zigzag blocking a partition wall
Photo by: David Carmack

Step 9: Zigzag Blocking

In most cases, a partition wall built with 2x4s on 16-inch centers provides plenty of strength, but when Tom frames any wall more than 8 feet tall (or one that bears a load), he often adds blocking. These short pieces of lumber, nailed between the studs about halfway up the wall, "help keep the studs straight, and so add integrity to the wall and make it stiffer." For this purpose, he prefers herringbone blocking, so called because of its distinctive zigzag pattern, which he routinely uncovers in older houses with studs that run a full two stories. (Blocking set edge up and flush with the stud edges serves another purpose: to provide a solid base for nailing wainscoting or anchoring pedestal sinks.)

Tom installs this blocking after the wall is raised into position. First he makes parallel 15-degree cuts in scraps of 2x4 so that the ends fit snugly against the two stud faces in each bay. Then, with two 16d nails, he toenails through the face of each stud and into the blocking; the next piece he rotates 180 degrees relative to the first and toenails the block so one end lines up with the near end of the first piece. So it goes until all the bays are filled. Then the wall is ready for drywall. "It's quick, cheap, and works great," he says of this. "What could be better than that?"

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    Tools List

    • four-foot level
      for checking whether studs are plumb
    • sledge hammer
      for nudging the sole plate into position
    • framing square
      Framing square,
      for marking cut and layout lines
    • 16-foot tape measure
      Tape measure
    • hammer
      20-oz. framing hammer
    • chalk line
      Chalk line,
      for marking location of wall on floor and ceiling
    • plumb bob
      Plumb bob,
      for aligning layout marks between ceiling and floor
    • speed square
      Speed Square,
      for marking plates, headers, and studs, and as a saw guide
    • circular saw
      Circular saw

    Shopping List

    1. 2x4s