How to Frame Exterior Walls

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Walls Windows and Doors
Walls Windows and Doors (Image: http://www.claytoncramer.com/pictures/property/HPIM1568.JPG)

The importance of a correctly constructed exterior wall is obvious, but the specifics can sometimes be vague. The difference between one exterior wall and another is the needed openings for windows or doors. In addition, if the structure has more than one level, the top plate of the exterior wall will be different from the single level home. The top and bottom plates of the exterior wall are usually 2 by 4-inches and vary in lengths depending on the lengths of the walls.

Things You'll Need

  • Measuring tape
  • 2 by 4-inch lumber
  • 2 by 6-inch lumber
  • ½-inch Plywood
  • Studs
  • Hammer
  • 16d nails
  • Skill saw
  • Carpenter's square

Place 2 by 4-inch lumber end-to-end cutting the last one to match the length of the exterior wall. Next, place another row of 2 by 4-inch lumber next to the first one.

Measure 1 ½-inch from either end of each 2 by 4-inch lumber. Next, from one of those marks, measure 16-inches over and make a mark. Repeat this for the entire length of the bottom plate. These are called the center marks for the studs.

Measure ¾-inch on either side of the center marks and draw a line across both rows of the 2 by 4-inch lumber using the carpenter's square. This will be where the studs will be placed.

Turn the rows on edge so that the marks are facing each other. Place a stud at each mark and secure them with the 16d nails.

Place a row of 2 by 4-inch lumber on the bottom of one of the rows overlapping the butt joints and nail them together. This is the bottom plate.

Cut as many 2 by 4-inch pieces of lumber to 14 ½-inches as needed to join the butt joints at the top of the wall. Secure them in place by nailing through the studs as well as the top plate.

Measure and mark the location of the window. The rough opening should be 2-inches larger than the window in both directions.

Place a stud at the desired locations to allow the correct opening for the window and secure them with the 16d nails. Next, cut as many cripple studs as it takes to span the opening between the two studs just installed on 16-inch centers.

Cut a sill from the 2 by 4-inch lumber to sit on top of the cripples and secure it to the cripples and the two studs with the 16d nails.

Cut two pieces of the 2 by 4-inch lumber that are two inches taller than the window. Secure them to the top of the sill and against the two studs with the 16d nails.

Cut two pieces of 2 by 6-inch lumber to the width between the two studs from Step 2. Measure and cut a piece of the ½-inch plywood to match the 2 by 6-inch lumber.

Nail the three pieces of material from Step 5 together with the 16d nails. This is the window header. Next, place the header on top of the 2 by 4-inch lumber from Step 4 and secure it through the studs on either side.

Measure and cut short pieces of the 2 x 4-inch lumber to fit between the top of the header and the top plate. Secure them in place with the 16d nails.

Measure and mark the location of the door. The rough opening should be 2-inches larger in both directions.

Place a stud the desired locations to allow the correct opening for the door and secure it with the 16d nails. Cut the bottom plate out between these two studs.

Measure and cut two 2 by 4-inch lumber 2-inches taller than the door. Secure them to the two studs on either side of the door opening.

Cut two pieces of 2 by 6-inch lumber to the width between the two studs from Step 3. Measure and cut a piece of the ½-inch plywood to match the 2 by 6-inch lumber.

Nail the three pieces of material from Step 4 together with the 16d nails. This is the header. Next, place the header on top of the 2 by 4-inch lumber from Step 3 and secure it through the studs on either side.

Measure and cut short pieces of the 2 x 4-inch lumber to fit between the top of the header and the top plate. Secure them in place with the 16d nails.

Tips & Warnings

  • Always wear safety glasses. Remember to measure twice before cutting material.
  • Never allow your hand or finger to get close the skill saw blade while operating it.

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