryover exists between bathrooms and basements. The purple drywall used in bathrooms also provides one of the main options for basements. Behind the panel, you still use fiberglass insulation to ensure warmth.
The panels used in basements use different materials than the drywall typically used in the other parts of a home. For example, one of the options includes plastic panels. If that sounds hinky, do not worry. No one will see the plastic.
You cover a basement wall just as you would the walls on upper floors, so you will still use items like wainscoting with chair rails, decorative panels, wallpaper, etc.
Different Types of Basement Wall Panels for Superior Walls
You have many wall panel types from which to choose. The goal is to waterproof the basement. To do this, you need to make sure that no water vapor can enter the walls, flooring, or ceiling.
Drywall provides a quick way to create walls. Avoid the green or blue shades of drywall and purchase purple. Yes, you will paint over it, but the color is not for the wall color.
Drywall manufacturers color code wallboard. The commonly used green boards are suitable for living areas and dining areas. These rooms do not get exposed to humidity or moisture. Most builders use blue board in kitchens.
These rooms do suffer a little humidity and moisture from cooking, but nothing like bathrooms or utility rooms also called laundry rooms. The purple board used in these rooms withstands high humidity well. It uses mold-resistant materials.
It can be harder to find after a major flood event because stores re-route their supplies to accommodate the needs of rebuilding in a flood area.
Basement Finishing Systems
Pre-fabricated wall paneling systems combine thermal and acoustic insulation. These kits provide an easy-to-install system that comes with every material you need to finish the space, but they do not necessarily provide waterproof wall panels.
Panel Living Systems
Also, a kit that provides all the materials needed, these systems use moistureproofing and durable materials that pass insulation codes.
They come in a variety of colors and textures that let you create a second living room, media center, man cave, or game room simply by erecting the panels.
Plastic Basement Wall Panels
Perfect for moist climates, where water seepage through wall cracks would typically result in leaks. These would worsen the cracks. A plastic basement wall panel uses a system that drains water to a trough behind the wall.
You can use wood wall paneling for a durable solution that can cover fiberglass or foam insulation and look good. This refers to plywood treated to be water-resistant or waterproof though, not the thin panels of decorative wallboard you would use to decorate a wall.
You can add to and combine many options. You can use decorative wood paneling over any of the options defined above. You can finish the wallboards with wainscoting and chair rails or wallpaper.
Another finishing option is faux or false panels that look like stone, wood, or fabric. You can add trim on top of these to create an inlaid panel look. This lends the look of an architectural element without the cost of the architect and the custom builders.
The Temptation to Do Something Quick
Modular panels cost a lot. While it provides an instant way to divide the basement, it does not help you finish the basement. Modular options provide no flood control. You need a basement finishing system that lets you complete it in such a way that you protect it from flooding.
Waterproofing the inside of the walls keeps water from seeping inside. Using a waterproof or water-resistant board keeps the walls from developing moisture problems from the outside.
You can create a DIY basement finishing system by combining items such as foam insulation under drywall panels with another wall product over the panels for decoration and for waterproofing.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Merely adding basement wall panels does not solve the problem of finishing a basement. You also must seal the walls and that depends on the type of wall you used. You also need to waterproof your walls even when you use a basement finishing system.
How you decorate the walls and the room plus dividing the basement all come down to personal choice, but many individuals have questions about methods, techniques, and how to go about creating a comfortable, cozy area out of an underground room that receives no sunlight.
This FAQs helps answer those questions.
What options are there for waterproofing basement walls?
Numerous methods exist for waterproofing basement walls.
You can use cementitious waterproofing, liquid waterproofing membranes, polyurethane liquid membrane waterproofing, acrylic waterproofing, bituminous coating waterproofing, silicate-based concrete sealers, and plastic sheets and panels.
The differences between these methods are vast.
- Cementitious waterproof method: The most effective to stop incoming water if your basement leaks. This uses locally available materials consisting of typical masonry supplies.
It is easy enough for a do-it-yourselfer to mix and apply the waterproofing. Since the mixture never gets exposed to sunlight, it does not contract, expand, or weather. You can also use this on your bathroom walls.
- Liquid membrane method: Apply a liquid membrane consisting of a coat of waterproof primer and two additional coats on top of that.
The best method requires applying the initial coat and allowing it to dry before applying the next coat. You can use a spray applicator, roller, or trowel.
Polymer-modified asphalt works best when sprayed onto the surface, but polyurethane liquid membrane comes in different grades for spray, roller, or trowel.
- Bituminous coating waterproofing: Bituminous coating works well to stop leaks through cracks. Its efficacy depends on the polymerization as well as its formulation grade and fiber reinforcement.
You can use bituminous asphalt coating to protect drywall or another wallboard, plus concrete walls and other surfaces. It works best in areas not exposed to sunlight which can cause it to become brittle.
- Polyurethane Liquid Membrane: Waterproof using polyurethane liquid for its weathering resistance, but look out because it costs a bit more than other methods.
This best adheres to dry concrete walls, so ensure you have removed the moisture in the room before application. Applied in a moist environment, it can peel or de-bond.
- Acrylic waterproofing paint: Use this type of acrylic paint to add to the existing waterproofing on the walls. You will paint anyway, so why not use something that adds an extra layer of protection to your basement?
Regardless of what the paint can or salesperson tells you, one gallon of this substance should cover 75 square feet if used as a waterproofing method. Each coat of paint added further protects the basement walls.
- Plastic sheeting with panels: Combine this option with an interior basement drainage system for the best results.
Install plastic sheeting over your existing basement walls to waterproof them, then install paneling on top of that to give the room a finished look.
- Silicate-based concrete sealers: Also referred to as a densifier, these sealers react with chemicals in concrete or bricks and absorb the chemicals to create a waterproof wall. You can fill a crack with this type of sealer.
What causes basement leaks?
Your basement might spring a leak for a multitude of reasons. Examine the home’s exterior to find any cracks in the foundation walls.
If your basement has windows or an exterior door, check the seals on these. A worn seal can allow water or moisture that should not be there. Your home may have clogged drain tile or lack drain tile altogether.
Can you use portable or modular panels for basement finishing?
We discuss this option separately because you cannot add to it. You can use a temporary wall panel or modular system to divide a large room into smaller ones.
Typically, constructed of wood or metal, then covered with a secondary material such as paneling or textured material, these provide a quick solution. Most options are fabric covered.
Why is there a gap between the basement wall and the floor?
Just as with the upper floors of a home, a small gap exists between the wall and floor as well as the wall and ceiling. The thin space between the panels of the wall and the subfloor and flooring plus the ceiling drywall is a seam where the two areas meet.
Unless you have built a home or other structure, you probably have not seen this before because, in a finished structure, the spackle and tape plus the paint over it cover the seams. You will also see most of these seams covered with crown molding or baseboards.
Can a basement be sealed from the inside?
Yes, the typical method of sealing a basement is from the inside. You seal it by using the appropriate wallboard and an effective method of waterproofing over the panels.
Why do you have water coming in on the floor where the basement wall and floor meet?
In an unfinished basement or one that has drywall up, but has yet to receive waterproofing, the gap between the floor and the walls or the floor and the ceiling has yet to be closed. Without waterproofing, it allows water to enter the basement since this gap remains unprotected.
How do you make concrete basement walls look good?
After using a waterproofing mix on them, you can finish precast concrete in the same ways you would other wall types. You can paint them, wallpaper them, or install paneling over them.
How do you make your basement cozy?
You decorate the basement to express your personality and likes. Once you have finished the walls, you can hang artwork or family photos.
Choose furniture that makes you want to enjoy the room with a cup of coffee or tea. If you love movies, the basement provides an ideal entertainment and media center.
If you love reading, this often expansive room makes an ideal library with plenty of space for built-in bookshelves. Comfortable couches, loveseats, and chairs contribute to a cozy décor.
Once you waterproof the home, you can install carpeting or use hardwood or tile flooring that you disperse throw rugs over in key areas.
Separate utility areas such as your laundry room or water heater with divider walls. This keeps the utilitarian area from the cozy family space you create.
What is the best material to use for basement walls?
This depends on the climate in which you live and the materials used for your home. In some areas, wood or drywall makes a bad choice since it expands and contracts during weather changes.
Places with large seasonal temperature variations would better benefit from a choice that does not contract or expand such as plastic. Consult with a local architect for help in determining what option best suits your climate.
Does investing in your basement increase the value of your home?
Finishing out your basement does increase the value of your home. The typical homeowner recoups about 70 percent of the expense of finishing the basement. That means if you spend $10,000 finishing out the basement, you increase your home’s resale value by $7,000.
How much does it cost to finish a basement?
Refinishing a basement has an average cost of about $20,000. This cost includes all aspects of the renovation or remodeling.
This figure assumes you hire a pro to do the job with professional materials rather than creating Do It Yourself wall panels for basements. The pro handles items like insulated wall panels and vapor barriers.
How much does it cost to finish a 1,000 sq. ft. basement?
The cost of a finished basement depends on the size of the space and whether you do the work yourself or hire a pro. A space of 1,000 square feet costs about $8,000 if you do the work, but $18,500 if you hire a pro.
A smaller space of less than 700 square feet costs about $5,500 for a DIY job, but $15,000 for a pro to do.
Larger spaces cost more. A more than 1,000 square feet basement costs about $15,000 to finish if you do the work, but add 20K to that for a pro job. You will recoup about 70 percent of that $35,000 when you sell the home though.