A couple of weeks ago, I posted about the work we (well, mostly Chad) had been doing in our basement furnace room to seal it up a little better and get it ready for the installation of a new tankless water heater.  We started by insulating the exterior block wall and, more recently, we’ve been building a stud wall in front of the insulation to provide a solid location for the new water heater to be mounted.

As a refresher, here’s the painted brick wall that we started with:

And here’s what the wall looked like with all of the insulation in place.  (You can read more about what we did to insulate it here.)


After insulating, our next step was to build out the stud wall that would go in front of the insulation.  We chose to build the wall in place since the location of the furnace didn’t leave enough room to assemble it on the floor and then just stand it up (which likely would have been an easier approach).

Chad started by adding some extra blocking to the ceiling joist directly above the new wall in order to beef it up a little and provide a better nailing surface for attaching the header.


With the header in place, Chad then used a plumb bob to locate the new sill directly below it.  The layers of insulation behind the new wall should make the wall itself waterproof, but we did add a couple of weep holes (with a router) to the bottom of the sill plate to allow any moisture to escape – just in case.  We also opted to use pressure treated lumber for the sill and put a layer of foam sill sealer (like this one, except ours is black) under it.  We then drilled into the concrete floor (using a hammer drill) and attached the new sill plate with wedge anchors.

After installing the header and sill plate, we then cut to length and installed studs every 16 inches.  The pictures don’t show it, but we also added some horizontal blocking in the middle of the wall to provide some extra support for mounting the new water heater.




The new wall feels super solid – it doesn’t budge at all when you yank on it (or hang from it) – not that we tried, of course.  And it definitely feels more sturdy than an average stud wall, which we think is largely thanks to the fact that the studs were cut a little on the long side (and at a bit of an angle) and then pounded into place so that they really contribute to the structure of the wall.  Regardless, though, we think it should have no problems supporting the weight of the new water heater and associated plumbing.

When it came to the type of surface to use on top of the stud wall, we really debated.  We ruled out drywall pretty quickly just because we don’t expect that our basement will be 100% dry all the time.  We looked at a ton of options at Menards and finally decided on using fiber cement board on this wall.  We liked that it won’t be susceptible to mold growth and it’s also fire resistant, which somehow seemed like a good idea for a mechanical room (even though there’s still a ton of wood framing overhead).  So, we bought 3 sheets and Chad set to work this weekend cutting them to size, pre-drilling, and nailing them to the stud walls.  We found that nails worked a lot better than screws since it was hard to get the screws tight enough without over-tightening them, which damaged the fiber cement board.




After working with the fiber cement board, we’re not sure if we’ll continue using it for the rest of this room or not.  We actually like how it looks on the wall, but there are a number of downsides.  At 80 lb. a sheet, it’s pretty heavy.  It’s also a pain to cut and since it makes so much nasty dust, all of the cutting pretty much needs to be done outside before the sheet is carried into the house (this makes for a lot of trips up and down the stairs).  It’s also pretty pricey.  So, we’re still trying to decide if it makes sense to use the same material on all sides of the furnace room and then switch to something else when we start working in areas that aren’t mechanical rooms.  Or if we’ll switch to something else for the interior walls of the furnace room even (maybe car siding?) … we keep going back and forth on that one.

So, now that this wall is up, we’re planning to put a coat of paint on it next weekend, but then we’ll be pretty well finished up with everything we wanted to get done before the new water heater is installed … which is good because we finally bit the bullet and got on a plumber’s schedule to have one put in in the next few weeks.  Woo-hoo!  They’ll be installing a Rinnai RU98in heater on the new wall and also be doing a bunch of work to clean up/remove some unneeded plumbing (both gas and water) on the half of the basement where our tank water heater is (and the old boiler used to be).  All of the plumbing in the picture below (plus some more) goes away with this project.  It will be a huge change for our basement – and we’re so excited about it.  Plus, who doesn’t love a hot shower every. single. morning?


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