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Dean Johnson

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Interior Details

lifting interior wall frame


Most interior details, mainly walls and closets, are built with 2x4s (2x6s take up more space). The walls usually aren't load-bearing, so headers may be down-sized to consist of a couple of 2x4s.

Interior framing can provide partitions between rooms, create storage, hide or enclose mechanicals, support second-floor joists, or even support trusses.

We've focused on a few handy topics from our past framing projects to illustrate the basics. Your project will certainly have variations, but will probably involve one of these areas:

For definitions throughout this project, see Framing Glossary.


Raising Partition Walls

In most remodeling interior walls can't be assembled and raised into place because they'll wedge between the ceiling drywall and floor before getting plumb. (This isn't a problem in new construction where there isn't a ceiling in place yet to bump into.)

shimming wall frameYou can get around wedging by making the wall slightly shorter and shimming it at the top, or fitting the top plate last.

"Stick-building" walls - one framing member at a time - is another common method to build interior walls.

CAUTION: Before tearing down any interior walls, check if it's load-bearing. Before tearing down a load-bearing wall you'll need to install some temporary bracing.

Mark out the floor and ceiling joist locations if they're not exposed.

snapping chalk line

You'll need some reference point to get the wall started straight. Measure out from an existing wall (if it's straight) and mark out on the floor where the bottom (sole) plate sets.

Measure and mark the top plate location on the ceiling. Run a plumb bob from the top plate mark to bottom plate mark to make sure they're plumb or use a 4' level held on to a long piece of straight lumber.


Cut the top and bottom plates to length. Mark out wall stud spacing on 16" centers on both plates. Using the chalklines as guides, fasten the plates in place -- nailing through existing joists if possible.

The bottom plate is easy to nail on, but the top plate is tougher for one person. Get a partner and start the nails into the top plate on the floor. Then lift the plate into place and drive the nails into the ceiling joists.

NOTE: Concrete floors require fastening the bottom plate with construction adhesive and a powder-actuated nailer gun that shoots fasteners like bullets.

nailing stud to plateMeasure the distance between the plates to determine the wall stud lengths. The floor or ceiling may not be perfectly flush, so double-check at different points between the plates.

Cut the studs to fit snugly between the plates. Tap the studs onto their plate marks and flush the studs with the plate edges. Then check them with a carpenter's level.


Framing Basement Walls

Dean Johnson holding up stick built door frameFraming a basement can provide a challenge unlike other areas of the house. You'll be working around obstacles and improvising in order to accommodate original construction and existing mechanical systems.

Adding framing to concrete or block exterior basement walls allows you to add insulation and drywall. Typically, a minimum of 2x4 lumber is needed to create a cavity big enough to hold fiber glass insulation.

CAUTION: Basements do have load-bearing walls, so check before removing any existing walls. Load-bearing basement walls should have a reinforced footing supporting them underneath the slab.

nailing bottom plateRun a top plate perpendicular to the overhead floor joists. Along the floor, run a bottom plate parallel to the top plate. (If the new wall will run parallel to the overhead joists you'll probably have to install blocking between the joists, flush with the bottom of the joists, to create a place to nail in the top plate of the new wall.)

The top plate can be nailed/screwed to wood floor joists. But attach the bottom plate to concrete with construction adhesive and use a powder-actuated nailer to anchor the plate.

Measure the length for each wall stud before cutting. The distances may vary because basement ceilings aren't usually level, so be sure to double check. Tap the studs between the plates on 16" centers and toenail them in place.



Hanging Interior Soffits

completed basement soffitCommonly used in kitchens, interior soffits fill in the open spaces between the ceiling and the tops of the wall cabinets. Elsewhere in the house, soffits can also be built to hide plumbing pipes and heating ducts.

For fire-stop reasons, soffits must not be open to any wall or ceiling framing. (The goal is to keep a fire in one stud cavity or joist space from using a soffit to jump to an adjacent stud cavity or joist space.) So it's best to install some drywall on the wall or ceiling framing prior to building the soffit, or wait to build the soffit until after the drywall work is done (which, unfortunately, will require a second round of drywall work to rock and tape the soffit).

Soffits don't provide any structural support. They usually just support the weight of the drywall.

building basement soffit around hvacRun two 2x2s parallel to form the top and bottom plates of the soffit's front. Nail 2x2 studs between the plates every 16" for proper drywall backing. The framed-out front looks similar to a straight ladder turned sideways.

NOTE: If you're boxing in horizontal ducts or pipes requiring three sides, make the back piece identical to the front. For a two-sided soffit that's butted next to the ceiling and wall, fasten a 2x2 nailing strip that runs parallel along the wall and flush with the front bottom plate.

Butt the top plate up to the ceiling and screw it into the ceiling joists (screws are often preferred because there's less stress on the existing structure).

2x2 lookouts for soffitTIP: When fastening the top plate, snap a chalkline across the ceiling joist to keep the soffit straight.

Cut 2x2 lookouts to frame the bottom of the soffit. The bottoms of the lookouts are nailed/screwed flush with the bottoms of the plates.


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