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When we frame walls, we normally orient the 2x4 with the thin surface facing outward.

  • What are the consequences of orienting the 2x4 so that the wide surface faces outward instead?
  • Does the wood have more or less strength to hold a fastener in either orientation?
  • Is a 1.5" (the depth of a 2x4 when oriented with the wide surface out) embedment sufficient for a screw or nail to have maximum holding power?
    • If not, what is that threshhold (minimum embedment for a nail or screw)?
  • Any other considerations?

I am asking this question in a generalized format per SE best practice, but my specific goal for asking is that I want to know whether I can hang heavy things from 2x4's oriented wide surface out. The reason I want to orient them this way is because they will be fastened to concrete, and to fasten a 2x4 to concrete oriented with the thin surface outward will take a 5-6" anchor.

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    FYI. Round here we prefer specific questions, as they're easier to answer than overly general questions. Tell us what you want to do, and we'll tell you how to do it, or if it can be done. – Tester101 Apr 1 '15 at 18:14
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The reason why 2x4s are faced thin side out is:

  1. The other way would mean you would use a 2x2 base which would be too wobbly, even for non-loadbearing walls.

  2. The wide side is more prone to warping issues.

  3. Can you imagine trying to get plumbing/electric/whatever through the wall if it were framed like this.

  4. It is fine to have a board facing like this (given normally faced framing throughout) and is actually a must for an outside corner.

To your point exactly, what your are suggesting is much better than the alternative even given that you would have longer bolts. The wide side will be much more stable against the concrete and will allow a tighter bond.

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  • Thank you. I don't understand #1, could you clarify? Do you have any guidance about whether fastening to the wide surface of a 2x4 would be less strong, either due to characteristics of the wood or max fastener embedment? – Jeremy Apr 1 '15 at 18:06
  • In my specific situation, you would recommend the wide side facing and anchored to the wall? – Jeremy Apr 1 '15 at 18:08
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    #1 is based on normal stud framing not securing against the wall. And yes wide side against the wall. Even if the other side did have better anchoring characteristics (which I don't think it does) it would be far less stable on the wall. – DMoore Apr 1 '15 at 18:15
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I have done the EXACT same thing a few times in walls where I knew I would not be hanging anything heavy, and it worked FINE. I have done this in the back of closets, in back wall of a bathroom where there would be nothing heavy hanging and no electrical plus OR plumbing in the wall, and on the side of stairs that were framed this way by the builder. I would not do this is I needed to run electricity or if I needed depth for a door frame. Once the drywall is up, you will never know the difference. In fact, Owens Corning sells their pink XPS foam panels with 1.75" channels cut in each side so you can use either 1x4s or 2x4s with a cement screw and washer system to attach directly into the cement, but I preferred to attach to wood top and bottom. IF the bottom plate being a pressure treated 2x2 bothers you, you can always use a PT 2x4 and simply have the extruded polystyrene sit on top of the back of the plate, and then spray foam the bottom plate to join it to the XPS board. I have done both ways successfully. All of this comes from finishing 3 different basements over the last 25 years.

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  • Hello, and welcome to Home Improvement. Thanks for the answer; keep 'em coming. And, you should probably take our tour so you'll know the details of contributing here. – Daniel Griscom Nov 21 '20 at 2:40

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