Knee Wall Construction
Between the open-floor plan layout and rooms with defining and enclosing walls is a medium -- the knee wall. A knee wall provides a physical divide between two spaces, clearly delineating them as rooms, without obstructing the veiw and air flow between the two spaces, as a full wall would. Knee walls are horizontal half walls, installed as freestanding walls in open rooms or in attics as short walls that break the visual slope of the roof's pitch. The half wall here makes the attic's space feel like livable, finished rooms instead of storage space.
The construction and installation of a knee wall is a custom job, fitted to the exact measurements of its location. It begins with the base for the wall, followed by its framing and sheathing, and then ends with the finished wall.
Knee walls in open spaces add permanent divides, in ways that furniture placement can't accomplish. This is important in spaces purposed to function in specific ways.
Knee walls in attics add uniformity to the walls, a place to align a bed, furniture and cabinetry, and the added bonus of storage space behind the wall.
This project presents an approach to adding a knee wall off of an existing wall, in an open space. This knee wall sits well at an open entrance way that could use a barrier, or between a living and dining room whose areas are not clearly defined as separate spaces.
The tools and materials for this project include:
2-by-4 wood studs
Compound miter saw
4-inch galvanized screws
2 1/2-inch galvanized screws
Now, this article will relate the steps of constructing a knee wall, as a discussion.
Framing the Wall
The first steps include deciding the location of the knee wall and measuring the desired width and height of the wall. The knee wall must be aligned to a vertical wall stud within the existing wall for support.
1. The knee wall begins as a frame, and the frame becomes a wall once it is secured to a base plate. The base plate for the wall will be a piece of 2-by-4 cut 2 inches shorter than the width measurement of the wall.
2. Butt one cut end of the base plate to the wall. Screw the base plate into the floor, and into the floor joists that it crosses, using 4-inch galvanized screws.
3. Cut two more pieces of 2-by-4 the same length as the base plate to make the top and bottom of the frame.
4. Then cut the vertical 2-by-4 pieces for the frame. Cut two for the ends, and then divide the width of the half wall by 12. This number is the amount of 2-by-4 vertical pieces needed to complete the frame. Cut them using a compound miter saw.
5. Lay the top and bottom width pieces of 2-by-4s on the floor. Align the two vertical end pieces of 2-by-4 on the inside of the ends of the two width pieces. Apply wood glue to the joint, and screw them together through the top and bottom ends of the frame.
6. Insert the other 2-by-4s -- one at a time -- into the frame's open interior and align their ends to the top and bottom 2-by-4s, spaced at 12 inches apart. Apply wood glue at the ends, and screw them into the top and bottom 2-by-4s as well.
7. Stand the frame up. Apply a generous amount of wood glue on the base plate's top, then position the frame on top of the base plate. Screw the frame's bottom into the base plate using 2 1/2- or 3-inch galvanized screws.
8. Level the frame vertically to the wall, and then screw its end to the wall, into a wall stud.
Measure the height of knee wall from the floor to the top, and cut another 2-by-4 piece with a compound miter saw. Apply wood glue along the vertical length of the end of the frame -- the end opposite the existing wall. Align the 2-by-4 to the knee wall's end, and screw it to the frame's end along its length. This piece acts as further reinforcement for the wall.
Measure across the top of the frame, including across the top of the added end piece. Cut another piece of 2-by-4. Apply wood glue to the top of the frame, align the piece on top, and screw it down into the frame.
1. After the framing is complete, the wall is ready for sheetrock. The easiest way to sheetrock the knee wall is to line up full sheet to the frame on one side, attach it to the knee wall's studs with screws along the edges and along each vertical stud. Then cut through the sheetrock with a razor blade on opposite side side of the wall, right above and flush with the wall's top and the wall's side. Use the frame as a guide for the cutting blade to get a neat, close cut.
2. Measure the width and length of the knee wall's vertical end -- including the sides of the sheetrock edges -- and cut another piece of sheetrock for this part .
3. Measure the width and length of the wall's top, over all of the sheetrock's edges as well, and cut a piece of sheetrock for the top.
4. Finish the wall with corner beads along each edge. Measure and cut them to size with a pair of snips. Then apply a generous amount of joint compound over the edges and screw holes. Smooth with feathering knives, and then let dry. Repeat two to three times until the wall is smooth.
5. Apply a coat of primer and paint to coordinate with the room, and embellish the wall with a wood or stone topper to convert the knee wall into a stylish counter to display home accessories.
Some Resources and References
- How to Build a Half Wall : How-To : DIY Network
DIY Network experts show how a half wall (also called a knee wall) is a great way to divide a space without closing it in.
- How to Build a Room Divider - Ron Hazelton Online
Learn how to build and install a knee-wall room divider; includes details on framing, and installing drywall and pre-made columns.