Double-stud walls use common materials and familiar assemblies to create a low-tech, energy-efficient wall with lots of room for thick insulation. This framing method virtually eliminates thermal bridging through the studs and greatly reduces sound transmission through walls.
The basic strategy is simple: The exterior walls are built from two parallel stud walls with a gap between the rows for extra insulation. Many builders use two parallel 2x4 walls with a 5-inch gap between them to create a 12-inch-thick wall. Of course, the wall can be thicker or thinner as circumstances dictate.
The most commonly used insulation for this method of construction is dense-packed cellulose, although other types of insulation (including blown-in fiberglass, mineral wool batts, or open-cell spray polyurethane foam) can certainly be used.
For more information, see GBA Encyclopedia: Double-Stud Walls.
In-swinging exterior doors installed in thick double-stud walls usually require a frame-within-a-frame approach. The 12-inch-thick double-stud wall needs an oversized rough opening. Within that rough opening, a second (smaller) rough opening is framed with 2x4s; this smaller rough opening is located toward the exterior of the larger rough opening. This framing method allows the door to open without impinging on the deep interior jambs.
In general, exterior above-grade walls should have continuous air, water, and thermal barriers.
Installing rigid insulation as the exterior sheathing can accomplish all of these tasks, but you need to account for shear resistance (provide wall bracing) in other ways, and you must provide special details if you expect the foam sheathing to perform as a water-resistive barrier (WRB).
A double-stud wall insulated with dense-packed cellulose is an excellent thermal barrier; however, double-stud walls still need at least one additional air barrier to limit air leakage through the cellulose.
Check out the advanced framing section of Construction Detail Library for alternative techniques…