Tall Walls

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Challenges, Opportunities, Solutions

Boise Cascade Engineered Wood Products has the products, software, and support to help you do it right.


Going tall, as in tall walls, has never been more popular.

Homeowners — and buyers — love the feeling of openness and the dramatic look of high vaulted ceilings, big picture windows, and towering fireplaces… all of which benefit from tall walls.

But let’s be clear: constructing and designing tall walls isn’t for amateurs. Special care must be taken to ensure the structural integrity of walls over 10 feet. Strong winds, seismic activity, and even just common foundation settling can cause tall walls to bow or fail.

Fortunately, Boise Cascade Engineered Wood Products can help. And perhaps in ways you’re not expecting. In this article we’ll cover the products, software, and support solutions that Boise Cascade® offers to help you design and build tall walls stronger, faster, and easier. It’s also important to remember, per code, walls 10 feet and higher that support a span of 12 feet or greater require an engineered design.

The Risks of Tall Walls

Tall walls need to be designed and built strong. If not framed properly, tall walls may not distribute the load or perform as intended. Another serious concern is how the wall will be able to handle potential forces from wind and seismic activity. In these situations, there can be a risk of failure or damage to the home.

One common building technique to framing tall walls is “stacked wall framing.” When framers use this technique, they essentially frame two shorter walls stacked atop one another. 

Potentially, this can create a “hinge effect” where the walls meet, leaving a hinge point in the wall. A wall built with longer wall framing members that are continuous from top to bottom can eliminate the hinge point, providing greater stability.

In some cases, the walls can move, shift, or bow and can crack the drywall, cause nail pops, or possibly crack window seals that could let water into the wall cavity. One area where you may notice these drywall cracks and nail pops is on stairwell tall walls in today’s modern houses.

Start with Properly Specified Products

A stiff, sturdy tall wall begins with strong lumber. Many experts recommend laminated veneer lumber (LVL) for framing walls over 10 feet. Boise Cascade’s LVL products, such as Versa-Stud® and Versa-Lam®, are engineered to lead the industry in bending strength and E-value.

Boise Cascade LVL can deliver consistent wall framing that won’t warp or twist. This is possible because of three product traits:

1) Strength: Boise Cascade LVL is strong. For example, Versa-Stud LVL offers at least 2.1 times more bending strength and 20% more stiffness than No. 2 SPF dimension lumber. That means builders can count on stronger walls to resist wind loads and stiffer walls for a solid feel.

2) Straightness: Because they’re engineered wood, every piece of Versa-Lam LVL has a limited lifetime warranty and is reliably straight. No twisting. No warping.  And no camber, allowing you to build flat and smooth tall walls. This is critical, because even if your tall walls are structurally sound, if they don’t look straight and smooth the complaints are going to come back to haunt you.

3) Availability: Many framing problems associated with tall wall construction are born from the inability to get the right product. When was the last time you found a straight 2×4 longer than 10’? Boise Cascade products solve that by offering consistent products in multiple depths and widths. 

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Engineered Wood Products

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Work Smart with Software

Products are only one part of the tall wall equation. Proper design is, of course, critical. Boise Cascade’s suite of software solves many of the everyday problems of designing tall walls.

A great place to start is BC Calc®, Boise Cascade’s single member sizing software. BC Calc makes it easy for architects and other design professionals to perform detailed engineering analysis on beams, columns, studs, and tall walls. 

BC Calc’s tall wall design feature makes designing homes with tall walls easy and quick. The software’s advanced tall wall analysis capabilities provide crucial time savings compared to designing the wall one component at a time.

BC Calc is also loaded with the full line of Boise Cascade Engineered Wood Products. Not only does it give you the ability to quickly size the products you specify, it includes complementary lumber products and provides logical options based on availability in your area, as well as allowing you to set up your own custom inventory preferences.

Specific features include: 

    • Input complex wall geometries including variable slope top plates
    • Direct editing from the 2D wall elevation view
    • Add individual or groups of openings with shared king studs


    • Create and share wall and opening templates
    • Multiple header configuration options to resist gravity and wind loads
    • Add beam pockets and link to the beam member for automatic load transfer
    • Input loads on the top plate or link reactions from other members
    • Determine the wind load for your project using the wind load helper
    • Specify multi-ply connections and lateral force-resisting connectors
    • Harmonize connections across all members for ease of construction
    • Generate a submittal package with a summary report and individual member calculations

Perhaps most importantly, BC Calc allows you to quickly and easily collaborate with others on your team. You can share files in the cloud or send links and project files via email without leaving the application.

And it’s all free. There’s no cost to use the software or for the support to help you master it.

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Properly Supported

All of the high-performance products and most robust software in the world isn’t all that useful if you can’t get your questions answered.

That’s why Boise Cascade Engineered Wood Products has invested heavily in our support services. From our local area managers to our engineering and software phone support and knowledgebase, we are determined to not only have the detailed information you need, but also to have those answers available when you need them.

Whether you need tall wall framing details or have questions about tall wall codes or the ins and outs of tall wall framing, our experts can help or get you pointed in the right direction. The Boise Cascade support center is fully staffed to answer your questions via phone or email Monday through Friday. And if you miss us? We’ll respond straight away when we return.

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Go Tall

Designing and constructing tall walls is a crucial skill today. Consumer preference continues to move towards wanting feelings of openness and, often, grandeur. Tall walls provide both.

But building tall walls shouldn’t be approached nonchalantly. Being certain that your design, materials, and framer’s expertise is up to the job is critical. That’s why Boise Cascade Engineered Wood Products has invested in developing solutions, both in terms of tall wall framing materials and tall wall design software, to make your job easier. And when all else fails, our support is always here to assist.

You can find more information about all of Boise Cascade Engineered Wood Products software, products, and support here.