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Project Difficulty: Moderate


The framing for a wall is a rigid skeleton of studs (framing members) providing space for wiring and pipes and a supporting surface for attaching wall surfaces. Unfinished basements are the easiest places to frame a new wall because the walls, floors, and ceilings already in place probably meet at right angles and are usually exposed and ready for the attachment of new framing. Projects above the basement often require breaking into finished walls or ceiling or both. Furthermore, because houses settle, rooms on the ground floor and above seldom offer right angles all the way around and this complicates putting up new walls. When the space you are framing is level and square, you can build most of the wall on the floor and tilt it into position. Where the angles are off, or if obstacles such as pipes prevent you from tilting walls into place, you must put up the wall stud by stud.

The following is basic information on wall framing that may be useful as a background guide or while you follow more specific, detailed instructions for building and installing a particular wall.


1 . Framing Members

Framing for an interior wall includes a bottom (or sole) plate, a top plate, and vertical members called studs. For nonload-bearing walls up to 12 feet long, a single board can be used for each plate. For longer or load-bearing walls, two pieces should be used for each plate with no piece shorter that 4 feet and with the splices at opposite ends of the wall. There are three kinds of studs: king (full), trimmer, and cripple studs. King studs run from the bottom plate to the top plate. Trimmer studs run from the bottom plate to a header. Cripple studs, always less than a story high, run from the bottom plate to the underside of a rough opening's sill plate (as for a window) or from the top of a double header (over a door or window) to the top plate. The height of the wall you plan to build will determine the choice of lumber. You can use 2x3s or 2x4s for walls up to 8 feet high. For walls higher than 8 feet, you can use 2x4s or you may use larger lumber if you plan to improve soundproofing or insulation. If using 2x4s, space the studs 16 inches on center; if using 2x6s, space them 24 inches on center. You will need one stud at each end of the wall, and studs every 16 (or 24) inches between. Doorways and windows require double studs--a king stud and a trimmer stud--at each side of the opening and a horizontal double (or oversized double) header at the top of the opening. If using a double header, it will also need one or more short cripple studs over the header to the top plate. (Fig. 1)

2 . Tools for Accuracy

Framing for a wall must be vertical and rigid and fit tightly with the floor, ceiling, and walls it meets. Accurate laying out, measuring, marking, and cutting of all the framing members is vital. When a 1/4-inch error can lead to an unsatisfactory product, it's a good idea to invest in some quality tools that, used properly, will give you the advantage of accuracy. A locking 25-foot metal measuring tape is well suited for framing. Heavy duty 25-footers have 3/4-inch-wide blades that stay rigid up to about 7 feet. Some carpenters prefer a folding wood or fiberglass rule. (Fig. 2)

Because framing often has to be level (perfectly horizontal) and plumb (perfectly vertical), you'll need a spirit level to check your work. Bubbles in slightly bent, fluid-filled vials indicate when your work is level or plumb. A 4-foot spirit level will do fine, but you may want a 6- or 8-footer for better accuracy when checking walls for plumb. You can always place your 4-footer on a long 2x4 to extend it, but make sure the 2x4 is arrow-straight. (Fig. 3)

You will need at least two squares: a speed square and a framing square. A speed square is a heavy-duty aluminum square in the form of a right triangle. It is great for guiding your saw and marking lumber and it's etched with common framing figures to use as a reference. A framing square, a large L-shaped square made of steel or aluminum, is indispensable when marking long square lines and making sure that corners are square. (Fig. 4)