Framing an Interior Wall with Metal Studs

This story shows how to frame a wall with metal studs.

Intro

Metal studs have a lot to recommend them to a homeowner who's considering a remodeling project. Metal studs are straight when you buy them, and stay that way. They don't burn, rust, or rot, and termites and other insects can't eat them. They don't burn like wood and are lightweight and easy to cut and fasten. The factory-punched holes eliminate drilling for the installation of wiring and plumbing, which speeds along those tasks.

Most walls in remodeling projects are nonload-bearing, meaning they don't help support the weight of the house. If you need to build a load-bearing wall, make sure your metal studs are rated for that use.

If you'e accustomed to working with wood construction, metal studs may initially seem flimsy. That' because they'e not designed for strength on their own -- instead, they partner with the drywall as a systems approach to wall construction.

Checklist

Time
When working with a helper, allow at least one hour for a simple 8-foot-long wall that runs perpendicular the joists. Framing openings such as doorways or windows will add time to the project.

Tools
Gloves, metal snips, chalk line, plumb bob with nylon line, tape measure, level, stud finder (if joists are concealed), power screwdriver, C-clamp self-locking pliers

Skills
Measuring; snapping a chalk line; cutting metal; driving fasteners; using a stud finder, plumb bob, and level

Prep
Draw project plans and locate joists.

Materials
Metal studs and channel, fasteners to attach channels to floor and joists, assembly screws

Step 1

On the floor, lay out the position of the wall, and snap chalk lines to mark the wall's edges. Cut the runner at the edge of door openings. Attach the runner to the floor, using wood screws when working on a plywood surface. (Pan-head or flathead screws provide the best holding power.) Fasten to concrete with powder-actuated fasteners, concrete screws, or screws driven into expansion plugs.

Step 2

Transfer the location of the runner to the ceiling by twisting a stud into the floor runner and holding a level against it. Mark the stud's edges on the ceiling at each end of the wall, and join the marks by snapping a chalk line.

Step 3

Attach the runner to the ceiling by driving screws into the joists. If the wall runs parallel to the joists, add blocking for a wood wall. If you attach ceiling drywall to the underside of a roof truss system, professionals recommend a special resilient channel design that accommodates the potential movement of the truss. Check with your steel-framing supplier for more information.

Step 4

Lay out the stud locations on the edge of the bottom runner, using a permanent marker and a length of wood that equals the stud spacing. Although you could mark the centerline of the studs, you'll probably find it less confusing to mark one edge, then mark a quick X where the stud goes. You don't need to mark the upper runner. Double-check the spacing of the layout before you attach any studs.

Step 5

Cut the studs to length if necessary. Insert a stud into the upper and lower track with a twisting motion. Make certain the open side of all studs faces the same direction. Align the edge of the stud with the mark on the floor runner, and clamp it with C-clamp self-locking pliers designed for welders. Drive a screw to secure the stud to the runner.

Step 6

To make a header, cut a length of runner 4 inches longer than the opening. Draw a line square across the web 2 inches from one end, and another line square across at the opposite end to mark the length of the opening. Cut V-notches into the flanges, aiming at the lines on the web (see inset). Bend the runner along the lines and drive a screw through each tab and into the king stud.

Step 7

Create an attachment surface for wall cabinets by notching a length of runner and screwing it to the flanges of the studs. Consult your cabinet installer to make certain of the runner's height and to alert him that he'll need sheet metal screws for the installation.

Step 8

Add blocking of solid wood or plywood to simplify the installation of baseboards, crown moldings, shelves, and accessories such as towel bars. This also is an alternative strategy to the previous step for hanging cabinets. With blocking, you can drive nails or screws just as you can with a wood-stud wall. Without wood backing, install moldings to the studs with construction adhesive and trim-head screws.

Step 9

Snap plastic grommets into the punch-outs to prevent the sharp edges of the stud from slicing the insulation on electrical wires. Alternatively, consider armored cable or conduit. The grommets prevent metal-to-metal contact with water piping -- an electrolysis situation that can corrode both pipes and studs. If you can't find grommets, improvise with lengths of foam pipe insulation.

Step 10

Install the drywall by driving type S fine-threaded screws into the studs. For best results, drive the screws along one stud before moving to the next one. Always work toward the open C-shape of the studs.


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