DIY Network

Remodel a Basement Utility Room

Learn how to turn a dank cellar into a dry, usable space with a custom laundry sorting table.

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Step 1: Clear, Measure and Prep the Area

First, clear out everything stored in the space so you can see the dimensions of the room and make working in the space easier. Fixed impediments like pipes in the floor or overhead can be tackled later.

Measure the area and snap chalk lines on the floor to indicate the position of the new walls. Also measure the ceiling height at several points along the chalk lines. The walls will be built slightly shorter than the ceiling height so they can be tilted up into position.

Use these measurements to create a plan of the project and a cutting list for the lumber. Walls are framed of 2x4 lumber, with studs placed every 16 inches on-center (14-1/2” apart). Your plan drawing also should include dimensions and placement of doors, staircase and other permanent fixtures.

This room already had roughed-in plumbing for a bathroom as well as washer-dryer hookups, all of which were easily modified to fit the project design.

Step 2: Frame and Position the First Wall

Build the wall sections in the area where they will be installed (they will be too large to bring in through a doorway).

Cut the 2x4s for the first wall based on the project drawing. If the wall rests on bare concrete, use pressure-treated lumber for the bottom plate to prevent rot if moisture comes up through the concrete.

Align the top and bottom 2x4 plates side by side. Mark 3/4" in from one end for the center of the first stud, then mark the plates at 16" intervals from this mark. Use a square to mark the stud layout lines across both plates. Place an "X" on each plate before these marks to indicate stud placement and ensure proper spacing.

Nail the studs to the top and bottom plates, starting with the end studs (Image 1), then filling in toward the middle of the wall.

Make sure the corners are square and nail through the plates into the ends of the studs (Image 2).

Double-check the door measurements and placement before nailing the studs that frame the opening. Allow an additional 1" of width across the opening for the door jamb. Leave the bottom plate intact across the door opening – it is later cut away when the door is installed.

Measure, cut and nail into place a crosspiece that will frame the top of the doorway. Measure up from the floor (not from the 2x4 bottom plate) and allow 1" of space below the crosspiece for the door jamb top.

With the frame complete, tilt it up and slide it into position.

Make sure the bottom plate is positioned on your chalk line, then use a hammer drill to drill holes through the plate and into the concrete floor.

Attach the wall frame to the floor with masonry screws (Image 3).

Check that the wall is vertically plumb (Image 4).

Fit shims between the wall’s top plate and the ceiling joists. Using a nail gun, drive nails up through the top plate and the shims into the joists (Image 5).

Step 3: Frame the Laundry Sorter Wall

The second wall is constructed to include a built-in laundry sorter. To frame the sorter, use 2x10s for four of the studs: Measure and cut 6" deep notches in four 2x10s so they measure the same as a 2x4 (3-1/2") at the top and bottom. The wood that extends out will form the walls of the laundry sorter.

Cut all of the lumber for this wall, referring to the plan drawing. Use pressure-treated lumber for any wood that will come in contact with bare concrete. If this is not a load-bearing wall, the studs can be placed up to 24" apart on-center.

Build the wall and tilt it into place, making sure the extra-deep studs for the laundry sorter face the interior of the room. Secure the wall to the concrete floor.

Check the wall for plumb. Use shims and nails to attach it to the ceiling joists.

deep section of studs are walls for laundry sorter

Step 4: Install the Drywall

Measure, mark and cut the drywall to fit the new walls. To cut drywall, use a sharp utility knife to score the face side along the cut line, then snap the drywall on the scored line. Use the utility knife to cut through the paper on the back side of the drywall.

Position the drywall sheets against the studs and secure them to the studs with 1-1/2" drywall screws. Set your drill/driver clutch to embed the screws slightly below the surface of the drywall without tearing the paper.

Use a keyhole saw or utility knife to cut holes in the drywall to accommodate plumbing fixtures, electrical outlets or other fixtures.

With the drywall secured in place, tape all of the joints with self-adhesive drywall tape (Image 1). This tape adheres directly to the wall without having to be embedded in a layer of drywall compound.

Apply a coat of drywall compound over the tape, "feathering" it out away from the joints. Also apply a dab of compound over each of the screw heads (Image 2).

When the first coat of compound dries, sand it flush with the surface of the drywall, then apply a thin finish coat to cover any imperfections. Allow this coat to dry and sand again, smoothing the compound flat to the wall.

Apply one coat of drywall primer, followed by two coats of finish paint.

Step 5: Install the Pre-Hung Door

Use a hand saw to cut away the wall frame’s bottom plate extending across the door opening.

Pre-hung doors come in two parts: a half-jamb that includes the main door assembly with trim for one side of the door, and another half-jamb with trim for the other side. Set the separate trim pieces aside for now.

Position the main jamb assembly in place. Make sure the door swings (opens) in the desired direction. Place shims between the jamb and door studs behind each of the hinge positions. Also shim the lock side of the jamb at approximately the same points.

Drive temporary nails through the jamb to hold it in place against the door studs.

Remove the door retaining clips from the jamb assembly.

Check that the jamb is plumb in all directions and the door swings easily, without opening or closing on its own when you let it go.

To secure the hinge side of the door jamb, remove one screw from each hinge. Drive a 3" long brass wood screw through this hole in each hinge into the stud (Image 1).

Position the other half of the split jamb in place and insert shims between the jamb and the stud. Check again to make sure the door is still plumb, then nail through the door jamb and shims into the stud.

Cut back the excess shim material with a hand saw.

Use a nail gun or finishing nails to attach the remaining door trim (Image 2).

Step 6: Build the Laundry Sorter

To create the fold-away table beneath the laundry sorter, measure the width of the laundry sorter on the wall. Transfer this measurement to the birch plywood and cut the section with a circular saw.

Now measure how far the laundry sorter sticks out from the wall. Transfer this measurement to the long side of the cut plywood section and cut it to suit (Image 1).

This will yield a thin strip of wood that fits flush with the underside of the laundry sorter, and a larger piece that will serve as the tabletop.

Measure and cut pieces of 1x3 pine lumber to fit the edges of the folding table. Secure these trim pieces with wood glue and a nail gun or 8d finishing nails (Image 2).

Rip boards 14-1/2" wide from the remaining birch plywood. Use these boards to line the back walls of the three vertical laundry-sorting bays.

Test-fit the vertical boards and adjust as necessary, then use construction adhesive to install them directly against the drywall at the back of the sorting bays.

Prime and paint the laundry sorting area, including the plywood pieces, and let dry completely.

The laundry sorting bays have a 1/4" thick clear acrylic front. To create this piece, measure across the full width of the sorter and bring the dimensions to a home improvement center, which will cut the acrylic to size at the time of purchase.

Keep the protective film on the acrylic as long as possible to prevent cracks, scratches or other damage. Position the acrylic across the front of the sorter and mark the position of the wood "walls" on the protective film.

Drill pilot holes in the acrylic, using a countersink bit. Drill slowly to avoid cracking the acrylic.

Remove the protective film from the side of the acrylic that will face the wall. Position the acrylic and carefully drive 1" wood screws through the pre-drilled holes into the front edges of the sorter wall studs. Hand-tighten the screws the last few turns to keep from cracking the acrylic.

Peel the protective film from front of the acrylic.

Use wood glue and a nail gun to attach molding around the edge of the sorter.

Lay the two parts of the fold-down table face-down on a work surface. Attach them to each other with two piano hinges.

Position the folding table so the narrow plywood strip fits flush with the bottom of the laundry sorter. Drive screws up through the underside of this plywood strip into the bottom of the laundry sorter wall studs.

Install drop-leaf supports on the underside of the folding table. These lock the table into position but allow the table to fold down and out of the way when not in use (Image 3).