House Works: Building basement partition walls and subfloors

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Q Can I build partition walls for my finished basement so they sit on top of the subfloor panels, or do these wall frames need to sit on the concrete floor directly?

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A Basement partition walls support no load, so it’s fine to build them on top of your subfloor panels. This is actually a better and easier approach. Easier because you can install subfloor panels over the entire open space of the basement, instead of cutting and fitting panels around walls. Top-of-subfloor partition walls are also better because they preserve an unobstructed drainage pathway under the floor for small water leaks.

With your floor panels down, build your walls and place them in position. The bottom of the walls should be anchored to the underlying concrete, so work this into your plans. Tapcon-type screws driven through holes drilled through the bottom plate of the wall and into pilot holes in the concrete will do a good job. Aim for a Tapcon screw every 12 inches or so, with at least 1 1/2” of penetration into the concrete. Make the walls 1/2” shorter than the smallest distance between the floor and the bottom edge of the floor joists, then use wedges to fill the gap when the wall is upright.

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This medium brown wax filler stick is an excellent way to fill holes in already-finished wood surfaces. Results are better and simpler than with pre-finish filling.
This medium brown wax filler stick is an excellent way to fill holes in already-finished wood surfaces. Results are better and simpler than with pre-finish filling. Photo by Photo Steve Maxwell

Wood filler alternative

Q Should I use wood filler on gaps in a table I made? I’ve glued together 1/4”-thick strips of wood to form an outer rim for a round tabletop, but there are gaps here and there between the layers.

A I’m not a big fan of wood filler for any application. It always looks obvious and often falls out in time. Have you ever used wax filler sticks? I buy mine from Lee Valley Tools. They’re sort of like a big, square crayon, but softer. You finish the woodwork as usual (leave the gaps open) then warm the wax in your hand and work it into cracks and gaps. You can match the colour quite closely this way, and the wax stays put. When you’re choosing a colour of wax, select one that’s slightly darker than the finished wood if you can’t get an exact match. Darker is better than lighter for appearance.

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Q Does natural gas cause a rise in wintertime indoor relative humidity? We replaced our 29-year-old oil furnace with a new gas furnace. The house feels more comfortable and my wife tells me our house plants are doing better than ever.

A While there’s no reason natural gas would provide any moister of a heat than oil in and of itself, differences in the way your old and new furnaces operate would create a significant humidity difference. With your old oil furnace, combustion air was drawn from the surrounding furnace room and the house itself. For every cubic foot of air burned then sent up the chimney as exhaust, another cubic foot of outdoor air is drawn into the house through the cracks around doors and windows. When the outdoor air warms up inside humidity drops.

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Your new gas furnace is installed to draw all its combustion air directly from the outdoors through a plastic pipe. This means the new furnace doesn’t cause drying like the old one would.

Have you noticed more condensation on windows during cold weather since you got your new furnace? A rise in indoor humidity will result in more window condensation. If there’s enough moisture on the glass to run down the panes, then that’s too much. The ultimate solution is a heat recovery ventilator (HRV). This brings outdoor air inside while shooting indoor air outside, all while retaining most of the heat from the indoor air.


Steve Maxwell aims to avoid gaps and cracks in all his woodworking projects. Visit Steve online at and join 31,000+ people who’ve signed up for his Saturday morning email newsletter.

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