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.

wooden bed frame, bed, bedroom
Photo: Kritsada
Project Overview
  • Working Time: 1 day
  • Total Time: 1 day
  • Skill Level: Intermediate

If your home renovation includes a new interior wall, you may not need to call a professional to install the studs. What might seem like a job for a contractor is actually achievable for the average homeowner with a few basic carpentry skills. Below, we show you how to frame an interior wall step-by-step. If you have a helper, expect the whole project to take two to four hours for a basic eight-foot-long wall that runs perpendicular to the joists. Tack on extra time if you're framing openings like doorways or windows or installing the wall parallel to the joists. Now grab an assistant, gather your tools, and let's build a wall this weekend.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • 1 Tape measure
  • 1 Stud finder
  • 1 Chalk line
  • 1 Plumb bob with nylon line
  • 1 Hammer
  • 1 Level
  • 1 Circular saw
  • 1 Handsaw

Materials

  • 1 2x4-inch studs
  • 1 2x4-inch top and bottom plates
  • 1 16d nails or 3-1/2-inch screws
  • 1 Tapered shims

Instructions

  1. Understand Your Wall

    Before you begin, you need to assess the position of your new wall in relation to the existing structure. Look up first: When you frame an interior wall, it will either run perpendicular or parallel to the ceiling joists. Perpendicular construction is simpler, since the joists act as built-in attachment points for the ceiling plate of the new wall. If your addition runs parallel to the joists, however, expect a bit more work, because you'll have to install blocking between the joists. (For more on this step, see below.) You can eliminate the need for blocking by positioning the wall directly under a joist, but don't just choose this option to save work. Make sure you actually like the location.

  2. Frame It Out

    Building the wall on the floor is the most efficient method, but a tight workspace may force you to assemble it in place. To do that, snap parallel chalk lines on the floor and ceiling, then nail the top and bottom plates (the two-by-fours that are attached to the ceiling and floor, respectively) along these lines. Position the studs at a regular interval—typically every 16 inches—vertically between the plates, and toenail them into place. (That means driving nails or screws through the stud into the plate at an angle.) If your room is large enough to frame an interior wall on the floor, follow the steps below.

    SCDW_044_02.jpg
  3. Install the Ceiling Plate

    If you're working perpendicular to the ceiling joists, snap a chalk line on the ceiling where you want the wall to be, and use a stud finder to locate joists along the chalk line. Mark them with a pencil. (If your wall is going to run parallel to the joists, see the instructions below.) With a helper, position the ceiling plate along the chalk line, then nail it into place through the ceiling into the joists. If the board isn't completely square, secure the straightest section, then push the imperfect portion into line and nail it down too.

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

    SCDW_044_05.jpg
  4. Secure the Studs

    Measure the distance between the ceiling plate and the floor, checking in a few places to ensure accuracy. Using the shortest measurement as your starting point, subtract 3 ¾ inches from this length to account for the top and bottom plates. (Since you're tilting the wall into place, you'll have both a top plate and a ceiling plate.) Cut the studs to size with a circular saw.

    Lay the top plate on the floor next to the bottom plate. Mark identical spots on each board at 16-inch intervals. Hold the studs in place one at a time and nail them into place through the top plate. (If any of the studs are warped, turn them so that the imperfect end is at the bottom.) Repeat with the bottom plate, ensuring the edges of the studs are flush with the edges of the plate. Install a stud at each end of the wall, too.

    SCDW_044_06.jpg
  5. Find Your Place

    Dangle a plumb bob from one end of the ceiling plate, and mark the floor where it lands. (If you're working alone, hang the plumb bob from a nail attached to the plate.) Repeat the process on the opposite end of the ceiling plate, then snap a chalk line on the floor between the two marks to identify where you should secure the bottom plate.

  6. Install the Wall

    Line up the bottom plate of your framed-out wall with the chalk line on the floor. Tilt the wall up, aligning the top plate with the ceiling plate so that the edges of the two plates are flush. If there's a slight gap between the top plate and ceiling plate, slip a pair of shims between them, then drive the nails through the shims as you secure the wall.

    To stabilize the wall, nail through the top plate into the ceiling plate (hint: use 2-½-inch-long drywall screws in lieu of nails if you have a plaster ceiling). Check with a carpenter's level that the wall is plumb, then nail the bottom plate to the floor.

  7. Cut Away the Ceiling

    If your new wall runs parallel to the joists and the ceiling is still intact, use a handsaw or reciprocating saw to remove the drywall between the new framing and the edge of the closest joist on either side of the studs. Snap a chalk line along the center of each joist, then use a utility knife to cut away an additional ¾-inch strip of drywall along each joist, running the full length of the new wall. This exposes a small ledge on the face of the joist where you can later anchor new drywall.

    Blocking for an interior wall
  8. Add Blocking

    For a wall running parallel to the joists, cut 2x4-inch boards into segments to fit the spaces between the new wall and each of the adjacent joists. Nail the blocking in place, securing one end to the nearest joist and one end to the ceiling plate. Install blocking every 16 inches on center (i.e. the distance from the center of one piece to the center of the next).

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