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I am capable of framing a "simple" 8' wide 8' tall 4" thick wall out of 2x4 lumber, then attaching plywood or drywall or OSB or any other sheet material to the frame. Making the wall wider is a trivial change. Making it significantly taller, however, seems not. Should I build multiple 'copies' of this frame and stack them, or build a single tall frame with 2x4x16' studs, or something else?

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exactly how tall (high) are we talking? General rule of thumb: The higher you go, the more you are going to need to put in horizontal members to help stiffen up the wall. –  Mike Perry Jul 9 '11 at 3:50
    
what is the application and actual height you need? –  shirlock homes Jul 9 '11 at 9:11
    
16-20 feet, partitioning rooms inside a warehouse with a grid of concrete columns. –  Sparr Jul 9 '11 at 9:52

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up vote 6 down vote accepted

I see from your other question, that you are rehabing an industrial space. Personally, I'd use steel studs in this application. You can build them to 16 ft, no problem. You will need to install horizontal stiffeners as Mike mentions, unless you go wider that the 4 inches of wall thickness. It is very difficult to build and handle a wood framed wall of that size, but stacking is an alternative. Finding 2X4's that are not waned or bowed will be a challenge as well. 2X6's would be better, but steel would be the best.

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What will horizontal stiffeners do that the wall surface won't? If I am adding horizontal stiffeners, does bowing matter? –  Sparr Jul 9 '11 at 9:53
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Horizontals help hold the wall shape and give you a nailer and joint support for the sheathing. As with any wall, you must crown the studs to one direction to prevent a wavy appearance. Too much bow in a stud will result in a bow in the wall surface. Also, codes in some areas may require fire breaks on taller walls which is done with horizontal cripples. –  shirlock homes Jul 9 '11 at 12:26
    
@Sparr Horizontal bracing is crucial for the structural integrity of a column, wall, or other vertical structure. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buckling#Columns (L, in the formula, is the height of the unsupported column -- the buckling strength varies inversely with the SQUARE of its unsupported height; in other words, horizontal bracing is of utmost importance.) –  Michael Jul 11 '11 at 3:58
    
Does the wall surface not supply the necessary bracing? –  Sparr Jul 11 '11 at 4:06
    
Outside of the possibility that you plan on installing some sort of incredible wall surface, no, the mostly cosmetic wall surface should not be relied upon to provide horizontal bracing. Horizontal members are not difficult to include, however, so it shouldn't be seen as some sort of huge obstacle preventing you from constructing the wall. –  Michael Jul 11 '11 at 4:21

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