How to Frame Exterior Walls

windows, shutters exterior wall frame

Framing walls is an integral component of any construction project, providing a sturdy base upon which sheet goods like plywood or OSB panels for interior applications or exterior sheathing installations.

Select an appropriate sheathing material based on your building plans and local building codes, using a level and plumb line for verification of wall alignment.

The course of action to frame exterior walls


Framing exterior walls is an integral component of building any house or structure, providing strength and support for roof and other components of a building. Although framing exterior walls may seem intimidating at first, with proper preparation and attention to detail it can be achieved successfully. Framing begins by reviewing architectural blueprints or building plans to determine wall dimensions and layout before prepping a work area and gathering tools and materials needed.

Sheathing walls prior to raising them is always recommended, as this allows the sheathing to be attached more securely before the weight of the walls is applied and could prevent damage caused as the walls are raised. No matter when or how you decide to sheath them, be sure to follow all relevant procedures so as to meet local building codes and structural engineering calculations.

To frame the bottom plate of a new wall, measure from the floor to the top edge of joists (floor or ceiling girders) and mark this line on the ground with chalk. This will serve as a guideline when positioning your finished wall – it will help avoid obstructions or any issues along its route and help avoid running into obstructions along its route. Also important: pay attention to whether perpendicular or parallel joists exist so you know where to position openings such as doors and windows.

Select lumber for your walls next. Wall plates typically consist of 2x4s or 2x6s cut to fit, either framing lumber such as standard framing lumber or engineered products such as OSB. Studs lining vertically across walls typically run 16 inches apart – precut options can often be purchased in home improvement stores; you could even cut them yourself using a circular saw with jigsaw attachment!

design to frame exterior walls

Once the wall plates have been cut, they can be attached to their foundation with powder-actuated nails or screws using proper spacing requirements as indicated in your building plan or structural engineer calculations. It is wise to nail in bracing before raising walls in order to ensure straight construction process and help prevent future shifting of these structures.


Framing walls is a fundamental element in building a house. It lays the groundwork for the rest of the structure and ensures structural integrity and stability; its proper installation must meet local and industry standards to meet insulation and weather resistance standards. Framing exterior walls requires gathering tools and materials as well as laying out the wall layout, cutting wall plates to size, marking stud locations accurately, framing door and window openings and framing them accordingly.

Step one in accurately positioning walls involves calculating their lengths. Measure them from corner to corner with a chalk line or carpenter’s square and mark these dimensions on the ground using chalk lines or carpenter’s squares. Next, draw out rectangles that enclose all of your chosen area – this method eliminates having to estimate and remeasure multiple times which could result in inaccurate and costly mistakes.

Once you have marked the position of your walls, use a tape measure to mark their exact locations on both bottom and top wall plates. Next use either a circular or reciprocating saw with proper safety precautions before cutting the plates out to shape with straight and square ends before positioning them on the floor for cutting.

layout to frame exterior wall

Next, determine the spacing of your studs. Typically, 16-inch centers should be considered; however, you must also consider where doors and windows will be placed to achieve an effective placement for your studs.

If your stud layout does not allow sufficient clearance for window or door headers, trimmer studs can help fill any gaps between openings. They support the weight of installed headers while simultaneously creating rough sill width definition. They’re sized according to a table used for regular studs and can even act as substitutes if necessary.

Framing long walls section by section can throw off the 16-inch stud layout. To mitigate this issue, some builders use sister studs at each section’s end so that the next stud lines up perfectly with its plate.


Framing walls is an integral component of building strong and stable walls, so whether it’s part of an all-new construction project or simply adding onto an existing space, take the time to carefully plan out your layout and gather the necessary materials before framing begins. Doing so will give your wall a strong framework upon which sheathing, insulation and other finishes can later be installed.

Start by measuring out the length of your new wall using a tape measure and chalk line, before cutting a pair of plates (top and bottom) from 2×4 lumber that fit your measurements exactly.

Set two plates against each other so you can see where studs will be placed along each plate. Note any window or door openings within your walls on the interior side of each plate, then mark these locations where a stud will go with a pencil.

By using a circular saw, cut two studs that match the height you measured for plates. These will become the frame for your wall and must be spaced evenly along its plate. If your wall will bear weight, also cut and install headers above openings and define rough sill width. If not installing headers, skip this step.

As you install each stud, be sure to secure it to both a plate and another stud which will serve as support. Otherwise, the stud could detach itself from its surrounding frame in time.

Studs should be spaced no more than 16″ apart to ensure sheathing or drywall can fit easily over their frames later on. To maintain this spacing, short boards called jack studs (cripples) might need to be added above or below doors and windows so as to maintain even distribution throughout.


Framing walls is essential to any building. Whether it’s new construction or an addition, framing provides support and definition for everything that goes on it later, such as drywall, exterior sheathing and trim boards.

Construction of walls should be executed carefully to avoid more serious issues in the future, which is why hiring an experienced professional to construct it is recommended. If doing the work yourself, be sure to use a guidebook as reference so all steps are properly executed.

Once your studs are secured to the wall, you can install OSB or plywood sheeting (Oriented Strand Board – OSB). Start by placing the bottom plate of each wall on the floor and marking where it will go with a tape measure and chalk line. Install sheathing by stapling it to walls – cut to length so it fits flush against top and bottom plate of plate; crown sheathing so water won’t pool against edges causing bowing walls; make sure crowned sheathing edges; cut to beveled so water doesn’t collects on edges, making walls bow due to pools on edges of sheathing being beveled for best results.

finishing touches to frame exterior wall

Once the sheathing is in place, it’s time to add any electrical and plumbing fixtures. Any plumbing fixture requiring a manhole must also be framed separately before installation; windows and doors also need to be fitted before sheathing can begin.

Blocking boards, consisting of 2″ by 4″ pieces of lumber cut in half that fit between wall studs at the base, are another great addition. They provide additional support when framing walls to support second-floor joists or roof weight.

Corners of walls can often be neglected, yet they’re an area where attention must be given. If their corners aren’t square and plumb they could create cold spots in winter and make insulation difficult; to avoid this possibility shimming them can help fill any variations caused by human error.

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