How to Frame a Wall

We'll show you how to build a wall frame on the floor, then position it into place.

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There are multiple ways to frame a wall. You could install the top and bottom plates, then toenail the studs to the plates. Or, if you have enough space, you can assemble the pieces together on the floor. This method allows you to nail through the bottom and top plates directly into the bottom and top of the studs, which is much easier than toenailing. Then you can tip the wall up and move it into position. We'll show you how to frame a wall using the latter method.

Set aside roughly an hour to frame an 8 x 8 foot wall. Additional footage will require more time. Before you begin, make sure you know how to measure, mark, crosscut, and drive nails. Prep for the project by installing the wall's ceiling plate.

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What You Need

  • Tape measure
  • Layout square
  • Circular saw
  • Hammer
  • Chalk line
  • Plumb bob
  • 2x4s (you'll need four for the first 4 feet of wall, three for every 4 feet thereafter, plus top and bottom plates)
  • 16d nails

Step 1: Determine Wall Height

Measure from the underside of the ceiling plate to the floor to determine the wall height. Check in several places and use the smallest dimension as the height.

Step 2: Cut Plates and Studs

Cut the plates and the studs to length. The length of the studs should be 3 inches less than the wall height you just determined. This allows for the thickness of two 2x4 plates (1 1/2 inches each).

Step 3: Mark Stud Spacing

Hold the plates side by side to mark the spacing for the studs. The first stud will be offset by 3/4 inch; then make a mark every 16 inches to indicate the centers of the studs. Measure 3/4 inch on both sides of each mark and draw lines to show where the sides of the studs will be.

Step 4: Position Studs

Place the studs on edge in between the plates. If any studs are not perfectly flat, turn them so that any slight gap is at the bottom. Hold them in position one by one and nail them in place through the plates. Make sure the edges of the studs are flush with the edges of the plates.

Step 5: Add Blocking

Blocking may be added to the wall to provide a solid nailing surface for moldings or cabinets. If needed, nail blocking between the studs. Position the blocking with the wide face out. Toenail one side of each block. Here the pieces are positioned to support a chair-rail molding. Then, tilt the wall frame up and into place. 

How to Frame in a Small Space

If you are working in tight quarters, you'll have to build the wall in place. Start by laying out the plates as described above. Attach the wall top plate to the plate already attached to the ceiling. Use a plumb bob to locate the bottom plate. Anchor it to the floor. Cut the studs to fit between the plates. Toenail them in place top and bottom. Predrilling makes nailing easier.

Drive toenails into the face of a stud at an angle so that they come out the end of the stud and enter an adjoining piece of lumber. Usually three nails are adequate, one driven from one side and two from the other.

How to Space Studs

Laying out the positions of the studs in a wall is a crucial step in construction. Get it right and installing drywall is easy; make a mistake and you'll have problems.

The most common spacing is 16 inches on center (OC). This means the distance from the center of one stud to the center of the next is 16 inches. The space between studs that are 16 inches OC is 14-1/2 inches. The first and last studs in a wall are exceptions to the rule. The first stud is shifted over 3/4 inch as its centerline corresponds with the end of the wall, so its side is flush with the ends of the plates. This makes the space between the first and second studs 13-3/4 inches.

The last stud in the wall may or may not be spaced evenly. Its position depends on the length of the wall. Thus the spacing between it and the second-to-last stud can be anything from a couple of inches to the standard 14-1/2 inches. Whatever you do, don't adjust the spacing of all the studs to avoid having a single odd space. If you do, the edges of your drywall sheets won't line up with the studs.

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