Studs are an integral part of any structure, as they make up the vertical skeleton that is behind the scenes. For every wall you see, whether it is an interior wall or an exterior deck wall, there are studs behind the finish material to which the finished product is attached. While there are some basic guidelines for spacing of studs, their exact spacing depends on a few different things.
Regardless if you are dealing with an exterior deck wall or an interior wall for a hallway, all wall studs have a minimum spacing of 16 inches on center. What this means is that from the center of one stud to the center of the next stud in the row there should be 16 inches of space. You can shrink this measurement if you want extra stability, going down to 14 or even 12 inches between the studs.
The maximum you can space wall studs apart from each other is 24 inches, and in these cases, it can only happen if you don’t have a load-bearing structure to worry about. For example, a knee wall that is only waist-high that runs around the entire deck perimeter can use 24-inch spacing between the studs because there is no weight that is resting on top of the wall. A roofed-in deck, on the other hand, still needs to follow the minimum guidelines.
Joists are sometimes mistakenly referred to as studs, but the difference between joists and studs is that all studs are vertical and all joists are horizontal in placement. In any case, the placement for joists is similar to that of wall studs, with 16 inches minimum preferred for the deck joists. A structural engineer can tell you if less spacing is required, such as with decks that are particularly high off the ground or will have a heavy deck surface, like flagstone.
Regardless if your deck wall has plumbing inside of the wall or not, you still need to follow the minimum guidelines required. Once the plumbing has been drilled for the outside section of the wall stud needs to be reinforced with a brace of some type so that the overall load-bearing capability of that stud isn’t compromised. Always contact a structural engineer if you need to include plumbing in your wall studs.
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