How to properly frame an exterior wall (simple wall framing)
How to frame a house- part 1.
First things first you will need a proper set of house plans to work off. Most wall heights are a standard 8 or 9 feet but sometimes custom homes are 10 feet high. To explain how to frame an exterior wall I will work with either 8 ft or 9 ft walls to help keep it simple to start.
For an 8 ft or 9ft wall you will need lumber, exterior walls are made out of 2x6 spruce. You should buy pre-cut studs; they are studs that are already cut so that when you add your bottom and top plates they equal out to the correct height. Non pre-cut studs come either 8 or 9 feet long and to use them you would have to cut every stud shorter to fit the correct height.
From your house plans pick the wall that you want to frame. To make things simple start with a wall that will run from one corner to another corner, also the wall should be small enough that you and y I am about to explain does not have any windows or doors in it to make things as simple as possible.
When you are measuring the wall do not take the measurements off the plan, you need to measure the actual section where the wall is going to be built, it’s not uncommon for the foundation to be slightly different then the plans, this will affect how all your walls come together and how tight the fit and finish of your framing will be. When framing the walls remember that your framed walls will overlap when the corners of each wall come together. This means that if you are building a wall that goes from one corner to another and it is the first wall you are building that you should measure from the edge of your floor (where the corner would start) to the other edge (the next corner), this is the simplest way to do it. This way at one end of the framed wall it will have a framed wall that will butt into it and on the other end the next wall will overlap the end.
Take two pieces of lumber (2x6) preferably long enough to make the entire distance of your wall measurement and turn them on their edge so the 1.5” edge is looking at you. Lay them either on the ground or on a table and put them together back to back. Make sure the ends of the two pieces of lumber are lined up together.
Next you lay out your wall.
Since you have chosen a wall without any windows or doors then it makes the layout simple. Start at one end of the two pieces of lumber (we call these wall plates), place your framing square at the end and then measure in 1.5”s and draw a straight line across the upturned edge of the 2x6. Then in the space between the end of the plate and the line that you just drew you mark place an X there, the reason that the plates are together is so that you can draw the identical thing on both pieces of lumber at the same time. This will be your first stud location.
Hook your tape on the end of the plate and measure out until you get to the 16” mark. This will be the location of your next stud, do not put a mark at 16”s, you need the middle of the stud to end up at the 16” mark. Studs are 1.5”s wide on their edge, so draw a mark at 15 ¼”s. With your framing square draw a straight line across both plates, on the side of the line that the 16” fell on you now draw an X. This is your second stud location.
You continue this all the wall across your plates making marks for studs every 16”s and remember you want your mark to be 3/4s of an inch back from the 16 inch centre. That means that you will make a mark at 15 ¼, 31 ¼, 47 ¼, 63 ¼ and on until you reach the end of the plates.
Once you do reach the end of the plate you must add an X at the end like you did at the start, this will be your last stud location.
Now that you have your wall laid out you place one plate near where the wall will be built and the other plate either 8 or 9 feet away from it, paralleling the first plate. The plate nearest where your wall is to go is called the bottom plate; the plate near the top is the upper plate. Mark sure that the plates are turned up on their edge the same way that you laid them out and also make sure that both plates are running the same way as when you laid them out.
Now place your pre-cut studs between the two plates, so that they run from one plate to the other and also make sure that they are placed on their edge like your plates. As you are placing your pre-cut studs between the two plates you must make sure that the crown in the studs are all facing the same way, usually you face the crown up.
What is a crown you ask and how do you determine which way it goes?
Pick up your stud by the end; turn it on its edge leaving one end on the floor. Then put your eye so that you can look down the entire length of the stud, you will see that the stud actually has a slight bend to it going one way or the other. You must make sure that if it bends up then that is how it is place on the floor between your two plates, every other stud should be placed the same way with the bend up.
Place one stud between the plates for every X you drew on the plates. If you laid out your wall properly then the studs should line up straight from one plate to the next.
Start at one end of the plates and nail each stud to the plate, you must put at least two 3 ¼” nails through the plate into the end of the stud. Make sure that the stud when it is nailed is tight to your plate and that one edge of the plate lines up with the line you drew and the rest of the plate is under the X that you drew. Nail the ends of studs to the plates so that both plates are now attached to the same studs.
Once all the studs are nailed then you must maneuver the new wall over to the exact location that you want it to go. The only thing you need to know is that you need to place the edge of the bottom plate 5 and a 1/2 “s in from the edge of your floor. To help you place the wall where it is suppose to go chalk a line at the 5 ½” mark across the length of where your wall is suppose to go. With this chalk line you then place the edge of the bottom plate at that line. Toe-nail that plate with some hand nails to hold it there, you must toe-nail on the inside of the wall, if they aren’t then when you stand up your wall the nails will interfere with the placement and cause problems later.
Now that you have the bottom plate secured to the floor you will need to square the wall up. To square the wall you need to measure from one corner to the opposite corner of the wall. That means that if you start at the bottom plate on the left side of the wall then you need to measure to the upper plate on the right side, you then measure from the bottom plate on the right side to the top plate on the left side. You must adjust the wall back and forth at the upper plate until both of these measurements are equal. When these two measurements are equal then the wall is square. Toe-nail a couple of hand nails into the upper plate so that the upper plate is attached to the floor, this will keep the wall square and in place until you are ready to stand it up. Make sure that these nails are placed on the outside of the wall so that you can remove them to stand the wall once the sheeting has been installed.
Starting at the upper plate you will need to place your OSB sheeting on the wall, the sheeting should be placed so that it runs length ways from left to right. Starting at the first stud that you installed on the left side of the wall you line the edge of the sheeting up with the left side edge of the stud. The top edge can be lined up with the top edge of the upper plate. Once the sheeting is lined up if you squared your wall correctly the left and upper edge of the sheeting will line up with the edge of your framing and if the studs are in the correct place then the end of the 8 foot sheet will fall in the middle of a stud. Nail this sheet with a minimum of 2 ¼ inch nails every 6 to 8 inches on every stud and on the plates.
The sheeting that you are installing on the wall is usually 8 feet by 4 feet, since you are installing the sheets horizontally then you are going to need at least 2 rows of sheeting, you may need more depending on the height of your wall. When you start the next row of sheeting you need to cut the first sheet in half before you install it. This makes the sheet 4 feet by 4 feet and will stagger the joints in the sheeting from the row above. Staggering the sheeting is a way to make the wall stronger by not lining all the joints up on one stud.
Cover the entire wall with the sheeting and nail it as informed above. You want to make sure that the sheeting does not stick past the end of the wall on the right. You also want to make sure that the sheeting does not hang below the wall at the bottom; if it does it will interfere with you standing up the wall. If the sheeting is a couple inches short on the bottom don’t bother filling the small gap yet, you can fill it and overlap the rim joist below later when the wall is standing. This will add some strength to the wall instead of having a little strip at the bottom.
There is one more thing that you need to do to the wall before you stand it up, you need to apply the house wrap on top of the sheeting. Install the house wrap on the sheeting by rolling it out over the wall and stapling it every 4 to 6 inches when it is smooth and taunt without any wrinkles or folds. Make sure to cover the entire wall but don’t let it hang down at the bottom or it will interfere with standing the wall up. You can leave it long on the top or on the ends because the house wrap is very easy to trim back later while you are framing the remaining walls of the house.
You are now ready to stand the wall up, pull the toe-nails out of the upper plate that you installed; you do not have to worry about the toe-nails in the bottom plate, besides since you installed them on the inner side of the plate and covered them with the sheeting you will have no access to them. They will act as an anchor as you stand the wall up, so it’s best to leave them there.
The rule of thumb is that every person can lift 4 to 6 feet of exterior wall depending on how high the wall is that you constructed. Grab the upper plate and lift together all as one so that the wall doesn’t twist or rack. As you lift the wall up over your head you will have to walk forward with your arms over your head, do this while still holding on to the studs. The wall will rise up fairly easily, once you have the wall vertical make sure that at least two people are holding on to the wall while someone else attaches long bracing to the studs of the wall. Nail the bracing first to the stud as high up on the wall as you can reach, once you have the bracing in place you must level the wall before attaching the bracing to the floor. Make sure that you attach a brace every 6 to 8 feet depending how high the wall is and how windy the location that you are working on can get.
You have now constructed your first wall, if you measure the wall you will notice that it is 1 ½ inches shorter than it should be, this is because you need to install another 2 x 6 to the top of the wall on top of the upper plate. This is called the top plate; it is installed after you have other adjoining walls standing. This top plate must overlap on to the next wall, this will help keep the wall from flexing and add overall strength and straightness to it.
This is the first part in a series of blog posts on how to frame houses properly. In my next post in this particular series I will explain how to frame an exterior wall that has windows and doors.
Village Builders Inc.