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Home > Ideas & Tips > Framing: Dividing a Room

Framing: Dividing a Room

An unfinished basement or other large room can feel cold and impersonal. Add visual interest and a sense of warmth by breaking up the space with a non-load-bearing wall. Because this task is almost always part of a larger project, it is appropriate for intermediate-level do-it-yourselfers who have a good command of their tools. It would be good to have a helper, as some of the materials to be lifted are heavy. Lowe's is happy to provide this information as a service to you.

Identify the Location for the Wall

Lay out the location for the wall on the floor and ceiling. Determine whether it runs parallel with or perpendicular to the joists above it. If the wall is perpendicular to the joists, you can nail the top plate directly to the joists. If the wall is parallel with the joists and falls directly under a joist, the top plate can be nailed directly to the joist. If the wall is parallel with the joists and not directly under a joist, follow the instructions below for blocking.

SAFETY: These instructions are for the construction of non-load-bearing walls only. If you need to construct load-bearing walls, contact your local building authorities or a licensed contractor in your area.

Blocking Instructions

If the area where the wall is going has a finished ceiling, remove the ceiling material between the two joists on either side of the wall to a point half the width of the joist (see figure A). If there isn't a finished ceiling in place, proceed directly to the next section.

  1. Cut lengths of 2x4 blocking to fit snugly between the exposed joists.
  2. Use 8d nails to toenail a length of blocking between the joists at one end of the wall. Ensure that the bottom of the blocking is level with the bottoms of the joists.
  3. Continue installing blocking at 12" intervals until you reach the end of the wall. Be sure to put a blocking board directly over the far end of the wall, regardless of the interval (see figure B).
Figure A

Figure A

Figure B

Figure B

Laying Out and Assembling the Wall

A completed stud wall can be heavy and awkward. Always lay out the wall in the room where it is to be used.

  1. Cut two pieces of 2x4 the length of the wall and lay them side by side. Use these as the top and bottom plates.
  2. Starting at the left end of one of the plates and measuring to the right, make a mark at 1 1/2", then make an X on the left side of the mark (see figure C). Continue measuring to the right from the 1 1/2" mark, making a new mark every 24" until you reach the end of the plate. Be sure to allow for a stud at the far right end of the wall regardless of the interval.
  3. Align the top and bottom plates and use a combination square to draw a line across the face of each one at the marks. Put an X to the left of each line on each plate. The X indicates the location of the studs in the completed wall.
  4. Cut 2x4x8s to length for the wall studs. Measure the distance from the floor to the ceiling. Subtract 3" from this distance to allow for the top and bottom plates. Subtract another 1/4" to allow for raising the wall into place.
  5. Align each stud flush with the lines on the top and bottom plates, covering the X's. Use 16d nails to nail through the plates into the ends of the studs.
Figure C

Figure C

Securing the Wall in Place

After the wall is assembled, raise it and secure it to the floor and ceiling.

  1. Stand the wall in place. Use a framing square to square the new wall to the wall or walls it abuts. Then use a level to plumb the wall.
  2. Secure the new wall to the floor with 2 1/2" wood screws or 16d nails. If your floor is concrete use concrete anchors or masonry nails.
  3. Shim the top of the wall at each point where the top plate crosses a stud or blocking board. Secure the top plate with 2 1/2" wood screws or 16d nails.
Wall framing

Making Rough Openings for Doors

Once the stud wall is in place, but before any wall covering or sheathing goes on, prepare the rough openings for any doors. If you are installing a 32", interior, pre-hung door, the instructions will most likely call for a 34" wide by 82" high rough opening.

  1. Determine where you want the door in the new wall and mark the centre of the location.
  2. Measure half the rough opening width to the left and half to the right of the centre mark. Mark the right and left edges. (In this example the rough opening is 34", so you would measure 17" left and right of center.)
  3. Measure 3" to the left of the left-hand mark and 3" to the right of the right-hand mark. These marks represent the outside edges of the king studs for the rough opening framing. Install the king studs so their outside faces are flush with the last marks you made. Use a level to plumb the king studs.
  4. Cut two jack/trimmer studs 1 1/2" shorter than the height of the rough opening. Nail the jack studs to the inside faces of the king studs.
  5. Since the opening is over 24" wide, there will be at least one and possibly two wall studs between the jack studs. Hold a level flush with the tops of the jack studs and draw a line on the stud or studs between the jack studs. Measure up 1 1/2" from the line and use a combination square to draw a cut line on the stud or studs.
  6. Use a jigsaw or hand saw to cut the stud or studs at the cut line.
  7. Cut a piece of 2x4 long enough to cover the jack studs and butt against the inside faces of the king studs. Nail through the king studs into the ends of the 2x4 header.
  8. Use a hand saw or reciprocating saw to cut the bottom plate even with the inside faces of the jack studs.

Once the wall is up and the openings are framed, drill for and install electrical wiring or plumbing pipe as needed. Finish with panelling or wallboard, and install the door and any trim you want.

Wall framing
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