How to Build a Simple but Solid Wall

Knowing how to build a good, solid wall is something that will always come in handy. Whether you’re dividing a bigger room into 2 smaller ones or building an entire new room and need to throw your walls up, getting some hot wall-building tricks up your sleeve is a good idea. Theoretically, building a wall doesn’t seem so difficult – right? After all, it’s just a vertical “wall” of material that extends from the floor to the ceiling. But you may find that it’s easier said than done. I’ll walk you through the main steps of building a simple, straight wall. For this example let’s say you want to build a dividing wall to make 2 smaller rooms out of 1 bigger one. Your first

Finished room wall with wallpaper

step will be to determine where your wall will sit. There will be several factors you should take into consideration when deciding this.

1. Locate underlying floor joists so you can choose an area that is best supported from below. Your wall should have sufficient floor support.

2. By the same token you should locate an area where the ceiling has rafters or ribbing into which you can anchor the top ends of your wall studs. There will be cases where there are no – or not enough – substantial boards above in which to anchor. For this you will have to first anchor a wooden stringer into the ceiling that is the same width as your wall is thick, across the entire length of your future wall. It can be segmented into as many pieces as you want, but they just need to collectively span the whole length. You can then secure the wall studs into this board.

3. Windows. You’ll need to determine the best distribution of your windows – if there are any – so as to provide equal natural light as much as possible. There will be times when there is only one window in your room and it happens to be located right in the center of your longest wall. This may pose a problem as it could be sitting in the prime location for your new wall. In this case you will simply have to choose which room will get the window and the other will have to go without.

4. Doors. This is the most crucial step as far as what will

Stringer w/ studs & rib attached

determine the usability of your new rooms. If your original room only has one door and it’s located on an end – which is often the case – I’m sure you agree with me that it wouldn’t be wise to just wall your room off right down the center. This is when you can do 1 of 2 things. You can either add a second door on your new wall or you can construct a “hallway” that leads to your second room in the back. Both have their pros & cons. The former is ideal for a “parent-small child” situation, and the latter might be more ideal for a situation requiring a bit more privacy.

Obviously, the first idea is considerably more space-efficient as a hallway will take up that much more area – not to mention making it a much more complicated project. But both have their place in various situations so it will be up to you to decide which one will suit your purposes better.

Ok, now that we’ve covered some of the main factors involved when deciding WHERE to build your wall, let’s move on to the building phase. Assuming you have decided where you want to build your wall, you’re going to have to “prepare the ground” for building. If the floor has carpet, linoleum, or any other covering that has compressibility, you will have to remove this. Take a cutter knife or exacto, and slice away what’s necessary for the wall studs to make contact with the wooden floor. If the floor is concrete then you will have to – like the ceiling – install a wooden stringer into which the studs can be screwed. Alternatives to this are to either use “L” brackets or a “track” – but I would suggest the stringer. Using a stringer allows you to screw diagonally whereas you cannot do this into concrete.

Zoom-out of wall frame

Just remember that screwing diagonally isn’t as strong as using multiple “L” brackets or using an aluminum or steel stud “track”. Then why am I suggesting screwing diagonally? Because it’s cheaper and if done properly, it’s more than enough. (For folks with a bigger budget I suggest the track.) So how do you “do it properly”? It’s important that you use screws that are long and strong enough, as well as enough of them. Depending on the cross-section of and intervals between your studs, how many screws you use can vary. But I would suggest at least 3 or 4 solid screw connections at each end of the wall stud (top and bottom), where there is a 600mm interval from center to center. Pre-drilling and counter-sinking for the screw head are both good things to do in this case. Just don’t use too fat of a bit as this will unduly loosen the hold of the screw.

Now that we have the studs in place at 600mm intervals we can begin attaching the ribbing. Although 600mm intervals may seem too wide for some of you, I have found that compensating the lack of studs with cheap horizontal ribbing is more economical than going the “2by4” route where they’re spaced at 300 or 450mm but don’t use ribbing. I normally use boards in the 15mmX90mm neighborhood for ribbing. 2by4 houses utilize closer intervals

Note where plywood joint meets

because the walls have structural importance whereas this isn’t the case for this example. If you are by chance building a wall which will support a second floor for instance, you would need to beef up your wall studs by either adding more or using heftier ones.

How many ribbing strips you use will depend on the size of your plywood. Space out your ribbing so that the plywood joints meet in their centers. I would suggest one every 450mm or so. Using horizontal ribbing over your vertical wall studs has several advantages.

1. It provides a niche where you can pass miscellaneous cables through (power, LAN, etc).

2. It allows slight imperfections in the alignment or individual angles of the wall stud faces. Without ribbing, your plywood would be tacked directly on to your studs, forcing the plywood to follow the contour of the studs. This means that if there are imperfections – which there usually are – in the alignment and angles, your plywood joints will meet on those funny angles, causing one to ride higher than the other etc.

3. And of course the one I already mentioned about it allowing you to use fewer studs.

Stringer on ceiling w/ studs

Now you’re ready to begin tacking on your plywood. You can use screws, nails, or an air nailer/stapler. If there’s a big chance you will take the wall down in the near future and you want to preserve the material, you can use screws. Otherwise I prefer an air stapler as it’s faster. Push plywood hard up against ribbing and staple slightly diagonally, as this angle holds better. If the plywood is warped or if for some reason it doesn’t want to make clean contact with the ribbing, you might want to opt for screws. Plywood & sheetrock are both good bases for wallpaper finishes but if you have other finishes planned such as tongue & groove boards etc, you won’t need the plywood. Just be sure your ribbing boards are going perpendicular to the direction your tongue & groove boards will go. If you’re going to be adding wall sockets, lights or similar, be sure to plan ahead and make provision for this.

And there you have your wall! Although not completed, it’s a wall nonetheless. From here you can add your own finish or you can stay tuned for the next article on wall finishes and trimmings.


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