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Old 11-11-2008, 10:43 AM   #1
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Replace exterior walls or build false walls


Hello everyone. Im new to this site and really need some help. I just recently bought a 1920's model home and have started the renovation project. I was going to just rip out the plaster and put drywall back in. However, I have noticed that none of the walls are straight. One stud will be in line and then then next one will be out 1/8 of an inch and the the next one will be in 1/4 of an inch. Also, none of the studs are on center. The separation between them varies. The only thing constant is the fact that they are all 2x4's and 4x6's (true). I know that when I put the drywall up, the wall has got to be completely straight, inline, and on 16" centers. But, would it be better to actually tear out the exterior walls and replace them with new ones or should I just build in false walls and use them. Im kinda iffy between both of them because building the false walls will take away from the square footage and make doors and walkways a pain in the butt but then again, all the shoring and bracing to replace the exterior walls is going to be a pain too. Just wanted to know what someone else thought. All opinions would be greatly appreciated.

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Old 11-11-2008, 12:49 PM   #2
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Replace exterior walls or build false walls


There is no way I'd tear down exterior walls. What I have done is to shim the uneven walls out with 1x2 furring lath layed horizontally on 16" centers. Shim the low spots to match the high ones and flatten out the wall. Screw new drywall to the lath. You will need to extend or move any electric boxes and add extensions to window and door frames to match the new wall surfaces. You will lose the 3/4" thickness of the lath from your room dimension. Run a double row of lath at the base of the wall for nailing your baseboard. Drywalling is very easy, because you don't need to worry too much where your sheets fall.

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Old 11-12-2008, 09:20 AM   #3
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Replace exterior walls or build false walls


Take your pick:

1) Shim the studs with thin strips ripped from 2x stock, or use drywall shims made for this purpose.

2) Nail or screw new studs next to the old ones ("sister" the studs) so that the new ones stick out slightly, making a flat wall plane.

I wouldn't worry too much about making sure everything is on 16" centers. It's nice if you can do it, but the drywall can be made to work either way. Normally, drywall is installed with the long edges horizontally. The tapered seams go perpendicular to the studs, and on long walls, the sheets can be cut to length so that the butt joints (non-tapered seams) fall on studs... OR the installer can use backer-boards to create "floating" butt joints in the spaces between studs. If the drywall has to be installed vertically for some reason, then stud locations do matter.

If it were me, I'd make some shims. Drive a few nails into studs at either end of the wall and run a string between them. Use the string to see how much you need to shim each stud. I've used a circular saw with a ripping guide (a little fence-like accessory that attaches to the saw) to make shims from a 2x10. Note that protruding or bowed studs can also be shaved pretty easily with a power planer, or with a hand plane if you have the muscles for it.

Other methods to flatten the walls, like using furring strips, might bring the wall surface out too much, causing problems at doors and windows. We don't know what your exact situation is. Note that if you're replacing plaster with drywall, you might WANT to bring the surface out a little bit, because drywall is usually thinner than plaster. You want your window and door jambs to be even with the wall plane. Shimming may take more time than furring, but you have time, right? I think you'll be happier with the results.

Finally, a little waviness in a wall is the norm in old houses. Plaster is more forgiving over uneven studs because the plaster is "floated" out to make a flat surface. Drywall will follow the hills and valleys. 3/8" is a little more than I'd like to see, especially if cabinets are being installed, so I'd probably try to fix the worst of it, but I wouldn't try to make it perfect.

Last edited by joelbuckley; 11-12-2008 at 09:38 AM.
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Old 11-12-2008, 09:48 AM   #4
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Replace exterior walls or build false walls


One more thing... you have a house built in 1920 and for the most part, the lumber they used back then was far superior to anything you can buy today. No way you'd want to replace good old hard and stable material with new soft wood that'll twist, bow, and crown on you every which way.
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