How to Frame an Interior Wall with Wood Studs

Building an interior wall is easier than you think. This how-to guide will get you started.

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If you have big plans to upgrade a space with an interior wall, we've got you covered. What may seem like a job for a professional, is actually not too advanced for the average homeowner. Below, we show you how to frame an interior wall with wood studs. If you have a helper, allow at least one hour for a simple 8-foot-long wall that runs perpendicular to the joists. Framing openings such as doorways or windows will add time to the project. So grab a helper, gather your tools, and get to work this weekend.

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Getting Started

When you add a wall in your house, it will either run perpendicular or parallel to the ceiling joists. Perpendicular construction is easier because you have built-in attachment points for the top plate where it crosses each joist. Parallel construction involves a bit more work because you'll need to add blocking between the joists. (For more on adding blocking, look below.) Shifting the wall so it's directly under a joist eliminates the blocking, but make sure you can live with that location instead of choosing it simply to save work.

Building the wall on the floor is the most efficient procedure, but space limitations may force you to build the wall in place. To do that, plumb the top and bottom plates to each other, and fasten the studs to the plates by toenailing (driving fasteners at an angle).

What You Need

  • Tape measure
  • Sud finder
  • Chalk line
  • Plumb bob with nylon line
  • Hammer or power screwdriver
  • Level
  • Circular saw
  • 2x4-inch studs
  • 2x4-inch top and bottom plates
  • 16d (3-1/2-inch) nails or 3-1/2-inch screws
  • Tapered shims

Step 1: Install Ceiling Plate

Make a chalk line where you want the wall to sit. Be sure it runs perpendicular to the ceiling joists. Use a stud finder to find ceiling joists along chalk line. With a helper, hold the ceiling plate in place along the chalk line and nail it in place right through the ceiling, into the joists. If the board isn't quite straight, nail part of it, then push the offending end into line.

Note: If the wall must run parallel to the joists, see detailed instructions below. 

Step 2: Nail Studs

Place the studs on edge 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 3: Mark Location

A plumb bob is a tool used to mark vertical lines. Dangle a plumb bob from the end and side of the ceiling plate to transfer the wall location to the floor. This will show you where the bottom plate should sit. If you are working alone, hang the plumb bob from a nail in the plate. Repeat at the other end. This job is quicker with two people: One holds the string, the other marks the spot.

Step 4: Install Wall

Anchor the wall by nailing up through the top plate into the ceiling plate. Make sure the edges of the two plates are flush. To protect a plaster ceiling, install the plate with 2-1/2-inch-long drywall screws. Check the wall for plumb with a carpenter's level, then nail the bottom plate to the floor.

Step 5: Fill Gaps

If there is a little space between the top plate and the ceiling plate, slip a pair of shims between the two before nailing. Drive the nails through the shims to keep them from slipping out.

How to Run a Wall Parallel to the Joists

Step 1: Cut Ceiling

Use a handsaw or reciprocating saw to cut away the ceiling flush to the inside faces of the joists where the wall will attach. Snap a chalk line along the center of each joist, then use a utility knife to cut away a 3/4-inch-wide strip of drywall. This exposes a surface on the joist onto which you can attach the new drywall.

Step 2: Secure Supports

Nail the blocking in place between the joists. Space the pieces 16 inches on center to provide support for the new drywall.

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