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Building shear walls is an everyday affair out here in California, where I work. Shear walls are one of the main design elements engineers use to help wood-frame buildings resist the lateral loads imposed by earthquakes. Shear walls are also becoming increasingly common in coastal zones throughout the U.S., where new high-wind codes often require them. For the carpenter, shear walls require some changes to standard wall framing. The most obvious is that the plywood sheathing gets installed with a lot more nails, especially around the edges. That's the easy part. There are also heftier framing members that have to be included — typically 4x4 posts at the shear wall ends. And there are the hold-downs, those bothersome pieces