We have a finished basement with pine floors, one fairly small bedroom
down there and a main room. There's a laundry room down there too, as
well as a two piece bathroom (sink/toilet).
We're looking at my mother coming to live with us later this year, the
idea is that Mom is going to mostly take over the basement. The
bedroom isn't going to be enough space for her, so we'd like for her
to be able to have a little sitting room down there too, in the main
room, but allow her privacy in there to watch TV, talk on the phone or
whatever without being interrupted by us as we go to the laundry room,
We aren't handy enough to build a wall ourselves. Is there anything
that is easy and fairly inexpensive to put up that could make a little
room down there? It doesn't need to be soundproof or anything, just a
separate space. The ceiling down there is, hmm, a dropped ceiling
maybe? It has tiles in the ceiling, behind them is the bare wood.
Thanks for any assistance!
If it's acceptable you could use drapes or similar material hung on a
wire. Might use walls or existing stanchions as anchor points for the
wire ends, so you don't have to modify the ceiling.
Google folding walls for other options.
Many ways to do this, some easy, some not.
Your version is store bought, mine homemade, but it's the same idea.
The curtains would make the TV area seem like a theater and would
enable the space to be opened or closed easily as needed. The ceiling
would have to be opened up to allow the curtain rods to be attached to
the floor joists above, and then closed up again. The dropped ceiling
grid wouldn't take the weight of the curtains.
This is precisely why I have it also! Very easy to completely open up
the room with the "home theater", and close it off again (to save heat).
And it looks a nice theater. It's one of those things that seems so
obvious and right, *after* it's done. Curtains, what a concept!
How about something like this?
The wall doesn't have to be tilted. Make the wall out of 2x3s, make
it straight up and down, and zig zag it along the floor so it's
stronger and less likely to get knocked down. You can tie off the top
to the dropped ceiling track with cable ties (aka zip ties) or wire.
Post on Freecycle.org and ask for some full length floor to ceiling
curtains, and explain the situation. I'm sure someone will have some
laying about that they'd be willing to give you for free. Or you
could just use some inexpensive fabric or even bed sheets. If you
attach the fabric with staples, put some pleats in there so it'll look
Uh, no on the fabric dividers unless they are flame-resistant. Any
theater supply houses nearby? They can point you at flame-resistant
curtains, and the ceiling track to hang them from. Hospital divider
curtains are similar technology, but Mom may find those depressing to
look at. And make sure the space has fire and CO detectors, and a
realistic escape route.
A zig-zag room divider could work, and could be made out of cheap
louvered closet door slabs from the local discount door place (if you
have one of those), held together with butt hinges on alternating edges
and finished however you like. Unless you have an extra-deep basement,
those should get pretty close to ceiling. Probably do want to tie it off
to wall on one end, and maybe to the ceiling on the other end, perhaps
with a decorative pole poked through a tile and nailed to a joist. It'd
make an awful and embarrassing racket if she bumped it in the dark and
knocked it over.
Only other painless idea that comes to mind is a big bookcase, with the
back covered in paneling to make it pretty as a divider. Or two
bookcases back to back, if you have the room. I'd still put a long screw
into the wall at the top, to reduce the tipover hazard. Most larger
towns still have either an unfinished furniture place or discount office
furniture place with something suitable. (and no, I don't mean those
awful chipboard bookcases- yo want something decent looking.)
Are the curtains in your house fire-retardant? The wood paneling, the
wood doors, the stuff in the room, the clothes, the bed and bed
clothes, the recliner?
A basement bedroom requires a secondary exit, true, and the fire and
CO detectors in a basement, where the heating plant is located, is a
given. But as far as the other stuff, keep it simple. Tell Mom not
to smoke in the basement and keep any space heaters away from anything
flammable. Give the old lady some credit for not being an idiot.
you can get large plastic tarps online, cut to your dimensions. i rigged up
a large one to divide a car bay out of my garage into a smaller room for my
wife to do ceramics, to keep the dust and cooling expenses down. i raise and
lower it with ropes set up similar to wooden slat curtains.
I think you'll all be happier if you invest a little time and effort
and build a real wall.
re: We aren't handy enough to build a wall ourselves.
I think that with a little research, and maybe the help of a friend,
you'd find that a couple of non-load bearing walls are pretty simple
to build, even with a door.
Mom would probably appreciate the extra privacy and feel a lot more at
"home" with a real room.
However, there is one thing no one has mentioned yet:
Will mom have an escape route if a fire breaks out just outside of her
room(s)? There are codes that need to be followed before you can
(legally) turn a basement into a living space.
I only bring this up since I know how I'd feel if my Mom got hurt (or
worse) because she couldn't get out or we could't get to her in an
When my dad turned his basement into sleeping areas for when we and
the grandkids visit, he made sure he modified a window to become a
means of egress.
I'd do a simple wall with 2x4's and finish it on her side. Put it all
together with screws so it will be easy to take out someday. You should
be able to move some drop ceiling panels to attach the top plate via
some stringers to make the top secure. I'd guess you are going to run
into mobility problems if she has to use the stairs much.
Good luck living with your mom around.
I wouldn't build a true wall down there, after all you just want to be
able to create a space on a temporary basis for a while, not create
a new permanent floor plan layout for your basement...
You say you are not handy at building walls, how "not handy" are
you ? Just unsure about how to build walls the correct way, or
a trip to the emergency room with the severed digits in a cooler
on ice hoping for reattachment ?
If it were my home, I would build nice looking temporary panels using
some five quarter by six stock to make the frames, furniture leveling
feet to support the "wall" at the bottom, industrial double stick tape
at the top all working to hold homasote panels in place with quarter
round molding to the frame...
Check out this summary article on the episode on Ask This Old House:
Or for the construction details this pic:
If you don't feel like you want to build these temporary walls
you could always take this idea and hire a contractor to do the work
for you... Will cost MUCH less than adding real walls, which to be
code compliant would require the addition of electrical recepticles
and all the other fun things...
Wow, thanks for all the responses! I haven't checked out all the links
yet, but much to think about. Even just curtains in the short term
could be the answer for now.
We're not completely non-handy, I can do basic plumbing, adequately
use a hammer and a screwdriver, own a drill and have used table saws
and such in the past although I don't own one. My Dad was a handyman
and I *helped* a lot while I was a kid, learned a lot. My husband, not
quite so handy. :) I have no clue on how to build a wall though, and
was thinking of not really wanting to make permanent walls down there.
But on the other hand, our son is four right now, but someday HE would
likely enjoy having his own little space down there, or even us,
having a cool space in the summer to use as a rec room. So permanent
or semi-permanent walls are not such a bad idea. Not the first time
I've wished we still had Dad here to help us out.
As for escape in case of fire, I'll have to check on local code, but
there is a bedroom in the basement already, currently used as storage/
junk room. We have a basement, main floor and an upstairs. Three
bedrooms are upstairs (two used as bedrooms, one a kid's playroom) but
all exits are on the main floor, so you're either going down or up to
get out. Windows are new in the last few years and are wide though,
easily hopped through in case of emergency. DerbyDad, what did you do
to 'modify' the window? I'm thinking if we just had a stepstool there,
she could manage to get out.
The living space we're making for Mom is only a sleeping/visiting/TV
area, no kitchen or anything, and thank GOD she does not smoke. My
husband and I work all day and our son is in daycare (school come
September), so the rest of the house is hers to use while we're gone.
But we would like to have her own space to watch TV, etc. and keep out
of our hair (she wants that as much as we do).
No doubt about it, this is going to be challenging (not just the wall
part). It's great to have a live-in cook, babysitter and part time
housekeeper, but living with someone who has some memory loss going
on, I'm gonna have to find some patience somewhere!
Thanks again everyone !
Google 'egress window' for specifications. Enforcement is spotty, but I
wouldn't put a relative in a bedroom without one. Rule of thumb for most
insurance and FD inspectors is, if it has a closet with a rod, they
treat it as a bedroom. If this is a daylight basement, you may be okay.
If not, you may have to dig out the window well and put in one of the
big stepped ones.
Memory loss and cooking is scary. Memory loss and babysitter, scary if
the kid is small, not so much if they are old enough to walk and talk. A
noble thing you are doing, but it can be a very hard road. Watched my
mother go that way with her mother, and the role reversal can be jarring.
Yes, you have to be a very strong person with a lot of patience to take
on this task, and sorry to say, it will become a task. I'm going
through early Alzheimer's with my mother but she is still in her own
apartment. Only tip I can think of it no matter how many times she asks
the same question, just keep answering her as if it's the first time,
even if it's the hundredth time that day. As much as you may want to
correct her, trying to correct someone in that condition only makes them
feel bad and get upset and everything spirals out of control. Get a
camcorder set up and ask her to tell you stories, ask about school and
things she did as a little girl. It may be the only time you will get
to hear some of the wonderful stories they can remember, ones that you
never heard of before, and some that you do know. Wishing you all the best.
Just because "there is a bedroom in the basement already" doesn't mean
it meets code.
Why do you consider it a "bedroom" and not just a storage room that
someone could sleep in?
You should have at least one, if not more, escape ladders on the
second floor. Something like this:
A fire on the first floor that blocks the stairs would prevent egress.
Not a situation you would want to find yourself in.
As far as the basement, if there is no code-compliant egress, then
that room that you called a "bedroom" is probably not a legal bedroom.
I believe that the thought process behind the code is that being awake
in the basement when a fire breaks out is far safer than being asleep
in a closed off bedroom and waking up to find that the fire has spread
enough that you can't get up the stairs.
It was my Dad, not me, that modified the window. There was a small
window in the area where he put the basement bedroom. Outside it was
at ground level, inside it was up near the ceiling. He dug a window
well, removed a few blocks, and installed a ~3' x 2' hinged window
that opens into the room. With the thickness of the blocks and the 2 x
4 wall, there something like a 9" ledge inside the window that you can
climb up on and crawl out of the window.
I don't know the exact size of the window or if it's up to modern day
code, but I do know that I could get my family out pretty darn quick
if the stairs to the first floor were blocked.
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