Here at The Inspiring Investment, we encourage people to make wise choices with their money. Perhaps for you, that meant buying a fixer-upper and building sweat equity. Maybe you envision a value-add project in your existing home or there is damage to your house that you need to fix. Either way, we are over here cheering you on! Garrett, our amazing Project Manager, is here to share with you some framing basics to help get you started. Read until the end, because he also gives you a valuable resource!
Essential Framing Basics
Framing at its core is a simple task. It can be intimidating at first, but with a basic understanding of the components involved and how to assemble them, any capable person can do it. By the end of this article, we hope you will begin to think that you could frame in a wall, install a door or build out a window. Perhaps, you could even convert that dusty basement into a home theater or playroom.
How to Frame a Wall
Let’s start with the most basic form of framing, the wall. A wall is really made up of three key components. The first is the sole plate. This is the bottom portion of a wall that rests on the floor. Next, you will have the studs. These are the vertical wooden supports that extend the height of the wall. Finally, there will be a double-top plate. This is the trickiest portion of the wall, as it takes some forethought when building. The double top plate is designed to give you the ability to fasten two sections of a wall together, be it a corner or a wall that is longer than your section of lumber.
Once you have your three wall components cut to length, you can fasten the first top plate, the sole plate, and the studs together through the sole plate and the first top plate. For 2×4’s you will want to use two nails or screws per side. When using 2×6’s, you will want to use three; and for a 2×8, use four, and so on.
Now that you have your single wall or section built, you can begin to think about connecting two walls. When connecting the second of the two top plates it is important to determine which one will overlap the other. You will simply need to make one longer and the other shorter so that you simultaneously create and fill a void. Where the two meet, it’s a good idea to fasten the walls with four nails or screws.
Essentials for Framing Corners
You know how to assemble a wall and connect top plates. Now you are ready for framing the corners. Connecting your top plates together in corners is the same as two straight sections of wall, but when connecting the sections you will have to compensate for two potential scenarios.
The first is that when you connect two walls you will have hidden one of your end studs. This creates an issue come time for installing sheetrock. It is important to anticipate the needs of the sheet rocker, because if they are unhappy, there is a good chance you are about to be. So to keep your sheet rockers rocking, install a stud so that each adjacent side of a corner has a visible stud to which sheetrock can be fastened. This is your main issue when working with an inside corner.
The next issue is specific to outside corners. If you push on a single stud you will quickly realize that it is not very firm. It will have a good amount of flex. On an outside corner, it is a bad idea to have a lot of flex. Once the sheetrock is installed, it is far more susceptible to damage if the corner has any significant range of motion. However, this is an easy fix. Simply add a second stud right up against your end stud and fasten them together from top to bottom every foot or so.
If you are building a room, don’t forget to put in a door so you have a way to get out. To prevent any situation of the sort, let’s learn to build a doorway.
This process, like the wall, will require a sole plate, studs, and a double top plate, but we will also add in a few other components, the first being the king stud. This is the outside stud of a doorway and it serves as the anchor for the rest of the unit. Next, there will be what is called a header. This is most typically comprised of two 2×6 pieces of wood with shims (thin pieces of wood) sandwiched between to bring the header to the thickness of the stud.
The confusing thing about 2x lumber is that it is only 1.5” thick. So a .5” shim is needed to bring a header to the same thickness as the stud. If it is not thick enough, it will warp the sheetrock. Likewise, a header that is too thick will cause bowing. You will want to run three nails on both sides of the header every foot or so to fasten it together.
Next, install the jack studs or trimmer studs. These support, or jack up, your header at the desired height of your doorway (typically about 82-82.5” from the ground). Finally, you will install the cripple studs between the top plate and the header. These studs serve to stabilize the door while supporting the top plate. You will want to know the measurements of your door jamb so that you know how wide and high to make the opening. It is pretty standard to make the opening 2” wider than the door jamb and 1” higher.
How to Frame Windows
Building a window is very similar to a door. You will leave the sole plate intact. Once the sole plate, king stud, jack stud, header, and cripple studs are installed, you can then build the part of the rough opening on which the window will rest. This section will be composed of more cripple studs that will extend from the sole plate to the bottom of the window sill.
On top of the cripple studs, you will attach another top plate. It is important to install a jack stud at either end of that top plate connecting it to the jack stud that holds the header. This will stabilize the window support. Like a door, make sure the opening is about 1.5-2” wider and 1-1.5” taller than your opening to give a little wiggle room for the window installer.
Framing Tools Needed
At the most basic level, the tools needed to accomplish framing are pretty simple.
- A Hammer, Drill, or Nail Gun
- An Accurate Tape Measure
- A Quality Level with Plumb Line Capabilities
- A Square
It could be helpful to have a chalk line as well to ensure your wall is going exactly where you want it.
Pro TiPS for FRAMING
When framing in old houses, basements, or garages, it is not uncommon for the floor to be uneven. Actually, it is uncommon for them to be level. This creates a challenge when trying to decide the height of the studs. To combat this, start by running a plumb line from the ceiling to the floor. Mark each to determine where you would want your top plate and sole plate to sit. Then you can fasten your plates to the ceiling and the floor in advance.
If you do not have joists to attach to, you might have to install wood blocks that run between joists giving something to which you can attach your top plate. Then mark out where your studs will go, (code typically requires a stud every 16”). Once you do this, you can measure and cut your studs based on their corresponding mark and simply hammer them in place and toenail (nailing or screwing in from an angle) it to fasten it to the top and bottom plate. If you have doubts, look up your local code. In North Carolina, we can access our code digitally.
Typical Framing Code Requirements
- Studs need to be 16” on center from one another (on center is another way of saying the center of the stud needs to be 16” from the center of the next stud).
- 4” wood needs 2 nails, 6” wood needs 3 nails, 8” wood needs 4 nails, and so on.
- If building in a basement or garage, the sole plate must be treated for ground contact, and it is a good idea to put a foam gasket between the bottom of the sole plate and the concrete floor. This will ensure no moisture affects the longevity of the wood.
- When connecting to concrete, it is important to use appropriate concrete fasteners like ¼ tapcons that are treated for moisture contact and are long enough to adequately connect the sole plate to the ground.
A Framing Resource to Save!
For more information, check out the House Improvements Youtube Page. This is a vast resource of building basics in video format. For the visual learner, this will be your best bet. You will need to check some of the things he says against your local code, but they really know what they are doing.
Best of luck in all your renovation adventures!