House Framing

What is Your Best Option?
There are many options in house framing besides the typical wood-frame structure so familiar to many of us. But what are the pros and cons of these home-framing choices?

Let's take a closer look at some popular choices and the advantages and disadvantages to keep in mind when making your own choice.



Framing a House

There are myriads of options available for consideration when choosing materials for framing your home. Some will be restricted because of local building codes. Others may not fit well with your local climate. Researching your locale and typical building practices in your area will be important in your final decision.

Following are several house framing options:

* WOOD FRAMING

* STEEL FRAMING

* STRUCTURAL INSULATED PANELS (SIPS)

* INSULATED CONCRETE FORMS (ICF)

* ALTERNATIVE FRAMING (strawbale, rammed earth, adobe, etc.)

* HYBRID (combination)

Let's take a look at these house framing options, and some pros and cons of each method.


Wood Framing

Wood framing is by far the most common type of house framing - particularly in the U.S.

"Stick-built" homes are the most familiar to many builders, and bids for home building are likely based upon this type of frame.

Wood framing has remained cost-competitive, and materials are not difficult to find (your local home-improvement center may have most, if not all that is needed to construct a wood-frame dwelling).

On the CON side of things, untreated wood may attract termites. Treated wood has its own problems - both in handling, and with its use in homes with chemically sensitive people.

Wood may also have problems with moisture exposure, and resulting mold. It is subject to expansion and contraction, depending on weather and exposure conditions.

All of these drawbacks can be addressed in various ways, however, if you choose wood as your framing material.

For a more in-depth look at wood framing - types of wood homes, and precautions, see this page on wood framing.


Steel Framing

Steel house framing seems to be gaining in popularity in residential building. Some reasons for this may be for the following reasons:

~ Steel is termite resistant .
No self-respecting termite would dare attempt to cut his teeth on this heavy metal! Because of this protection, steel buildings should not require any toxic termite control treatment.

~ Steel is usually lighter weight than wood, and not subject to warping.

On the con side of the matter, however, steel does have its drawbacks.

~ It is an excellent heat conductor, so much heat can be lost through the structure.

~ Some have concerns about increased exposure to EMFs(electromagnetic fields) when surrounded by metal.

I invite you to take a closer look at steel framing including more pros and cons.

Structural Insulated Panels (SIPS)

Structural Insulated Panels are simply an insulating foam core surrounded on either side by a structural substance, such as plywood, drywall, or OSB (oriented strand board). OSB is an engineered wood product that is in widespread use because it is somewhat more predictable than a solid wood product. I like to call SIPS made in this manner an "OSB OREO" of sorts.

One big pro with this type of material is its insulating qualities. It can also be erected in a short period of time, with less resulting waste.

On the con side, SIPS may be more expensive than traditional wood framing. Termites may also be an issue unless the panels are treated prior to use.

Check out more about SIPs framing here.


Insulated Concrete Forms (ICF)

Insulated concrete forms come in different styles, and are gaining in popularity for numerous reasons. Some systems use foam sheets that have spacers. Other systems resemble what I call "Legos on steroids" - huge foam building blocks which are set up and then filled with concrete.

Basically, an empty foam wall is erected on top of concrete footings, and then this wall is filled with concrete. This concrete is often reinforced with steel.

Two huge pluses with this type of framing is the protection it offers from storms and winds, as well as its super-insulating qualities.

Cons may include a somewhat higher price tag (though not necessarily), and the need for qualified installation as well as quality control for the work done.

Be sure to visit the insulated concrete forms page for more information on these systems.

Alternative Framing

Because of the numerous options for alternative house framing, and the lack of familiarity with many builders, the more research you can do on the type of frame you are interested in, the more advantageous it will be.

There is earth block construction, including adobe dwellings, strawbale construction, rammed earth dwellings, cob and other wet-clay techniques, pumice-crete walls, as well as others that are not as well-known.

Pros include (possible) monetary savings, "natural" building materials (yet be aware that "natural" doesn't necessarily mean it is healthy for you), and increased insulation.

Cons involve the fact that these dwellings are still considered "unusual" in many areas, and your future home must be approved by your local building department before you can build it or occupy it.

If you have an interest in this type of home, be sure to check out the building regulations well ahead of your planning activities. Since there are so many factors to consider, you are urged to read all you can on the technique(s), talk to area builders/homeowners, and make an informed decision.

For more information on alternative framing, please click to this page about green alternative framing.


Hybrid Techniques

Hybrid techniques may include the combination of two or more systems. The purpose may be to gain the "best of both worlds", as well as to minimize the drawbacks of each. For instance, a homeowner or builder may opt to use a wood-frame construction, but include steel beams for added support.

Combining house framing techniques for a "hybrid home" are limited only by one's imagination.

The pros and cons will be dependent upon which systems are tied together, and for what purpose.

Be sure to get the approval of any plans from your local building department before building anything outside what is normal for your area.

Enjoy your research of these varying methods of house framing, and soon you will narrow down your choice of structure. Once the skeletal decision is in place, you will be free to focus on the other details of making your green home all that you dream it can be.



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Related Pages


Exterior Sheathing

Wood Framing

Steel Framing



SIPS Framing


ICF Framing

Green Alternative Framing


Framing A House: Materials and Resources

Return from House Framing to Building Your Green Home Page


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