Karl Loveland is a jack of many trades with a passion for working with his hands. His interests include carpentry, masonry, and tile.
What Is a Wall Stud?
A wall stud is simply the vertical frame inside a wall. For homes, wall studs are usually wood. Having a damaged stud can be a problem since this can weaken a wall greatly. The biggest concern is if the wall in question is a load-bearing wall.
Studs are usually spaced every 16 inches, except for corners and doorways. Fixing a damaged wall stud will mean cutting good-sized hole in your drywall. I have always found it easier to cut out the hole and then fit the drywall patch to match.
How to Mend a Broken Stud
If the stud is just cracked, but still whole, the fix is simple: Drywall for residential homes is usually 5/8 inch thick. Screw as many 1 to 1 1/2 inch wood screws through the sheetrock and into the stud. I like using decking screws because of their toughness and good grip. Wood screws have larger spaces between the teeth to grip wood fibers better. Set the screw head just under the surface of the Sheetrock and finish your patch as normal.
If the stud is broken, and if it is load-bearing, it may need to be replaced.
How to Determine If a Wall Is Load-Bearing
A load-bearing wall has floor or ceiling joists running perpendicular to the wall in question. This supports the upper structure evenly through a house. Non-load walls the joists run parallel. Finding this out is easy enough. I have always used a stud finder and run it along the ceiling.
The stud finder will read the joists just like a wall stud. Run the stud finder across the ceiling three feet away from the broken stud in both directions. If you get results about every 16 inches, or readings at set distances, the wall is load-bearing. No readings means the wall is Non-load Bearing.
Fixing a Non-Load-Bearing Wall Stud
From my experience when fixing a non-load bearing wall, you are simply keeping the wall unit up to its normal strength. Usually the drywall attached to other studs, and further along the damaged one, keeps the whole wall stable.
Yet there will be a weak spot at the break which could cause more damage in the future. Chances are something might hit the break again. The fix is easy, but takes some time and makes the drywall repair larger.
- Cut out how much drywall you need to do the job. Expose both sides of the break.
- Take a length of 2x4 about 24 inches and screw it into the stud above the break. This will act like a splint, similar to a plate fixing a broken bone. I usually use three in an upside-down triangle.
- Place a straight edge, (another small length of board, etc.) to make sure the stud is flush with itself.
- Screw the bottom of your board into the lower section of the stud. Patch the drywall as needed.
Fixing a Load-Bearing Wall
Now load-bearing walls are trickier. Since these help distribute the weight of whatever is above, your fix has to be more thorough.
- Cut the drywall at least 24 inches above and below the break. Note: If there are several broken studs, a brace for the ceiling should be placed to take the load off the damaged wall.
- Your splint piece should be about 4 feet, 48 inches, long. Again I like using decking screws for their strength.
- Screw the splint piece in place as above, but use more screws. I usually place two at the top and bottom corners of the board, and then zigzag down the board. About 7–8 screws should hold well.
If Several Wall Studs Are Broken
Now if your wall has several studs broken, or a single stud broken in several places, replacing, or adding a new stud is a good idea. It will also mean a larger drywall patch.
- Brace your wall with a long board or long 4x4. Place the brace in the center of the damaged area and the other end on the floor.
- Tap back end with a sledge or heavy hammer until it takes the weight off. Be careful here—too much tapping can raise a ceiling up and pop your drywall. Small hits until the brace feels snug and then set the brace. (Tip: Setting the brace is easy. Nail a footer behind the brace or place a length of 2x4 from the brace to the opposite wall. Idea is to keep the brace from moving.)
- Once the brace is set, cut out the drywall from floor to ceiling along the stud and up to the next two studs on either side. Measure an unbroken stud to get its full length. Measure your replacement and add 1/16 of an inch.
- Cut carefully making sure that you keep the extra 1/16th.
- Now you have two options: take out the broken stud or studs or simply place your new stud alongside the old one. Chances are the drywall on the other side of the wall may need spot repair if you remove studs. Placing a new stud alongside an old one is similar to the splint I described above, but with some extra work.
- Place to top of the new stud under the crown (top running board of the wall) and with a bit of an angle place the bottom of the stud onto the foot (bottom running board at the floor).
- The new stud should look like one arm of a narrow capital A and fit hand snug. Note: If your new stud moves freely straight up and down it is too short, cut a new one. The stud will have trouble supporting weight.
- Next tap the needed stud in until it is vertical and flush with the top and bottom boards, or the Crown and Foot.
- Screw each stud in top and bottom around a 30-degree angle, two top and bottom should do. Or if you have a nail gun simply shoot two nails in top and bottom.
Once the studs are in carefully remove the brace, if you used one. Then repair your drywall as normal.
Drywall Home Repair Made Easy
In the end, the wall should support its weight like normal. Load walls can settle a bit in a new house's lifetime. I have found the extra 1/16 inch makes a better fix. The extra bit helps compensate for this and gives a tight, strong repair. Just remember to check the drywall on the other side of the wall. These repairs can pop sheetrock screws. If so, simply fill with spackle and sand.
Your wall will be good as new.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
© 2008 DingoCyber
TM on May 11, 2017:
Good to know. Thank you for the knowledge. I have my home and apartments being reframed and there are a lot of cracks in the studs where the nails are being put in. And they are beginning to split. I think the wood should be replaced. Any advice?
billd on September 25, 2014:
"Upside down triangle"???
POsborn on October 05, 2009:
Thanks for writing about Stud Repair. I recently opened up a bearing wall for a kitchen remodel in our 50+ year old house and found several studs cut 80 - 100% through and toe-nailed back together. Talking with some of my construction ol' timers I learned that dry wall crews used to saw through studs to flatten them for wall board installation. I was hoping I could just 'splint' the stud as this wall has a full 'X' pattern, 2x4 cross bracing and was hoping not to damage the drywall on the other side, but it appears that adding a sister stud is required. Thanks for the article.
DingoCyber (author) from Lawrence, KS on May 05, 2009:
Thanks for the comments. I hope this helps, and I hope you don't need the tips at the moment. :)
Morgan on May 05, 2009:
Excellent article - thanks for the help!
markj99 on May 03, 2009:
Nobody else left a comment? Well, then I will: Thanks for posting your stud repair tips!