How to Add Living Space with Using More Diagonal Bracing


Nature is an aggressive enemy of the home addition—in almost every part of the country. On the East Coast it’s hurricanes. In the Midwest its tornadoes. On the West Coast (and elsewhere) it’s earth­quakes. In short, whatever you put up, nature in various ways will try to knock down. That means your construction must be as strong as possible. The answer to building strong is often diagonal bracing.

Unfortunately, most first-time renovators have never heard of diag­onal bracing. And they certainly tend to overlook its importance.

Diagonal Bracing

What is diagonal bracing? Think of it in terms of triangles. Try this experiment. Cut a fairly strong piece of cardboard about a foot long and two inches wide. Bend it in three places. Then fold it to form a square box.

Now try to collapse the box by pushing on any corner. You 11 find that with almost no effort, the box collapses on itself.

Next, build a triangle out of the same material using the same technique.

Now try to collapse the triangle. You’ll quickly see that it won’t col­lapse at all, unless you distort or crush the cardboard.

The same holds true in building construction. Build square walls (ceilings and floors), and the first time the ground shakes or the wind howls, they may fall over. Build walls that are triangles, and they will hold up to all but the most severe punishment.

But homes are traditionally square, not triangular, so how do you do it? The answer is diagonal bracing—placing pieces of wood or metal at a diagonal to the traditional square building blocks of the home.

Most building departments specify diagonal bracing. However usually what they demand is a minimum. And many contractors will often do just that—the minimum. If you want to build an addition that will last, use more diagonal bracing—it’s incredibly inexpensive

There are two basic types of diagonal bracing. The traditional brace is a board, usually a 1×6, cut diagonally into the studs on a wall (space for it is cut right out of the studs, then the board is “inserted”). A variation is a metal brace that is placed diagonally against studs and nailed to them. Both methods work well.

Another method is called a “sheer” wall. Here, a piece of plywood usually 5/8 inch thick, is placed up against studs. Then it is nailed to the studs, typically every four to six inches. The stability of the ply­wood attachment keeps the studs from collapsing as would the box.

Use more diagonal bracing than the building department requires. Use more sheer walls too. For example, whenever you have a part wall between the foundation and the first floor, make sure to apply a plywood sheer wall on at least one side. Whenever you have any length of wall, be sure all of it has diagonal bracing.

Diagonal Bracing

A window or a door on an exterior wall will weaken that wall. Be sure you have diagonal bracing on both sides.

If there’s not enough room for diagonal bracing (as m when a sliding glass door occupies most of a wall), use sheer bracing.

Diagonal bracing is possibly the most underused, yet most useful piece of construction you’ll come across.

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About the Author: Jason Prickett loves to write about home maintenance and stuff you can do yourself instead of hiring any professional. His step by step guides will assist you in completing your home maintenance tasks.

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