Q: I’d like to finish my basement, which currently has bare concrete block walls, but I’d prefer to avoid drywall because of all the mudding and sanding involved. Is there an easier option?
A: Installing 4-by-8 sheets of paneling should be a relatively easy way to go. You’ll first need to cover the walls with a 4-mil vapor barrier, held in place with horizontal 1-by-3 furring strips spaced 2 feet on center. Nail vertical 1-by-3’s between the horizontals to provide a solid nailing surface for the edges of the panels. Shim the furring strips to keep the surface in the same plane and avoid dips in the wall. Cut rigid foam insulation to fit snuggly between the furring strips. Then, to meet fire code, you should cover the insulation with sheets of ½-inch drywall—but don’t worry, there’s no need to finish the drywall joints with compound. Make sure your paneling is designed for use in below-grade applications, and acclimate the panels for at least 72 hours in the basement before installing them over the drywall.