How to Frame Better: Understanding Layout Part 2
Previously I talked about the importance of designing a framing layout to address the needs of other sub-contractors. In our first example we showed how “shifting” the layout can be a simple means to improving the design. This brings us to the notion of the “common layout.”
The common layout is the basis for the location of common studs (joists/trusses). This is generally defined as either 16” O.C. or 24” O.C. But many carpenters make the same mistake that the lumber yards and truss manufacturers make, which is to pick the two longest walls and start at one corner and go. Unless the dimensions are 4’ increments, it almost always is better to center the layout on the section of wall.
The two pictures above are of a 14’ wall, one that is framed from the left and one that is framed from center. In general this wall is going to be easier to insulate, provides even backing for drywall, trim, cabinets, closet systems, and all kinds of materials.
Here is an example of a 3’ x 5’ shower. The second picture shows a centered layout. This will be better for the plumbing, setting a tub enclosure, or evenly fastening backer board for tile. These are just two quick examples, but the advantages of centering layouts over pulling from one corner are numerous when it comes to function and aesthetics. This idea of centering layout can be applied to whole houses in an almost fractal pattern.
Here is a basic floor print for the same house we used for our examples in Part 1. The area in grey is the area which we used to center our floor layout. We then transfer that layout to all the walls running perpendicular to our floor joists. We are stacking the layout which will result in a stronger frame and be better for running plumbing and HVAC later.
Next we center all exterior wall layouts that are gable ends of the house. This is particular useful if you are hand framing a roof or building a rake wall. It makes everything easier. Trust me!
By now we have set the common layout for all of the walls in red in the picture above. Now here is where we can apply this idea of fractal geometry. This house has quite a few angled walls. Those all get a center layout. And small walls between closets (or basically any wall smaller than 3’)? You guessed it – centered layout. That leaves us with only a couple of longer interior walls. Usually it won’t hurt to just go ahead and center those as well.
Here we have an interesting example. The wall in red actually has two sections that are centered on two different rooms. This results in a wall that does not maintain the 16” O.C. layout all the way from end to end. Most carpenters would find this wrong. But take a closer look. It doesn’t matter to the drywall sub-contractor or trim carpenter where the studs are, as long as they have sufficient backing to attach their materials to. This wall has that.
Centering layouts also has the advantage of managing to put backer right where you need it without even having to think about it. Want to mount a closet rod? You’ll have studs centered right there for you. Want to hang a picture in the center of a wall? Backing there too. Believe me, once you start laying out walls this way things just have a way of working out better. And a better frame makes a better house!