Site Prep: How to Prepare Your Room and Walls

Intro

The job of putting up a new wall ranges from simple to complex, depending on where the wall will be located. The determining factor is whether the wall runs parallel to the ceiling joists or whether it cuts across them. Walls are usually attached to the joists above, so a wall that goes across the joists is easier to build. This is because the top plate can be nailed through the ceiling to the joists.

Building a wall that runs parallel to the joists is somewhat more involved. Unless you are lucky and your wall falls directly under a joist, you'll have to open up the ceiling to install blocking to attach the top plate. In fact, if moving the wall an inch or two would place it under a joist, consider doing so.

If you are attaching a top plate through a plaster ceiling into joists, predrill the plate and attach it with 3-inch wood screws.

Prestart Checklist

Time
About 1 hour for a simple wall that's perpendicular to the joists

Tools
Tape measure, chalk line, hammer, circular saw, power drill/driver, utility knife, layout square

Skills
Measuring, snapping a chalk line, hammering, crosscutting

Prep
Complete remodeling plans

Materials
2x4 for top plate, 16d nails

Step 1

Start by locating the ends of the new wall on the ceiling according to the dimensions you worked out on your plan. With a helper, snap a chalk line between the two points.

Step 2

Locate the joists by tapping the ceiling with your knuckles. Joists sound and feel solid; the space between them sounds hollow. Drive an 8d nail through the ceiling to double-check. If it punches through easily, you've missed the joist; move over an inch and try again.

Step 3

Once you know where all the joists are, cut a 2x4 to the proper length for the top plate. Measure and transfer the joist locations onto the plate with a tape measure and layout square.

Step 4

Starting a nail at each joist location is easy while the plate is still on the floor. Substitute 3-inch drywall screws if you'll be hammering into a plaster ceiling or if you simply dislike the effort of overhead nailing.

Step 5

With a helper, hold the top plate in place along the chalk line and nail it in place right through the ceiling. If the plate isn't quite straight, nail part of it, then push the offending end into line.

Running a Wall Parallel to the Joists: Step 1

Use a handsaw or reciprocating saw to cut away the ceiling flush to the inside faces of the joists where the wall will attach. Snap a chalk line along the center of each joist, then use a utility knife to cut away a 3/4-inch-wide strip of drywall. This will expose surfaces on the joists for attaching the new drywall.

Running a Wall Parallel to the Joists: Step 2

Cut blocking to fit snugly between the joists. Use four toenails to attach each block with its wide face down. Use a 1/8-inch-diameter bit to predrill the ends of the blocks for the toenails.

Running a Wall Parallel to the Joists: Step 3

Nail the blocking in place between the joists. Space the pieces 16 inches on center to provide support for the new drywall as well as convenient nailing for crown molding.


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