Cripple Wall Construction

Cripple Walls are Commonly Used to Save Construction Costs and Improve Exterior Home Aesthetics

By Mark J. Donovan




Cripple walls are usually found between the top of a foundation wall and the first floor of a home. Cripple walls are frequently used when foundation walls are stepped down to maintain continuity with the soil grade around the foundation. Cripple walls are typically constructed out of 2×4 or 2×6 wall studs, and sheathed on the outside with exterior grade plywood or Oriented Strand board (OSB).

Cripple walls offer several advantages over full height foundation walls. First, cripple walls cost less to construct than full height concrete foundation walls.

For example, using a $70 per cubic yard figure for concrete, it would cost approximately $5 per linear foot for a 3 foot high 10” thick foundation wall.

Alternatively a 3 foot high framed cripple wall would cost approximately $2.5 per linear foot in lumber and material.

Second, cripple wall construction offers more flexibility in installing windows, and for running utility conduit pipes and plumbing lines out of the home.

Cripple wall construction also enables better exterior home aesthetics as the house siding can be brought down closer to the finished soil grade.

Cripple Wall Construction

Cripple walls, however, do have their problems. First, they are the weak links in earthquake prone areas. Consequently there are strict regulations on the maximum height of cripple walls, and how they are physically constructed and attached to concrete foundation sills. It is imperative that they are properly braced to prevent them from shifting and collapsing during seismic events.

Typically methods for bracing cripple walls includes: anchoring the cripple wall sill plates to the foundation walls with bolts or other methods, adding horizontal blocking at the top and bottom of the cripple wall, and adding plywood sheathing to the interior walls.

Cripple walls also cannot be installed too close to the finished grade soil, otherwise they are prone to being conduits for water and insect damage to the home. As a result, there are strict building codes on minimum foundations wall heights relative to surrounding finished soil grades.

So before deciding upon using cripple walls in your home construction project it is best to first talk to your local building inspector to understand the local building codes, as they relate specifically to cripple wall construction.

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