Our Basement Journey: The SMARTWALLs Are UP!
Behind the scenes over here, during the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, we have been working on our basement renovation. And let’s just tell it like it is…when I say we, I mean my husband and our friend. It’s been a challenge with the timing of the holidays, but it is coming along swimmingly!
So far with our basement renovation, I introduced you to DRIcore subfloor, then showed you how the subfloor looked after we installed it. After the DRIcore subfloor was installed, we were ready to put up the DRIcore SMARTWALL panel system, and that’s where I last left you on our basement journey.
So just to remind you how things looked before we started, here’s a ‘Before’ shot of our basement.
And here is how it looked after we installed the DRIcore subfloor:
Looking good, looking good! After the flooring was in, we couldn’t believe how different things were looking and feeling! The basement suddenly didn’t feel like a pit. It was brighter and warmer, and actually felt useable! We could hardly wait to see how it changed after the installation of the SMARTWALL panels.
Are you ready?
Ta da! We have walls people! THIS IS EXCITING!!
We can really envision our finished basement now…itsagonnahappen! Between the DRIcore subfloor and the SMARTWALL panels, we’re halfway there! I am so excited I can’t even begin to tell you! Our son is finally going to get his own room, we’re finally going to get an organized storage room and our house overall is going to look and feel and be clutter free. We’ve got plans for a GIGANTIC storage room down here….in this exact spot actually! Very very exciting news for this type A organized person! 😉
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So now let’s talk about SMARTWALL and how it is making this basement journey happen for us! For simplicity sake, I just want to share our highlights, and hands on experience with installing the DRIcore SMARTWALL. So for more detailed information on the installation of DRIcore SMARTWALL, including a video, click here!
DRIcore SMARTWALL is a product that combines framing, insulation, drywall and a vapour barrier into a R16 high performance wall panel. In one easy step you lock the tongue and groove panels together to form finished walls.
DRIcore SMARTWALL panels come with micro-beveled edges which eliminates the need for taping seams. To achieve a perfect seamless finish you use an easy to apply product called DRIcore Patch Pro which eliminates the need to mud and tape! After the Patch Pro has been applied and sanded, the panels are ready to be painted. How amazing is that?
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PLANNING THE SMARTWALL INSTALLATION
In our basement reno planning stages we used the project calculator to calculate how many SMARTWALL panels we would need for our exterior walls. There are 3 types of panels you need to consider: the solid and primed panels, as well as panels with light switch boxes and electrical outlets.
Each panel is fitted with wiring channels for all the electrical, so you just have to decide where you want your outlets and light switches (see tips). We also ran our electrical wires as we put up the panels.
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INSTALLING THE DRIcore SMARTWALL
The installation of the SMARTWALL requires thoughtful preparation, but after this part is done, the installation is easy!
The panels require a tracking system to be installed before they are put up.
The recommended size for the tracking system is for 2″ x 2″ lumber tracks that are attached to the floor joists and subfloor. We made ours a little wider.
Once the tracking system was down, and we completed our prep, the SMARTWALL panels went up easily. We started the SMARTWALL panel installation at an outside corner, and worked our way outwards to the following inside corners. Again, for more detailed installation instructions you can refer here, as well as a video here!
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TIPS & TIDBITS WE LEARNED WHILE INSTALLING DRIcore SMARTWALL:
- Make sure you know the building code requirements for your area! We had to do some extra work to make sure our basement was up to code before the panels even went up.
- Print off the DRIcore SMARTWALL detailed instruction guide. You can find it here. We kept having to run and grab a laptop to check, and double check installation details.
- Put a lot of thought into where you want lights switches and electrical outlets. Not only do you want to make sure to order enough panels with outlets and switches, but you need to consider how you will be using your basement. Make outlets and light switches accessible.
- Take the time to prep! There is quite a bit of preparation involved in the installation of the panels. If you take the time to do the prep, then the SMARTWALL installation is easy, and will go very quickly. Also, having an extra set of hands to help with the plumb bob part of preparation makes for a way easier time.
- Make sure you have 5 inch screws! These are hard to find, and you may need to order them ahead of time.
- Buy a good hand saw. It isn’t hard to cut the wall panels but having a nice sharp saw makes going through the wood portions of the panels that much easier.
- Have a supply of shims on hand. Your house is not going to be 100% square or level, so having shims handy will help keep things level as needed.
- Remove the required electrical outlet knockouts when you cut the panel to size. It’s much easier to remove them before the panel is installed.
- Run your electrical wires as you go. Fishing wires after the walls are up is not easy. It’s much easier to run them as you go. Or have an electrician do this.
- Save your scrap pieces. We cut tongue and groove portions from scraps to hammer in panels with our mallet.
- You can cut additional electrical boxes into the panels. Don’t feel constrained by singular box panels! We did this to incorporate a future entertainment system and extra cable outlets.
We’re SO happy with our progress so far, and I can’t wait to show you more pictures of the DRIcore subfloor and SMARTWALL panels all installed! We’ll also talk about using the Patch Pro and doing finishing touches! Stay tuned!
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If you want to see more DRIcore Subfloor and SMARTWALL installations, check out Tara of Suburble and her basement renovation, or Kristen of Storefront Life who has some great tips to share too!
Thank you so much for reading along! Have a great day!
Disclosure: DRIcore® has generously provided us with the DRIcore SMARTWALL panels for this project! We are so thankful!
Progress! I bet it feels so much warmer down there already. Can’t wait to see more!
It’s looking great Jo-Anna!! Did you have to add framing around your windows? And thanks so much for the TIPS & TIDBITS that you shared! These will come in very handy for when we install our SMARTWALL.
Wow, it’s really coming along! I remember when you did the floors and thought that was an awesome product and now the wall panels are just as smart! I like the idea that they are all-in-one, makes sense doesn’t it?
Looking good. I’ve never heard of this project so good info to have if we ever find ourself renovating or finishing an unfinished space. Thanks!
WOW, what a transformation!! I seen these at the Home Depot the other day, they look so easy to instal, I feel like this is the perfect solution to an unfinished basement! Can’t wait to see how you use this space!
It looks awesome, Jo! Can’t wait to see the finished product.
Christine – we did add support pieces around the window box. It was very easy to do the window boxes and took no time at all. We were remarking when we were doing the windows how much easier and quicker it was than the traditional methods!
This stuff is genius! I can’t believe how far you’ve come and am really looking forward to where you take it all.
Isn’t it great?! We’re so amazed at how it is transforming our basement!
I’m taking careful notes as we have a basement to finish as well. Amazing what floors and walls will do for a space huh? great progress!
Thanks Bette! We’re SO happy with how it’s all coming together!
Do you have any concerns about the wood/plywood edges being exposed to humidity? Seems less a problem on the walls, but it could be significant on the floor. The Dricore claim is that the Polyethylene moisture barrier won’t grow mold, but there is a break at every floor panel edge where they join together that will allow some moisture to get to the wood in the sub-floor. Also are you comfortable with the limited ~1/4″ clearance from the slab considering the potential for water deeper than 1/4 in a flood from a broken water line or water heater or flood (if the later is an issue for you)?
We are not particularly worried about the exposure of the wood seams, or the potential problems that would be associated with flooding. No more than we would be if we had laid any type of flooring. But I reached out to DRIcore to see what they had to say. Here is their response, hoping this may help? Feel free to ask anything else, we’re happy to help!
“DRIcore is not flood protection, it’s designed to separate your finished floor from the effects of moisture that sweats through your basement floor slab and into your basement. Many people believe their basement is dry because they have never observed water accumulating in it, puddles or otherwise. But if you take a 3’ x 3’ piece of 6 mil polyethylene and tape it to the floor along all four edges, after a week or two, you will see water droplets on the underside of the poly. This is the moisture from the ground sweating through the slab.
Moisture moves from more to less, and for this reason, your basement slab is almost always wicking moisture from the earth beneath it into your basement space. DRIcore is designed to protect from this type of moisture penetration. The elevated cleats separate the wood from the concrete and the air gap created by those cleats facilitate air movement which dries up the moisture before it can become a problem. DRIcore can also help in instances of small amounts or water, like those experienced with a crack in a basement foundation wall.
As for the exposed wood edge, under normal performance, it will not be a problem. However, if you did have excessive amounts of water in your basement, and that water accumulated in areas deeper than the height of the cleats, regardless of whether or not the bottom membrane covered all the exposed wood, the water would penetrate into the edges of the floor product, which is problematic.
If the DRIcore has gotten wet, you have two options – remove it and replace it, or bring in professional grade dehumidification equipment and remove the moisture from the wood products with-in the room. Either way, before taking the remedial action on the exposed subfloor and any other organic products that have been compromised, the origin of the water source needs to be dealt with.”
Your information/pictures are most helpful in deciding to use a Dricore wall system, i am facing great resistance from the contractors I have approached…most say it isn’t as easy as it looks and the panels don’t line up as well as they should thus running electrical wiring is more difficult, I realize contractors don’t like to change from traditional methods..and their responses may be to scare potential customer back to the old way. This system is only for the outside walls,the interior separating walls would be traditional wood framing. How difficult is it to attach the traditional wall to the Dricore wall? Will this wall system be able to hold traditional kitchen cabinets …which I plan to use in back of a kitchen/bar? Also I was told by a contractor that I should use green pressure treated wood for the floor frame. Have you encountered any issues/or tips that the Dricore instructions didn’t cover? Any assistance in answering these queries would be most appreciated.
I wanted to know if you install dricore wall panels and sub flooring for others if not could you help us with a person who can do it for us? We are not very handy.
Thanks so much
Hi Anita! Unfortunately we are not professionals so we only installed our own panels in our own basement, but I’m sure the hardware store you purchased them from would be able to recommend someone to do it. Good luck!
Did you fasten the subfloor to the concrete at all, or did you fasten the bottom cleats to the concrete? Dricore recommended both when I spoke with them.
We put anchors down on any interior walls (not Smartwall) as well as cleats for the track. We did fasten some of the subfloor tiles where we had to shim due to the concrete not being quite level in certain spots. This can be tricky as it can lead to the floor pitching in other areas and then you can end up adding a pile of concrete screws.
We’ve been looking at using these smartwalls to finish our basement so I loved when I came across your article. I have a couple questions for you.
1. How does the electrical inspection work with these?
2. Did you look into hiring a contractor to put up drywall since you already had studs and insulation installed in your basement? We also already have studs and insulation so it seems like it might be a lot of unnecessary work to remove all of it to put up smartwall, especially if it’s going to be roughly the same price as hiring a contractor to put up drywall. I’m just wondering if it’s worth it in the end.
Thank you for stopping by! Here are my answers to your questions:
1. The electrical inspection really depends on your city inspector regulations. For us, it was just a simple inspection…they had seen it before.
2. We knew we wanted to use the Smartwall so we didn’t consider hiring a contractor to put up the drywall. It definitely is an extra step to remove all the insulation, but we don’t regret it.
Hope that helps!
Thanks so much that does help. I’ll contact the inspector before I make my final decision to make sure I don’t have any hiccups.
Good idea! Good luck!