Framing Window and Door Openings
Framing exterior walls is one of the easier tasks in homebuilding. There are still steps that should be followed to make this a smooth and trouble free operation. There is more to framing a wall than nailing some studs to a plate and standing it up.
Assumming you have laid out your plates, pull the top plate back so it is approximately eight feet from the bottom plate. This gives you room to layout your stud material to frame the wall with. If there are windows or doors in the wall, layout the headers, sills and cripples in their corresponding locations.
Window and door openings should be framed first. There is a good reason to frame these details first. When framing window and door openings, nails are driven through the sides of studs into headers, cripples, and sills. If the wall studs were to be nailed in before the openings were framed there would not be enough room to swing a hammer or use a nail gun. Even if those openings fell on 16 inch centers it would still be a little tight to swing a hammer.
The order of nailing a window opening together is also important. We'll use a standard eight foot wall as an example. In our example all the headers are 2x12. The first step is to nail the header to the top plate. The header is cut to the width of the window plus three inches to allow for the 2x4 cripples. Next, studs are nailed to both ends of the header and to the top plate using 16 penny nails. Once those are nailed in, the cripples are then nailed in. These determine the height of the window. The cripples butt up to the bottom of the header and nailed to the inside of the studs. The 16 penny nails must be put in at an angle to keep them from coming through the stud and to keep someone from catching their hand or clothing on the sharp points. The sill is then nailed to the bottoms of the cripples. The window framing is completed by adding cripple studs beneath the sill on the stud layout.
To frame a door opening the same procedure is followed except their is no sill. Studs are nailed to each end of the header and then a measurement is taken from the bottom of the header to the bottom plate. This will be the length of your cripples. These are nailed in just like the window cripples. Later on in the construction of the house and before the exterior doors are installed, the bottom plate is cut out.
Once all the openings are framed, all the wall studs can be nailed in. Make sure to follow the layout and nail everything on the right side of the line which will be indicated by an "X". Anything nailed to the wrong side of the line can be pretty obvious to the trained eye. You don't want to find this out when you are sheeting the wall.
Follow these basic rules to framing a wall and the job will go smoothly and hopefully aggravation free.
Mike Merisko (C) 2006