Framing an Opening in a Load Bearing Wall

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Construction site

Framing an opening in a load-bearing wall is time consuming and tedious, but with proper preparation the framing job can be accomplished. Consulting a structural engineer or building professional is advised when attempting a project where inexperience has the potential to cause property damage, bodily harm or death, but utilizing the recommendations of a building professional and properly researching the procedures for completing this type of framing job will allow the less experienced handyman to complete the project successfully. For this example we will be framing a door opening in a 2-inch by 4-inch stud wall that is 8 feet tall.


Materials, Tools, and Site set-Up

Before beginning it is important to have all the necessary materials on hand. Determine the proper size of the intended opening. Measure the room to determine the necessary length of the temporary load-bearing wall. Use these measurements to figure the materials for building the temporary load-bearing wall, the header, the jack studs and the king studs.

The tools to frame a load-bearing wall include sawhorses, a circular saw, a reciprocating saw, several lengths of extension cord and an electrical splitter. An 8-foot step ladder is needed along with a tape measure, a 6-foot level, a hammer, a nail puller, a chalk line, a speed square, a carpenter's pencil, a razor knife and a nail pouch to hold the necessary hand tools. A sufficient supply of hand-drive 12-penny framing nails is needed. Ideally, a portable air compressor, air hose, pneumatic framing gun and pneumatic framing nails are available to complete the framing project.


Clean the construction area and set up the tools. Run enough air hose to reach from the air compressor to the framing job while allowing enough slack for the builder to maintain a free range of motion while framing the opening in the load-bearing wall. Set the sawhorses close to the building materials but out of the way of the construction area, and load materials onto the horses.

Building the Header

Make the header at least three inches longer than the rough opening to account for each pair of jack studs. If there is one jack stud on each side of the opening, add 3 inches; if 2 jack studs are on each side, add 6 inches. For this wall the header is constructed using 2-inch by 12-inch lumber. A 2-inch by 4-inch wall is 3 1/2 inches thick, so a piece of half-inch-thick oriented strand board (OSB) sandwiched between the header materials will ensure that the header is the same thickness. Cut two boards from the header material and the OSB for the filler. Lay the header board flat on a set of saw horses, lay the OSB on the header board, and place the other header board on top of it to make a sandwich of the three boards. Nail the boards from one side using a V pattern. Ensure OSB isn't protruding from the interior of the header. Flip the header and nail from the other side in a V pattern. Lay the header in place between the existing wall and the location of the temporary wall.


Building the Temporary Load-Bearing Wall

Walls with bracing

Remember to lay the header into the space between the existing wall and the temporary wall. Build the temporary load-bearing wall by cutting a bottom and top wall plate from the stud material, then cutting two end studs. Measure 3 feet away from the existing wall on each end and mark the location and pop a chalk line. Lay down the bottom plate. Place an end stud on the bottom plate and nail the stud into place. Have a helper move to the other end. Use the end stud to wedge your end of the top plate into place, and nail the end stud into the top plate, using the ladder. Move the ladder to the other end and nail the end stud into the bottom and top plates. Mark the layout on the bottom plate for the remaining studs. Begin cutting and installing the remainder of the temporary wall studs. Have the helper nail the bottom studs on the layout marks, and use the ladder and the level to nail the tops of the studs into place on the temporary load-bearing wall.


Framing an Opening in a Load-Bearing Wall

Use the reciprocating saw to cut out the studs where the opening is going to go. Remove the studs from the wall and clean the area where the studs were located. Pull the layout measurements off of an existing wall stud and mark the locations on the bottom plate. The layout should include the location for the new king studs and the jack studs. Lay the king studs on a saw horse. Cut two jacks studs 80 inches long. Place the jack studs for each side on the king studs. Start at the bottom of the king and jack studs and nail the studs together along the length of the jack stud. Make sure the bottoms and sides of the studs are flush as you nail them together. Do this for both sets of king and jack studs.


Place the stud assembly for one end of the opening into place along the layout lines on the bottom plate, and nail the studs into the bottom plate. Use the 6-foot level to level along the king stud, and nail the king stud into the top plate. Place the second stud assembly on the layout lines and nail the assembled studs to the bottom plate. Do not nail the king plate into the top plate on this side yet. Place one end of the header into place along the side where the king stud has been fastened to the top plate. Set the header into place and push the loose king stud tightly into position against the header. Nail the king stud into the top plate. Nail the header into the king stud from each side on each end of the header.


The bottom plate from the old wall needs to be removed from within the space for the opening, to allow for installation of the door. Use the reciprocating saw to cut down into the plate flush with the jacks on each side to remove the floor plate that is no longer needed within the opening. Use a hammer and pry-bar to remove the cut plate from the floor. The opening is now completed, and the temporary load-bearing wall can be dismantled. The project is now ready to begin installation of the siding and the door.



Randall Bullard

Randall Bullard holds an Associate of Arts in business and will receive a Bachelor of Science in business/information systems from the University of Phoenix in 2010. He currently attends Altamaha Technical College for computer information systems/networking specialist certification. Bullard has worked as a sales consultant for Ford Motor Company, has owned a residential construction business, and has work published with eHow, Associated Content and Helium.