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RULE 8: Write It Down To make layout easier, I do the necessary homework. But let's face it: Time is limited for going over the plans with a fine-toothed comb, and no one can carry all the layout dimensions in his head. There are just too many to remember, and eventually they'll all get jumbled up - and many will change. The key for me is to keep a small notebook for each project that I constantly fill with all the important dimensions, and where I track changes as they occur.

Three-Step Layout

Framing layout includes three basic steps: snapping, plating, and detailing.


I measure and snap all the walls at one time. I prefer to use a geared chalk box for speed and fill it with standard red chalk blended with red mortar dye. This leaves a line that's not easily removed. I also carry a blue chalk line that is used to override errors.


Once all the layout lines have been snapped on the deck, I spread long lengths of 2-by plate stock over the deck, and cut these to length, mirroring the lines snapped on the floor. In order to properly plate the walls, a carpenter must visualize how the walls will fit together. Plates must be cut so each end will either butt to a wall or receive one. Tight-fitting and clean, squarely cut plates are a must for a plumb frame.


Plate details are like a map, telling the carpenter what and where all the framing parts will go. With a series of pencil and crayon marks on the plates, I describe everything necessary to frame a wall, from stud lengths, beam pockets, and hold-down posts to window and door sizes. Clean and complete detailing is essential for a smooth and efficient framing job. Two tools that come in handy for detailing are the channel marker and layout stick. The channel marker is a template tool that lets you quickly mark all corner and wall intersections. The layout stick is a 4-foot-long pattern that makes 16- and 24-inch on-center stud marks (see photos).



Rules of Thumb for Window & Door Headers


Window width R.O. + 3 inches Sample R.O.: 3'-6" x 4'-6"

Header: 42 in. + 3 in. = 45 in. Note: Check with window manufacturer for R.O.


Door width call-out + 5 inches Sample call-out: 2'-8" x 6'-8"Header: 32 in. + 5 in. = 37 in.


(Pocket door width call-out x 2) + 5 inches Sample call-out: 2'-6" x 6'-8" POCKET

Header: (30 in. x 2) + 5 in. = 65 in. Note: For full-height pocket doors, headers must be one lumber size narrower than a standard door header to accommodate track.

Bypass Doors

(Single door call-out x 2) + 4 inches Sample call-out: PAIR 3'-0" x 6'-8" doors

Header: (36 in. x 2) + 4 in. = 76 in. Note: This accounts for a 1-inch overlap between doors.

Don Dunkley is a semi-retired framing contractor from Cool, Calif., and a contributing editor to JLC.