How To Convert a Cold 2 x 4 Exterior Wall to a 2 x 6 Wall

Retrofit Your Existing 2 x 4 Exterior Walls into Energy Efficient and Well Insulated 2 x 6 Walls

With the ongoing increases in the price of fuel and electricity, many of us who live in older homes are beginning to see that much of that “charm” has a hidden cost. A poorly insulated room directly leads to higher heating bills and wasted dollars escaping as so much hot air. I'm not recommending everyone with a 1980s or older house tear down all the walls, and start over, but if you're already planning some renovations, this may be a worthwhile extra step.

  1. Make any necessary repairs. Ensure all existing studs are stable and add any boards where they will be needed when it's time to install the drywall or curtains. If the wall has already been opened up inside, then work in the house--otherwise it's best to keep the construction (and mess) outside. The rest of this article is written under the assumption you are working inside the structure.

  2. Measure your studs. If you are planning on expanding only the vertical studs, you are going to want boards that are long enough to run from floor to ceiling.

  3. Assemble your materials. Assuming you are expanding your wall by 2 inches, you will need one length of 2 x 2 lumber (or a 2 x? ripped with a table saw to the appropriate thickness) for each stud. You may want to thicken cross pieces as well, but I have successfully completed this project by using lumber the height of the entire wall. An optional tool is a good instant bond construction adhesive; this will hold your lumber in place as you hammer in the nails and increase the strength of the repair as it dries. You will also need some 3-inch or larger framing nails, a hammer, a level, and a ladder or step stool.

  4. Measure and cut your lumber to the appropriate length. If needed, make any minor corrections to ensure that the finished wall will be true. If your wall is very wavy or tilts, you should contact a good carpenter or contractor to ensure your structure is sound and make any necessary repairs.

  5. Apply the adhesive to the wall stud and press your 2 x 2 into place. You will want to use at least four framing nails one hammered in at the top, two down the middle, and one at the bottom to hold the lumber firmly in place.

  6. Use a long level or straight edge to check that your wall will be true. If it is not, you may have to trim or add shims to your pieces. It is easier to do this now than to try and hide defects when installing new drywall.

  7. Stuff your walls with your preferred R20 insulation and cover with 6-mil vapor barrier. There are several brands of insulation available with varying degrees of mold, rodent, and fire resistance. If you live in a moist or extreme environment, it pays to do some research before buying.

Congratulations on a job well done! There may be a lot of work left to do before the room is finished but you have taken the first step to making it a more comfortable, and energy efficient space.

Sonia C. is looking for life's silver lining. A goal that has recently inspired her to transform a rainstorm in her living room into a photographic experiment, the development of a few new skills, and bad haiku.

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