Clara's Playroom

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Hi everyone, Jacob here again.

We used up our Get Out of Jail Free Card up at the Momplex. 

And then I landed smack dab on Go Straight To Jail.

I probably shouldn’t call it jail, because I like working on projects.  I definitely prefer a day of DIY to a day of desk work.

As mudding and taping was being done by Pete at the Momplex, there is always another project to work on. Remember we took on a second gig? So off to my brother and sister-in-law’s house to help with their projects.

In order for my them to convert their construction loan to a low interest rate mortgage, the house has to meet firecode.  The biggest problem is the playroom is not drywalled, and since it shares a wall with the garage, this does not meet fire code.  But to drywall the one wall shared with the garage, the ceiling needs to be drywalled first.  And to get the ceiling drywalled, we have to finish up the mechanical systems in the ceiling, and then build a dropped ceiling to hide the mechanical systems.

Here is what it looked like to start.

Okay, so maybe jail is a fitting term here?

Whenever I start a project, I make a list of what needs to be done, and in what order, so I can just concentrate on one step at a time.  This is important because each step needs different tools and supplies, so I can take out tools to do one thing, put them away and move on to the next step. 

 Here’s the list for my niece’s playroom:

1- HRV connections completed

2- Finish electrical/wiring

3- Frame dropped ceiling to hide the mechanical systems in the ceiling

4- Drywall ceiling and walls

The previous owner had stubbed ducting from rooms through the floor, but where what goes to what was anyone’s guess.  There’s half a dozen ducts in the ceiling of the playroom. First we have to figure out where they are supposed to go, and what is a supply or returns.  Good old hollering down pipes and flashlight flickering to solve this mystery.

HRV systems can seem intimidating, but it’s actually really simple.  All kitchen and baths vents are returns, and bedrooms and other rooms are generally supplies. This means the stale or moist air from bathrooms and kitchens get pulled out, while the fresh new air to replace it gets supplied to the bedrooms, living rooms, and other rooms. 

Once I figured out what vent in the ceiling was in what room, I labeled them either supplies or returns.

And these are the main supply and returns we will duct everything to – kinda like a inbound and outbound freeway with lots of onramps, but everything eventually tying into the main freeway.

Then my helper showed up. Kind of cute isn't she? This is my niece Clara.  Grace and Hannah (Clara’s older sister) are in school.

And here is my brother-in-law, Louie, Clara’s dad, installing the ducting.


Screws are attached at the joint, 3 on each. Then foil tape over the seams to seal up any leaks.

And then pipe tape is used to hold the pipe in place.

Now came the fun part.  The dropped ceiling.  I had an idea to build a dropped drywalled ceiling for the playroom because it would save so much time, hide all the pipes and ducting, and make the wall drywall cheaper and easier.  The playroom had a 9 foot ceiling, so plenty of room to spare there.

Anybody recognize this tool? This Is the laser level we used in making the Momplex. Handy, let me tell you.

I built a stand for the wall and set it up to shoot me a line around the room at 97”, the standard height of an 8’ framed wall.

Then Louie, Clara and I were able to set the leger boards (boards that we will use to hang the ceiling joists off of) and follow the marks that were made by the laser level.

The ledger boards basically frame the outside of the new dropped ceiling, and give me something to hang the joists off of.

I choose to go with a 2x4 on the end wall (see below) as it was only for hanging the sheetrock, to save some money.

After that we needed joist hangers installed  on the leger boards.

We nailed the joist hangers up 16” on center with TIKO nails.

And then it was time to just drop those joists in the hangers.

20 minutes later …..

We’ve got a dropped ceiling framed in!

They just laid in place. Going in quite easily.  If you want a simple and easy way to finish out a basement ceiling - this is the way to go.

Now little my helper hasn't given up, she’s been helping all day, being productive in here own way.

I didn't have the heart to tell her that that’s a screw.

Once the ceiling was in place, we put in blocking to help stiffen the ceiling and also keeps the joist spacing right for when we hang drywall.  I cut the boards 14 1/2” long first (as is standard for 16” on center walls), and then my helper handed me the boards as I nailed them in place.

Done deal …..

Well, except for the lighting.

This took more time then building the whole room. You get my sister-in-law and my wife Ana together and ask what kind of lighting, and you might as well get a cup of coffee or a beer cause its just might be a while.

And take your cell phone with you to the hardware store, because I can almost guarantee you’ll get a call right before you check out that they’ve changed their minds.

But this time, we didn’t give the girls a chance to change their minds.  Within minutes of the word recessed lights, Lou and I were up on ladders.

I’m glad they choose can lights because it’s a windowless space, and these can lights will provide plenty of light.  They are also pretty easy to install.  Just nail on the brackets where you want them.

We evenly spaced them around the room, and with the brackets, we could slide the lights to just the right position between the joists.

Lights all in, and ready for drywall. 

I should be sick and tired of drywall after hanging so many sheets up at the Momplex. But not really, hanging sheet rock is one of those jobs that is good exercise, and at the end of the day, you see so much progress. It's actually very rewarding work.

Lou and I started hanging drywall around 1PM ...

Had the ceiling done and working on the walls within a couple of hours …

And we hung the last sheet at about 5PM that very same day. 

The rotozip made quick and easy work of cutting out the can lights.

And since I now know we can’t get anything by you, you probably already noticed that the middle tapered seam is offset on the right wall.  We used up scrap drywall in 54” widths from the Momplex here, so that’s why that wall seam is not at 48”. 

Thanks Clara for letting me help you on your playroom! 



I don't know that I'll ever need to frame a dropped ceiling (especially for a basement... don't see many of those in the desert..), but this was a fun read! Thanks for the how-to, Mr. RAM!