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So, a little over two years ago I was finally able to start on finishing my unfinished basement which will become my layout and railroadiana room. Since I wanted to do most of the work myself, progress was slow last year but has greatly picked up this year. As of today, 3/22/21, I only have the suspended ceiling, carpeting and trim left to do. I did have some great friends help me along the way. I could not have done it without them.

I know a lot of Forum members enjoy the layout build threads, and even though I’m still a ways off on my layout, I figured some may be interested in the basement finishing portion of the project to help with their future projects. I’ll go back to the beginning and describe the process with photos. I will update as time allows.

2/28/18 - Well, this is how it started. This was the day we closed on the house. Although the basement was not the only reason I wanted this house, it was a big part of that decision. The basement already had a bathroom and a workshop installed. One side of the train room is approximately 42’-0” by 15’-6”, which will be the layout side. The other side measures about 49’-0” by 11’-8”. This side will be for the railroadiana display. The shelves were left by the previous owner. One of the neat things about this basement is that the entrance stairs are actually in the garage, so there is no stairway in the basement itself to contend with.


2/8/19 – Almost a full year past before I even had a chance to start on the basement. Ah, the joys of moving into a new place. I decided to section off a small area in one corner for storage and a workout room. In this photo, the door behind the shelf is the bathroom and the double doors to the right lead to the workshop.


I never did any framing before. I bought a small compressor and framing nailer. What an awesome tool! I also needed a 6’ level, square and some other basic items. I decided to use wood 2x4s for the framing. If I had to do over I would have went with steel studs. Even though I got all my lumber from a local lumber yard, I still had trouble with would warping and twisting. The fact that younger and younger trees are being harvested for lumber is a big part of what leads to these issues. Metal studs would have eliminated this and what not have been that much more expensive. Right now, with the price of lumber, steel may be cheaper. Here is the partition wall going up.

The shelves that the previous owner left came in handy to store my stuff on and keep most of it off the floor. When I got closer to the end of the framing work, I dismantled the shelves and used any good 2x4s for my framing. The plywood and press board shelf tops were saved for possible inclusion in the future layout.



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Last edited by NJCJOE
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What a great space in a really nice basement. I like the no stairs too, as you pointed out. Also looks like a walkout, can't beat that either. Looks like the perfect setup you have there. Looking forward to following along with your layout build.

How well does the pink insulation do for keeping it warm? I'm thinking about adding that to my basement walls, gets a little chilly in the winter with just bare concrete walls. Looks like that was existing when you moved in, but do you have any idea how it was attached?

rtr12 - The front wall of the house had 2" of insulation attached before we moved in. I put up the rest. It is just attached with some adhesive from caulking tubes. I believe I used a Liquid Nails version good for foam board. The insulation does help. It's not the best insulation, but in a basement where you are always wary of moisture it works well.

3/13/19 – Nothing like the smell of fresh lumber! The next wall to get framed was the long wall which will be behind the layout. The previous owner had already insulated the wall with 2” insulation board which saved me the time and expense. The insulation board joints were sealed with sealing tape and the framing commenced. That is a long wall.



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Wow, that is a great space for a build! Really look forward to seeing your progress. After a while you might consider putting up a couple of battery backup light fixtures unless you have a generator. I remember being in this LARGE confusingly laid out basement of a house where the owner had used black paint on all the walls. It definitely made you focus on the layout which was his intent. He mentioned that he had a couple of flashlights around if there was an electrical outage. Having been in the electrical design business for years I then did a heads up on looking for exits. People not familiar with that space would have been in trouble ever trying to get out. Now this is just MHO and if you never have anyone over no problemo. Peace.

Train ON,

Jim K

1/28/20 to 2/10/20 – Believe it or not, that was all that really got accomplished in 2019. Looking back, I can’t tell you what else I was busy with, but we all know how life just seems to get in the way of our hobbies sometime. Anyway the next wall was finally insulated and framed.


2/23/20 – Another wall is insulated and framed. I had to install this wall in front of the soil lines, which meant I also had to relocate a cold water line at the ceiling where the top plate needed to go. It all worked out in the end.


3/1/20 – On the last area I had to frame, I had to install a doorway into the furnace room. Time to watch more YouTube videos. I was happy with the way it came out. I also had to frame around a triangle shaped bump out. We have a corner fire place upstairs and this is the foundation for the fireplace. Since this is inside the basement, I did not insulate these walls.



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Last edited by NJCJOE

3/28/20 – A lot of people will look at these next photos and wonder what’s up with the insulation pieces. These were not installed for insulating purposes. Most codes require fire blocking. Many people do not know what that means. I didn’t until I looked into it. Back to YouTube again. Fire blocking does not prevent a fire from happening in a wall cavity. It limits the oxygen to the fire causing it to starve so it doesn’t spread. This is accomplished by blocking off the space between the back of the framing and insulation, or top plate at the top of the wall. Then, vertical fire blocking needs to be installed a maximum of every 10’.

There are many ways of doing this, but I found using Rockwool insulation to be the easiest. It cost a little more than other methods but went very quickly. Another misnomer regarding fire blocking, is that the material you use for the fire blocking does not need to be fire resistant. It’s there to block the supply of oxygen only. These photos show the fire blocking complete. Looks weird but it serves the purpose.



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I too remember the end of your previous layout.  Just recently you posted some pics in another thread and I wondered if they were from the old layout or if you had completed a new one.  I now know the answer to that.  Joe your framing work looks great.  Since you've never done it before I guess you learned a lot from YouTube.  Did you attach it to the top and bottom? What did you use to fasten to the concrete floor.

8/16/20 – When it came time to frame out the soffit area, the area around the ductwork, I originally planned on sheet rocking it, but since my framing skills were limited, I decided to have the ceiling contractor frame around it with ceiling drops. This is where the suspended ceiling is continued down and around the ductwork. A contractor friend said I would not be happy with this as it doesn’t look all that great. He suggested using 1-5/8” steel stud framing and covering it with drywall. He offered to help so that was what we did. I’m glad I went with this method.



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11/8/20 – Let there be light!!! This is where things started getting exciting. Lighting and electrical. You’ll notice all the pictures above are dark. That’s because the only lighting in the basement came from seven incandescent light bulbs. Time to change that. After many hours of research, another friend, who is an electrician and helped with the electrical work, suggested using these recessed LED light fixtures. They are not your typical LED can type fixtures. The body of these lights is only .47” thick. They each come with their own junction box and snap into the ceiling with spring clips. The lights are available in a variety of color temperatures. Some are even switchable between colors. I chose the 6” models which are 12W each in the 4000K color temperature.


When I told my electrician friend that we were going to install 46 of these lights in the basement, he thought I was crazy. And I have to admit, there were times when I would think about that number of lights and wonder if I was not thinking straight. But I explained to him that I didn’t want the room to look like a living room, but rather a museum. Additionally, we were putting most of the lights on dimmers, which would allow me to control the amount of light for different conditions. The one thing to keep in mind with these lights, is that they need to be installed not only at certain distances from each other, but also certain distances from walls. 2’ to 3’ is recommended to avoid large shadows on the wall. I decided to install the lights before the ceiling installation by temporarily supporting them from the floor joists with wire. This provided much needed work light during the rest of the construction. No more drop lights required. I highly recommend these lights.


Like I said, dimmers were installed to control most of the lights. There are a total of four dimmers controlling different areas. The lights under the soffit were not installed on a dimmer. They are either on or off. This works out well because if I want to just go across the basement to my workshop, I just turn on the soffit lights and it illuminates a walkway without lighting the whole basement. Here are some photos of different areas dimmed, and these are not turned all the way down either. If I remember correctly, they are dimmable down to 5%. Additional outlets were also installed in the room giving me a total of 14 outlets.



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Wow Joe. That's awesome.  I second those lights as I install them into the front half of my basement. When I do my train room I'm going to put them in there too. They work well and the LEDs use a quarter of the power of regular lights and supposedly they'll  last 1200 hours. Your layout room is looking beautiful so far. preparation is the key and I know when you set up all your railroadania items you trained room will look as beautiful as your last one. Keep the updates coming I'm enjoying this.

Joe, Great work! I agree with GRJ: That's an empire! People are already drooling...

Regarding extra LEDs: A great idea! I expect mine to last close to 50000 hours. I'll be pushing up daisies by then... But having said that, I have a couple that  periodically flicker. I need to change them out and take advantage of the warranty.



Last edited by lehighline

Opinions, random  thoughts, ...

a) nice lights, will keep them in mind, and yes you will need more, they are recessed for Pete's sake.

b) I am allergic to black mold. I have found that although metal wire shelves may cost more than building wood shelves with plywood, they cannot pick up moisture and they let air circulate around and thru them. Great for holding train boxes. Downside is you cannot put anything small on them. Just put a plywood or a piece of plexiglas on a few.

c) Clever co-worker said not to let the drywall touch the basement floor, leave a gap so it can't wick up the water, and have the baseboard cover the gap. If you have <8' ceiling you have to trim it anyways. I assume he put them on a strip of wood before screwing to the wall then took the wood out. Never got the chance to try this.

d) Same clever guy said tear down the drywall on the basement ceiling, it will make the room seem bigger. Then use a Wagner spray gun and paint everything white. I only did the tear down part in the work room and yes seemed less claustrophobic. I like it unpainted, wife disagrees. I could see how yours is not well suited for that.

The future's so bright you're gonna need shades!

The room is really looking great Joe. Having spent the first half of my working life an an electrician, I am really jealous of these new LED lights. I probably installed thousands of Hi Hats over the years. Always running into obstacles in the ceilings or piping that ran right where I wanted to put a can. These things are barely thicker than the sheetrock. No putting a 6" deep can under the ductwork in the old days.
Having spares is a good idea too. The technology is constantly changing with LED lighting and what you bought today may be gone tomorrow. Not like going to Home Depot to pick up a 90W flood lamp any more.
We use all LED's at the College I work for now. Typically if they are going to die it will happen early in life (within the first 100 hrs or so).

Any thoughts on what the layout is going to look like? Your old one was a beauty.


12/12/20 – Time for drywall! My buddy offered to come down and give me a hand hanging the “rock”, which was a good idea since I never did this before either. Since it was early December I told him to wait until after the holidays to come down and start. Well, I got bored. Watched some more videos. Thank goodness they don’t charge you for watching those. And the next thing you know, I had some drywall in place. I just kept working my way around the room and before I knew it the walls were done with the exception of the areas that contacted the soffit. I made some minor mistakes but was pretty happy with the end result.


2/6/21 – My two friends came down and we finished installing the soffit drywall. I then finished buttoning up the drywall on the walls and just like that, the sheet rocking was complete.



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2/23/21 – I knew at this point things were going to get very dusty down there. I went ahead and moved 80% of my trains and railroadiana up to the garage. The remaining 20% was placed in other areas of the basement and covered.

I had decided at the beginning of this project that I would not even attempt the drywall taping and finishing. I hired a contractor to do this work and I am glad I did. Two guys worked down there for a whole week. It took a few days to get most of the dust cleaned up afterwards. Here it is ready for paint.



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Hi Joe,

Have been drooling over all of the pics you have posted. All of the awesome work and space leaves us with can't wait to see the next update. I can only wonder how spectacular this will be, based on your previous layout. Enjoy the journey. It looks like so much fun! You might be able to fit a signal or two you had outside at your previous residence. Lol


Joe Gozzo

Are you doing a drop ceiling? The finish work looks good. I remember reading somewhere a long time ago, that dry wall was never meant to be dry sanded during the prep work. According to what I read, a wet sponge was the recommended method. I have done both over the years, and don't care for, nor am I proficient in either method. I try as much as possible to incorporate things like exposed beams or other treatments to cover as much of the seams as possible. The fun is soon to begin!

Great work and inspiration. I have an unfinished basement and with relatively low ceilings, so if I were to redo my layout, I Might consider painting the ceiling black as some others have done. (Not a suggestion, just a comment) In your case, you have a finished basement that will have a nice clean crisp feel to it and you have excellent lighting already in place. That is a lot of progress in a short amount of time. Can't wait to see more.

Last edited by pennsynut

Thanks guys. You have to remember this project started a little over two years ago, so it's not going that quickly. Because I went back and have been documenting it from the beginning, it seems fast. After a couple more posts I will be caught up to current time, so things will slow up a bit.

@NJCJOE posted:

Thanks guys. You have to remember this project started a little over two years ago, so it's not going that quickly. Because I went back and have been documenting it from the beginning, it seems fast. After a couple more posts I will be caught up to current time, so things will slow up a bit.

Some time lapse photography perhaps!

@NJCJOE posted:

Thanks guys. You have to remember this project started a little over two years ago, so it's not going that quickly. Because I went back and have been documenting it from the beginning, it seems fast. After a couple more posts I will be caught up to current time, so things will slow up a bit.

No worries Joe. It's kind of like watching one of those home improvement shows on TV. It's amazing what they can accomplish in 60 minutes.


You guys are hilarious.

3/13/21– I got all the walls and soffit primed. The next day I was able to paint the soffit white. Then another train friend came over to help paint the light gray on the walls. I also finished installing the remaining outlets and wall plates. It’s really starting to look like something at this point.



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@NJCJOE posted:

You guys are hilarious.

3/13/21– I got all the walls and soffit primed. The next day I was able to paint the soffit white. Then another train friend came over to help paint the light gray on the walls. I also finished installing the remaining outlets and wall plates. It’s really starting to look like something at this point.


Daaaaang! Museum quality! Are you retired now?

Joe Gozzo

@NJCJOE posted:

Thanks guys. You have to remember this project started a little over two years ago, so it's not going that quickly...... After a couple more posts I will be caught up to current time, so things will slow up a bit.

However Joe, that’s when you get to the GOOD stuff like benchwork, laying track, wiring and running trains! Followed by scenic material, structures and populating your creation.  

3/23/21 – I ordered the suspended ceiling tiles from a company online. They are not your typical mineral fiber tiles. Rather they are fiberglass with a fiberglass-vinyl latex composite faces and sealed edges. These were delivered via a freight company, all 674 lbs. of them. After working in the basement for so long, you forget how big it is, until you order materials. 



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Joe, that ceiling tile material sounds great!  This is the first I have heard of it.  I spent too much time in drop ceilings in the first 2/3 of my 43 years working for power and telecom utilities.  I hate that traditional material.  It always leaves dust an larger pieces when you have to move a tile to get to wiring and plumbing.

Are you going to install it yourself?  I only did it once.  My late father-in-law helped me (or I should say I helped him) install it in our first house long ago.

I s your floor still concrete.  I think so looking at the photographs.  What are your plans for the floor.  I’m still working with concrete in my layout room floor.


Yes, these ceiling tiles are pretty nice. Those old fiberglass panels were a pain but with these being completely covered with the fiberglass-vinyl latex composite, they quite nice. I too am not a fan of the mineral fiber panels. The ceiling grid was installed with the help of a friend last weekend and I am installing the tiles. Pictures coming soon.

The floor is concrete and will be carpeted with 2'x2' carpet tiles. Waiting for the delivery truck as we speak.

Last edited by NJCJOE

However, there have been times I wished I had purchased a house with a finished basement

Joe, be VERY glad you have what you do. I've been looking at houses on the market. The number of finished basements that would need to be completely gutted before you could put in what you really want is staggering. Give me an unfinished, dry basement any day of the week!



"The floor is concrete and will be carpeted with 2'x2' carpet tiles. Waiting for the delivery truck as we speak."

Joe, have you looked into this product?

DRICORE® Subfloor - Dricore®

On the advice of our builder, I used it in my train room. You get a sub-floor and vapor-barrier all in one, and it's very easy to install.


I have seen that. It's a good product. My basement is very dry. We have two sumps down there. One is not even used. The other only drains the humidifier and AC condensate. I run the dehumidifier during the spring, summer and fall. I keep the basement usually at 50% humidity. There is a vapor barrier under the concrete floor and the floor was sealed at one time. So moisture is not an issue.

Plus the carpeting I'm using has a moisture resistant backing. So, I'm covered that way to. But for people that are concerned about moisture, Dricore is a great idea. Better to be safe than sorry.


I wanted to take a minute to thank you for sharing this post. It is posts like yours and GunrunnerJohn's that are so motivating. Last night I went into my train room to work on my tunnel. Something I had not touched in months with all other projects going, as well as as procrastination. Anyhow, hoping I can finish mine before you as it is nowhere near the size.

Thanks again Bud!

Joe Gozzo

True, but you got the space configured exactly how you want it.

The only glitch I see are the columns down the middle, but that would have been really expensive to lose those!  I've seen it done, but it took a lot of steel and a lot of...

But the look on Mr. Franklin's face makes it seem he's disappointed Joe didn't take the no pole option.  LOL!

Joe this is some awesome space.  Love the progression pictures!  Can't wait to see it all done as I'm sure you can't either.

Hi Joe,

It's looking better and better each time you post, now that the walls are painted you can really get a sense of the size of the area. Joe don't know if this has been mentioned yet, (i don't have the time to read the entire thread lol) just a suggestion... you should build and around the room layout and or tables that you don't have to climb up on. Also build the table height high, this way the trains are more towards eye level and you gain a ton of storage underneath.


Hey Alex.

You are right on both accounts. I will not be climbing on this layout, so around the walls and islands is the way I plan to go. This layout will be a bit higher as well. I'm envisioning two layouts, one O gauge and one standard gauge. The two will overlap at one point so I will need to make it high enough for that as well.

3/28/21 – My friend’s specialty is suspended ceilings so I let him install the ceiling grid work. After that was done, I installed all the ceiling tiles and dropped the lights down into the panels. The ceiling really made the room look nice. With this post we are now up to date.



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