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Questions on sheathing

alexwang32's picture

I'm planning on building my own house next year, having gained expereince from building a small shed.

For the big house, everything has to be up to code and make the inspector happy. I have some doubts that maybe you guys can help me with:

1. I'm in Ontario Canada, according to our code I should be using 2" or longer nails for 1/2" or thicker sheathing. I plan to use 1/2" plywood. Should I go with the code minimum of 2" or use a 2 3/8"? Because a traditional hand driven 2" or 6 penny nail is thicker than nail gun ones, going with a slightly longer won't do any harm... right?  Besides, there are some good discounts on 2 3/8 nails, good time to stock up on them when Black friday is approaching. I plan to buy HG nails just to make the sheathing look good after raining. I own a Dewalt cordless framing nail gun that works super well, no jams no fuss, paper tape nails means no plastic garbage.


2. Now for sheathing I understand that an expansion gap of 1/8" has to be left, do I need to account for this growth when laying out studs? 2' on centre doesn't work anymore after a few laps, the centre would be off more and more.


3. Sheath the wall first then raise or the other way around? I get mixed opinions on this. For me, the problem is that we only have two people, so putting on sheathing first would make the walls hard to lift, though I'm aware of products that aid in the raising of the wall, by use of poles and ropes. I guess putting on the sheathing afterwards is good in the sense that you can speed up the framing process and get the roof done first, avoiding rain damage.


4. How to sheath the 2nd floor? Yeah, it's gonna be a two storey house... so how am I supposed to carry a heavy piece of 4x8 up there when I sturggle to drag it on the ground? Scallfold? Scissor Jack? Anyone got some tricks for dealing with this?


Looking forward to hearing some pro tips! Btw happy shopping, I gotta go check out the flyers coming in...




Generally, sheet goods that (post #216448, reply #1 of 15)

Generally, sheet goods that are intended to be used for sheathing are slightly undersized to allow for the expansion joint.

I've only done a little wall framing (with others as the boss), but I recall some advantages to both sheathing timings.  In particular, when sheathing before raising, the bottom edge of the sheathing can extend below the bottom plate and serve as a flange to help align the wall when raised.  (I think this takes some planning, though.)

Of all the preposterous assumptions of humanity over humanity, nothing exceeds most of the criticisms made on the habits of the poor by the well-housed, well-warmed, and well-fed.  --Herman Melville

Hmm, I'd have to grab my tape (post #216448, reply #3 of 15)

Hmm, I'd have to grab my tape measure and head down to my lumber supplier and double check the dimensions. I'm aware that there's a difference between scant face and full face T&G plywood, didn't know regular 4x8s have unsized versions.

Interesting mentioning of how sheathing before raising can aid in the alignment of the wall, I take it that it also helps for checking straightness, since you can see if there's a gap between the sheathing and the floor/ rim joist beneath and points along the wall.

It's been a while since I (post #216448, reply #5 of 15)

It's been a while since I participated in a wall raising, but the style I recall is that the sheathing would be lapped over the bottom plate by about 2".  Then, when the wall was raised, the sheathing would grab the edge of the floor below and help align the wall.

Of all the preposterous assumptions of humanity over humanity, nothing exceeds most of the criticisms made on the habits of the poor by the well-housed, well-warmed, and well-fed.  --Herman Melville

If you're going to build a (post #216448, reply #2 of 15)

If you're going to build a house go ahead and buy a compressor and some nail guns. Most framing nailers will also shoot smaller nails like you would use for sheathing. I use 2 1/4" nails on 1/2" sheathing because I like the extra depth and because I get a good price on them. 

Don't worry about an expansion gap. I've been building for 50 years and haven't gapped a piece of plywood yet. Sheathing and flooring plywood are exactly 4' X 8'(2400X1200), there is no accomodation for a gap on the material.  The gap seems to happen naturally. I would suggest you use Zipwall as it will give you a better wall and eliminate the need for housewrap later.

On new construction we always sheath the walls first. It's easy to square the walls on the ground and nailing will go much faster. The way to get the material up there is to only order material for the first floor first, get it done then have the lumber company deliver all the 2nd floor material to the 2nd floor when you're ready.  You may want to split your long walls into several lifts as lifting a 40' sheathed wall takes 4 or 5 guys to lift.  There used to be a wall lift device made by Procter called the Procter Wall Jack but I haven't seen them in years.

You sheath the 2nd floor exactly the same as the first. Build the walls and sheath them while they are flat. The one difference is that you'll need to lap your sheathing beyond the bottom of the wall enough to cover your rim joists and to meet the top of the 1st floor sheathing. 

Florida Licensed Building Contractor, 50 years experience in commercial remodeling, new homes, home remodeling and repairs and all types building maintenance.

Aha, the longer 2 3/8 or 2 (post #216448, reply #4 of 15)

Aha, the longer 2 3/8 or 2 1/4" nail seems to be invariably cheaper everywhere, dunno why, maybe because there's more demand for it, volume discount.

I'd take your word for not having to worry about sheathing expansion, but the thing is... you're in Florida right... it doens't snow there :)

Perhaps for the wall sheathing gaping isn't necessary. Like you said, having a good layer of Zip or some other kind of vapor permiable house wrap (I was thinking of Typar) plus a well done siding should keep moisture out,  on top of that I'm gonna use plywood, so even less buckling is gonna occur. As for the roof, currently I'm thinking of using strapping and metal roof, so no roof sheathing exists, but if I do use it I think I might go the extra mile and install H clips on them.

So you're saying sheathing then raising is the way to go. I'm also inclined to go this route, simply because bringing a 4x8 up a ladder or scallfold feels next to impossible, I can't imagine how it would be done without the use of a telescoping boom jack.

If you are concerned about (post #216448, reply #6 of 15)

If you are concerned about gapping just partially nail an  #8 nail at the edge of the last piece you put up then bump your new piece to it. No, it doesn't snow but during out rainy season it comes down in buckets then we get into hurricane season. 

I would very much suggest Zipwall sheathing for a do-it-yourselfer. Once you have the seams taped you have a waterproof wall  you can ignore until you re ready for siding. House wraps are hard for a framing crew to install well and would be very difficult for 2 people to do. Plywood buckles badly when it gets wet and stays wet, the longer your project last the more your plywood will buckle. 

You would only need H clips if you are using trusses and 1/2"(7/16") plywood. 5/8" isn't much more and makes a much stronger, better looking roof. 1/2"(7/16"), even with H clips, sags between trusses. Also note that full size 1/2" sheathing is more expensive than the standard 7/16" used now and that "1/2" comes in 3 ply or 4 ply. By the time you buy full sized 1/2" 4 ply you'll find that Zipwall is probably going to be cheaper and much easier to use.

I've done plenty of sheathing on verrtical walls, I've even done 10' sheets on 2nd story walls by myself but I don't recommend it unless you have no other choice.  

Building a shed isn't like building a house. You can do it, after all, you just put up one stick at a time  until it's done. But, it's magnitudes more complicated than a shed and will probably take you at least  year of full time work depending on how much of the work you intend to do.  I had an uncle and aunt who built their own house which ended up taking them over 5 years to complete and they worked hard on it. It will cost more than you planned and you'll end up changing things as you go along and relaize your original plan won't work but that's the nice part, you can do what you want.  

I suggest watching these videos by Larry Haun on house framing. He has lots of good suggestions and work habits that will shorten your learning curve quite a bit. Also consider hiring a framing carpenter to help you get through the frame. Once the frame is up the worst pressure is off and you can go at a slower pace whicleunder roof.

Florida Licensed Building Contractor, 50 years experience in commercial remodeling, new homes, home remodeling and repairs and all types building maintenance.

Thanks for all the (post #216448, reply #7 of 15)

Thanks for all the reccomendations, I've printed out your post for a better read.

I've watched some of Larry's videos before, but now you mention it I decided to buy the book too, a very  good read indeed, no wonder the guy is legendary.

I'll post back if I have any more questions, meanwhile happy shopping!

Hey there, I agree with (post #216448, reply #8 of 15)

Hey there, I agree with Florida on all of his suggestions.  Not sure if you understood his suggestion about Zip sheathing.  Zip is not housewrap, it is osb sheathing material with a face that does not require housewrap.  Only the seams between the sheets are taped with proprietary tape.  As for gapping the sheets, I think Zip works fine with "moderate contact" between sheets because it doesn't move much at all.  In other words you shouldn't be jamming them hard against each other or beating them to fit.  With regular plywood or osb I stick with the 1/8" gaps.  Don't adjust the framing for this, just plan on trimming a sheet every so often.  Definitely agree that sheathing the walls laying down is the way to go.  For 8' tall walls, even a 40ft long wall can be sheathed and stood up with 4 strong guys.  I would get as many walls framed and sheathed as you can then call in some favors and stand them up.  Use lumber banding strap nailed to the bottom plates and into the subfloor/joist as a hinge to keep the walls from skating off your floor.  Good luck.  

For standing up walls there (post #216448, reply #9 of 15)

For standing up walls there are various types of jacks that can be quite useful.  Especially good if your manpower is limited (though I'd not advise raising any full-sized wall with just one person).

Of all the preposterous assumptions of humanity over humanity, nothing exceeds most of the criticisms made on the habits of the poor by the well-housed, well-warmed, and well-fed.  --Herman Melville

Hi Dan, yes, I own a set of (post #216448, reply #10 of 15)

Hi Dan, yes, I own a set of wall jacks, but for a one time use/DIYer project I wouldn't recommend buying or even renting them.  Raising the walls is just one of those things that gathering a few extra bodies is probably the best/safest way for the poster, especially if you can recruit someone with a little experience.    

I'm trying to remember ... I (post #216448, reply #11 of 15)

I'm trying to remember ... I used something like a pipe clamp on one job.  It was an oddball clamp, though, and a standard one wouldn't be much help.  It doesn't hurt to look around for something that will help with the job.

Of all the preposterous assumptions of humanity over humanity, nothing exceeds most of the criticisms made on the habits of the poor by the well-housed, well-warmed, and well-fed.  --Herman Melville

I guess I've made a mistake (post #216448, reply #12 of 15)

I guess I've made a mistake picking a remote place to build a house, when the only neighbours around are elders who might get a heart attack when you ask them to help you lift a 40ft wall.

If I really can't recruit anyone I suppose I can raise the wall in sections, uses some more time but it's seems to be the only plausible solution.

I have known about Zip system for sometime, misphrased it as a house wrap up there... I know its benefits, but there are two things about that make it a deal breaker for me: #1 I'm not a huge fan of OSB, #2 more imporatantly it's not readily availble in Canada, I'd have a hard time finding a dealer, and even if I do, due to the low demand I probaly won't get a good price for it.

Just two quick questions on the framing part: 1. Do you sheath the corners, as in corvering the edge of the other wall's sheathing? Would it be a good practice to increase structural soundess?

2. This isn't exactly related to sheathing, but I've been puzzed by it for a while. People line up their walls with the layout lines on the floor, plumb and straighten the walls and call it done. This method ensures the accuracy of exterior wall's inner dimensions, but the exterior dimensions may be off due to slight deviations from nominal dimesions in the lumber, a 2x6 may measure 5 9/16", when used on both sides of the house you get 1/8" error. I experienced this myself when framing the shed, my rafter bird mouths had to be recalculated and cut to accomodate the slightly "wider" house. Should this be something that needs to kept in mind when picking lumber stock, for the bottom plate at least?

Look into the jacks for (post #216448, reply #13 of 15)

Look into the jacks for wall-raising.  These are what you need for single-handed work.  I don't know the right search terms, but there are 3-4 different styles, some fairly reasonably priced.

Of all the preposterous assumptions of humanity over humanity, nothing exceeds most of the criticisms made on the habits of the poor by the well-housed, well-warmed, and well-fed.  --Herman Melville

DIY wall jacks are good also. (post #216448, reply #14 of 15)

DIY wall jacks are good also. Photo is a piece of surplus 2" pipe, a $15 Harbor Freight 12 V winch, your battery charger,

couple pieced of angle iron nailed to the floor and bolt thru pipe for pivot, pulley at top, attach to wall (I used a 3/8" lag and another piece of angle iron)

Raise 24 ft wall section by myself, showed the grandkids how to do it at the same time.


was going to insert picture, but photo will not paste.....forgot how to do it here.. pic flashes on screen, then dissappears... so did the attache thing....


Note the wall in hte pic is 2x8s, found that was my best option for getting ht insulation values I needed.  The cats love the wide window sills to sit on !

If the original poster would like, you can send me your e-mail and I'll dump a pile of photos on you of DIY homebuilding by yourself- have bult 3 by myself, the 53000 sq ft one I built when 28 YO took me 2-1/2 years while  working a full time day job.  The building in hte photo is an alternate dwelling unit of 1600 sq ft I built for under $10,000 total with surplue material (e.g I got he 2x8s 'free' from pallets used to ship aircraft parts, which also had 3/4" plywood on them, etc.)   2nd photo is interior.

Note: interior pic added just so you can see that a $10,000 (US) building does not look like a ched or chicken coop.  Some items just about cannot be found surplus, for instance, the flooring alone was $1000, the roofing about $1000, and concrete about $1500.  Got the fancy window for $190 at Lowes on a marked down return - design around what you can find for 10 cents on the dollar. 

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Invite all your young, strong (post #216448, reply #15 of 15)

Invite all your young, strong friends to a Saturday pizza party. Don't pass out the beers until the heavly lifting is done! 

If that won't work get a crane in for a few hours to lift the walls. You'll still need help because no matter how you stand a 40' wall it takes labor to get the corners plumb and braced, the top plate string lined and to install braces back to the floor every 10' or so.  As I mentioned before, hire a good, experienced framing carpenter to  get you over the rough patches. You can stand walls up in sections but the sheathing still needs to be lapped so there is more to it than just standing walls.

ZIP is a very proven system, its not the same as the old OSB. Most framed commercial buildings here in south Florida use it. The inspectors love it. 

Yes, sheath the corners.  This is one of those framing tricks that comes with experience. The sheathing should be flush on, let's say the end walls, then on the front and back walls lap over the corner 4." That also means when you do the stud layout for the front and back walls you have to set the center of the first regular stud 11 1/2" from the corner rather than 15 1/2." Pull the rest of your layout off that first stud rather than the corner and all your sheathing will line up on stud centers.  Also make sure you stand, in this case, the front and backs walls first.

If you use PT 2 X 4's for the plate it will be a little wider than the studs. Since you're building the walls flat on the floor the inside edge of all framing will be flush which is what you want. The outside will have minor bumps and valleys but those won't show by the time you're done, it's callled "rough framing" for a reason. If you spend your time trying to correct all these little, normal issues your children will be grown by the time you finish. If you can keep everything within 1/4" you'll have done an exceptional job.

We leave the bottoms of the king and jack studs loose until we stand the walls up so we can get window and door openings close to perfect. We use only 2 X 12"s for headers and make them in whatever lengths we get the 2 X 12's then cut them to size. This keeps us from messing with 6" cripples over the windows and doors. Measure diagonals constantly to keep your frame square and brace, brace, brace!

Go to to Building Science Corp and buy their book on building for your climate. It will be a huge help to you.

Florida Licensed Building Contractor, 50 years experience in commercial remodeling, new homes, home remodeling and repairs and all types building maintenance.