When we started working up plans for this house, we decided to go whole hog and move around walls. We knew we had to fix some structural issues with the 1st and potentially 2nd floor and that made the decision real easy. What wasn’t easy was figuring out a new layout for the space. We went back and forth for some time creating things on paper. Ultimately what we ended up with was this plan…
We were were starting with two rooms (bathroom and laundry room), a large hallway (sometimes called a mudroom), and two tight, but deep closets (one in the laundry, one in the hall). From this we were going to cut down the size of the laundry room and hall. Get rid of the two closets. Put in a pantry with kitchen access (including a pocket door). Put in a large coat closet. Move the bathroom and add a shower. Put in a new window in the back wall of the house for the new hallway.
All this meant lots of cool framing. I throw around words like “move”, but really that just means completely demolishing the existing structure, buying new materials, and putting up a new structure. I think so far there have been exactly two things actually moved (an outlet and a switch that were literally taken off one stud and renailed in the same wall bay, but the next stud over). Framing is pretty straight-forward usually. For a non-load bearing wall (essentially just a wall that divides a space) the design is pretty simple. There’s a bottom and a top 2×4 called “plates” that are nailed to your floor and your ceiling joists. They’re separated by perpendicular 2x4s running floor to ceiling called “studs” Standard spacing for studs is 16″ on-center. “On center” means the distance from the center of board A to the center of board B along the plain you’re nailing into. So if you were going to make a wall, you’d measure along your top and bottom boards and draw a line every 16″. Then you’d fit your studs with this line in the center of this line. Technically, you can frame non-load bearing walls at 24″ OC. It’s easier and it uses less wood, but sometimes it’s frowned on by inspectors. Lastly, there needs to be a small horizontal piece of wood in between each stud. This piece is for fire blocking. The idea is that in modern wood framing, the builder has to take steps to contain potential fires. One of these steps is to frame walls in such a way that the vertical spread of the flames is slowed. You do this by making small cells in the wall that the fire has to burn through before it can spread to the next area. If you imagine my previous description of how a simple wall is built before fire blocking, you end up with this large bays that are 16-24″ wide (technically 14.5-22.5″) and as tall as your ceiling to floor. That creates a big vertical space for fire to shoot up as it spreads. So if you stick a 2×4 cross piece in there, you cut that vertical space down. Code stipulates that you can’t have bays larger than 48″. Additionally, if you have to create any gaps or holes (for pipes, wires, ducts, ect), you ought to seal them off with special fire blocking foam after you’ve run the wire or piping. This isn’t always required by code, but it’s a very good idea.
For our project, I went ahead and framed everything as if I was building load bearing walls. This meant placing everything 16″ on center and using a double top plate. Even though it wasn’t necessary and it was more work and more materials, I think it’ll be good for the support and strength of this section of the house.