Walls are often an ignored design element. We like to focus on the colors that we can paint them or the shelves to mount on them. But less often do we think of the wall itself and of the space that it creates. Building a temporary wall is one way to create new space and privacy in just a few hours and for only a moderate cost.
What Is a Temporary Wall?
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. Non-load-bearing walls are always interior walls.
A temporary wall falls within the general category of non-load-bearing walls. It bears, or carries, no weight from loads above it; it only bears its own weight.
A temporary wall is the same as an interior wall—with modifications:
- It does not have electrical wiring or plumbing pipes.
- It can be removed with only minor, easily repairable damage to walls, floors, or ceiling.
- It is built on the ground, then tipped up into place.
- Its drywall may sometimes be left partially unfinished (no tape, no 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
- 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
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.
The only safe and 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.
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 4-foot by 8-foot, 1/4-inch rigid foam insulation board
- 4 Drywall sheets, 8-foot by 4-foot
- Galvanized nails, 2 1/2-inch long
- Drywall screws, 1 5/8-inch long
- Drywall joint compound
- Paper drywall tape
- Drywall primer
- Interior paint
- Pressure-treated two-by-four (optional)
- Carpenter's glue
- 5-inch lag bolts
- 2-1/2-inch screw
Locate Wall 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 8 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 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 two-by-fours as a guide to mark off three sections of rigid foam to 8 feet by 3-1/2 inches. Cut with the utility knife.
Dry-Fit the Wall Together
Lay the two 96-inch two-by-fours 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 at the ends rather than toe-nailing.
The bottom plate must be made of pressure-treated wood if you are securing it directly to a concrete floor (with the wood touching concrete).
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 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 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.
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.
If you do not expect the temporary wall to be up for very long, you may want to omit the drywall compound. Omitting drywall compound will make for easier removal later on but will result in a rougher appearance when the wall is in place.
Disassembling Your Temporary Wall
- Unscrew and remove the drywall sheets.
- 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).
- Unscrew the lag bolts at the top.
- Cover up ceiling holes with joint compound and paint over with interior paint.
- Cover up holes in the floor with wood filler.