Laying Out Stud Walls
Building Skills: From load path to jack studs, keep these four considerations in mind.
How you lay out the stud locations in a wall affects everything that comes after, from sheathing, to hanging drywall, to plumbing and HVAC rough-in, to trimming the interior. The stud layout is marked on the plates—the horizontal members at the top and bottom of a wall. It’s worth taking the time to find straight, long stock for the plates, and to cut them accurately to length. The blueprints will rarely, if ever, specify the location of every stud, so the carpenter is expected to understand framing principles well enough to get the layout right regardless of the level of detail on the plans.
There are four things to consider when laying out a wall.
The first is load path. Loads are the weight of rafters, floor joists, and beams that bear on the wall from above. Each of these needs at least one stud below it; often more than one in the case of beams and headers, which transfer loads around openings. The locations of these point loads—below beams, for example—as well as the number of studs required below each, should be called out on the plans. These studs are usually nailed together into a post before installation. The studs of any wall above the first floor of a house should stack on the joists and studs below to form a load path all the way to the foundation. This isn’t just a load-path consideration; stacked framing makes the job of the mechanical trades—running ducts, pipes, and wire—much easier.
The next consideration is the location of intersecting walls. When laying these out, be careful that you’re measuring their position from the location indicated on the plans—it’s very easy to mark the wrong side of an intersecting wall on a plate and inadvertently…