I want to remodel my basement for a recreation room, and I want to put up paneling on the walls. How do I go about attaching the paneling to the existing concrete block walls? Should I use insulation? How do I handle openings for electrical outlets and light switches?
Aidan L. ~ Aurora, Illinois
When you are remodeling a basement with concrete block exterior walls, you should attach wood furring strips to the block wall prior to installing your interior finish material, in this case paneling. Wood 2" x 4" material nailed flat against the block may work well, you can use masonry fasteners to attach the furring strips. Run a row of furring horizontally just above your floor, and another row horizontally near the top of the finished height of your wall. Then, starting from a corner, install vertical furring strips on 16 or 24 inch centers around the perimeter of the room. Place furring strips on each side of the corners.
Check your local building code to determine whether these furring strips need to be pressure treated (lumber that has been treated to be resistant to water damage), but at the very least you should use treated furring strips on your horizontal row at the floor line, and any other locations that are below your exterior grade.
Insulation would be a good idea. Check into using Styrofoam as your insulation material. It is available in 4' x 8' sheets and various thicknesses. Use a thickness that is about the same depth as your furring material, and if you installed your furring on 16 inch centers, you should be able to insulate three sections with one 4' x 8' Styrofoam sheet.
Your electrician may have to add electrical outlets and switches to your basement before you install the paneling. Electrical code requires more outlets, and sometimes switches, for a finished room than it requires for an unfinished room. There are shallow outlet boxes made for just this purpose, and you shouldn't have to penetrate the block wall.