Wall Construction Terms: A Comprehensive Glossary-style Guide

Last updated on February 11, 2024

Because building a wall is more than just stacking bricks, this in-depth glossary will regale you with the fundamental language of wall construction, enriching your understanding of the craft.

Key takeaways:

  • Plates: Horizontal members forming top and bottom edges of wall frame.
  • Studs: Vertical pieces between plates, creating stable framework.
  • Joists: Horizontal structures supporting floor or ceiling.
  • By-Walls: Non-load-bearing walls used to divide spaces.
  • Wall Sheathing: Provides stability, insulation, and weather resistance.
1of 21

Wall Framing Terminology

wall framing terminology

Understanding the skeleton of your wall is key to any successful construction or renovation project.

Plates – These horizontal members form the top and bottom edges of your wall frame. The bottom plate rests directly on the flooring, while the top plate provides support for ceiling or roof structures.

Studs – These are the vertical pieces that run between the plates, creating the stable framework to which interior and exterior wall coverings are attached. They’re typically placed 16 or 24 inches apart, called “on-center spacing.”

Joists – Horizontal structures that support the weight of the floor or ceiling, joists run perpendicular to studs and are often used to anchor the bottom plate.

By-Walls – A non-load-bearing wall, often referred to as a partition wall, used to divide spaces within a structure.

For efficient installation, accurate placement of these components is essential, ensuring the stability and integrity of your walls for years to come.

2of 21

Window and Door Framing Terminology

window and door framing terminology

Understanding the structure around windows and doors is key for both esthetic appeal and functional stability. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Header: This horizontal beam sits above a door or window, transferring the weight to the supporting studs, maintaining wall integrity.
  • Sill or Saddle: Found at the bottom of a window opening, sills guide water away, also adding aesthetic charm.
  • Cripples: Short studs located above a window or below a window sill and sometimes above a door header. They fill in the wall space and provide support.
  • Trimmers: Also known as jack studs, trimmers are vertical supports that run alongside a door or window, holding the header in place and distributing weight.
  • King Studs: The main vertical supports that flank both sides of a window or door frame, stretching from the floor to the ceiling, anchoring the entire frame.

Each element plays a role in maintaining the wall’s strength and stability while defining spaces for windows and doors to allow for light, access, and ventilation.

3of 21

Plates

plates

Plates serve as the foundation and anchoring surface for wall framing. There are two types – the bottom plate, which rests on the floor, providing a base for the wall studs, and the top plate, which ties the studs together at the top, creating a stable framework. They also play a crucial role in the distribution of loads from the roof and upper floors, ensuring the structural integrity of your walls.

When walls intersect, the plates are cut to allow for a seamless connection, maintaining the continuity of this supportive network. Remember, for load-bearing walls, it’s essential to use lumber that’s strong enough to handle the load.

4of 21

Studs

studs

Vertical two-by-fours or two-by-sixes known as studs are the primary support elements of a wall frame, evenly spaced and extending from the bottom plate to the top plate. They serve as a structural skeleton, defining the shape and providing the necessary support for most types of wall finishes and any installed insulation.

When planning your layout, remember to consider the standard spacing is typically 16 or 24 inches on-center depending on structural requirements. During the construction process, these elements also help establish locations for electrical boxes and other wall features, ensuring a seamless integration of utilities.

Keep in mind that the consistency of spacing will ensure the wall can adequately support the sheathing and attached loads such as cabinets or shelving.

5of 21

Joists

joists

Imagine your floor as a stable bridge connecting one end of the room to the other – what holds it all together are the beams underneath, known as joists.

These horizontal members provide support for the flooring and distribute weight evenly across the structure.

Typically extending from wall to wall, these sturdy elements can also be found in ceilings where they serve a similar purpose but for the space below.

The spacing between them is calculated based on their length and the load they’re expected to carry, ensuring your floor remains unyielding and free from sagging over time.

When considering your own building or renovation project, understanding the role of these hidden heroes is pivotal in creating a safe and durable living space.

6of 21

By-Walls

Imagine an interior wall that doesn’t bear a load but serves to divide a space – that’s a by-wall. Often referred to as a partition wall, it can offer a touch of privacy in an open-plan area or separate functional zones within a room.

They’re lighter in construction because they’re not holding up your house, unlike load-bearing walls. Flexible in terms of materials, by-walls can be constructed from a variety of options like drywall or decorative panels.

They’re perfect for customizing a space to your needs without affecting the structural integrity of the building. Whether you’re looking to create a cozy nook or delineate a home office, by-walls are your go-to for a quick and effective transformation.

7of 21

Intersecting Walls

When walls meet, they either intersect or bypass each other. This junction is vital for structural integrity and requires special framing techniques. Here are key points regarding their construction:

  • A typical intersection involves a stud from one wall butting into another, providing support and surface area for securing materials.
  • Intersecting walls often involve a king stud that continues the full height of the wall, with a shorter jack stud to support a header above any openings.
  • Where walls meet at right angles, additional framing, known as blocking, may be used to reinforce the connection.
  • For drywall installation and other finishes, blocking is essential at intersections to ensure there’s a solid backing to attach materials.
  • Electrical considerations, such as wiring paths, need to be taken into account in planning intersecting wall frames to avoid complications later on.

These intersections affect both the aesthetics and function of a room, revealing the importance of careful planning and execution in wall construction.

8of 21

Partition Stud

Partition studs are the vertical supports you find in non-load-bearing walls. These walls primarily function to divide space within a home or structure.

Unlike exterior wall studs, which are typically spaced 16 or 24 inches apart to support the weight of the building, partition studs might have more flexible spacing as they’re not supporting the same loads. This flexibility allows for easier incorporation of design elements or utilities such as electrical wiring and plumbing, enhancing the functionality of the living space.

When planning for a partition wall, considering the following points will bolster efficiency:

  • Determine the purpose of the wall to decide the appropriate stud spacing.
  • Use lightweight materials since these studs are not meant for structural support.
  • Ensure that the top and bottom plates are securely fastened to avoid any movement.
  • Remember to plan for insulation if soundproofing is a goal, even though this isn’t a load-bearing wall.

Applying these principles ensures that your partition walls are well-constructed, meeting both aesthetic and practical standards.

9of 21

Corner Stud

Crafting a stable and secure frame for your walls begins with understanding the pivotal role of the corner stud, which forms the backbone of wall intersections. These essential elements provide a sturdy anchor for adjoining walls and afford a convenient nailing surface for the wall finish materials. Here’s the crux of what makes them integral to wall construction:

  • Corner studs, typically comprising two or three studs nailed together, create a thickened area at the edge of the wall. This allows for a solid corner that other walls can join onto.
  • They also ensure that there’s ample space for insulation, minimizing the thermal bridging that often occurs in less robust corners.
  • During the installation of drywall or other wall coverings, corner studs present a continuous nailing surface. This creates a cleaner finish where walls meet, which is crucial for both aesthetics and structural integrity.

Remember, a well-constructed corner stud setup is the cornerstone for a smooth and professional wall finish.

10of 21

When installing a window or door, you’ll encounter the header, a strong horizontal support that spans the opening. It redistributes the weight from above, preventing structural weakness where the studs are interrupted.

Headers are typically made of double wood beams or engineered lumber and should be sized according to the span and load they must carry. It’s essential not to undersize a header to ensure the integrity of the wall doesn’t get compromised.

Proper installation directly impacts the functionality of doors and windows, preventing issues like sticking or misalignment over time.

11of 21

Sill or Saddle

Sills, also known as saddles, play a crucial role in window framing. They are the horizontal components that form the bottom part of a window rough opening. Made generally from sturdy lumber, they provide a base for the window unit to rest upon.

Moreover, their installation must be precise to ensure the window is level; otherwise, you might find yourself with a window that doesn’t open or close properly. The exterior part of the sill, often sloped downward, aids in directing water away from the building to prevent moisture damage. For energy efficiency and comfort, sills should be properly insulated and sealed against drafts.

In the case of doorways, the sill is the threshold and must be strong enough to handle traffic while providing a tight seal against weather elements.

12of 21

Cripples

Understanding the role of cripples in wall construction enhances your grasp of framing techniques. These short pieces of wood or metal are placed above and below windows and doors. They fill the space between the header and the top plate or between the sill and the bottom plate, ensuring structural integrity.

Here’s a breakdown to simplify their importance:

  • Support for Windows and Doors: They’re essential in transferring the load around the openings to the studs and plates.
  • Placement Precision: Cripples must be correctly spaced, often 16 or 24 inches apart, matching the rest of the wall studs for uniformity.
  • Height Calculation: Taller than the usual wall stud, the height of cripples is determined by the dimensions of the openings they surround.

Incorporating cripples correctly reinforces your wall structure around openings, sustaining the overall stability of your space.

13of 21

Trimmers

Supporting characters in the structure of a wall, trimmers are vital when installing a window or a door. These vertical beams run parallel to king studs and directly support the weight of the header. They are also referred to as jack studs.

Key points about trimmers:

  • Their primary function is to provide a sturdy framework around openings and transfer loads to the floor.
  • The number of trimmers used can vary based on the width of the opening and the load being supported.
  • Proper installation is crucial for maintaining the structural integrity of the wall and ensuring the proper operation of doors and windows.
  • In some constructions, trimmers can be doubled or even tripled for additional strength if the opening is particularly wide or if it’s supporting a heavy load like a beam or upper floor.
14of 21

Manufactured Wall Panels

Prefabricated to meet design specifications, these sections streamline the construction process, as they are delivered to the site ready to be installed.

The uniformity of panels ensures consistency in construction and helps in maintaining structural integrity.

With quicker installation times, they reduce the potential for weather-related delays and labor costs.

Additionally, because manufacturing is done in a controlled environment, waste is minimized, making it an eco-friendlier option.

Furthermore, these panels can be insulated during the manufacturing process, enhancing energy efficiency in the finished build.

15of 21

Posts and Beams

Dive straight into the world of posts and beams—crucial components when discussing wall construction.

Picture the post as a sturdy vertical pillar, an essential anchor that transmits the weight from beams down to the foundation.

Now, envision the beam as a stout horizontal member perched atop posts—it’s the backbone carrying the load from above, like floors or roofs, distributing that heft to the posts.

These two work in tandem to provide structural support, creating a framework for large spaces and open floor plans.

It’s an architectural pas de deux that marries form with function, allowing for the design flexibilities we love in modern construction, from grand entrances to expansive living areas.

16of 21

On-Center

Understanding “On-Center” (O.C.) is vital in ensuring the structural integrity and uniformity of wall construction. This term refers to the measurement from the center of one stud, joist, or other framing members to the center of the next.

Here are a few key points to help grasp the concept:

  • Standard O.C. distances are typically 16 or 24 inches, though this may vary based on structural requirements and local building codes.
  • O.C. measurements are used to determine the correct placement of structural members, affecting wall strength and the ability to securely attach wall finishes like drywall or sheathing.
  • Precise O.C. spacing is essential for ensuring that building materials, like sheets of plywood or drywall, align with the framing for proper support and attachment.
  • Inconsistencies in O.C. spacing can lead to complications during construction with potential problems like wall irregularities, weakened structural support, or issues with insulation installation.

By keeping these points in mind, you ensure a structurally sound and well-planned wall framework that complies with design specifications and building standards.

17of 21

Wall Sheathing

When constructing walls, one critical step is the application of wall sheathing. This layer serves multiple purposes: It provides a flat, stable surface for the exterior material, adds rigidity to the structure, and can contribute to a building’s insulation and weather resistance.

  • It is typically made from plywood or oriented strand board (OSB) and installed over the studs and plates.
  • The size and spacing of sheathing are governed by building codes that consider factors such as wind and seismic loads.
  • Sheathing helps to distribute loads evenly across the frame, reducing the risk of structural failure.
  • Some sheathing products come with integrated weather-resistant barriers, reducing the need for additional wrapping materials.
  • The installation pattern should be staggered across wall sections to minimize weak points and maximize strength.
  • Proper nailing or fastening according to manufacturer specifications is key for effective sheathing performance.

With careful consideration and proper installation, wall sheathing contributes significantly to the durability and safety of a building.

18of 21

Rafter

Rafters are an integral part of the roof structure, extending from the peak of the roof down to the wall plate. They create the skeleton that supports the roof covering. Traditionally, these are individual boards of consistent size and spacing, reliant on precise angles for a snug fit against the ridge board at the top. This angle cut is known as the ‘birdsmouth,’ allowing the rafter to rest comfortably atop the wall plate.

In modern construction, pre-fabricated trusses often replace rafters, but understanding traditional rafter construction is crucial for appreciating the fundamentals of roof framing. The spacing between rafters is critical, as it determines the roof’s ability to bear weight – essential for regions with heavy snowfall or intense weather conditions. Properly installed, rafters not only support the roof but contribute to the overall stability of the building.

19of 21

Roof Slope

Understanding roof slope is crucial as it influences both the aesthetics and functionality of a building. It is expressed as a ratio of vertical rise to horizontal run, typically over a 12-inch length. For instance, a slope of 4:12 signifies the roof rises 4 inches for every 12 inches of horizontal distance.

Here are a few points to clarify the concept:

  • Pitch versus Slope: While often used interchangeably, pitch refers to the angle of the roof, whereas slope is the measurement used to determine that angle.
  • Climate Considerations: In areas with heavy snowfall, steeper slopes are preferable to prevent accumulation, whereas flatter slopes may be more common in dry climates.
  • Material Matters: Certain roofing materials work better with specific slopes. For instance, shingles require a minimum slope to ensure proper water runoff.
  • Design Aesthetics: The slope can dramatically affect a house’s overall look; a steep pitch can create a dramatic, traditional appearance, while a lower slope might lend to a modern, sleek design.
  • Structural Impact: The slope has implications on the underlying structure, dictating the type and amount of support needed to sustain the roof’s weight and bearings.
20of 21

Sources

Understanding wall construction concepts extends beyond just the terms used onsite. It’s also about the origin of the materials and methods.

The majority of construction woods come from softwood trees like pine and fir, known for their durability and ease of use.

Manufactured wall panels, on the other hand, are pre-assembled in factories to streamline the building process.

Similarly, when discussing beams and posts, these could be sourced from laminated veneer lumber or steel, offering differing structural benefits.

The advances in technology even extend to the design phase with computer-aided design (CAD) software becoming a primary source for precise blueprints and plans.

Stay informed on where your materials and designs originate from, it will give you a more profound appreciation for the structure they help create.

21of 21

FAQ

What are parts of a wall called?

The parts of a wall are primarily called studs (vertical pieces), bays (cavities between the studs), and the bottom plate (horizontal piece at the wall’s base).

What are some common terms used in building drawing?

Some common terms used in building drawing include "Elevation", which refers to an architect-created drawing showcasing one side of the building, and "Encasement", representing the covering of all interior and exterior building components like roofing and piping.

What is the bottom board of a wall frame called?

The bottom board of a wall frame is referred to as the bottom plate.

What is the technical term for the horizontal framing pieces in a wall?

The horizontal framing pieces in a wall are technically known as "plates".

How is the term ‘stud’ used in wall construction?

In wall construction, the term ‘stud’ refers to a vertical structural member of a wall frame, typically made from either wood or metal, which functions as a support for elements of the building structure.

What is the significance of a header in wall construction?

A header in wall construction provides the necessary support and strength, especially to door and window openings, preventing structural damage that may arise from bearing loads.

Continue reading:

Read more

Read more

Read more

Read more

Recap