More Sandwiches than a Which Wich

Maybe it’s because I have been a food writer for so much of my life, but information tends to stick with me better when it’s framed in culinary terms.

At construction school, sandwiches are a frequent trope. For example, we informally refer to door and window headers as “OSB sandwiches,” that is, a couple slabs of two-by lumber with a slice of 1/2-inch oriented strand board in the middle.

More recently, I learned this sandwich lesson:

We were building two intersecting walls out of standard 2×4’s, which means the walls were 3 1/2 inches thick. We framed the first wall easily enough, marking studs at 16 inches on center, as we always do. But when we started framing the second wall to make the corner, there was a difference of opinion in the class. One faction wanted to mark studs 16 inches on center starting from the end of the new wall; another faction wanted to mark studs from the outside of the first wall. The latter option would shift the studs 3 1/2 inches to account for the thickness of the first wall.

Studs are placed at 16-inch intervals so that 4′ x 8′ sheets of drywall and OSB can be nailed conveniently every 16 inches. Furthermore, once drywall and sheathing are up, it’s helpful to know exactly where the framing members are behind them. While a 3 1/2-inch offset made sense on the outside of our structure, it would mess with that rhythm on the inside.

We haggled for a while, with one group arguing from outside the house and the other group taking the inside view.

Finally, we called over the instructor, who chuckled knowingly, as he is wont to do when we inevitably stumble across such contradictions. He acknowledged our dilemma: We could place studs at 16 inches on center from the outside wall, in order to accommodate OSB sheathing. Or we could do what he usually does, which is to measure from inside, to simplify drywalling.

“It’s up to you,” he said, adding that either the drywall or the OSB was going to be awkward. Then he framed the situation in culinary terms I won’t quickly forget. “You’re gonna have to eat a s#!t sandwich either way.”

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