Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Advanced Framing

I wanted to try out advanced framing techniques with this house. Here is what that means and what I've learned so far...

Advanced framing means framing smart with the goal being to minimize over-use of wood and redundancy. Some tried and true ways to frame a wall or floor or window opening have been analyzed because some of them are putting extra wood where it really isn't needed. Advanced framing came into being because often walls are insulated within the cavity - the spaces between the wood - and if we want to make a wall better insulated, we want there to be less wood and more space for insulation. Also, wood is not such a cheap and accessible resource as it once was.

solid headers where required to transfer loads from above and open framing above openings in non-load-bearing walls

There are some basic wood saving techniques that are easy to implement and are worth thinking about. These include open rather than solid corners, omitting headers in non-load-bearing walls and even omitting jack studs in favor of header clips. On a small building, stacking framing and using single top plates is intriguing. (I found it incompatible for this design because I wanted to use roof trusses @ 24" o.c. and 2x4 wall studs, which couldn't be 24" o.c. in two story construction by NYS code.)

Some of the suggestions to minimize framing around openings seem to only be applicable if the interior and exterior casing are very minimal. For this project, we had to have double studs each side of a window for the trim to have something to nail into.

So, it has been an interesting experiment. And I see the short-comings of advanced framing. Like other engineering ideas, they leave little room for aesthetics. When windows are centered or placed deliberately (like on the front gable elevation) it is quite difficult to plan for non-redundant studs. When open spaces require rotated floor joists, headers are now required on both the gable and eave walls. And, like I mentioned, if one wants nice wood trim (inside) and casing around the windows (outside), then wood of more than one stud width is required for nailers.

Ah, well... Next we will be building a simple, one floor, rectangular open room wood shop building for my husband. The simplicity of that structure allows for more advanced framing techniques to be implemented. Like everything, it's a balancing act...


  1. Bummer about the 2' o.c. studs in the NY code. We do it around here as a matter of course. I do mostly double stud construction - always looking for that sweet spot where you don't need a 20k heat system - which is usually not more complicated than adding another interior stud wall to fatten the ext.wall. I try to use rims for headers wherever possible. Thermal bridges are often more about mold and mildew issues than heat loss. In old houses you often see a triangle framed in over windows to spread load rather than a header - our ancestors practicing advanced framing techniques!

    1. True about the past builders using advanced framing techniques! I haven't seen a "triangle" framed over windows as you describe, but I have seen a header that is only a 2x4 on the flat and it performed fine for a hundred years... I think we have a tendency to over-design some pieces of our structural systems these days..