We have an unfinished basement in central Minnesota. The home was built in 2008, and the builder thought it fit to include XPS insulation covering all of the vertical concrete foundation. So far so good, and we're planning on finishing the basement sometime in the near future (a year or two).

But in the immediate future, we need to host a birthday party for our 3-year old daughter and her friends, and the basement's vast empty spaces look like a natural fit.

Here's the question: What can I use to temporarily cover the mechanicals (furnace, water heater, softener, sump pump, etc.) and have it look like some sort of wall? Doesn't have to be super-good-looking, but should hold up to a kid or two trying to break through. We aren't sure how rowdy her guests will be, and want to make sure nobody gets hurt.

We don't have any available materials at the moment, but I'm certainly willing to go buy whatever it takes to get this done. Funds are certainly a constraint, but I don't suppose something like this will cost a whole lot of money.

I did consider cloth sheeting, but that's probably only if there's no other option left.

  • I think this is too open-ended. The answer is going to depend on what materials you have on hand, since cost appears to be an implied constraint. Otherwise, you could build a proper wall from wood studs and drywall (relatively quick, looks like a wall, sturdy).
    – mac
    Oct 7, 2013 at 19:55
  • @mac, thanks for the comment. I've updated my question with a note on funds.
    – alt
    Oct 8, 2013 at 1:04
  • How about a climbing wall for the kids to traverse (rather than climb), keeping all the holds low enough so they are never more than 12" above some mattresses?
    – mike
    Oct 8, 2013 at 2:47
  • 1
    My wife briefly toyed with opening a day-care in our MN basement. Code required a physical barrier. Chicken wire was adequate. I thought that to be absurd, but I suppose it would do the trick. So, if you're looking for quick and cheap, a few 2x4 and chicken wire.
    – DA01
    Oct 8, 2013 at 4:11

6 Answers 6


Why not build a drywall curtain. Base plate pinned to concrete floor with a few Tapcon type screws. Studs wedged between base plate and joists. If wider than 4 feet, add a vertical stud. Cover in drywall. NOTE THIS IS NOT CODE AND MUST BE TEMPORARY ONLY!

Create a two or three sided room (but be sure to leave access, like a hinged plywood panel with a padlock, for emergency access to utilities).

If you plan on using this for more than one or two events, consider building real drywall structures (you know, 16 inch centers, etc.). If you skip the taping and mudding, these go up in hours, not days, and will work until you are ready for the real finish project. You do need to be sure to leave adequate ventilation around utilities and easy access. A prehung door also can go up pretty fast.

  • thank you. For something like this, which is certainly supposed to be temporary (and will obviously be "unfinished", should I still get permits, considering real stud walls and drywall? I realize this may be an open-ended question, but I'm definitely curious.
    – alt
    Oct 8, 2013 at 1:06
  • Whether permits are required for small interior changes depends on your locale. If permits are required, you will have to comply with building codes. Putting up a curtain wall without full studding, etc. is not code complaint. If you want to do it right, build with standard framing.
    – bib
    Oct 8, 2013 at 1:14
  • +1 for the last paragraph. just build the wall correctly. tape/mud/paint later, when you have time (or don't tape and mud at all and re-use the materials for the remodel later if you're not exactly sure where you ultimately want the walls)
    – mac
    Oct 8, 2013 at 16:33

The simplest thing is probably excess furniture - dressers, bookshelves etc. They are typically sturdy - you might want to brace the bookshelves - and quick to put in place. As a bonus you can keep stuff on/in them while they're hiding parts of the room or acting as dividers. Just be careful that a child climbing up onto a dresser can't gain more access to mechanicals than they otherwise would.

  • 1
    Flatpack style bookcases aren't designed for free standing use. if not standing against (and preferably anchored with an L bracket to) a wall they're too easy to tip over. With small kids around that would be a disaster waiting to happen. Oct 10, 2013 at 14:46

A few well placed bookshelves would hide most of the mechanicals.

Looks for some clearance curtains. I dont know how much fabric is but you could make homemade curtains with some safety pins fairly quick.

Frame out wall 24" oc to hang paneling on. Thin 4x8 sheets start around $10. Its suppose to be installed on drywall because its so thin but it will work as temp wall.


DIY Sliding Panel Doors

A set sliding panels made out of a material you are likely able to reuse in the future, say 1/4" plywood, or 1/8" paneling, or masonite, or pegboard, or rigid insulation, or acrylic, ...

Stiffen the 4x8-ish panels with a 1x2 along each vertical 8' edge, attaching the left edge 1x2 on the back side, and the right edge 1x2 on the front side (or vice-verso) so that the panels can nest together. The 1x2s will serve as handles from either side.

Make a ceiling track and a floor track by routing grooves into 2x6s for example, or by building them up from 1x stock for example. Create enough grooves so that each panel rides in its own track and that all panels can be nested to one side of the room.

Make the grooves in the ceiling track a little more than twice as deep as the in the floor track so that the panels can be lifted in and out of the bottom track. For example floor grooves 1/2" deep and ceiling grooves 1-1/8" or 1-1/4" deep.

To keep the panels from being lifted out accidentally, predrill horizontal holes every 24" or so into the top track at a height that will clear the panels, then insert nails or screws, or cut lengths of heavy gauge wire or wire coathangers.

Sand the panel edges smooth and round, and use pray silicone to lubricate the bearing surfaces.


The first thing that comes to mind is Sun Shade material. This is a mesh that comes in a few nice colors and is available for reasonable prices at Home Depot for example. You can hang it from the ceiling, and stretch it down to 2x4's nailed or Tap-Conned to the floor. If too narrow, you can do a simple whip-stitch with carpet thread - to make it wider.


Blue Polytarp

A stretched taught blue polytarp (or similar), possibly used as a canvas for the kids' creativity with double stick tape and cut outs or some such.

  • thank you. This is certainly an option, but I'll hold off on this atleast until other avenues are written off.
    – alt
    Oct 8, 2013 at 1:06

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