Similar to many DIYers, you may have found yourself in the lumber aisle of your chosen big box store, comparing wood and pricing. You may have even been tempted by the affordable option that is furring stripboard. But what are furring strips anyway, and what can they be used for?
Furring strips, otherwise known as furring board or wood strapping, are narrow pieces of lumber that can be utilized for a myriad of interior and exterior construction projects. Pared down, they are used to create a level plane on which you can attach flat materials, to make space for insulation or to prevent dampness.
In the following article, we will go through all the ins and outs of furring strips: what they are, what they are used for, and some how-tos.
- What Is a Furring Strip in Construction?
- What Are Furring Strips Used For?
- Types of Furring Strips
- How Thick Are Furring Strips?
- Furring Strips Dimensions
- Furring Strip Spacing
- How to Install Furring Strips for Drywall
- How to Attach Furring Strips to Concrete or Cinder Block Walls
- Furring Strip vs Common Board: What’s the Difference?
What Is a Furring Strip in Construction?
In the world of construction, furring strips are utilized to prepare an even surface for projects. The narrow strips of wood can be used for both interior and exterior structural applications.
What Are Furring Strips Used For?
Furring strips truly have a plethora of uses. Wood strapping can be utilized for carpentry, hobbies, shelving, and general finish work to create a level, even surface to attach wallboard, paneling, or siding, or to establish an air space for masonry, insulation, or metal roofing. They can even be for battens on exterior walls.
These thin pieces of lumber are easy to glue and hold both nails and screws incredibly well. They are normally sold untreated but have the potential to be painted or stained for use in hobby and building projects.
Are Furring Strips Necessary?
If you are trying to provide a solid base to an uneven surface, you are going to need furring strips. The wood strapping ensures that your project will have a flat, smooth, and level surface at completion. Whether you are tackling resurfacing the ceiling or walls, furring strips are imperative for achieving a clean, professional, and long-lasting finish.
Create Space for Insulation
In order to create space for insulation, a process called “furring out” the wall is necessary. This simply means to expand the thickness of a wall using wood strapping. It is basically like building one wall inside of another wall.
The space created between the furring strips and the already present structural wall allows for insulation. Insulating the walls will keep the building warmer in the winter, cooler in the summer, thus reducing electric output to heat and cool. The insulation will also act as a sound barrier to muffle loud noises. This could be a perfect solution to provide a quiet atmosphere for study rooms, offices, or bedrooms.
Furring can also create enough space for wiring or small copper pipes that are flush to the wall.
Once the space is “furred out”, and insulation is in place, some type of wall-paneling, like drywall, should be installed to further protect and insulate the structure.
When converting an unfinished basement into a finished one, you may inevitably encounter having to install drywall onto the uneven surface of the cement blocks. To achieve the uniform, flush, and level wall that you desire, you may need to install furring strips.
Further into the article, we will detail exactly how to complete this project.
Furring strips are imperative when installing exterior siding. The space created by the wood strapping ensures a flat, and smooth surface to adhere the siding to, as well as proper air ventilation and water drainage. You should always leave a minimum ½” opening at the top and bottom of the walls to provide adequate airflow behind the siding and across the entire span of the wall.
On top of the exterior sheathing, rigid foam insulation is often used. Furring strips can be fastened to the insulation, and the siding installed over the furring boards. Install the furring strips vertically for compatibility with horizontally installed siding.
If you are going to install the siding vertically, you may want to double furr the exterior wall. This means you will begin with the installation of the original vertical furring, and then you will install horizontal furring strips over the top of the vertical furring every 12”. The vertical siding fastens to the horizontal strips.
By utilizing furring strips, you can cut the cost of installing a metal roof by placing rigid insulation and furring strips atop the existing roof. Even in the process of roofing, the purpose of the furring strips remains the same: to create airflow, promote drying, provide adequate space for insulation, and prepare a level surface for the project.
Similar to any other exterior construction, you will want to install rigid insulation to prevent condensation. Then you will follow with the furring board. Take care to correctly measure the spacing of the wood strapping. This will further decrease condensation retention within the roof. Common spacing of furring with the intention of metal roofing is 24-in. The furring strips are often angled downward to encourage moisture to run toward the end caps. Once your furring strips are installed, you will have a uniform and level surface to install the new metal roofing atop.
Types of Furring Strips
Wood strapping is typically crafted of durable, high-quality wood to ensure structural integrity for construction projects. Furring strips are often milled from woods like southern yellow pine, spruce, or fir. For added stability and longevity, you may want to choose pressure-treated lumber or treat the wood before use.
Metal furring strip-like channels are made of galvanized steel or aluminum. Keep in mind; aluminum is much easier to cut than steel, so if you are tackling a project that will require a multitude of cuts, you may want to opt for an aluminum furring option. Metal furring strips are most commonly used in masonry or concrete work due to their structural integrity and unfailing rigidity.
The hat channel is one type of metal furring and was coined because its appearance resembles the profile of a Fedora! These channels are available in the standard 10’ and 12’ lengths, and remember the greater the depth of the “hat”, the more weight that it can support. Hat channels act similar to wood strapping in that they create a raised, level surface to attach the desired sheathing.
A Z-channel, otherwise known as Z-furring, is used in metal roofing applications, interior masonry, and many other projects. Z-furring is installed horizontally or vertically with the flange against whatever substrate is being utilized in the project. The shape of the furring allows for a firmer and more level foundation for structural projects. A Z-channel’s installation is water directional. Consequently, this type of furring is especially beneficial in metal roofing and exterior wall applications because it assists in the prevention of water penetration.
Resilient channels, also known as RC-1 or RC-2, are one option to dampen sound. These are a type of hat channel with a single brim, as opposed to the double brim of the standard hat channel. As a result, only one side of the channel is secured to the joists or stud, so it cannot support as much mass as a standard hat channel. The benefit of using resilient channels for furring is that it uses half the screws of the standard hat channel, and thus lessens the transfer of sound vibration.
Utilizing a standard double-brim hat channel is another option for soundproofing. Standard hat channels are secured to joists through both brims. This double connection allows for more support but consequently increases the transfer of sound vibration. The airspace created by using the hat channels, along with appropriate insulation, should provide additional sound control. When hat channels are paired with soundproofing or resilient clips, the effect of sound dampening should increase.
The incorporation of sound attenuation blankets within the furring, along with insulation, will improve sound absorption. The combination of effective insulation and appropriate furring with adequate spacing aids in dissipating the energy or vibrations and thus reducing sound transmission.
To maximize sound isolation, be sure to incorporate a ¼-in gap around the perimeter of the drywall. This will separate it from the ceiling, floor, and any other boards. Then, fill the fap with acoustic caulk to minimize the seepage of noise. To read more into the science behind soundproofing, check out this article that goes into even more detail about options for dampening sound.
How Thick Are Furring Strips?
Standard furring strips are marketed as 1-in thick, with the exception of the 2-in x 2-in strip. The actual thickness is usually just under a full inch. This makes them extremely versatile for a multitude of construction projects.
Furring Strips Dimensions
Lumber is measured in Thickness in inches x Width in inches x Length in feet
|Common Measurement ( T x W x L )||Actual Dimensions ( T x W x L )|
|5/4-in x 3-in x 8-ft||0.935-in x 2.25-in x 8-ft|
|1-in x 2-in x 8-ft||0.656-in x 1.468-in x 8-ft|
|1-in x 3-in x 8-ft||.75-in x 2.5-in x 8-ft|
|1-in x 4-in x 8-ft||.75-in x 3.5-in x 8-ft|
|2-in x 2-in x 8-ft||1.375-in x 1.37-in x 8-ft|
Furring Strip Spacing
Furring strips used to fasten wall panels to serve a similar purpose to wall studs, just like throughout the rest of the liveable space in your home. The wood strapping should be mounted 16-inches on center similar to average 2×4 stud spacing.
Mark the bottom of your wall every 16 inches, and then repeat the process for the top of the wall. Then draw vertical lines connecting the set of dots on the top and bottom. These lines will be your guides to indicate exactly where you will attach the furring strips.
How to Install Furring Strips for Drywall
- Tape measure
- Carpenter’s pencil
- Furring Strips of desired measurements
- Carpenter’s level
- Appropriate drill bit
- Wood Nails or Screws
Step 1: Plan Spacing
Mark the bottom of your wall every 16 inches, and then repeat the process for the top of the wall. Most drywall sheets measure 4-ft x 8-ft; this spacing allows your drywall sheets to always end and adhere to a furring stud. If possible, draw vertical lines connecting the set of dots on the top and bottom. Now you have your guidelines for the furring studs.
Step 2: Prep for Anchors (Nails or Screws for Wood Framed Walls)
Once you have planned where the furring strips are going to be installed, you will be able to accurately determine the placement of your fasteners. Remember to stagger your anchors instead of drilling them all in a straight line. This will provide more stability and longevity. Around 8 to 10 inches apart is the ideal spacing for the anchors. Mark along your guidelines where the anchors will be placed before moving on to the next step.
Step 3: Install Furring Strips
Finally, line up the strapping board plumb and anchor the strips using the drill or hammer. Tighten the fasteners and ensure the furring stud is level and secure in its position.
Step 4: Continue with Drywall
You can now move on to attaching whatever paneling you desire to the level furring strips. If you’d like a visual guide on how to install furring strips for drywall, this eHow video is incredibly helpful.
Step 1: Find and Mark Joist Positions
First, determine if you are working with a new build in which the ceiling joists are already visible, or if your project involves constructing a new ceiling over an existing one. In the latter option, you will need to locate and mark the positions of the joists in the ceiling. We recommend using a stud finder to locate exactly where the ceiling joists are placed. Normally, they will be located 16 or 24 inches on center. Mark the placements of the joists for reference.
Step 2: Plan Spacing of Furring Strips
Once you have determined the positioning of the joists, you can begin marking the placement of the furring strips.
Furring strips will run perpendicular to the joists, creating a grid-like pattern. Calculate the appropriate spacing for the furring strips based on the specific paneling or drywall you will be attaching to the wood strapping.
Be sure to calculate placement with the first furring strip being flush with the perimeter of the wall. The next subsequent strip should be placed parallel to the first, advancing across the ceiling by the required distance calculated in the previous benchmark.
If your furring strips are not long enough to span the entire distance of the ceiling, you can place a second one lined up flush with the first. Make sure to measure and cut the furring so that each one ends at the center of a joist. This way, both furring strips will be secured to the same joist.
Step 3: Install Furring Strips
Following the plan that you’ve outlined and marked, attach the furring strips with screws and a drill. Remember to position the last furring strip flush with the opposite wall’s perimeter, no matter how close it is to the previous strip. Ensure that every furring strip is level upon installation, then tighten all screws when completed.
Step 4: Continue with Drywall
Now your furred ceiling is complete and ready for installation of paneling, ceiling tile, or drywall!
How to Attach Furring Strips to Concrete or Cinder Block Walls
Installing drywall directly onto bare masonry of any kind will ultimately lead to failure. Moisture will inevitably make its way between the concrete and drywall, leading to a myriad of complications like soggy or even moldy drywall. Furthermore, the irregularity of concrete can cause complications when trying to install flush and smooth drywall. Any imperfections or fluctuations in the masonry surface will inevitably transfer to the drywall.
This is where furring strips come in handy. The wood strapping will create space between the concrete and drywall, essentially resurfacing the uneven masonry for flush drywall application. It will also ensure adequate airflow between the damp concrete and drywall.
To attach furring strips to the uneven and irregular surface of concrete you are going to need specialty fasteners specifically meant for fastening boards to masonry. Attach the thin furring strapping to the imperfect and porous concrete with masonry screws, sleeve anchors, or any other specialty fastener.
You will need to drill into the concrete to attach the fasteners. A drill or hammer drill equipped with the appropriate drill bit should do the trick! Click on the link if you are not sure which drill bit to use for your project.
- Tape measure
- Carpenter’s pencil
- Furring Strips of desired measurements
- Carpenter’s level
- Hammer Drill
- Appropriate masonry bit
- Appropriate fasteners/anchors
Step 1: Plan Spacing
You must first create your spacing guide for where the furring strips will be installed. Mark the bottom of your wall every 16 inches, and then repeat the process for the top of the wall. Most drywall sheets measure 4-ft x 8-ft; this spacing allows your drywall sheets to always end and fasten to a furring stud. Then, draw vertical lines connecting the set of dots on the top and bottom. Now you have your guidelines for the furring studs.
Step 2: Prep for Anchors
Once you have planned where the furring strips are going to be installed, you will be able to accurately determine the placement of your fasteners. Remember to stagger your anchors instead of drilling them all in a straight line. This will provide more stability and longevity. You should also make sure the marks for drilling are into the brick, not the mortar. Mark your guidelines where the sleeve anchors will be placed before moving on to the next step.
Step 3: Drill the Holes
Using your drill and correct drill bit, drill the holes where you previously marked. Take care that the holes are the same diameter as the sleeve anchor if using them.
Step 4: Clean and Clear
Remove all dust, dirt, and debris from the newly drilled holes. Compressed air, a shop-vac, or even a wire brush are all great tools to make this task less troublesome.
Step 5: Insert Fastener
Insert whichever specialty fastener you have decided on. Ensure that they are secure and positioned correctly.
Step 6: Install Furring Strips
Finally, line up the strapping board with the anchors. Tighten the fasteners and ensure the furring stud is secure and level in its position. You can now move on to attaching whatever paneling you desire to the level furring strips. If you’d like a supplemental visual guide to installing furring strips to concrete or cinder block walls, this video is extremely helpful!
Furring Strip vs Common Board: What’s the Difference?
Both furring strips and common boards are fairly inexpensive options for lumber. Both are usually made of softwood varieties. But which one should you choose for your DIY project?
Furring strips are usually even less expensive than common boards. However, they are mainly used for construction, so they aren’t meant to be seen. This often results in the pieces of lumber often looking rough with imperfections, warps, or knots.
Wood strapping can still be used for woodworking projects or other endeavors where the lumber is on display. However, you may have to spend some more time picking through the available pieces of lumber to find the most desirable pieces. Plus, you may need to invest some time sanding and cleaning up the lumber until it is more presentable.
Common boards are still relatively inexpensive when compared to other types of lumber, but are definitely more of an investment than furring strips. The boards are usually straighter, and better finished, so they will require less effort to prep the lumber for the project. Common boards also come in more sizing options than the standard dimensions of furring strips.
For the most part, you will have to first assess how much work you’re willing to pour into the preparation stage of your project. It all comes down to how much worth you place on your time. Sometimes you may just prefer to pay for the common boards to avoid the headache of sanding. Other times, the fun of the hobby is in participating in every step of construction: from sanding to staining, to assembling!
When it comes down to it, your choice for lumber should reflect your goals and your project. Are you trying to make a homey blanket ladder? Then the less than perfect furring strips will add to the rustic end result. Are you trying to create a perfectly symmetrical faux-wainscoting accent wall? Then maybe you should opt for the already straight common boards to avoid a mismeasuring mayhap later!
To sum it up, furring strips are a widely versatile and usually inexpensive lumber option. Whether you want to tackle construction, carpentry, hobbyist woodworking, or anything in between, you can probably find a use for the narrow furring board.
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