Supporting the Ceiling

This story shows you how to build a temporary support for the ceiling for use while installing a new window.


If your new window will be wider than 3 feet, you'll have to remove more than one wall stud. That could cause the wall's top plate -- and the ceiling -- to sag. If the ceiling joists are perpendicular to the wall and thus rest on the wall frame's top plate (see the illustration below), you must temporarily support the joists. Install the support no farther than 3 feet from the wall.

If the joists run parallel to the wall, supporting them will not help shore up the wall. Use the method shown on the opposite page. Use the same method if your home is built with old balloon framing, which has no top or bottom wall plates.

Build a temporary support that is several feet longer than the new window opening. Buy enough studs so you can place them about 16 inches apart.

Prestart Checklist

About 2 hours to build a temporary support and wedge it into position

Tape measure, hammer, level, circular saw, handsaw, drill with screwdriver bit

Basic carpentry skills

Cover the room's floor with a drop cloth. You may choose to remove the drywall or plaster before building the temporary supports.

2x4s, 16d nails or 3-inch screws, shims

Step 1

To determine the direction the joists run through the ceiling, use an electronic stud finder or drill a series of locator holes. This will allow you to plan your temporary support. Then use the stud finder to locate the framing members and plan how you will frame the window.

Step 2

Cut out a floor-to-ceiling section of drywall or plaster that is at least 3 inches wider than the desired rough opening. In this case it worked out to cut along one stud; on the other side the cut was made into the cavity between two studs.

Step 3

Mark the bottom (sole) plate to indicate where the king studs and jack studs will go. The distance between the jack studs is the width of the rough opening.

Step 4

In the place where you will put the temporary wall, stack three short pieces of 2x4 (for a total thickness of 4-1/2 inches). Measure from the ceiling to the top of the stack. Cut the studs 1/4 inch shorter than this measurement.

Step 5

Mark the bottom and top plate for studs every 16 inches. Attach the studs to the plates by driving nails or screws. Add a second top plate. To keep from scraping the ceiling, add a scrap of carpeting to the top plate (see box below). With a helper raise the wall and tap it into place. If the fit is not snug, tap shims under the bottom plate.

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