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Build a Stud Wall and Fasten Drywall

Step 2: Fastening the Sole Plates

Building Smarts

In a bare, unobstructed room, you may be able to build the wall on the floor and then tilt it into place. Building “tilt-up” fashion is faster than the “stick-built” approach described here, because you can nail through the plates into the studs. Make a tilt-up wall 12" shorter than the ceiling, so it has room to tilt into place. After tilting, attach the sole plate to the floor, as described later. Slip cedar or plywood shims in the gap at the top, and then fasten the top plate.

Start the wall with the sole plates—the flat 2 × 4s that support the bottom of the wall.

Sole Plates on Concrete

It's no fun fastening to concrete—unless you rent a rotary hammer. These brutes pound their way through concrete with so much verve that you don't even need to lean on them. Our rented drill made 12" holes in a minute apiece, so a four-hour rental should buy a lot of fastening, if you lay out the walls in advance.

Locate anchors about 2' apart on the sole plates, and about 8" from the ends. Plan ahead: don't put anchors under the stud locations. Read on for suggestions on stud placement.

Before you return the rotary hammer, use it to fasten any studs to concrete walls. Two anchors should be plenty if a stud is fastened to the plates at top and bottom. On concrete-block walls, drill into the block, not the mortar.

Sole Plates on Wood

If the sole plates will cross the joists, find the joists and screw a 516" × 4" lag bolt into every other joist. As before, avoid future stud locations when placing the lag bolts. If necessary, countersink the bolt head to avoid obstructing a stud.

If a nonbearing wall runs parallel but between the joists, it's probably safe to screw the sole plate to the subfloor. Drill 3 16" holes in the sole plates, about 1' apart, in a zigzag pattern. Drill the first hole 1" from one edge of the sole plate, and the next 1" from the other edge, and so on. Then drive 3" deck or construction screws into the floor. (Depending on the floor construction, you may have to drill a small pilot hole in the floor first.) Lots of smaller screws make a stronger attachment to subfloor than a few lag bolts.

Step 3: Attaching the Top Plate

With the sole plates in place, plumb upward with a straight board and a level to locate the top plate. In the basement we worked in, the top plate was the toughest part, due to a spaghetti of conduit, pipes, and ducts.

To run a wall parallel to the joists, but not directly underneath a joist, screw a 2 × 4 bridge every 2' to 3' to the joists. Screw the top plate to the bridges.

If you have no pipes at the ceiling, screw the bridge between the joists rather than under them.

We opted to build the wall directly below a joist, so we didn't bother with bridges. To allow clearance for pipes and conduit, we screwed blocks of 2 × 4 to the joist, and then attached the top plate to the blocks.


Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Simple Home Improvements © 2004 by David J. Tenenbaum. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit Amazon's web site or call 1-800-253-6476.

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