Category Archives: Wall Framing

Second Floor Framing: Moving Thirteen Tons of Framing Materials to the Second Floor

Of all the challenges builders have today, one of them is NOT heavy lifting.

The mission: To move thirteen tons of materials from here…

…to here.

Advanced Framing: Less Wood, More Insulation

Advanced Framing, sometimes called Optimum Value Engineering (OVE), refers to framing techniques designed to reduce the amount of lumber used and the waste generated in the construction of a wood-framed house while maximizing the energy efficiency of the wall assemblies by making more room for high R-value insulation of R3 to R6 per inch instead of wood at only about R1 per inch.

The US Department of Energy has been responsible for the research that defines and supports Advanced Framing Techniques. The following chart was created by the DOE:

The most basic feature of Advanced Framing for a two-story home is changing the wall frame from 2x4s @ 16″ on center to 2x6s @ 24″ on center. Even though we use lumber that is 50% larger we actually are using slightly less lumber since we are using wider spacing and lots of techniques like two-stud corners which use fewer studs than normal. Here we have just tilted up the first 2×6 @ 24″ on center wall section.

Optimizing the use of lumber can save significant cost. For example, the Uniform Building Code even allows 2 feet on center 2×4 stud spacing in one-story dwellings and on the top floor of multistory dwellings instead of the conventional 16 inches on center. Also, using two-stud corners can save as many as 40 to 50 studs in a house.

Advanced framing methods may reduce wood use up to 20% and improve wall thermal resistance values from 5 to 10%. Just the corner and wall intersections of typical homes can add up to 10 or more feet of wall that is not insulated.

This doesn’t include the additional insulation value you get by filling a 2″ deeper wall cavity with insulation. A standard 2×4 wall cavity would achieve R-13 when filled while a 2×6 wall cavity can achieve R-20 with the same fill materials. This is over a 50% increase in R-value, and insulation is pretty cheap.

The small window rough openings high on the long wall are sized to fit standard 24″ o.c. stud bays so there are no extra studs used to frame the openings. This is another feature of Advanced Framing if you have managed to get the building designers on board from the start. Most of the windows in this home have been designed to fit a single or double wide stud opening …no extra studs.

However, we are in earthquake country on this project so the structural engineers require additional studs for “hold down” connections to the foundation and horizontal blocking for metal straps above and below window and door openings. Even so, we still have more room for insulation and the wall cavity is deeper so it will accept more insulation. Enough to cover the horizontal blocking in this wall section and thereby reducing thermal bridging.

Here we have one example of an insulated header with some EPS foam on the exterior side of the header visible in this photo of an 8ft wide window opening. Below is another type of insulated header with EPS sandwiched in between LVL headers.

The house is just as strong as a conventionally built house. We save trees and money and we achieve a higher insulation content which yields increased comfort and energy savings. Additional construction cost savings result from reduced waste disposal, which also helps the environment. A win-win-win by all measures.

We will post some other stories with more details on the Advance Framing techniques we used on this project.

Advanced Framing: Two Stud Corners

Here’s another classic ‘Advanced Framing’ technique: building corners with only two studs, or sometimes three to keep the structural engineer happy in earthquake and hurrican zones. This technique reduces framing lumber and also allows for more insulation at the building corner (a space that usually goes un-insulated.)

By eliminating all the non-structural lumber from our exterior corners, you can see how there is more room for insulation. A 2×6 stud has an R-value of 6.8, while the insulated cavity can easily have an R-value as high as 21. You can then understand how fewer studs and more insulation will drastically improve the overall performance of our walls.

Here’s an image of a corner with double 2×6’s at one wall end to support a Holdown and a single 2×6 on the other wall end for a total of only three studs even on this structurally important “Shear wall” corner. Other corners have just two studs total, but in both cases there is still room to fill much of the outside corner with insulation. We’ve used some scrap pieces of OSB here on the inside edge, to act as our nailer for when we install our interior gypsum wall board later on.

Ladder Blocking: Framing Technique for Even More Insulation

Ladder framing or ‘ladder panels’ creates space for more insulation while reducing the amount of wood needed to frame the home. By using less wood but keeping the structural integrity of the frame, we are using what engineers call “OVE,” or “optimal value engineering.”

The best application of the ladder framing technique is when we connect an interior wall to an exterior wall. By using short lumber pieces and attaching them between the studs of the exterior wall, we provide a nailing surface to support the interior wall. We can make use of scrap lumber to accomplish this.

With the exterior sheathing in place you can see the space created for insulation behind each of the perpendicular interior wall intersection studs. This eliminates a thermal bridge.

We often use ladder blocking even on interior wall intersections to save lumber.

Ladder blocking used at the intersection of interior and exterior walls provides a nailing base while allowing space for continuous insulation in the exterior wall behind the ladder framing. Another simple way to improve our building envelope by making sure we reduce those thermal breaks.