It does no good to carefully lay out and snap lines for plates if you don't pay equal attention to plumbing and aligning the walls. Like many carpenters, I learned this the hard way. In the past, we've been forced to adjust the lengths of rafters, taper the drywall at ceiling corners, and even struggle to hang doors straight and trim them evenly — all because of poorly plumbed and aligned walls. Now we take the time to plumb and align the walls properly to ensure that the top plates end up directly above the bottom plates. It takes our three-man crew about 30 minutes to plumb, straighten, and brace all the walls on an average 1,200-square-foot floor of a house. On the following pages, I'll describe our method.

It takes only a few basic tools to plumb and straighten walls — mainly a good level and some nylon dry lines. We like Stabila's Plate Level (800/869-7460, www.stabila.com) because it can be extended the height of the wall and its offset design doesn't get thrown off by bumps and bows in the studs. And we recently started using a PLS5...

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