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Do precut studs make sense?

Q: Why is the length of a precut stud 92-5/8 in.? With the sole plate and two top plates at 1-1/2 in. each, the total wall height is 97-1/8 in. So with 1/2-in. drywall on the ceiling, a 7/8-in. gap is left, which is too much in my book. If you add 1x3 strapping to the ceiling, as they do on the East Coast, you’re left with 1/8 in., which is too tight. What is the logic of this standard?

Art Pearse, via e-mail

A: Mike Guertin, co-author of Precision Framing, replies: The answer is that 92-5/8-in. studs leave about a 1/2-in. to 7/8-in. gap depending on the thickness of the plate stock, and that’s a good thing. I have two takes on it.

When I hang drywall, I want wiggle room. The ceiling can dip (especially under roof trusses on a wide building), or the floor can have a hump. The last thing I want is to have to trim 1/4 in. off a sheet of drywall. The extra 1/2-in. to 7/8-in. gap avoids this problem. After attaching drywall to the ceiling, lift the wall sheets up to the ceiling sheet, and leave the gap at the bottom plate. The bottom edge of the drywall should still be in contact with the plate.

This gap gives me an expansion perimeter when I’m installing hardwood flooring. And if I install 1/2-in. underlayment before framing interior walls, the extra space comes in handy. Once the baseboard is installed, the gap is covered.

I just thank the mills for making precuts at all. They save me a lot of time (and wasted material) for no extra charge. And if you strap your ceilings with 1x3, just sandwich some 1/2-in. plywood or oriented strand board scraps between the two top plates to avoid having to trim the drywall. I’ve been using precut studs successfully for years. I just can’t wait for them to start cutting 94-1/8-in. studs that I can use for optimumvalue-engineered single-plate wall framing.

From Fine Homebuilding 149, pp. 20 September 1, 2002