Stud Wall Layout Design Tool Recipes

Wood choice:

Wood size

  • 1.5″x2.5″ gives minimal sound absorption and is not recommended. However it does work and can be used where space is critical. The closer such uprights are spaced the better for sound insulation, but even 2′ spacing is functional. Should only be used for rooms where sound insulation is unimportant. Such thinly framed walls are not suitable for plaster skimming. If you can spare another half inch, choose staggered isolated frames to gain some sound insulation, or larger timber for better rigidity.
  • 2″x2″ Many have been tempted to cut corners with 2×2 framing. Once skimmed, the wood moves enough to pop little pieces of plaster off over the screws. 2×2 is not recommended for general use, and is in fact slightly less rigid than 1.5×2.5.
  • 2″x3″ sawn makes a wall suitable for skimming. Do not confuse this with 2×3 CLS or PSE, which tend to be closer to 1.5″ x 2.5″ in real life.
  • 2×4 is the usual choice. It makes a wall with good rigidity about 5″ thick
  • 2×6 may be used for very large partition walls, such as in halls.

The 2 smaller sizes are ok for cupboards, where sound insulation is a non-issue.

Wood type

Rough sawn untreated wood is fine. If the wall is liable to get wet, eg close to a bath or shower, its worth using treated wood.

Balloon Framing

With balloon-frame construction, shown below, studs run full height from mud sill to the top plate, to a maximum of 20 feet. This method was popular before the 1930s and is still used on occasion for stucco and other masonry-walled, two-story houses because such structures shrink and settle more uniformly than do platform structures.

But balloon framing is more dangerous to erect because of its weight and height, and the long, straight wall studs required have grown increasingly expensive and difficult to find.

Balloon House Framing—Wall studs run full height o
Balloon House Framing—Wall studs run full height of the building

Video

How to Use this Calculator

First, figure out what you want to calculate and check the appropriate box.

Subfloor/Slab

Choose whether your wall is on a subfloor or slab. More sheathing will be needed if the wall is built on a subfloor. This is so the rim joist can be properly tied to the wall.

End of Wall Studs

Next, figure out the stud configuration at the ends of the wall. Different stud corner configurations are shown in the image below.

Traditionally, three and four stud corners were us

Traditionally, three and four stud corners were used (one wall with one end stud and the intersecting wall with two or three end studs). These corners are very robust but are hard to properly insulate and can be considered overkill in terms of strength.

With advanced framing, each wall only has one end stud. This creates a two stud corner. These corners are easier to insulate. The drawback is that it makes it difficult to fasten drywall in the corners. However, by using drywall clips this problem can be mitigated.

Wall Dimensions

Next, enter the length and height of the wall into the framing calculator. The wall height is measured from the top of the slab or subfloor to the top of the top plate.

Stud Spacing

Studs are usually spaced at 16″ (traditional framing) or 24″ (advanced framing). 

Rim Joist Width

Enter the width of the rim joist here. This is needed since the sheathing covers the rim joist and ties the wall together.

Stud Width

Enter the width of the studs here to properly calculate the amount of board feet. Usually, 3.5″ (2×4) or 5.5″ (2×6) should be used.

Aerated concrete blocks (aka Breeze blocks)

A popular medium weight alternative to framed walls. Better performance all round, but more work and cost to build.

Block walls can be finished with a wet plaster skim, dot & dabbed plasterboard, or battens & plasterboard. Plasterboard is normally skimmed, but it can be just filled to save money.

Wall Stud Dimensions and Variations

Most interior walls are built with 2×4 lumber, while exterior walls are built with either 2×4 or 2×6 lumber. Traditionally in a wall, the 2x4s or 2x6s are spaced evenly every 16 inches on center. 

This means that the measurement runs from the center of one board to the center of the next. Since the boards are faced with the thicker part perpendicular to the wall to create a cavity for electrical, plumbing, and insulation, this means the “2 inch width” is split center. 

The trick lies in the fact that true measurements of a 2×4 are not actually 2 inches by 4 inches, but 1.5 inches by 3.5 inches. (Boards also have lengths, typically 8 feet, 10 feet, or 12 feet depending on the height of the space.) 

When boards are rough hewn in the lumber yard, their dimensions are actually true to their name, but once they are planed for smoothness they lose some thickness. 

Therefore, 16 inches on center would include 3/4 inch of one stud, 14 inches of free space, and 3/4 inch on the next stud. If you are searching for a stud in an existing wall, this is normally the distance you would measure for.  

However, there are variations to this amount. Doors and windows require extra framing and often add studs as support for the door or window. In addition, corners often have extra framing material.

The biggest variation is the distance between studs. In advanced framing techniques, which I will discuss in detail shortly, wall studs can be spaced up to 24 inches on center. 

Thankfully, there are a few tricks to discovering where the studs in an existing wall are located. 

Framing Tips and Tricks

Framing

Framing

  • Lay out the studs, headers, cripples, and top/bottom plates on a flat surface and nail together before standing up
  • Make sure to lay out the studs with crowns (side to side bend) facing the same way, usually upward when nailing the wall together on floor
  • Use the built in marks on a tape measure to mark out locations of studs on center on the bottom plate

Advanced Framing Techniques for New Walls

As I mentioned before, many newer homes are built with advanced framing techniques. If your home is newer, or you are building an addition or remodel, you might have this kind of framing or consider this method. 

In advanced framing, walls are designed with 24-inch on-center framing instead of the traditional 16-inch on-center. Architects also attempt to design wall lengths, heights, window and door frames, etc. on a 2-foot grid (source). 

These changes reduce the amount of lumber wasted, which in turn reduces cost. Even more importantly, it increases the energy efficiency of the wall. 

Every stud represents a thermal bridge that can transfer heat through the wall. In traditional framing, more wood framing and therefore less insulation creates many places for thermal resistance. 

Advanced framing naturally lessens this phenomenon because there are fewer vertical wall studs, among other framing reductions. More insulation can be placed between the gaps as well. 

If you are considering this method, check with your local building codes. Some areas of the country do not allow advanced framing, particularly on exterior walls. 

And if you are trying to locate an elusive stud, it may be your home was built with 24 inch spacing. Check for 24 inch on-center spacing between any studs you do locate, and that may solve the case of the missing stud. 

Construction

Step 1 – Put Outer Frame Together

If possible, begin with a wall which contains no openings such as doors or windows. This will give you a feel for the work without adding any variables.

Choose your straightest 2×4 for the plates. Remember that top plates must break over a stud and all top plate splices must be at least four feet from any splice in the bottom or cap plates. It may be necessary to cut your top plates as you progress in your layout to be sure they meet over a stud.

Sight down each plate and turn it so the crown will be turned up. Then turn both top and bottom plates on their sides and put them together using large jaw clamps. You can temporarily nail the plates together also.


Beginning at the end of a plate that goes all the way to the end of a wall, measure in exactly 3/4 of an inch and make a mark across both plates.

Note: This 3/4-inch adjustment is made so that the edge of your first piece of sheathing or siding will come to the outside edge of the corner stud rather than the center of it. All sheathing (except the first and last piece) needs to fall on the center of the studs to provide a nailing surface for the adjoining piece. By reducing your first measurements by 3/4″ (one half the width of a 1 ½ inch stud), you shift the edge of the first piece of sheathing from the center to the outer edge of the first stud.

Drive a nail into this 3/4-inch mark so that you can hook your tape measure onto it when measuring for stud spacing in the next step.

Step 2 – Measure and Mark Studs


Now measure and mark at 16-inch intervals (or 24-inch intervals if your code specifies) from this nail. The marks you make every 16 inches will not represent the centers of the studs as you might expect. They actually represent the edge of the studs instead.

Place an X on the side of the mark nearest the starting nail. This will indicate which side of the layout mark your studs will be placed. Make these X’s on both plates. This spaces the studs so that the edge of the sheathing will fall in the middle.

Place three X’s (representing three studs) at the end of the plates where you began the layout. These three X’s mark the Three Stud Corner.

Step 3 – Nail Studs to Plates

After completing the layout, separate the plates by the distance of a stud length. By using pre-cut studs, you need only lay them out at the X’s between the marked top and bottom plates, without any measuring and sawing.

Tip: Check local code and your blueprints for the proper height for standard walls in your area when ordering.

Nail the wall together as described in Nailing and Positioning the Wall.

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