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squaring partition walls

danz857's picture

hi a diy with another question. Still working on finishing the basement. I have already constructed a few walls for the perimeter and some rooms. I am building them on the floor and raising them in place. The one i am working on has some of the studs  left out because i have to frame around a window and  I would like to frame that out in place. Problem is I cant seem to get the wall square, when I measure the diagonals its a difference of about an 1". Any hints on what could be wrong, it has taken me some time to square some of the other walls but finally did, but this one seems impossible. By the way the framing is for a wall 8' long by 93" high. Also any hints to speed up this process would help alot.

thanks again  

(post #89743, reply #1 of 24)

Hope this is what you are looking for.

Measure over 6' from the corner where the 8' wall intersects. Since your wall is 8' long the diagonal should be 10' from the 6' mark.

6-8-10 triangle.

Now what does the wall height have to do with the layout being square?

Use the Pythagorean Thearom: The sguare of the hypotenuse of a right triangle is equal to the sum of the squares of the other two sides. You have to get one corner square, then check your other corners. One of them may not be what you thought it was; square.

(post #89743, reply #4 of 24)

i used your 6-8-10 method and it was just as supected an 1/2" off, I thougth I had square once but like i said one diagonal measures 133 and the outher 134". Any hints for getting it square and keeping it square. Does the lack of the remaing studs causes the wall to rack more? The is the first one I have had trouble getting and staying square.

(post #89743, reply #5 of 24)

U building flat on the floor and then standing?

Build it.......rack it square.....triple check lay a 2x or metal stud across at a diagonal.....across the face where the drywall will go.........and secure the cross brace. Stand.....attach.......take the cross brace off right before ya drywall. Jeff

                             "That's like hypnotizing chickens........."


    Buck Construction

 Artistry In Carpentry

     Pittsburgh Pa

(post #89743, reply #2 of 24)

I'm not sure if you mean square within itself or square to the other walls.

Excellence is its own reward!



Oh Well,

We did the best we could...

(post #89743, reply #3 of 24)

hi I meant square with in its self...

(post #89743, reply #6 of 24)

If you square one corner and the diagonals are still different, then the top and bottom plates are different lengths.


(post #89743, reply #7 of 24)

Hi, thanks for the responses, I have checked the lenghts of the plates both 8' exactly, I feel like chevy chase in euoropean vactaion were he cant get left, well I cant get square. Gonna go down and recheck somthing, I must be missing something.

Thanks again

(post #89743, reply #8 of 24)

Check your stud length. If you measured and cut each stud to yo floor to ceiling height less 3", that could be your problem. If your basement has a floor drain, the floor will slope toward it. Or, you could just have an out of level floor at the area of this wall. Top plate and bottom plate the same, gotta be the stud are different lengths.

(post #89743, reply #9 of 24)

Thanks Dave, after brooding for awhile, I think I did find the problem looks like i may have cut one stud short, gonna get back to work and find out if that is the only problem. Thanks everybody for the advice

(post #89743, reply #10 of 24)

Laying out square lines on the floor with a chalk line and the 3x4x5, 6x8x10, etc. method described above and just placing the walls on the lines once the're up will speed your process. I am a little confused by the above as to whether you are talking about square or plumb. A wall in the basement that was 1/2" out of square over 8 feet would probably not bother me enough to change it if that change required a lot of effort. A wall that was 1/2" out of plumb would bother me.

Also, remember that the sheetrock and molding will cover a multitude of sins, as long as they are not the mortal variety.

If all else fails, remember these word of wisdom, uttered to me by an old painter: "Plaster and paint make a carpenter what he ain't."

Best of luck,


(post #89743, reply #11 of 24)

Thanks for the tip, I am talking out of square, building the wall on the floor the setting them in place. Maybe I being too much of a perfectionist but  I am like that. This the first one I really have had trouble with.  Thanks again for your time.

(post #89743, reply #12 of 24)

I'm confused too. Are you having trouble squaring the wall as it lays on the floor, nailed up? Or can't get square to an adjoining wall once it's stood up?

If it's on the ground, nailed up, all you have to do is tap the long diagonal toward itself until both measurements are the same. Make sure you're always holding the tape measure the same way.

If it's a stood wall, same principle but if you can't get it square by measurements, triangles, etc. that means your other walls are not parallel, or one or more walls are curved.

(post #89743, reply #13 of 24)

I've kinda been wondering when someone was going to tell you Danz, that you don't need to square the partions up on the floor. If there were any framers in here, they would have told you instantly, instead of offering sixteen different useless bits of advice.

I think this topic pretty much sums up the new site....


(post #89743, reply #14 of 24)

How generous of you to hang back with your expertise and laugh it up while he toils his "free" time away in his frickin' basement.


Edited 5/29/2002 9:10:04 AM ET by D_Wood_NY

(post #89743, reply #15 of 24)

Framers don't need to square stuff 'cause the rockers will cover it. Then it's the trim guys problem!

What's he supposed to do? Sheath it and stand it? I'm lost. Jeff

                             "That's like hypnotizing chickens........."


    Buck Construction

 Artistry In Carpentry

     Pittsburgh Pa

(post #89743, reply #23 of 24)

"Framers don't need to square stuff 'cause the rockers will cover it. Then it's the trim guys problem!"

Jeff, those are your words, not mine.

I've framed about ten thousand interior partitions in my short framing life. I have never, ever, never, ever, squared one, prior to standing it. After I stand it, I do plumb it. After it and all the others are standing, I brace everything plumb and straight.

Danz is applying a principle (squaring a wall while it is laying down) that is required if the wall is going to be sheathed. This technique is not required for a partition that does not contaid any type of windbracing.

Additionally, a wall that is squared, braced and stood on an unlevel surface, will ultimately be out of plumb. This fact does not preclude the technique from being employed however. If the framer insists on squaring and bracing an interior partition built on unlevel surfaces, he must take into account the unlevel floor. I've framed in many situations that requires that technique. There are several solutions.

Solution #1) Determine the high point on the unlevel floor and use this stud length to frame the entire partition in an exact rectangle. After the squaring and bracing, stand the wall up and shim the wall to it's final level position. This technique is easy and fast.

Solution #2) Determine the exact length of EACH stud. Custom cut every stud to it's respective length and assemble the partition. Then, with the understanding that the top plate will ultimately be straight and level, while the bottom plate wanders up and down, proceed to square the wall using a slightly altered sequence. In this case, I usually start by straightening the top plate and creating a base line. I then measure an exact equal distance on each end stud and use these reference points as my squaring points. This results in a level and straight top plate and all components plumb.

These techniques are not really that complicated, but are really useless steps in a basement framing process. Danz has already wasted a considerable amount of time, attempting to pre-square something that can easily be plumbed as soon as it is standing. The goal of interior framing isn't to see how perfect we can get our walls squared as they lay flat on the floor in their assembly phase, but to  our standing partitions plumb and straight. The unlevel floor will always remain unlevel, unless we feel compelled to re pour  our basement floor using some uneeded leveling process.

I really feel sorry that this forum has degenerated to the degree that it has. I for one, do not trust the information coming any more. There used to be a time that I'd feel relatively comfortable reading about electrical techniques (which I have no knowledge about) and other critical areas of construction. I knew that any silly advice would be promptly rebutted. Sometimes the rebutters would be harsh, and the rebutters would display poor social skills, but in the end, good advice would eventually surface, even if egos were bruised in the process. Now, I'm sad to say, poor advice is rampant and few bad answers are being tempered with new, better advice. The wannabes have now taken the bull by the horns and are relishing in their new glory. Unfortunately, the overall end product suffers.

I have personally passed on presenting many questions recently. I used to think these questions up and excitedly rush home to post them, eagerly anticipating the answers from those out in the trenches. Now, I sadly just wish the powers that be would recognize the folly of their latest journey and go back to actually making an impact on the many thousands that used to extensively use this site. I personally used to point lots of people here, but never mention it anymore. I know this site is giving poor advice now and would be doing a dis-service to represent this site as being good for construction knowledge. I'd just as soon tell others to study Joann Liebrer or This Old House now.

 Of course, I don't do that either....

Thanks for letting me get this off my chest.


(post #89743, reply #18 of 24)

Thanks for the info, but I may be doing it the hard way but since the slab I am building on is not the most level surface, I find my self having a hard time keeping the studs flush to the plates, seems either the stud or plates wants to be proud. But since I am doing most of the work my self it may be more difficult attaching  the top plate to the floor beams and using a plumb bob to lay out the bottom plate may be as difficult. I did finally get the wall sqaure by taking it apart and starting over with new plates. by the way i am making the walls about a 1/4" shorter and shimming them to the floor beams

Thanks again

(post #89743, reply #20 of 24)

Rob's way is actually not that difficult if you follow the steps. Layout all your bottom plates by snapping chalklines on the floor. Then secure your bottom plates, you can run the plates right through doors on small walls and cut them out later and on larger walls cut the plates to length leaving out for the doors. If you have an intersecting wall with a door right against it don't try to secure a 3" plate just use longer studs and keep them up a 1/4' off the floor and nail to the adjoining bottom plate. Now take a 4' level and a straight stud and plumb up to the ceiling on both ends of the bottom plate snap a line and nail your top plate. It's not hard to do if your working alone when you have a chalk line to work to, start in the center and work towards both ends. Layout your centers on the bottom plate plumb one up to the top plate and layout the top plate to match. Measure up each stud and write the measurement on the top plate, cut them a hair long and nail them up. If you are really  lucky and your uncut studs are just a little longer than the stud length needed you don't even have to measure them. Rest the stud on the bottom plate perpendicular to your layout line, rest it against the side of your top plate strike a line on the stud, leave the whole line when you cut it and go man go. After many basement remodels I have found this the most accurate and fastest method. I just recently bought a square and plumb laser and it really speeded things up even more.

Sorry, I think this was more than you were looking for.

(post #89743, reply #21 of 24)

thanks for the tips and your time, i have half of the basement yet to do so I will try your suggestions.  Does anyone know if you can rent a laser level and if not how much are they for a descent one. I will be doing alot of drop ceilings and probably a deck so imagine I will get alot of use from it. Also does the laser level put a line on the floor and ceiling joists for laying out a wall

Thanks again....

(post #89743, reply #22 of 24)

the laser i was talking about is around $200 by RoboToolz it is a a self leveling 5 beam laser that shoots a dot it does not paint a line. it works great for squaring on a horizontal plane i.e. wall plates. and for shooting a plumb spot. simply butt it against a floor plate and it will give you a plumb dot above. for your drop ceilings or any other leveling operation a rotary laser is best. they go for $300 and up.









Edited 5/15/2002 11:04:44 PM ET by RICHDES

(post #89743, reply #24 of 24)

Danz, you don't need a laser to determine a level line in your basement. If your house is reasonably well built, you can use the existing ceiling as a level reference point. If the existing house frame is so bad that the floor is noticable out of level, then you probably shouldnt be worried about the basement, but should be focusing on reframing your existing house.

On all the basements that I've ever modernized, I've simply used the bottom of the floor sheathing as my level reference line. In most instances, I've had excellent results. Occasionally, I've had to tweak one area or so, but never anything more than a simple three minute adjustment.

If you  are putting in drop ceilings, you probably are framing the partitions too tall. There really isn't any reason to frame the partitions all the way to the bottom of the floor joists if the drop ceiling is going to be installed three inches down. In fact, there are several reasons why I prefer to keep the top plate at the ceiing line:

#1) In a drop ceiling situation, I like to have continuous solid nailing for my outside wall angles. Even if the top plate wanders somewhat up and down, the wall angle fasteners will usually find solid wood if I have placed them in the appropriate position. The top plate does not have to be perfect in most instances. If the top plate is fastened at the bottom of the ceiling joists, I'll only have studs at 16" 0.c. to fasten to. Often, this becomes a source of frustration in the finishing process.

#2) Firestopping concerns  (on the exterior walls) are significantly more important than framing tight to the joists. It is a lot easier to firestop the exterior plates if you use a doubled plate, with the first plate set at the wall angle level, approx 3" down. I then place the doubled top plate (after the wall is braced straight and plumb) and push it tight to the exterior concrete wall. This quickly and easily closes the invariable gap between the concrete and partition. It also prevents the framed wall from being pushed outward. The interior ceiling will eventually prevent the wall from falling inward. A few temporary braces fastened to the ceiling will keep the entire structure aligned till the finish work is completed. I usually brace everything at least every 8'.

#3) The speed of the framing is significantly improved if you don't have to custom cut every stud. If you have a three inch gap to play with, your unlevel floor becomes insignificant.

#4) Often, using this technique, precut studs work without further cutting. For instance, if  basement has an 8'6" ceiling height, and you desire a finished height of 8'- 3" (plus or minus). you could use full length 96" studs. 

Don't let these suggestions deter you from purchasing a laser level. We all know how thearaputic the purchasing of expensive tools are....


(post #89743, reply #16 of 24)

I think the best way to frame basement partition walls is to install the top and bottom plates then toe nail the studs in place. You can't build the wall full height on the floor anyway because its impossible to raise in a basement due to the main floor joists overhead.   

(post #89743, reply #17 of 24)

Expanding on what Rob said;

I just did a similar job in a 1920's basement with an imperfect floor and framing the way you mention would have been insane. In my case, the only way that it worked was to lay out the PT sill plates on the floor, secure, use plumb bob to position top plate on the ceiling & toenail all the studs.


(post #89743, reply #19 of 24)

For a basement,you don't want to square a wall on the ground. You do it when it's up because if the concrete isn't level, the wall won't be square. So you could cut the studs all the same length, but if the floor isn't level, the wall won't be square.