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While remodeling my basement, I had several walls where I just put up furring strips and foam insulation rather than framing in a "real" wall. I used 1x2 furring strips and attached them with a ramset and 1 1/2 inch nails.

Problem is, putting the nails through the furring strips would quite often cause them to crack. I tried pre-drilling (didn't really help) and also tried using 1x3 strips in some places (helped a little, but not much).

Is there some trick to nailing up furring strips to keep them from cracking on you?

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    The only other suggestion I can suggest here is that you can get galvanised pressed / cold rolled steel furring strips. Here in the UK we call it stud and track. This can be bolted straight through into concrete with a concrete nailer and obviously will never split. Then you can screw plasterboard into it. – samerivertwice Mar 8 '19 at 20:11
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You may be using the wrong load. This site recommends using a Yellow #4 load on strips 3/4" thick, or Green #3 for 1/4" - 1/2".

You could also use concrete screws.

  • Pre-drill holes in furring strip and wall (about every 24").
  • Clean holes in walls well (with shop-vac).
  • Using concrete screws fasten furring strip to wall (do not over tighten).
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  • Good thought, but I was using #3 loads. Concrete screws would probably work, but would take quite a bit longer to do. – Eric Petroelje Jul 24 '10 at 2:52
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I figured out a workaround for this. Today, rather than using actual furring strips, I just ripped a sheet of 3/4 inch plywood into strips on the table saw. Being plywood, it doesn't split. Not an ideal solution, but worked out pretty well for me.

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As an aside, remember that basement concrete walls are not watertight, so when the ground is wet, the interior concrete may get moisture on the inside. Furring strips directly against concrete is a good way to end up with wet wood, which means mold and rot. Same goes for where the basement floor meets the studs. Full framing an inch or so from the wall with foam insulation behind is better for keeping the finished wall dry, even though you'll lose some interior space.

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  • That's why it's good to use pressure-treated furring strips. – Brian Jul 28 '10 at 20:16
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Also look into using construction adhesive to attach the furring strips and then fewer masonry screws.

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  • Yup, used adhesive as well, and only two nails per strip. Made sure to keep them away from the ends of the board as well. – Eric Petroelje Jul 24 '10 at 2:57
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When you hammer a nail through a strip of wood, the point of the nail splits and goes between the fibers of the wood. Instead, take each nail as you use it, put the head on a firm surface and tap the point once or twice with your hammer. This will flatten the point so that instead of splitting the fibers of the wood it cuts the fibers of the wood as it penetrates and is thus far less likely to crack the board.

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    Interesting, seems like this would work in general, but would it work in my case with a ramset and cement nails? Seems like those nails are tough enough that pounding them with a hammer a few times wouldn't dull them much. – Eric Petroelje Dec 14 '11 at 13:53
  • Why ask for conjecture? I just grabbed a ramset nail, set the head against a slab and smacked the pointy end with a hammer. It dulls the tip quite nicely. Not quite as much as an 8# nail, but close enough. I'm sure SKL is correct and just like with normal woodworking, it will significantly reduce splitting. – Matt Simerson Nov 28 '19 at 6:26
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Is there some trick to nailing up furring strips to keep them from cracking on you?

  1. SKL has hit the nail on the tail, dull the tip first. That technique reduces splitting of all types of lumber.
  2. Keep your fasteners away from the ends of the boards.
  3. Pre-drilling the holes would typically prevent splitting, but not so much with concrete nails. When the nail is being driven into the concrete, it tries to escape sideways, stressing the furring strip and frequently cracking it. The force is enough to split 2x4s if you didn't pay attention to tip #2.
  4. Unless you've got a system in place (sill gasket) to prevent your concrete walls from wicking moisture up from the footings and the dirt against the outside of the walls (vapor barrier/membrane/drainage gravel), your plywood strips will get moist. Then they'll mold and delaminate. If you're using marine grade plywood, it'll take a bit longer.
  5. Instead of furring strips, use 3/4 hardwood flooring. While doing some demo work in a basement, I found hardwood flooring glued (one quarter sized glob per foot) and nailed to the walls where it had been fastened 65 years prior. It was still in very good condition. Pine would have long since fallen victim to moisture and rotted away. After pre-drilling holes, I'd wager that most any hardwood will resist the forces of a concrete nail without splitting.
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