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Everything You Need to Know About Walls

Host Jeff Wilson will take a look at the walls of your new home: how they're constructed, the exterior walls and the interior walls.

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how walls are constructed

Walls: How Are They Made?

The single most common material used in house framing in the United States is wood; however, steel and concrete are being used regionally. In Southern areas there will be concrete walls partly because of the hurricanes and termites. But most homes still use wood for a few reasons:

  • Wood's availability.

  • When you get the finished product, it's much easier for trim work such as hanging pictures because you have a place to put the nails.

  • Soundproofing and insulation make for better sound resonation.

Wooden Frame Construction

The most common wall built is the wooden frame construction.

  • The sill plate is the first portion of framing that sits right on top of the concrete, which is the part that needs to be drilled for anchor bolts that attach the house to the concrete foundation.

  • The studs are attached to the sill plate. They are specifically spaced and determined by your local building codes. Studs are the vertical walls — the "normal" walls of the house. They are upright members that are normally 2" x 4"s on 16" centers.

    Note: If you have a wall and a long-planed surface, the wall could tend to move outward and to flex. The structural integrity is preserved by those two top plates that are attached together, thereby creating a rim.

  • The spaces where doors and windows sit are called rough openings. The rough openings are additional framing to support the load. These supports are called headers and cripples. Headers are horizontal supports and cripples run vertically.

    A header spans the top of a window, door, archway or walkway, and it preserves the structural integrity and distributes the weight across and to the sides of a framed rough opening. The header is usually a piece of wood that bears the weight of anything above.

    And the cripple studs are the studs that actually bear the header.

  • Now that pieces of a wall have been explained, it's time to put them all together. Most often walls are assembled on the ground, and then tilted up into place as one single unit. Finally they are anchored to the foundation.

    Note: Walls and sectors are frequently framed flat on the ground, and then they are simply lifted up into place and attached. This is called tilt-up construction.

  • Once this process is completed throughout all the walls, the carpenters go through and straighten the walls and make sure they're square and true.

Walls can fall into two categories:

  • Load Bearing — A load bearing wall bears a load from up above, usually another floor or roof load.

  • Non-Load Bearing — A non-load bearing wall is built independent of the main load bearing structure of the home. It can be either an interior or an exterior wall, depending on the framing design utilized.

Did You Know? — On average about one-sixth of the wood delivered to a construction site is never used. It's simply hauled away as waste.

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