View Full Version : Haunt Wall Panel Question

04-11-2007, 02:29 PM
Hello All,
I am a first year theme park owner out of Texas. It is now time for us to look at panel construction, and I need your help. The haunt will be modular, so it will need to be built and taken down within a couple of weeks. For most panels, we decided to use OSB, simply because it is cheap. That said, here are my questions:

Question 1 - I see some ppl using 2X3s instead of 2X4s for panel frames. I went to home depot, and they do not sell 2X3s. I know a 2X4 cost about $1.74/each here. How much cheaper is a 2X3 and where can I buy them?

Question 2 - I am still debating whether we should use all single panels or a mixture of single/double. We save a significant amount of money using double panels, but I worry about standing strength (we do plan on bracing from the top). I have read that ppl utilize Simpson Strong Ties to connect adjacent double panels, is this the best way to do it, and what (depot) part number do you use? How many per panel?

Question 3 - In the case of both single and double panels 90 degree turns, which bracket do you use (home depot part number)? How many per corner?

Question 4 - In my R&D I see some ppl laying the 2X4s flat on the OSB so that the panel width is 1.5" instead of 3.5". I would think this would make the panels weaker, as there is less surface area for the floor to grab, which do you prefer? (I do understand the motivation for this is more storage space, which isn't a problem for us).

Thanks in advance guys!

Nightmare on 19th Street

04-11-2007, 02:52 PM
Question 2. You will most likely end up using a mixture of both double and single sided walls. You would ONLY use double sided if a patron is to walk past both sides of the panel. But panels like your barrier/external panels... they should be single sided. Also, any area where you have a "backstage" area, should be single sided since a customer would only see one side.

Question 4. I have learned through my theater classes and scenic design class that by laying ANY framing board flat, it will increase the structural strength of the wall. Why? Because more of the frame is connected to OSB... more area connected, better strength. I would suggest using 2x4's and laying them flat. This will also make a thinner wall and save on storage space.

Have you seen the interlocking walls?

Good luck. -Tyler

04-11-2007, 03:18 PM
Question 2: Exactly what Tyler said. Only use double sided panels for an area where patrons walk on both sides. By doing this, it will probably save you a lot of money- from not building all double sided panels.

Question 3: I dont know the part #, and I cant get to a reciept right now, but you would really only need 2 brackets- one for top and one for bottom. I dont think they make a bracket that would mount in to the center of this 90 degree bend.

04-11-2007, 03:33 PM
question 4
personally i disagree with the thiner wall theory.turning the 2x4s allow you to screw panel to panel.im not doubting it would be stronger,but it would take alot to break half inch plywood runnin into it.

04-11-2007, 05:01 PM
Actually, laying a two by four flat weakens the wall strength. Sure it is thinner, but think in terms of this, lay a two by four between two bricks, stand on the 3-1/2" wide side and it will probably touch the ground, now stand it up and it will hardly bend. It also allows more contact area between your walls, especially if you connect them the way we do which is just butting two walls up against each other and running 3 2-1/2" screws in the 3-1/2" side of the two by four of one wall in to the next wall. We also brace across the tops of our walls heavily. We have very destructive customers because of where we are located, so I never build with anything less than 4 two by fours per wall with 1/2" sheet of plywood on at least one side depending on where it goes. We have some walls with 3/4" plywood and built out of 5-6 two by fours where the customers are most likely to run into them. More than a few times we have had 1000 pounds of customers try to run through the walls instead down the hall way. I can post pictures if nessecary. Our haunt consists of approximately 1300 of these wall panels, some of which have lasted for upwards of 15 years.

04-11-2007, 05:20 PM
I am just curious if you built a two sided panel that would act as a double sided wall why not just use one of the plywood sheets as an access panel to get into the framing that screws the framing of the wall into the framing of the exterior wall behind it? Then replace the other plywood sheet with set screws so you could eliminate the need for simpson ties?

Wow that's hard to explain. Hope I didn't lose everyone on that.

Also, Corey mentioned OSB sheets. What do you all think about using basic OSB to save costs?


04-11-2007, 05:28 PM
That is exactly what we do with our double sided walls. Once we have the single sided walls up, we go through and put up the other side of the double sided wall where nessecary. Then we just remove that panel when doing tear down at the end of the season.

I personally don't like using osb because the texture of it is much harder to hide with paint than normal plywood. It would save costs to use it in your black dark hallways though.

Mr. Haunt
04-11-2007, 07:35 PM
Well being that no one answerd #1 I will take this one 2x3 can be found at Lowes for $1.44. If you found 2x4 that is $1.47 it might not be a bad idea using it in place of 2x3. 2x4 will be stronger.


04-11-2007, 07:45 PM
Ok, so I can see the party is divided a bit on laying the 2X4s flat. I know that most of you screw the panels on the 2X4 frame, but we were thinking about using a pneumatic staple gun, since it is fast. Is this totally taboo. I know it is permanent this way ... but it would probably cut panel building time nearly in half (we hire day-laborers to build, so time is important).

Ryan, I see your point about using one of the panels as an access (instead of Stong Ties). This is a good idea. Of course, I only use double panels where ppl see both sides. I should mention though, one of our attractions uses about 450 panels, about half of which are double sided, so that is quite a few panels to remove to pull apart.

Tylor, I am not sure what you mean by interlocking walls, other than with a coffin lock, so I guess not. When I mentioned strength, I actually should have said stability. Strength is not too much of a concern, since we will be using 5 2X4s per panel. Stability, however, has me a bit worried. A 1.5" base just doesn't seem to grab to floor (friction-wise) like a full 3.5" would. Just a speculation though.

Thx for letting me know the # of brackets you use Brad.

As for OSB, I noticed Dream Reapers used OSB during our lights-on tour at Transworld this year, and the three other hauntes I have had lighted tours through have used OSB. I know it is hard to paint, so we plan on using a lot of wallpaper. I was a little afraid of the texture coming through, but after my last lights on tour of the HOUSE OF TORMENT in Austin, TX, during which I really focused on his use of OSB, I found noone could tell. In fact, IMO if someone notices your house is build with OSB because they are focusing on wall texture, then your doing something wrong .... unless they are freaks like me!

RJ Productions
04-12-2007, 04:12 AM
OK , I've used stapled panels, in time they come apart. If you do need to disassemble a panel it becomes a nightmare and not a GOOD nightmare!

Another case against lying the 2x4's flat, connecting the frame itself together. You either have to countersink though the entire width of the 2x4 or the frame is only attached to plywood alone. You loose a lot of strenght if the frame is not connected. Granted it will work, but the question is for how long???

Stage flats use frames with the stock layed flat and then keystones on all corners. It works but they do not have thousands of screaming teenagers slamming into them.

04-12-2007, 07:41 AM
I would personally advise against staples even if just for strength. But if your concerned about labor more than strength go for it. Just remember to inspect your walls frequently because alot of shifiting in the haunt could cause some of your panels to work loose and you wouldnt want one of those falling off on a customer when you actor slams into it the next time.

Jim Warfield
04-12-2007, 07:42 AM
Do they bang into the walls harder if they are not screaming?
Unlike most other businesses(at least none that I can think of?) October crowds can arrive with destructive attitudes, I'm not talking about the normal looking,normal acting person who suddenly becomes extremely terrified and runs 90MPH into someone or something in extreme fear, I am referring to the ones who want to be punching, destroying , or stealing.
Of course I have always thought that some of these people are borderline and can be kept from going to extremes by having more lights on and treating them with more common respect AND by giving them a show in line with what they paid for.
Revenge for "You scared me!" and busting a place up because they feel ripped off are of course weak excuses and an attempt to shed responsibility but unfortunately sometimes commonly heard after the ugliness and their apprehension.
So building walls and the various decisions become a more thoughtful thing, how do you run your place overall? What influences will this generate from your customers?
Maybe really making a customer feel a down-deep basic fear keeps them in line also? I know I have accomplished this sometimes , just being "myself".......("You misbehave here and nobody will ever know what happened to you, you will just become another "Bucky" and dark-red artistic smear on the spookhouse floor.") Yes, I have those.

Greg Chrise
04-12-2007, 06:22 PM
The origional intent of a lay flat frame is that it would generally only be used in a double sided panel. thus you have a boxed beam structural element that is only 2 1/4 inches thick and stores well. If you chose to go single sided then put plywood triangles or squares at each corner. The fram is not affixed to each other member, only to the outside panel. If a panel was to be replaced or even one of the frame peices becomes damaged it can be removed as an individual component and replaced.

Unfortunately with the single sided version, you will be replacing single components regularly as the week point is not the lumber so much as the edges not being connected and leverage takes over and rips all the screws. The boxed beam thin panels are really only intended for triangular grids where the longest length unsupported by over head bracing would be no more than 3 panels and the best method is to have sections that come in assembled 2 section and 3 section long assemblies even of the mystical interlocking panel design.

The name of the clip at either Home Depot or Lowes is Simpson Strong Tie A-21 using 4 per joint, one on either side of the panel at the top and bottom. If you are doing flat walls and 90 degree angles there is the A-15 or these larger and cheaper units can replace the back A-21 units just to conver more surface area and be less expensive.

In either case these ties are bent as needed to any angle or shape or left as a 90 or made into a 120 or made flat. Any time there is a long 3 or more section wall a continuous piece of lumber goes all the way across the top and sometimes even the bottom of a panel to keep them straight or such a beam is added to the top bracing scheme.

It is cheaper to not have any of these Simpson strong tie deals and use conventional 2x4 on edge and screw panels together. This whole tie thing is just for weird 60 degree, 120 degree and 30 degree configurations. The whole system is intended to be on a carpet or shims placed where ever strong contact to the floor has not occured. This is intended for not having the ability to tie things into the floor and not leaving a scared floor behind.

Storage is an ongoing expense so thinner is better as generally most rents or space utilization costs seem to go by square footage. If yo have a trailer haunt or a permnanent location, it makes no difference as how they will be stored. Thinner also means more weight per square foot of storage and more weight possibly leaning against something off season.

It is preferable to have panels stored on edge so the painted surfaces don't compress with the full weight of all the panels and the paint becomes a bonding material laminating all of your walls together requiring damage just to seperate them.

2x3s suck in a Simpson Strong Tie design as there isn't enough meat for screws to not damage framing lumber. They are lighter by about 10 pounds per panel but, cost exactly the same as 2x4 construction.

Single sided with 2x4s and 3/8 plywood wiegh 60 pounds after paint. Double side are 85 to 90 pounds. How much do you weigh and what percentage of your body weight can you lift 200 to 1300 times before herniation or back disc rupture. Are all of your build up crew 12 year olds? Are you going to hire a Lepar colony for a day (Leprosy makes no pain available at the extremities, it's fun get some) ?

If you hurt yourself and everyone else, it may be mid June before the chiropractic care takes hold and everyone is bright and cheery again.

Most, No ALL of the damage to a haunt is not from customers, it is from the handling in moving and actors beating on it while it is up. Think Samsonite Gorilla. There might be one special spot ( or two) where customers back into so this get s extra attention in construction.

Thin walls are for triangular grid or very small rooms only. Big rooms think 8 foot by 8 foot panels screwed together with the frame on edge and connected at each edge with more screws. Think 4 helpers per wall or 2 helpers per wall for a 4x8 or at least 4 12 year olds for a 4 x 8. You may laugh but this has occured so many times now.

If you use nails, staples or glue you have just made disposable panels. How will you dispose of them?

Single sided means you already have a back problem or have no money. If it is the back problem there is a whole series of good metal corners and brackets to fasten to each edge, there are also 3 inch screws and counter sink tips to consider.

Just go to the end of the lumber rack and push one of those buttons, I just love that womans robot voice "special assistance needed in the key cutting area." Just push all the buttons.

04-12-2007, 08:02 PM
Wow, thanks for you detailed response Greg. Nice to see your from Texas as well! Two questions:

1) If you use nails, staples or glue you have just made disposable panels. How will you dispose of them?
Why is this so? Are you saying the walls will not last? (When you say disposable, I assume you mean they are through at the end of the season)

2) How do you feel about screwing 90 degree turns and then putting up the double sided panel?

Lastly, how many screws do you guys use per panel (to the frame). How many from frame to frame? Just trying to get a cost estimate here.

Thanks RJ, we are now leaning away from staples.

Greg Chrise
04-12-2007, 08:22 PM
By disposable I mean there is an expected amount of repairs over time. It might be years but a hole kicked in one, another dropped from the truck and the corner busted off, another actors kicked the lumber off, another several walls weight tore it apart, another it wasn't quite straight and square and got pulled into shape and then torchured. To repair it with glue and or staples is a laborious mess. If it is glued it is gone. It can only maybe be cut to another size or incorportated into something other than a wall of a certain size. Generally it is bust it up more to fit into a dumpster. So with all of these occurances you end up with say 5 or 10 per year that you will fix one day. It is easier to build a new one.

Screws, one every 8 inches to the frame. Special attention to putting one on the end of each piece of lumber no matter where your pattern ends.

No problem with adding the double panel after screwing on a corner but it then means you will be disassembilng in reverse order and more work rather than just using some kind of clip or very long screws or one more piece of wood as an overlap trim just for corners.

Generally using screws allows the removal of any panel while even in place for either repair or to match the decor of surrounding walls. Another big secret is that if it is all screwed together, real tear down storage of 7 haunts can fill the space of one if it is converted back to lumber peices and sheets. A complete renovation say 20 years down the line requires this with as little layout room as possible desired. New screws in different holes, new paint and replace what is damaged or rotted to be returned to service once again.

If it is stapled, glued or nailed I guess this means it was built to sell to someone else (built fast and easy) rather than keep for yourself making money and being well maintained over the years with a one time investment. I have watched many times in person and even in videos setting a panel down and just letting it drop rather than laying it down. There goes another one or how ever many that guy gets ahold of. Broken screws disrupted glue bond etc.

Jim Warfield
04-12-2007, 09:45 PM
Did I die and go to hell?
No, but babysitting OSB panels for 20 years would be a close place second to life in hell.
Buy plywood, very little babysitting, almost none by comparison, of course don't wait around for another war or huge hurricane before deciding to buy all your plywood.
Maybe some masochists LIKE that sensation of those big, fat , aggressive wood chips hitting their face when you saw that crap?
Maybe many feel "chosen" to paint OSB 12 to 15 times , trying to hide it's lineage as a collection of big chips, rather than a stately wall in a grand old mansion?
I do alot of things that eventually end up being a waste of time, but I quit painting OSB years ago, of course then there is the extra pleasure of watching that paint dry...so you can paint it again! And again,and again....
the painting equoptment screams "NO!" Not again!

Greg Chrise
04-13-2007, 11:23 AM
Another tip about painting from Paint Contractor Magazine is to be sure to back prime everything. In other words four years later things begin to bubble up as moisture has entered from behind. In the case of a haunted house, primer can be considered the black wall paint or actual primer white or tinted grey for more elaborate paint schemes.

I read on here that someone had a great number of talented hard working people show up and build a whole 6,000 SF haunt in one glorious weekend and now it is ready for paint. I really had to control myself to not post: Okay, now take it back apart and paint it all. Every edge, every back panel, even things that will be going to gether all must be painted or primed or sealed for long term use.

The magazine article was about siding on a house with only that which was rushed damaged and needing to be replaced. All that was back primed was in great shape and the top coat still looked great.

I use exterior paints or final sealers as it might be loaded up in the rain or portions of it outdoors for a time. Generally in Texas it is like the Amazon as far as humidity is concerned so it is like being outdoors even inside large un climate controled buildings.

Luckily for most Noobies, 3/8 OSB is no longer a common item. Saving $2 per sheet if you can find it will cost $10 more in paint. Just say NO.

If you are thinking someone will buy the crap if it doesn't work out for you it will be a tough sell unless you are selling quality and used in excellent condition otherwise it is worth at most 20 cents on the dollar and selling to someone even more unfortunate.

Even though the locations might be temporary, there is no reason for the unit to be built temporary. In fact so many weird and cheap and permanent constructions is WHY so many have big questions with getting through inspections and approvals. Not that it is a temporary location but that it was built in a shody manner or un professionally.

The customers and even the authorities should be in wonder about your props and decor, not wether the structure was built out of washing machine boxes with fire retardant sprayed on it. This is great for a 12 year olds basement haunt but, anything half way serious should just say NO.

The fact of the matter is black plastic, even this miracle fire retardant black plastic sucks. Every time you open a door it blows with the force of the ouside fall wind. Patrons can fall through it. Plus if you analyze the cost year after year, you could have built real wall panels and been making money instead of supporting the Home Depot Empire. Balack plastic is another 12 year old thinking and might have been acceptable 20 years ago as no one knew if this could be a real business or not.

If you start out black plastic you will always have this "it is a cheap attempt for the children" stigma you will never lose. When you do go to pro equipment it will be finding brand new customers that even half way care and the word that no investment has been involved will contiue to errode potential customers by word of mouth.

In this Day and age, OSB has a similar feel to it. Customers know what it is and how cheap it is. Having lots and lots of it doesn't make up for it being perceved as a cheap attempt. Even though you might actually have spent more per panel on paint and constinue to spend more and more on touch ups.

Greg Chrise
04-13-2007, 11:37 AM
I had some time this morning to see how storage of thin walls is better. My haunt and facade currently just fits into one trailer less the props and harnesses. I would be forced to have two trailers if it was 4 inch thick panels instead of 2.25 inch panels. The number of trips is doubled and thus the gas and truck prices or if you are at semi level you just doubled the haulage/cartage expense. For longer trips to a location this might come down to not going to set up.

It is presently cheaper to use pickups and small trailers to unload the big trailer rather than move the big trailer 4 times in delivering our unit 2 miles away. The labor is roughly the same even with double loading to move as it is mostly 80% volunteer efforts. If it was all paid labor, I would be calling a trucking firm or finding a new freind with a big truck.

It could be done but I wouldn't move everything with a car and a trailer from Tractor supply that you build yourself. This might be one of those warning signs that you should rethink a few things longterm.