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Building the Woodshop: Part VI - Walls

Part VI

With the foundation finally out of the way, it was time for my part to start - framing. I find framing fun, so long as it's not my regular job... and I have done it in the past, so I wasn't too nervous about doing it, except for one thing - the wall framing would be full of angles and small complications that would challenge my abilities... but then again, I like a challenge.

I started by putting together a list of materials I would need, and set out to visit suppliers to get some prices. I'm fortunate to have a large number of building supply outlets all within a close distance to where I live... I didn't get to a fraction of them and I visited two borg stores, a lumberyard associated with a nation-wide chain, 1 local franchise lumberyard (several different locations, but all of them are located within a 100 mile or so radius), and two locally owned lumberyards to get prices. The borg prices were not all that far out of line - but those places simply aren't set up well for putting together large loads and they were the furthest from my house, not to mention the service was basically non-existent from these two places in my experience, so I ruled them out almost immediately.

One of the two locally owned lumberyards' clerks told me that "their estimator is out on a job today - but I'll take your list and he'll get back to you first thing tomorrow"... I never heard from them again. Honestly - if they can't call me back on a larger purchase like this they either don't want or deserve my business. I did notice these guys were out of business/were bought out about a year later - I wonder why?

The national chain store lumberyard's prices were relatively high for my tastes. A friend who was also pricing out a shop told me they were by far the cheapest he had found - but he was buying a packaged garage design, vs. my "custom" order, so that may have had something to do with it.

That left two yards to visit, and these two yards became the final 'competitors' for my business - the local franchise and the other local lumberyard. The cheapest cost I found was at the local franchise store (who also happened to have the closest store), with two caveats - their lumber was of lower quality and their service wasn't all that stellar (not bad - just not stellar). The local yard was more expensive, but the quality of their material was much better... But something else happened while I was at the local yard that convinced me to go with them...

While getting a list of prices from one of the clerks, he asked the fellow behind him what the current price was on OSB, who looked at my list to see how much I was looking for. He said something like "well, for this much I think we could do $6.75" (which was 25 cents more than the other's price). He then looked over and started asking me about what I was building, and we struck up a conversation. Turns out he was the owner of the yard, and we both came from similar backgrounds... In the end, he won my business the old fashioned way. It did cost me a few hundred dollars more to do business with him, but I can say now that the price was well worth it - his little lumberyard gave me by far the best service of any I had dealt with up to then - or have since.

From there, i took my material list and divided that list up into the order needed, starting with the wall framing and roof framing, the roofing, and the trim, siding and interior work. This would allow me to pick up materials and not have to have them sit outside or be in the way while I was working on the building... Here's the very list I used:


I had decided to use 2x6 studs @ 16" O.C. (On Center) for a couple of reasons - first, for the insulation value. In the large scheme of things, they don't cost all that much more money over using 2x4's. Second, one of the main tenets of the gathering darkness that is the future is the cost of energy. It may or may not happen, but to me it's better to be over-insulated rather than under. Energy costs can become crippling - though they are "relatively" inexpensive now, that may not always be the case.

This is also the biggest reason I don't have a large amount of windows - though I may regret this decision the most of all Natural daylight is a huge bonus, but it does come at a price. There's not just the initial cost of the glazing, there's the added cost for heating to consider. I did end up bumping up the size of the windows to the next size, which I think was a good decision.

Another reason is so it holds what's nailed to it without "waves". Structurally, 2x4 studs at 24" o.c. are fine, and will easily hold up the building. You could probably get away with even less... But then any siding you nail to it, or drywall, or even plywood - will not be held straight and become wavy over time. It might not be right away - but it will happen.

Anyway, I now had the material, and it was time to start building. The very first walls I needed to build were the most complicated - the north and south ends, both having a gable; and since I was using rafters and not trusses for the roof, it meant the studs would have to be framed old-style.

I used to know how to use the a framing square, and all the functions that go with it like rafters and the like. But it's been too long, and not having used that knowledge it's long slipped from my grasp. Fortunately, I am an architect - and have access to computer drafting programs that allow me to size each stud *exactly* and help me layout their location on the top plate even though they are angled - here's the framing plan for the north wall:

North wall going up

You can easily see the benefit of knowing how to use a cad program here. I was able to size each individual member and provide for space for the lookouts all before lifting a nail. I printed out a copy of the above and framed up the main part of the wall (not including the lean-to part) exactly as shown on the floor of the shop, and did the same for the south end (which I will show further down). Then, it was time for an old fashioned "barn-raising" - I gathered a few friends and relatives to help me put the walls up:

North wall going up

Most of the time, you would build the wall so you could tip it up right where it wanted to live - but I could only get these guys together for the one day, so I built both the north and south walls to have them ready... There wasn't enough room on the slab to build them in place, so after we got the wall up we had to shimmy it down to it's final resting place and lift it up over the anchor bolts. I don't mind telling you - these walls were HEAVY! The more help the better.

South Wall

A sill seal goes down first to fill small gaps between the bottom plate and the concrete foundation wall. The bottom plate is treated wood by code - this is done as it's the most likely location for water to puddle and over time rot the wood.

Once in place, the wall were roughly plumbed and then braced with 2x's tied to stakes driven in the ground or using a pair of 2x's to form a triangle on the inside. These were the only two sections of the wall I planned on tipping up like this - the rest would be built in place by myself.

Next up was the south wall:

South Wall

The studs were all sized in that drawing, and I created a second drawing to help me lay out their location on the top plate:

South Wall

Then it was on to putting up that wall:

South wall going up

After it was in place it was also roughly plumbed and bolted down to the anchor bolts in the foundation:

South Wall

Once the walls were up and the help was gone, I went through and plumbed the two walls. To do this, I parked one vehicle on each side of the wall and tied a rope on each side of the wall, in a loop around the top of the stud and plate where the existing brace we had put up was located down to the bumper of the vehicle. I left a little slack in each line and using a stick, tightened the line like the cord on a bow-saw... Once the slack was all taken up, I removed the nails holding the brace and re-plumbed the wall, tightening the side it needed to go to by twisting the rope on that side more until the wall read plumb., then nailed the brace back into place. You can apply a great deal of pressure using this method, and I was able to plumb the walls around the entire building using this method.

Then it was on to the east wall (the top in the graphic below), which I framed in-place:

Wall Framing

The headers over the windows and overhead door are triple 2x10 with a 1/2" plywood core, a diagram of which I will show in a minute... The .

This tied the north and south walls together on the east side, but I then figured should tie the west end of these sections together at the spot where the "main" roof butts into the "lean-to" portion of the roof - the spot labeled #7 in the graphic below:


Wall Framing

This is to be the main beam for the roof at that spot, so it needed to be a pretty substantial - and straight - beam. I started by first setting up the two 6x6 columns at their planned locations that the beam would rest on (asking a beam to span 32'-0" is a bit much for traditional construction), as to split the span into thirds. A "U" shaped Simpson column base is bolted into the concrete and fastened to the column with nails and plumbed by forming a triangle with a pair of 2x4's nailed to the column to hold them in place - you can see them in the photo below (with the beam already in place):


The columns at each end are simply nailed together 2x6's that rest within the confines of the stud wall.

It was then time to construct the beam. The beam is made up in layers - first a 2x10, then a layer of 1/2" CDX plywood, then another 2x10, a second layer of CDX, and finally a third 2x10. It works out well with the layers of plywood, as then it ends up the same width as the 6x6 column it rests on:


It's great to have an air nailer for jobs like this - it would wear you out quickly nailing all of this by hand, there are a LOT of nails. Fortunately, I still had my old framing nailer from back in the day.

There was no way I was going to be able to construct the beam on the ground and lift it into place on my own, so I constructed it in place by placing the first 2x10 in place (crowned so the higher point is pointing up), holding it by nailing scraps of plywood to Then it was the next 2x10, and so on until the beam was complete:

Wall Framing

A composite beam like this is stronger than a solid beam... the layers help guard against natural defects in the wood, and provide a more homogenous beam across it's length. It's still a bit of a stretch - and by code, these beams aren't heavy duty enough to span the entire distance - so I will add in some knee braces later in the construction process. For now, they will be enough.

To level the beam I used the old bucket of water with a clear hose trick, the same sort of one one documented here on the Taunton web site. I had tried a line level, which is what I used to determine the length of the columns, but ended up having cut the columns about 3/8" too short... Using the water level eliminates such inaccuracies - but I hadn't remembered the trick until after I had cut them. They can be a little difficult to use when you are by yourself and trying to measure a column that has nothing holding it up yet anyway, I guess... Anyway, the short columns were an easy fix with a "shim" of 3/8" plywood.

From here it was a matter of finishing up the rest of the walls and installing the sheathing, which ended up being 7/16" OSB:


There are some that don't like this product, and will only use plywood... Truth is, this material will work just fine for sheathing and is more environmentally friendly than plywood is. And - here's the real issue - it was cheaper.

For bracing, the sheathing on the four corners of the building were specially nailed to create what known as a "braced wall panel". This is done to stiffen the structure against it's natural tendency to lean. The special nailing basically means using ringshank nails 6" o.c. around the perimeter and down each stud line. Another good reason to have a nailer handy - that's a lot of nails.

One thing to remember here, which I nearly forgot:


You can't get into these corners after you've nailed the sheathing on - and if you don't, the corner will always feel cold in the winter and it will be a spot where heat can escape the envelope. Taking your time to insulate the building properly can make a HUGE difference in your heating bill, so if you are building a shop I would suggest you do this - even if you are not planning on insulating it. Someone may want to someday - and it's not much money to do now, but will cost you plenty later should you decide to heat the building.

That's probably enough for this installment. Up next - the roof!