Home Fix Q&A: Dwight Barnett answers home-improvement questions. This week he explains what causes a hump in a wall stud and how to repair the wall.
Q: As a hobby I build furniture and do repair work around the house, but sometimes the projects don’t work out. We decided to add a chair rail to highlight our family room’s plain walls.
Seems simple enough, but I ran into a hump on the longest wall between the house and the garage. The furnace and water heater are in the garage on the other side of this hump, so I need to try to fix it from the family room. How can I repair this without removing the drywall or studs?
A: Decades ago, when I was a homebuilder/carpenter, we would “crown” the wall studs before installation. Some 2- by 4-inch wood studs have a natural curve or bow on the 4-inch side of the stud. “Crowning” ensures that bowed wall studs are all installed or “crowned” in the same direction.
Apparently, in your home one of the studs was “crowned” in the wrong direction, leaving a hump that was not a noticeable problem until you installed the chair rail.
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To avoid a hump in the walls of new construction or a room addition, builders should use finger-jointed wall studs. Finger-jointing is where several small blocks of 2- by 4-inch boards are milled with joints on each end to fit tightly together. The joints are then glued together to form a single straight wall stud.
Finger-jointed lumber costs more, but it saves a lot of headaches when it comes to installing cabinets and trim. In the long run, it may even be cost effective when compared to the labor saved from sorting and crowning.
You will have to remove a small amount of drywall in the family room on either side of the humped wall stud. You will need a minimum of 36 inches of a heavy-gauge angle iron found at almost any hardware or home store. The iron should be a minimum of 36 inches in length to cover the humped 2-by-4 and can then be fastened to the wall studs on either side of the humped stud.
Locate the point where the stud is humped and use a reciprocating saw, router or skill saw to cut a notch halfway through the stud. The notch should be slightly wider than the thickness of one side of the angle iron to allow for compression as the stud is moved.
Next, cut a smaller notch in the two side studs on the same level as the first notch. These two notches should be the same thickness and depth of the angle iron.
Turn the angle iron so that one lip slides into the humped stud and the two side studs, then fasten the iron to the other studs using wood screws. By applying torque to the screws on the two side studs, you should be able to force the hump out of the middle stud. Replace the drywall, tape and sand the joints to prepare for painting.
Once this is done, you’re ready to install the chair rail on a fairly straight wall.
Dwight Barnett is a certified-master inspector with the American Society of Home Inspectors. Write to him with home-improvement questions at d.Barnett@insightbb.com or mail questions to Dwight Barnett, Evansville Courier & Press, P.O. Box 268, Evansville, Ind. 47702. Always consult local contractors and codes.