OK, so you’ve assembled your stud wall, including all your headers and sills and jack studs and cripple studs. (See Woodshop Wednesday from May 28.) Now what?
You probably want to raise the wall right away, but WAIT! It pays to think ahead and consider the wall in the context of the whole structure. Will your wall connect to other walls at each end? Are they inside or outside corners? Can you get to both sides of the wall after you raise it, and if “no” then what extra stuff should you install while it’s still accessible?
Oftentimes, you’ll want to add an extra stud at the end of a wall perpendicular to the rest, flush with the outer stud on whichever side an adjacent wall will butt against. This stud serves as a surface to nail your adjacent wall once they’re both raised. Corners can be tricky, especially if you’re high off the ground. We knew we’d have a hard time accessing the outside of our second floor, so we sheathed the walls before raising them. In the corners this meant overhanging the last sheet of plywood 5½ inches beyond the outer stud so it would overlap the thickness of the adjacent wall.
When you’ve satisfied all your forward planning, it’s time to raise! Depending on how long, tall, and heavy the wall is, call all your friends to help lift or at least a couple. Put the top plate on shims so you can grab the bottom edge easily, and take precautions to prevent sliding or overturning, like tack-nailing the bottom plate into the floor at 4-foot intervals. (The nails will bend but they won’t break.) Everybody picks a full-height stud and lines up, then somebody counts to three and the whole crew lift with all their might. Sometimes it helps to take a break midway up, resting the wall on short pieces of lumber at waist height. Remove the tack nails, slide the wall into place if necessary, and hey, looks like you’re done.
Hold on, slugger. You want your walls straight up and down, right? Well, before you nail your wall down for good, you’d better get out a level and check that the studs are plumb (vertical) and also that the corners line up just right with adjacent walls. We really pull our hair out getting the alignment correct. Typically we start at the bottom, matching the bottom plate to a chalk line somebody snapped before we raised the wall (more forward planning!) and nailing the bottom plate into the wood below once we’re satisfied. When we move up to the top plate, we need to simultaneously plumb the wall and align it with the adjacent walls, and do it without knocking the adjacent walls out of alignment themselves. Plus, until the wall is securely fastened, one or two of the crew who raised it need to just hold on and keep it balanced.
Finally, you need to brace your wall in a perpendicular direction, strengthening its weak axis so it won’t topple when you blow on it. You can use any 2×6 for a brace, provided it’s long enough to reach from the top plate to the floor at about a 45-degree angle. Screw it into the wall up top and into a cleat in the floor, and not only will you protect your wall from wind and stuff, you’ll also keep it aligned until all the adjacent walls (and in some cases the joists above) are built for full support.