When wooden walls are created and sheathed in place before erecting (sheathing does go all the way to sill and top plates) some studs don’t have a great connection to top or sill plates because of imperfections in the end cut of the studs or less than perfect construction. They’re locked in place by sheathing before a vertical load (the roof) can settle those gaps. Even after the roof has been added, I’ve still seen gaps between studs and plates. Will strong sheathing actually carry the vertical load for years, or even the lifetime of the structure? Or will settling effectively work on the sheathing/stud connections, until those weaken and move until the studs create full contact with the plates?

  • $\begingroup$ I would say that poorly built structures will age poorly. It might be fine, or the OSB will crack or warp. $\endgroup$
    – Tiger Guy
    Nov 17, 2021 at 18:03
  • $\begingroup$ Obviously not built to the engineer’s drawings so check with the builder. $\endgroup$
    – Solar Mike
    Nov 17, 2021 at 18:43

2 Answers 2


It depends on the primary function of the stud that is floating. Two results are expected:

  1. Immediately damages the sheathing by tearing if it has a joist or another loaded stud directly over, or even adjacent to, it, as the gap will be closed by the load.

  2. "Progressive failure" or "no failure" if the stud is away from the location of direct bearing. Here are the two scenarios:

  • a) Progressive failure - although it is a non-direct bearing stud, all studs under a less rigid header beam share a fraction of the load, when one stud among many is floating, the adjacent studs tend to pick up some of its shares and have excessive stress through the combined forces and the drag force caused by the unpicked force that pushes the sheathing and the floating stud down to close the gap. The stress can increase, due to changes in humidity and varying drying rate of the components, to the extent that causes the sheathing to buckle, the nail or the nail holes to fail, and damages the wall finishing.

  • b) No failure - if the header beam is sufficiently rigid and capable of bridging over the floating stud.

  • $\begingroup$ Thanks a million for your help! $\endgroup$ Nov 19, 2021 at 12:59

A good carpenter would cut all the studs by a table saw or miter saw correctly.

Type 5 (light wood frame) construction, has built-in measures to deal with these potential imperfections. eg, 4 by post under beams, staggered overlap on the double plate, double stud under window headers, etc.

Non the less, due to some careless drilling by the plumber or electrician after the fact some studs may get weakened or totally destroyed at some locations. A half-inch plywood can take the load acting as a web of a T-beam or the compression member of a C channel between the two good studs.

I have seen studs totally honeycombed by termite damage passing the load to the sheathing or stucco. But it remains to see what happens during an earthquake.

A quick rough estimation of the strength of a short stud joint is to assume plywood will crack in a triangle pattern connecting the tip of 2 adjacent studs to the top of the short stud, like the ultimate strength concrete slab crack method.

Also, there are many fasteners designed to reinforce crippled studs.

  • $\begingroup$ Thanks a million for your help! $\endgroup$ Nov 19, 2021 at 13:01

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