Converting an Unfinished Basement

Q: I plan to convert my unfinished basement into a finished living space. When installing drywall on the basement ceiling, do the panels attach directly to the underside of the joists?

A: Rather than attaching directly to the joists, the ceiling should have wood or metal furring strips attached perpendicular to the joists. In most houses the ceiling joists will be inconsistent, with their lower edges located at slightly different elevations that can result in an uneven drywall ceiling if directly attached. To install the furring, pull a string across the bottom of the joists and attach it to the opposite side of the ceiling. Check the string for high and low spots. High spots will need to be planed; low spots will need to be shimmed. For the furring strips, fasten wooden 1×3’s or metal resilient channel across the joists, checking for level and shimming as required. Finally, install the ceiling panels across the furring strips, staggering the panel joints from row to row. A homemade “deadman” or T-shaped 2×4 brace will help hold the panels while you screw them into the furring.

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