Wall Framing Basics

The plans show the main parts of stud frame walls and how they fit together. These include studs (the vertical members making up the wall); plates (horizontal members that form the top and bottom of the wall frames); and lintels (horizontal members that span door and window openings).

VIDEO: Wall Framing Basics

Before you begin framing, take a look at all four wall views on the plans. The front wall is the one with the door; the rear wall is the one opposite the front wall; the right wall is on the right side of the cabin when you’re facing the door from the outside; and the left wall is the one on your left as you’re facing the door. Although you could start building any wall you like, it’s easiest to begin with the two walls that run the full length of the building. In this case, that’s both the right and left walls. The front and back walls fit between these two, so it makes sense to build them later, after the right and left walls are assembled and raised. The next video explains the best way to mark wall frame members for accurate assembly. Be sure to watch.

VIDEO: Marking Wall Plates

Start by cutting one top and one bottom wall plate for the right wall.  Ideally you should make these plates out of one 16’-long 2×6 each, then screw them together temporarily, face-to-face, so the edges are flush with each other and facing upwards as they rest on your plywood subfloor. Joining plates together like this now ensures the accuracy of the marks you’ll make next to show stud location. Each mark is actually one of a pair and they need to line up perfectly with each other.

With the joined pair of plates on edge on your subfloor, use a carpenters’ square and pencil to draw lines across both plates at the same spot. Each line shows where one side of each stud should be, and an “X” marks the side of the line where the stud needs to sit. This approach means you only have to make one precision mark for each stud, not two. Overall stud spacing should be 16” from centre-to-centre, with extra studs located to define the edges of door and window openings. Take a look at the plans for details on what kind of stud arrangement makes sense in various locations, then start by marking door and window locations and sizes on your wall plates. The only thing that matters in any absolute sense is the size and location of door and window openings, and the need for studs to exist in each corner. Other than this, precise stud location isn’t critical as long as you’ve got that 16” spacing as measured from stud center to center. The use of exposed beams on the porch makes things a little unusual at both front corners, so be sure to watch the next video so you don’t make a mistake.

VIDEO: Porch Beam Detail

There is one other wall framing detail that definitely needs explaining. As you’ll see later on, the porch beams connect to the left and right walls by resting on pockets framed into the front corners. The 3D plan shows this detail. The length that you cut the short supporting studs that go under the beam is crucial. It needs to be customized to match the exact height of the beams you’re using. Beams often vary in size depending on how they were sawn at the mill, so it’s important to measure what you’ve got and cut accordingly. The bottom line is simple: make the length of the short support studs so the top of your porch beam ends up flush with the upper wall plate when it’s installed later.

While you’re thinking about wall details, keep in mind that rough openings should be 5/8” to 3/4” larger on all sides than the windows and doors you’ll be installing. This means a total of 1 1/4” to 1 1/2” wider and taller for windows, and 5/8” to 3/4” taller for door openings. This gap allows the windows and doors to be adjusted so they’re plumb and level in their openings, with the gaps filled and sealed later with spray foam. The only complication here happens if you plan to insulate the floor of your cabin with rigid foam panels. Be sure to watch the next video tip to understand why this matters and what you need to do.

VIDEO: Raised Door Threshold Detail

You can tweak rough opening size to suit any salvaged windows you’ve got, though beware. Changing window sizes significantly makes a big difference in the finished look of the cabin. The proportions of the larger windows in my design relates to something called “The Golden Mean”. That’s a ratio of 8-to-5 and is found in nature and mimicked in classical architecture.  One big reason that so many older buildings make us feel good is precisely because they include golden mean proportions in many places.

With the edges of one top and bottom wall plates marked, remove the screws that held the plates together, separate the plates so they’re about 8’ apart, with the bottom plate near its final place on the floor. Position your wall studs between the plates, but don’t nail them yet.

VIDEO: Lintel & Stud Details

As I’ve explained before, the top of window and door openings are spanned with extra wood assemblies called lintels. You’ll find that wall framing goes easiest if you build your lintels now, fasten flanking studs to each end, then secure the entire stud-and-lintel assembly to the top and bottom plates as a unit. Working in a modular way like this saves the trouble of driving nails into the ends of the lintel after neighbouring studs are in place and getting in the way of proper hammer blows.

VIDEO: Assembling Door & Window Lintels

In the world of framing, lintels are assemblies of wood that span door and window openings, providing extra strength to replace wall studs that aren’t there. And in the case of this cabin, the window lintels are made from two 39”-long pieces of 2×6 with 2 1/2”-wide spacer blocks fastened between them. Taken together, this sandwich of wood adds up to 5 1/2” depth, which is the same width as the 2×6 wall studs. The door lintel is made in the same way, except it’s 42” long. Make the lintels ahead of time, joining all three pieces of each lintel with 3 1/2” screws.

VIDEO: Stud Wall Corner Detail

One more thing before you get going. There are several ways to frame an outside stud frame corner, but the one I like best is simple while also allowing full and easy access when it comes to applying insulation later. The plans show details, but be sure to watch the video you just past before you frame any corners.