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What are these used for?

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Threaded rods are typically used as tie downs, and that is what these appear to be for.... As someone mentioned before, the wall was probably intended to be placed in line with these rods. These are normally concealed within the wall voids. Maybe someone planned on framing in a hall closet, which would also effectively conceal these? That is what I would do....... Of course a sawzall rod-ectomy came to mind....but you did not hear that from me....:)

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What I don't understand about this is the "why would you? factor."

It's obvious by the mud on the painted areas that this wall was phase II or an afterthought. Then again, it's obvious by the number of screws used, and the fact that they'll have to sand off a half a bucket of mud before the finish coat that maybe, whoever did it,was in over their head.

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