Learn the basics of framing with these tips

By Tom Phelan - ReminderNews
- posted Tue., Sep. 13, 2011
- Contributed Photo

With the housing market still in flux, some families are opting to stay in their homes for the time being. Some are planning renovations and upgrades for better living and to increase the value when they eventually do sell their home. If you are considering finishing a basement or attic room, you can probably use some tips on framing walls and partitions.

First, you have some alternatives for the material you use. Most residential buildings use wood studs and joists. But commercial buildings are apt to have steel 2x4s and other framing dimensional “lumber.” The latter use self-tapping screws for their assembly. They are lighter, but they are more expensive than wood. Otherwise, the dimensions are the same, and so are the planning considerations. Most walls use 2x4 lumber, but external walls might use 2x6s for studs to allow for additional insulation. Sometimes 2x6s are used for internal partitions to provide more sound deadening or for large plumbing pipes.

Get good lumber, or you will regret your decision. Lumber is stamped with information about its grade, type of wood and moisture content. Talk to your lumber professional about the meaning of the information on the wood you select.

Any basic wall in your home consists of a base plate, where it meets the floor and a top plate, where it joins with the ceiling, along with vertical studs in between. Studs are spaced evenly along the wall at 16-inch intervals. Measure carefully for your top and base plates. It’s possible that your walls are not perfectly plumb, and your two plates may have slightly different lengths.

Once the base and top plates are cut, lay them on edge alongside each other. Starting at one end, measure 15 1/4 inches in and draw a line across both plates. Put an X just beyond that line. Then continue to measure for the location of each successive stud, marking a line every 16 inches, with an X just beyond it. (Your measuring tape probably has a diamond or other designation at 16-inch intervals.)

Use a chalk line to identify where your new wall will meet the ceiling and the floor. Take several floor-to-ceiling measurements, and use the shortest for your stud length. Cut all the studs the same length.

You will assemble your partitions on the floor, and then raise them into place. Measure the height from the floor to the ceiling joists. Then subtract 3 inches to allow for the thickness of the base and top plates. Separate the plates, and begin to install studs at the points where you have marked with an X. Drive two 16d nails through each plate into the top and bottom of each stud.

Even over door openings, the studs should remain at the same spacing. Short studs over a door are called cripples. To determine the rough opening in your frame for the door, add 2 inches to the height and width of your door. On each side of the door opening, install a trimmer stud from the base plate to the bottom of the door header. The header above the opening is made of two pieces of framing lumber set on edge and nailed together. Each end of the header rests on the trimmer studs. Alongside the trimmer studs, nail in another stud that runs the full height of the wall, from base plate to top plate. Leave the base plate in the partition until the wall is raised and nailed in place, and use a hand saw to cut the plate out of the doorway.

Raise the wall frame, and before nailing it in place, use a 4-foot level to determine that it is plumb and not twisted. Where possible, nail the plates into the floor and ceiling joists using 16d nails. Use 16d nails to fasten the ends of the frame to adjoining wall studs or blocks installed for that purpose.

As always, remember to measure twice, so you’ll only have to cut once.

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