Maybe I'm a little dense, but I'm having a little difficulty visualizing how laying out studs 16" OC works with a tape measure. From almost every source I look at they say "Don't screw this up. Hook it on the end, go to the red numbers (16/32/etc), and mark 3/4" to each side to get them on center".

That's great and all, but they all also say to start by placing the first stud right at the end of the board. Thus, your original markings would be at 15.25" (16 - 3/4"), and when you place your end stud, it'll span from 0" - 1.5". (with the middle being on 0.75"). Therefore, the distance OC between the first stud and the 2nd stud would be 16-0.75 = 15.25", not 16". What gives? To me it seems like you'd just hook the end of the tape and mark on the reds and use that as your outer edge, not the inner.


When you start a wall, your first board is not supposed to be on 16" centers. You're right, the first stud will end up 15.25" center to center from the second stud but that is because you don't want you first stud to be centered on the edge of the sheeting (whether your sheeting it with plywood, sheetrock, or whatever you're using). Rather, you want your sheeting to be flush with the edge of your first stud. So yes, when you measure from the beginning of a wall, mark it the way that you've been reading.

Your thinking is correct when you're in the middle of a wall. If you hook the tape measure on the edge of one stud, your 16" line should come up to the edge of your next stud. Studs that are on 16" centers are 16" from the center of the one stud to the center of the next stud. So if you are building a long wall, and you are not measuring from the beginning of the wall, you would hook your tape on the board where a stud is and put your each multiple of 16. Put your "X" on the far side of the line and bury the "X" when you put your stud in.

Just remember - for every wall, there is one exception... the first stud.


Pull from the end of the plate, find your stud center (red marks in your case), and back off 3/4". Mark that. Put an X at the red mark. Move to the next and repeat.

To explain why, simply imagine that you're laying a 4x8' sheet of whatever on the wall. The edge of the sheet falls to the side of the first (end) stud... not at its center.

  • I'm still confused. If anything your explanation makes it sound like I'd WANT to do it the other way. You don't put the center of the screw on the edge of the sheet rock, so in reality it'll X distance in, which you'd want the first stud to be set in. But then second stud isn't going to be 16" oc from the first stud, so it seems to defeat the purpose of "standardization" of 16" oc – 2 Left Thumbs Feb 16 '16 at 3:40
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    @ 2 Left Thumbs, If you are building a 4' wall or an 8' wall, then you would want your studs on both sides to line up flush but when you are building anything bigger, you want your first stud to line up flush but then you want the rest of your sheeting to line up to the center of the studs so that you can screw two pieces side by side into the same stud. This is one reason a stud is 1.5" wide, that gives you .75" on each side of center. – Maxfield Solar Feb 16 '16 at 3:55
  • So basically, any wall that is longer than 8' wide (or rather longer than your top/bottom plate) should have the last stud straddle the next wall? (half on the first, half on the second)? How does that work if you're building the wall and then tipping it up? – 2 Left Thumbs Feb 16 '16 at 4:04
  • That's correct--top and bottom plates should splice at the center of a stud. – isherwood Feb 16 '16 at 4:08

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