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Building Skills

Building Skills

Top 10 Tips for Wall Framing Layout on a New Subfloor

comments (9) April 15th, 2011 in Blogs

Video Length: 11:15
Produced by: John Ross, Edited by: Mike Dobsevage

Larry Haun and Scott Grice share some smart tips for faster framing layout

Two experienced builders demonstrate great ways to be more productive as they measure and mark plates for a new multi-family home being built by Habitat for Humanity.

Larry and Scott's top 10 layout tips:

1. Lay out the longest wall first
Then, measure and mark any other long walls so they're parallel or perpendicular to that first wall. Once the long walls are laid out, then it's time to mark the shorter interior walls.

2. Do each step completely before you do anything else
For example, mark the location of as many walls as possible before you start snapping any lines. This way of working will keep you focused on the task at hand, and it will help keep mistakes to a minimum.

3. A 2x6 makes a great layout tool
Mark corners with a scrap of lumber, not your tape measure. Just grab a short piece of wood the same width as your plate, hold it where your wall needs to go, and swipe a pencil along the edge.

4. Use the right chalk

Larry likes Blackline chalk because it's wind and water resistant. This ensures that your lines are still there if you have bad weather before the wall plates go down. Any good semi-permanent chalk should do.

5. Hold chalk lines and tape measures with an awl
Snapping lines doesn't need to be a two-person job. Just stick and awl through the hook on your line into one of the marks you've made on the deck, tap the awl with your fist, and run your line out to the other mark. you can also stick your awl into a mark and hook your tape onto it for taking measurements anywhere on the subfloor. A hammer and nail will work just as well as an awl, but they take longer to set and remove.

6. Have a helper hold the chalk line down in the middle
This is only necessary on long runs. If you try to snap a really long chalk line it can wander or make a double line. Have the helper hold down the middle of the line with one finger and snap each side separately.

7. Use a bigger hammer
As Scott points out, you can cut or grind bolts that are a little proud of the subfloor so your plates sit flat. Larry's quick fix for fickle fasteners is to lay down the plate and whack it with a sledgehammer.

8. Make bathroom and kitchen walls a priority
Tile and cabinets need plumb, square walls to look their best, so take extra care in getting any walls with these details just right. If you need to make up any differences because of irregular dimensions, save it for rooms with more forgiving details.

9. Make note of unusual walls
Interior walls are usually framed with 2x4s, but HVAC ducts or plumbing sometimes requires that a wall be deeper. Write a note right on the subfloor so you don't forget to add the extra depth.

10. Only snap one line per wall
Most of the time an X marked on the correct side of a single line is enough to locate a plate. If you truly need to mark the full width, at the intersection of two walls for instance, just use a scrap of lumber to mark the second line, but only where you need it.

A production framer should never take the time to snap two line per wall. To take the time to snap two lines is costing somebody money. It's as simple as that.


Further Resources


Read Larry's blog, A Carpenter's View.

posted in: Blogs, framing, measuring and marking tools

Comments (9)

ucll ucll writes: Very diliberate demonstration. I can't carry an awl or I would likely end up sticking it into my leg! However how about squaring up the the lines. Just following the floor can get yourself in trouble, especially if it is a walk-out foundation or something with a bunch of jogs in it. More important as you go up. If the first floor gets out a bit than the next will only get worse as you go up. When you get to the roof things won't fit too well if you get out of square, also any tile or hardwood will look terrible if the framing is not square. Also, when my chalkline gets wet, throw it out! They cost about $10 and you will spend an hr or 2 trying to dry it out and it still is never that great again
Posted: 9:55 pm on April 21st

oscar_mann oscar_mann writes: Hey guys one more tip to save you time and make it all that much easier.. STOP detailing common studs with a line on the edge of stud and an X showing which side of the line to place the stud.. Just draw a straight line at the center marks on your tape and that will be the center of stud.. You NEVER forget to cut the 3/4 for ply or gyp breaking and you can use the chalkline layout method I talked about above.. The only places you detail with a line and X are door and window openings and wall channels. This works like a machine.. Just hook on the end of the long wall, start pulling the tape, put your pencil under every layout mark on the tape gripping it with your thumb above and drag a radius line across both plates.. Even Ray Charles could get a stud close enough to center to make this quick and EZ when framing.. AND.. With the lines every 16 you can joist for the second floor by just sighting down the stud or line on the plate below.. I never lay out common joists if I use the chalkline layout method.. Just put the joist on top of the studs and roll on.. I am never more than 1/8 inch off and thats close enough to break floor sheeting..
Posted: 2:18 pm on April 21st

sawzall316 sawzall316 writes: Yah Mike, I don't know about Grice's choice on carring a hammer that way. It does look goofy.
As far as Larry's awl, well thats a hold over from his early days when carpenters were real carpenters, they carried a hell of alot more tools and did every facet of the job including cutting everything by hand. In case you cannot see, Larry's is not a spring chicken. Larry's also a skinny guy, but I'll tell you this, he's framed more homes than both you or I combined. Many of the technics we use today were developed by Larry and his crew back in the day.
Posted: 10:35 am on April 21st

Mike157 Mike157 writes: I thought this was supposed to be production framing? The plates should be going down in about 15 minutes from the time of this shooting, -don't know where those lines are goin that soon. And if this guy's an experienced builder why is his hammer hangin out of his belt like that? I would never adjust a wall to a crooked foundation, always keep the walls straight. As for the awl, I'm a skinny guy hate to carry extra tools; been using my knife for the same purpose for years now and I don't have to give myself carpel tunnel banging it in by hand, just a little wiggle and it sinks right in, works on both axis'. And I already have that in my belt...
Posted: 3:17 pm on April 20th

sawzall316 sawzall316 writes: Oscarmann just reminded me of a brief stint in Austin,Tx back in 80s building boom. My buddy invited me down to lend a hand---these guys were framing two houses a week with no end insight. In brief, Senco came out on a promotional and was giving away a framing nailgun, compressor and accesories to the first man who could come within 65 to 70% of the nailgun output for some given count. I don't remember all the specifics but for all of us that was out of the question with the exception of "Framin Raymon". Raymon had framed for so long and consistantly that his right arm was disportionally larger than his left. His left hand was... well, it was made to roll nails out, you had to see it. Yes, Raymon won that kit much to the Senco reps amazement. Set and sink, set and sink, never ending. Yah, I'm glad thoughs days are over too---there's no way I could do that anymore.
Posted: 3:08 pm on April 20th

oscar_mann oscar_mann writes: I KNOW and understand what production framing is.. And I still popped 2 lines.. I guess the difference was I always had 2 guys on the layout job.. Thats all they did all day, every day.. If youre a one man band on layout YES, then one line saves a heap of time.. We also saved a lot of time by each layout man having a gear drive chalk box with the strings tied to the other guys box.. One guys box rolls out while the other guys rolls in.. We also saved a lot of time by using chalk boxes to lay out interior studs.. Multi story frames require studs to stack from top to bottom of structure.. We detailed all exterior studs had all interior plates cut, tacked together in place within the layout lines and turned up on edge (intersecting wall channels and openings were marked when the plates were in place before they are rolled up on edge).. Then pull chalk lines from exterior wall stud lay out to the corresponding stud lay out on the opposite exterior wall and pop lines all the way down the line.. The chalk lines strike on all interior walls and since all exterior studs were above joists, EVERY interior stud would fall over a joist and EVERY stud would line up like tombstones at Arlington.. And we used black iron oxide chalk for layout and red for corrections.. And if you carried less than 10 studs when shaking out walls you couldn't play in our sand box.. Yes, I do know what production framing is.. And I too was doing this before nail guns when we all used Rigid rigging axes or 32oz Vaughn's .. Set and sink, set and skin, set and sink.. All frigging day long.. Glad those days over over..
Posted: 5:44 pm on April 19th

sawzall316 sawzall316 writes: Well as far as my experiance takes me, the type of chalk used depended on expected whether conditions. If you have the misfortune to laying out plates on the eve of bad whether and you have to make your GC happy, hair spray becomes your best friend. That said, I do not know a carpenter that did not have multiple chalklines of various grades handy, you always have to hedge your bets. The black chalk that Larry shows is not a typical color but if it's rain resistant, what ever works.
Now as far as laying out plates with one or two lines, I can see oscarmann's point but a production plater is typically not someone who just fell off the turnip wagon. Yes, there are some mistakes made once in awhile but a larger percent of time it over whelmingly saves huge amounts of time&$$$. You must remember, Larry's talking "production framing" not your framing for say a mid to high end job where your framing one to two homes every once in a while and more than likely accuracy and extratime are factored in. They really are two differant animals. The transition from the latter to the former is not easy.
When I was a Kid, like many, I thought that I was a hotshot. My first job with real production guys gave me a rude awakening and a lesson learned. These guys, like Larry Huan, were machines. Their every move was a lesson in time management honed over many years. I new that I was not nor would I ever be that type of carpenter---humble pie was served.
Now I'm pushing 50 and I don't have anywhere near the energy Larry has. Larry was a legend when I was a kid. It is great to see Larry still at it with the same pashion and desire that is his trademark.
Posted: 5:13 pm on April 19th

Briandotca Briandotca writes: I haven't tried it yet myself but I heard you can use hairspray in the same way Scott suggested using that spray clear coat to help chalk lines last.
Posted: 3:16 am on April 19th

oscar_mann oscar_mann writes: Good stuff but 2 lines is the way to go.. Sure if you are working with a tight crew who have their mud together one line is faster.. But it only takes one new guy (or even an experienced old dog like me will occasionally screw up) to nail down a wall on the wrong side of the line to make up for the time saved.. I dont use the cut off piece to help lay out.. I used to but I filed lines on the back of my speed square Now I just use my speed square for marking all wall width lines and 2 lines takes a few seconds extra for each wall.. You already have the string pulled out, why not??? Good cheap insurance.. I do like that awl tip.. Gonna get me one for my already overloaded nail bags
Posted: 10:51 pm on April 18th

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