How to Install Plywood Wall Sheathing

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Plywood is a panel of laminated wood veneer layers glued together under pressure and commonly used for residential wall sheathing because of its lateral strength. Plywood sheathing is applied as a framing element, as well as a solid underlayment for exterior wall finishes, like stucco and wood or vinyl siding. The procedure for installing plywood sheathing insures a secure, structurally sound underlayment for the walls.

Things You'll Need

  • Tape measure
  • Chalk line
  • Circular saw
  • Hammer
  • 16d sinker nails (optional)
  • 8d sinker or box nails
  • Measure 48 inches vertically from the bottom horizontal edge of the sill plate of the wall at the starting corner or end and mark the measurement on the outer wall stud. For exterior walls, measure from the foundation sill plate to include the floor joist framing. As a rule, the plywood sheathing installation should begin at the same end as the wall stud layout.

  • Repeat Step 1 at the opposite end of the wall section. Connect the two marks with a chalk line to define a guideline for the first row of plywood panels.

  • Position a full plywood panel against the wall framing, with the starting edge flush with the wall corner and the top edge aligned with the chalked guideline marked in Step 2. Make certain the leading edge of the panel ends at the vertical centerline of a wall stud and cut the plywood panel with a circular saw, if necessary. Standard framing practices are that all plywood sheathing end joints are required to meet on a wall stud centerline or solid backing.

  • Attach the plywood panel to the wall framing using 8d sinker or box nails. Nail spacing should be approximately eight inches apart across the panel at each wall stud, two inches from the horizontal edges and six inches apart at the end joints. This is the typical nailing pattern for plywood wall sheathing.

  • Place the next horizontal plywood panel in the row against the wall framing, with the starting edge tight to the previous panel and the top edge aligned with the chalked guideline. Again, make certain the leading end of the panel reaches the middle point of a wall stud and secure the panel to the wall framing using 8d sinker or box nails with the aforementioned standard nailing pattern.

  • Repeat Step 5 to complete installation of the panels in the first horizontal row of wall sheathing. Split all end joints on wall studs, cutting the panels, if necessary, using a circular saw.

  • Begin the next horizontal row of plywood sheathing with a half panel to offset the end joint position from the first row of sheathing. Cut a full plywood panel in half lengthwise or to the length that reaches the midpoint of the wall stud nearest to 48 inches from the starting corner. Beginning with a partial panel shifts the end joints for the row, which is the standard sheathing pattern used for all plywood sheathing.

  • Place partial plywood panel cut in Step 7 against the wall framing, with the starting edge flush with the wall corner and the bottom edge resting on the starting panel in the first row of sheathing. Align the leading edge with the midpoint of the wall stud and secure the panel to the wall framing using 8d sinker or box nails with the standard nailing pattern.

  • Repeat Step 5 to complete installation of the panels in the second horizontal row and all subsequent rows to complete the wall. Split all end joints on wall studs, cutting the panels, if necessary, and alternate the length of the starting panel of each row to keep the end joints staggered between adjacent rows.

Tips & Warnings

  • Plywood panels are heavy and cumbersome to manipulate. It's recommended that you enlist the assistance of a helper in undertaking this procedure.
  • It is important to certify that the wall section is laterally plumb and held plumb during installation of the plywood wall sheathing. Use a level to check that both ends are plumb and brace the wall, as necessary, before beginning this procedure.

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  • Photo Credit Hemera Technologies/AbleStock.com/Getty Images
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