How to Build a Temporary Wall
Building a temporary wall helps you create new space and privacy in just a few hours and for only a moderate cost. Use a temporary wall to build a home office, screen off pipes or water heaters, disguise laundry areas, or section off areas in finished basements.
What a Temporary Wall Is
Walls in a home are either load-bearing or non-load-bearing. Load-bearing walls are always located on the perimeter of a home and sometimes are found as interior walls. A temporary wall is a a non-load-bearing wall. It bears, or carries, no weight from loads above it; it only bears its own weight.
- No electrical wiring or plumbing pipes
- Removable, with only minor, easily repairable damage to walls, floors, or ceiling
- Built on the ground and tipped up into place
- Drywall can be left partially unfinished, with no tape or joint compound
Uses For a Temporary Wall
- Divide a child's bedroom to accommodate a second bed
- Screen off an area undergoing long-lasting renovations
- Create a home office by sectioning out a large room
- Fit around sewage pipes to block them from sight
- In laundry rooms to disguise dryer vents, wires, or pipes
- In finished basements to create temporary rooms
Codes, Regulations, and Permits
Many communities require building permits for any type of wall, even temporary non-load-bearing walls. Contact your local permitting office for information about permits for temporary walls.
Due to its weight, a temporary wall should be built only on a solid base. Ceiling or floor joists may not be sufficient to carry the weight of the temporary wall, depending on the size of the wall. A concrete slab foundation can adequately carry a temporary wall. Do not install electrical equipment in the temporary wall, including cables, light switches, outlets, and more.
A reliable way to hold the temporary wall in place is with fasteners at the top and bottom. Use a powder-actuated nailer for securing the bottom plate to a concrete floor.
What You'll Need
Equipment / Tools
- Electric miter saw
- Circular saw
- Cordless drill
- Tape measure
- Pencil and indelible marker
- Drywall knife
- Painting supplies
- Utility knife
- 9 two-by-fours, each 8-foot
- 1 8-foot long, 1/4-inch rigid foam insulation board
- 4 drywall sheets, 4x8
- 1 box galvanized nails, 2 1/2-inch long
- 1 box drywall screws, 1 5/8-inch long
- 1 tub drywall joint compound
- 1 roll paper drywall tape
- 1 gallon drywall primer
- 1 gallon interior latex-acrylic paint
- 1 pressure-treated 2x4 (optional)
- 1 bottle carpenter's glue
- 10 lag bolts, 5-inch
- 1 box 2-1/2-inch screws
Locate the Wall Space and Measure the Ceiling Height
With the tape measure, measure the height of the ceiling. For this project, it is assumed that the ceiling height is eight feet. In addition to locating the wall on top of a solid base, you should locate it below an area that allows for a minimum of four attachment points. For example, this can be perpendicular to joists or directly below and parallel to a joist or beam.
Cut the Wall Studs
For vertical wall studs, use the miter saw or circular saw to cut seven of the two-by-fours at 92-1/2 inches. This length is designed to account for the thickness of the top and bottom plates and for the foam spacers. Adjust your wall stud cuts accordingly for your own ceiling height.
Cut the Foam Spacers
Use one of the 8-foot 2x4s as a guide to mark off three sections of rigid foam to eight feet by 3-1/2 inches. Cut with the utility knife.
Dry-Fit the Wall Together
Lay the two 96-inch 2x4s on the floor, parallel and about 93 inches apart. These will be the wall's top and bottom plates. Lay two of the wall studs at the ends. Lay the remaining five wall studs between those two end wall studs. Mark five 16-inch on-center positions for these middle studs. Both the top and bottom plates should receive the same marks.
Fasten the Bottom and Top Plates
With the hammer and nails, nail each of the studs between the top and bottom plates. Face-nail through the plates and into each stud at the ends rather than toe-nailing.
Glue the Bottom Spacer
With the carpenter's glue, glue the bottom foam spacer to the bottom plate. Wipe any excess clean and let it thoroughly dry. The spacer protects the floor from marring.
Raise and Secure the Wall to the Ceiling
With an assistant, tip up and place the wall into position. Slide the two top foam spacers into place. Bolt the wall into the ceiling at solid anchor points, such as ceiling joists, with the four 5-inch lag bolts fitted with washers.
Secure the Wall to the Floor
Screw the bottom wall plate to the floor with 2-1/2-inch screws. Start by drilling pilot holes to prevent cracking the bottom plate or the floor.
The temporary wall will need to be screwed to the floor and ceiling, per these instructions. Do not pressure-mount the wall between the floor and ceiling.
Hang the Drywall
Fasten the drywall sheets to the studs with the cordless drill and drywall screws. Finish the drywall to the desired level with drywall tape and drywall compound.
How to Disassemble the Temporary Wall
Any wall intended to be temporary will eventually be disassembled. Follow these steps to safety take down the temporary wall.
Remove the Drywall
Unscrew and remove the drywall sheets. If you filled the screw holes with drywall compound and painted them over, locate the screws with a magnet.
Detach the Bottom Screws
Unscrew the screws attaching the bottom plate to the floor (for nails driven into concrete, break away the bottom plate, then cut the remaining nails flush to the concrete floor with a multi-tool fitted with a metal cutting blade).
Detach the Top Screws
Unscrew and remove the lag bolts at the top.
Tip the Wall Down
Remove the two foam spacers from the top. With an assistant, gently tilt the wall down to the floor. Disassemble the wall.
Patch the Holes
Cover up the ceiling holes with joint compound and paint them over with interior paint. Cover up holes in the floor with wood filler.
When to Call a Professional
Call a general contractor, light carpenter, or a qualified fix-it service for help with building the temporary wall if the project is beyond your experience.
Structural Connection Design for the Home Inspector. International Association of Certified Home Inspectors.