Does putting plywood over studs make it a shear wall?

October 22, 2011

We are remodeling our old house (built in the 40's) and have opened up one side of a long wall in the house. The framing we saw in it (see my old post) was boarder line shoddy. We've since reinforced the heck out of it by adding lots of studs and blocking.

There are two big openings in this wall, one leading to the kitchen and one to the family room. We had seen cracks in the corners of the openings before we took the sheetrock down. To prevent that in the future, besides fixing a sagging foundation pier, we also decided to close the wall up by putting 1/2" plywood sheathing first and then 1/2" sheetrock.

My question is, does adding plywood sheathing on one side make this wall a shear wall? The reason I ask is there are many requirements around building a shear wall (PDF reference). At the minimum, we need to double up studs at every panel edge --every 4 ft -- and add a whole lot more horizontal blocking for the same because the wall is taller than 8 ft. To be honest, we are a bit blocked out at this point.

Okay, deep down, I know we need to/should add all the blocking. For horizontal blocking, can we add it at the same height (e.g. four feet from the roof) all the way across? In other words, is it okay that we have one horizontal seam at the same level along the entire wall? I did not see in that linked PDF about staggering panel seams (like how it's suggested for drywall installation).

Current state of the wall:

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