New provisions in the International Residential Code (IRC 602.10.5) require a 48-inch-wide bracing wall next to garage doors. But many home designs would lose their charm with that much wall space added to the garage.

Fortunately, with proper engineering, those walls can be reduced to as little as 18 inches with steel framing, 24 inches with wood. A few companies have begun to offer ready-made solutions to the problem. For example, the Shear Max panel, from Hesperia, Calif.–based Shear Transfer Systems, includes an adjustable tie-down system that allows framers to compensate for slight variations in concrete foundations. Some framing contractors, such as Mark Brown of KB Framers in Las Vegas, swear by these new products.

“I can't say enough good things about this Shear Max system,” he says. “We used to sometimes have to chisel away at the concrete to get our walls to line up. This panel comes with its own adjustment system.”

Other companies also have developed their own narrow wall products, including Trus Joist, with the TJ Shear Panel, Simpson Strong-Tie's Strong-Wall Shear-wall, and a company in Ventura, Calif., called Hardy Frames, makes an 18-inch, steel-framed narrow wall.

But Tom Kositzky, with the APA-Engineered Wood Association, says a 24-inch code legal narrow wall can be built on site for a fraction of what the prefab panels cost. His organization has developed a booklet that details all of the nailing schedules and placement of anchor bolts needed to make the narrow walls legal.

“The whole thing can be built with standard materials,” he notes, “and glue is not required. It can be used with any header.”