When I’m getting ready to frame a complex house, I do my figuring from the roof down instead of from the sill plates up. Most framers look first at the foundation plan, then the floor plans, and so on; I look first at the roof. In a complicated house, it’s easy for the designer to get lost in the elevations. Because I’ve seen my share of roof plans with eaves that pass through windows and hip beams that cut through doorways, I make sure all of the roof planes come together properly before I start calculating wall heights. Once I can visualize how the roof creates the spaces below, I can figure out how to frame the walls that support the roof. I rarely use the elevations provided on the plans without double-checking. The roof design determines the wall elevations; unless the roof changes, the wall heights can’t change. It’s also important when framing rake and other tall walls to work in the proper sequence. You want to avoid leaving a tall wall standing alone on the subfloor with braces all over the place. Whenever possible, frame any adjacent walls first and stand the balloon wall between them. To ensure that I don’t miss any rake walls, I typically figure the elevations before I plate my subfloor. The more complicated the roof, the more you need to pay attention to how to plate your walls and the heights of those walls. I write down as much information as I can directly on the plates or on the subfloor nearby so that I don’t need to keep referring to the plans when I’m building the wall (see Figure 1).

Figure 1. While laying out rake walls, the author draws details at full scale on the subfloor. To avoid having to continually refer to the plans while framing, he also writes dimensions for plates, studs, jacks, trimmers, and headers directly on the deck. I write down the lengths of the longest and shortest studs and the length of the top plate...

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