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Standing Walls and Running Cap Plates

March 23, 2019

Lift the wall, set it on the line, and tie the corners together

Ben, Hawk, Brian, and Liz have been stacking, framing, snapping, sheathing and taping; now, they’re gonna stand that wall. As soon as they make a little space for their fingers.

First, they slip 2x4 blocks under the top plates so they can slide the straps through that will hook onto the forklift and do the brunt of the lifting on this long wall.

To lift a wall like this, Ben rolls the forks up so the straps won’t slip off. When they are ready, be booms up and in at the same time to raise the wall being careful not to yank it off the floor deck.

When the wall is in place, they brace the ends plumb and unhook the forks.

The next day they frame the shorter gable walls and stick to the 20th-century method of lifting: with your back.

It is usually a good idea to plumb the outer walls a little better than plumb, to make it easy to stand this wall, then tighten up the tops when you run the cap plate.

Put it on the line and nail it

Step 1 after standing the wall is to make sure the bottom is where it is supposed to be. It doesn’t matter if a wall is plumb if the bottom is a half inch away from where it is supposed to be.

So, whack it into place and nail it down. Again, don’t nail in the middle of a stud cavity or someone with a formerly-new hole saw is going to come looking for you.

Now, tack the corners together to hold up the wall while you adjust the rest of the bottom plate. Sometimes you can lean out a window and whack the wall with a sledgehammer, sometimes you need to pull it from the inside.

Here, they use structural screws, blocks, and a clamp to pull the wall to a string line.

You can push it out with a whack or a toenail, depending on what it takes. Usually, driving a nail 45b degrees to vertical, into solid framing below will move the wood a little bit.

And it worked in this instance, too.

Again, not nailing next to studs is known as a career-limiting activity.

Straighten the tops of the walls to match their bottoms

With the bottoms of the walls on the line, focus on making the top of the walls an exact projection upward. Cap plates overlap at the ends of walls to tie them together. So, some sections are left off when the walls are framed on the floor.

Break plates over studs, as usual, and you can often cut them in place as you work around the building.

In the case of intersecting interior walls, hold the plates back from the layout lines so there’s about 4-inches of space to plumb the interior wall.

Stealth tip: A good way to attach the walls together is with ladder backing between the studs.

Nailing pattern for double top plates

Most carpenters begin the cap plate with five nails in the end of the perpendicular wall and break the opposite end over a stud.

Then they flush the plate with the top plate and nail above each stud. To finish a section, Ben cuts the plate stock in place rather than playing up the ladder-down the ladder.

He puts two nails over the end stud and four over the next stud because the top plate below is broken over that stud. Tie the cap into both sections of top plate.

The wall is still pretty wobbly at this point, so chances are, after the plates are down, it will still be pretty humpy.

Needless to say, you should not break a cap plate near where a top plate breaks. You should keep the breaks at least four feet away.

You may have noticed that the floor is covered with a rubber mat. That’s because the 2x6 tongue and groove subfloor is finish flooring. Normally you could nail blocks to the subfloor anywhere you want to brace the walls, but with expensive flooring underfoot, they have to run 16 footers across the floor to anchor braces to.

Next time we will go deep on straightening those humpy wall tops and getting then in line with their bottoms.

—This is the third part of a seven or eight-part series on framing, flashing, and sealing a double-wall house.

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