How to Frame a Wall

Three Methods:Layout and FoundationFraming a Basement WallFraming a House Wall

Framing a wall is the act of building a wooden frame to serve as the “skeleton” of a new wall. It is an important step to ensure a wall's strength and stability. Whether you're building a room from scratch or adding a wall to an existing space, read the steps below to learn how to properly frame a wall.

Method 1
Layout and Foundation

  1. Image titled Frame a Wall Step 1
    Plan the layout. Using a chalk line (a cheap tool for marking long, straight lines) and angle measuring tools, mark where the wall will be on the floor. Be sure to note any doors you intend to put in the wall.
    • Be sure that the wall meets other walls at a 90 degree angle at all four corners. A slight deviation now will lead to a less-secure wall later.
    • Note whether the joists (floor or ceiling girders) at the top of the room run perpendicular or parallel to your new wall.
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    Cut the plates. Choose a strong, pressure-treated wood and cut 2” by 4” boards to twice the length of your wall, then divide those into groups of equal length. These are the plates, or base pieces, that will run just above and beneath the wall to anchor the frame.
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    Mark the plates for studs. Lay the top and bottom plates down next to each other. Measuring every 16” from one end, carefully mark horizontally across both plates until you reach the end. These guidelines will help you know where to install studs.
    • You can also mark Xs along the lines so they're easier to see.

Method 2
Framing a Basement Wall

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    Secure the bottom plate. Now that you've marked and measured your plates, lay the bottom plate out along the chalk line that marks where the wall will be. To make a stable wall, you will need to attach this plate to the concrete floor.
    • Start with a hammer drill. Attach a 3/16” masonry bit and use it to drill a hole through the wood into the concrete at one end, then the other. Once the two outer holes have been drilled, follow your guidelines and drill another hammer drill hole every 16” along the plate, near the center of the board.
    • Follow through with an impact driver. Use the impact driver to drive a 3” concrete screw (such as a Tapcon-brand screw) into each hole.
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    Attach the top plate. If the ceiling joists run perpendicular to the bottom plate, this is a fairly simple task; if they run parallel, you will need to do a bit more work first.
    • For parallel joists, attach short lengths of 2” by 4” blocking board perpendicularly between the two closest joists every 16”, and attach the top plate to these.
    • For perpendicular joists, attach the top plate to the ceiling using the joists. Be absolutely sure the top plate is directly above the bottom plate, then nail the top plate to the joists or blocking boards at every interval.
    • You can ensure proper alignment of the top plate by hanging a plumb bob (a carefully balanced weight that hangs from a line) from one edge of it and seeing where the plumb line comes down at the bottom plate.
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    Install the studs. Studs are simply extra planks of 2” by 4” wood that provide support and definition for drywall and other finish surfaces.
    • Measure and cut. Each stud board should be cut so that it fits snugly between the top and bottom plates without tilting.
    • Insert the stud. Slide it end-on between the two plates, right over one of the screws in the bottom plate. Use a plumb bob and a corner to make sure the board is straight and squarely placed.
    • Affix and repeat. Use 3” nails on both sides of both ends, and drive them firmly at a 45 degree angle through the stud and into the top and bottom plates. Repeat this process until you have installed studs all the way down the frame.
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    Install blocking boards. Blocking boards add a bit of additional structure, and also serve as fire breaks in case of a house fire. They are made from the same 2” by 4” boards you've used for everything else so far.
    • Cut your blocking boards so that they will fit snugly between each stud, placing them about 4 feet (1.2 m) up, end-on between each stud. Firmly attach the blocking boards at both ends with 3” nails on both sides, hammered in at an angle of 60 degrees. You can vary the height slightly from block to block to make pushing tacks and nails into the finished wall a bit easier, if you want.

Method 3
Framing a House Wall

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    Take measurements in the space where the wall will go. You need to measure the total height of the wall and the width of the wall to be framed using a tape measure. The width will be used to measure the top and bottom frames, and the height will be used to measure the individual studs.
    • In general, when you're building a wall for a non-basement room, you will build the entire frame on the floor first, and then lift and move it into place before attaching it to joists and beams accordingly. To do this properly, you must know exactly how long each stud has to be to make the wall the correct height.
    • Buy enough 2 x 4 to fill the space. You'll need one stud the height of the wall every 16 in. along each frame, which will be the width of the wall. You can divide the width by 16 to quickly determine how many studs you'll need, and how much to buy.
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    Cut studs and plates to the appropriate lengths, given your measurements. Using a table saw or a circular saw, cut your plates and studs to match the measurements you took in the previous step. Start by cutting bottom and top plates that correspond to the width measurements you took for the wall to be assembled. Hold them against each other, to make sure every board is flush, and clean them up on the ends if necessary. Then cut the studs of the appropriate height.
    • Each stud needs to have the width of the bottom and top plate subtracted from the total height of the measurement you took, to account for the added space.
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    Mark where the studs will go on the top and bottom plate. Use your tape measure and mark along the top and bottom frames using a pencil line where the studs will go. Each stud will get three marks on the bottom plate and three marks on the top plate, marking the center point and the two ends of each stud where it meets the plates. For load-bearing security, a stud needs to be placed every 16 inches (40.6 cm), which needs to be measured very precisely.
    • Measure your first mark by drawing an "x" 16 inches (40.6 cm) from the end of the frame, then subtract 3 3/4" from that mark and draw a line (at 15 1/4 in.). Use the shorter end of the framing square–the exact width of the 2 x 4–to measure from your line to where the other edge of the stud will fall. In other words, the "x" you drew at 16 in. will mark the center point of the stud, and the two lines will mark the sides of the stud. This is necessary to account for the width of the end studs, and that the center of each stud will be equidistant from the next.
    • To make your next mark, measure 16 in. from the first "x" and make another "x" to mark where the center of the next stud will be, subtracting and using the square to mark the end points Repeat this process on both the bottom and top plates, making the marks where every stud will be installed.
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    Assemble the frame. Use your studs to lay out the frame of the proper size and shape, laying the boards out on the ground to assemble them.
    • Start with an end stud. Lay it on end against the top lip of the bottom plate and nail from underneath the bottom plate into the end stud, using 3” nails, square through the bottom plate. Be very sure that the boards are lined up squarely.
    • Continue attaching all the studs to the bottom plate, centering them using the lines. Using your markings, attach each stud 16” apart all the way to the end with 3” nails.
    • Attach the top plate. Now that all the studs have been attached to the bottom plate, lay the top plate along the free ends of the studs, and nail through the top plate to attach each stud with 3” nails.
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    Fill in blocking boards. Blocking boards are 2” by 4” board segments that fit perpendicularly in between the studs, about 4 feet (1.2 m) up from the bottom of the wall. Measure the gap between the studs, cut extra board accordingly, and install them by hammering 3” nails through them into the studs at a 60 degree angle on both ends, securing them firmly into the studs.
    • Stagger the height of each blocking board so the nails can be used to secure the boards neatly. Line up the top lip of the second blocking board with the bottom lip of the first, then do the opposite with the next, repeating the pattern. This should allow ample space to nail them to each stud.
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    Raise the wall. With a friend helping you, lift the frame up from the top plate so that the bottom plate remains on the ground. Carefully slide the frame into place, double-checking all angles and be sure everything is properly positioned square.
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    Shim each section and check for plumb. Now that you've got your wall placed, check to make sure it's straight and secure, flush against the joists on the subfloor. Shimming is the art of using slender pieces of wood to fill in any gaps between the ceiling and the top of the frame, the account of small human measurement error. You can buy these at most home repair stores, tapping them in from the side where there's a little bit of space.
    • To check for plumb, check to be sure the current section of wall is perfectly vertical. Use a level to assist you in doing this. Use your hammer to make small adjustments, banging the wall forward or back, if you need to.
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    Secure the wall to the beams or joists accordingly. Start by attaching the top plate. Use 3 1/2” light construction nails and nail straight up through the framing at close, regular intervals as you plumb and shim.
    • Attach the bottom plate. Again, use 3 1/2” nails, driving them through the plate into the floor.
    • Attach the end studs. Hammer 3 1/2” nails all along both end studs to attach them to the framing in the sides of the house.
    • Clean up the shims. Score the shims you used along the top plate with a knife, and then snap them off so that they don't stick out from the plate.


  • Always wear eye protection and hearing protection when working with power tools.
  • Don't do this by yourself. Work with a friend for safety, and to decrease your workload.
  • Watch for cables running through the floor joists. Do not pinch them under plates.

Things You'll Need

  • Plenty of 2” by 4” boards
  • Power saw
  • Hammer or nail gun
  • Nails (3” and 3 1/2”)
  • Concrete screws, if building a basement foundation wall
  • Plumb bob
  • Level
  • Chalk line
  • Tape measure
  • Hammer drill
  • Impact driver
  • Pencil

Article Info

Categories: Interior Walls Ceilings and Floors