When you see a building — whether residential, commercial, or industrial — wood frame construction is likely the method that was used to build it.
Wood frames are both highly economical and climate resistant.
Thus, it guarantees its inhabitants a high degree of comfort.
If you’re curious about whether wood frame construction is the right route for your upcoming design, here’s what you should know about it.
1. What is wood frame construction?
Wood is the most common material used within the construction industry today.
Wood frame construction is the assembly of dimensional lumber or engineered wood lumber that is regularly spaced and fastened together with nails to create floor, wall, and roof assemblies.
Think of wood frame construction as a kind of skeleton for any project.
In each wood frame construction, these are the following four elements: floor, wall, roof, and stair assemblies.
Below, we’ll discuss each in more detail.
These four components are fastened together to form the structure and allow the interior spaces to function as desired.
2. What characteristics does wood frame construction have?
It allows for quick construction
It doesn’t require any heavy tools or equipment, the most essential tool is a handheld nail gun
It can be adapted to any geometric shape
It can be clad with a variety of materials
It can be altered for any type of construction
3. What components are found in a floor frame?
A floor frame is used to describe floors made from wood (as opposed to concrete slabs).
They help to distribute structural loads across the building to load-bearing walls or the foundation.
Sill plate: A wood member made from treated wood that attaches to the top surface of the foundation; the joists are fastened to the sill plate
Rim joists: A series of similar-sized wood members that are placed around the outside of the structure; they are laid on their narrow ends and attached to the plate
Floor joists: These wood members are normally the same size as the rim joists; they are placed on their narrow ends and attached to the sill plate with even spacing
Header: A beam made of multiple wood members attached to each other; used to frame an opening in the floor assembly; interrupts the joists
Bridging: A brace consisting of small wood members that are fastened between joists and provide lateral stability
4. What components are found in a wall frame?
A wall frame is the vertical and horizontal members of the exterior walls and internal partitions in wood frame construction.
These frames help to create load or non-load bearing walls.
Load-bearing walls are structural walls that can carry and transmit loads to floor frames below.
Non-load bearing walls serve no structural functions — only aesthetic.
Bottom plate: Also called a sole plate, this is a horizontal wood member at the base of a wall. It’s fastened to the floor frame
Studs: These are evenly spaced (12”, 16”, 24”) wood members that attach to the top and bottom plates
Header: A beam made of wood members placed over an opening; it attaches to adjoining studs and distributes loads around the opening
Sill: A wood member under an opening that helps support a window
Blocking: Small wood members fastened between studs that attached finished hardware or block the spread of fire within the wall cavity
Top plate: A horizontal wood member at the top of studs
King plate: A secondary plate fastened to the top plate; king plates are used to interconnect corners and interior wall frames within a building as well
5. What components are found in a stair frame?
Stair frames allow people to travel between levels.
The frame itself carries active loads to outside walls or to vertical studs that support the stair frame.
The following are the parts of a stair frame:
Stringer: Multiple diagonal wood members cut to form the rise and run of the stair
Tread: A horizontal wood member that is the rough service of a step
Riser: A vertical wood member that forms the height of each step
6. What components are found in a roof frame?
These components are what are used to construct a traditional roof frame.
These roofs distribute loads across load-bearing walls.
Rafters: Diagonal wood members that are spaced uniformly apart.
The roof sheathing attaches to these.
The angle of the rafters is determined by the designed rise and run of the roof surface.
Various types of rafters are used to form the desired roof shape and style.
For example, common rafter, hip rafter, valley rafter, and jack rafter.
Ridge beam: This is a horizontal wood member at the peak of the roof.
The top of the rafters is connected to the ridge beam.
Collar beam: This is a horizontal wood member between the rafters.
It helps provide stability across diagonal rafters.
Ceiling joists: These are wood members that function similarly to floor joists.
They frame the ceiling of the top building story and the floor of the attic above.
Fascia boards: These boards are attached to the bottom of the rafters for lateral stability.
7. What are the different methods of wood frame construction?
There’s more than one way to build a wood frame construction.
Here are the different types you can choose from based on your needs.
Platform frame construction
This easy method is best for the construction of houses.
You cover first-floor joists with sub-flooring to create a surface where exterior walls and interior partitions can be built.
Then, wall framing can be assembled on the floor, and the entire unit can be tilted into place.
Balloon frame construction
Although less popular than the platform method the balloon frame construction approach can still be useful in certain circumstances.
Exterior wall studs and first-floor joists are supported by the anchor sill.
Exterior wall studs are continuous to the second floor.
A ribbon strip supports the second-floor joists which are inserted into the inside edges of the exterior wall studs.
Plank and beam frame construction
This framing method uses beams supported by posts.
The posts provide wall framing, and planks are used to cover floors and roofs (acting as subflooring and roof sheathing).
Roof and floor loads imposed on beams are ultimately transferred to the posts, which get received by the foundation.
This method uses roof truss, floor truss, and metal anchors to build strong wood frames.
Trussed frames have the advantage of being rigid and providing wider roof spacing and floor supporting members.
8. What are the types of fastenings for wood frames?
To successfully build wood frame constructions, you must use fasteners depending on the size of the wood elements and exert loads.
Below are the most common fastening techniques as well as when they are used.
Nails, anchors, and additives
Nails (or some combination of nails with metal framing anchors and construction additives) are used to fasten framing lumber and sheathing panels.
Ring or shank nails
These fastenings are used when high loads must be supported.
These are used when loads act at right angles to nails. However, they should be avoided if loads act parallel to the nail.
9. What are the top lumber choices for wood frame construction?
Wood frame construction uses framing lumber or structural wood for house framing.
The following list outlines the different types of wood used as framing lumber, which is most commonly used for housing construction.
Standard SPF (spruce-pine-fir) lumber
Glulam or glued laminated timber
Cross-laminated timber (CLT)
Interior finishing wood – pine, oak, maple, or yellow birch
10. What are the challenges of wood frame construction?
Wood frame construction isn’t perfect.
While it’s the most common way to build houses, there are still drawbacks to using this method.
Here’s what you should keep in mind.
Wood isn’t fire-resistant
How would you build a fire? With wood, of course!
Wood catches fire easily, and it’s problematic with wood frame constructions.
You can try to make a building “fire-resistant” by covering wood frame materials with flame retardants.
However, in the early stages of construction before the complete placement of fire protection over the wood frame, this leaves wood-frame buildings susceptible to fire damage.
Wood isn’t wind resistant
If you need a building that is stable in strong wind, wood isn’t the best way to go.
It can be highly labor and cost-intensive to construct a wind-resistant wood-framed building.
It can cost roughly 25 to 30 percent more to build a wind-resistant wood-framed structure than standard construction.
Wood isn’t the most durable material
Wood isn’t the strongest building material.
It can easily be damaged by moisture or termites.
When these factors affect wood, it will degrade the integrity of the wood frame construction, costing thousands to repair.
Wood has a low thermal mass
Low thermal mass products create a building that isn’t naturally energy efficient.
Wood has low thermal mass, unlike products such as stone and adobe.
Stone and adobe pull in and store heat energy during the day and release the energy during the cooler evenings.
This process helps to stabilize the temperature shifts within a building and reduces the rate of heat transfer.
Wood frames sometimes have shrinkage problems
Wood structures are susceptible to moisture in the wall systems.
This moisture can cause mold, which in turn prompts allergic and asthmatic reactions.
Wood frames often have sound insulation problems
If you want sufficient sound insulation, you may not love your outcome with a wood frame construction.
To achieve sound reductions, wood frame structures require time-consuming and costly methods.
Here are a couple of techniques for reducing sound in wood frame buildings:
- Applying a heavy board like fermacell gypsum fiberboard panels
- Doubling up on the plasterboard
11. How can you protect wood?
Good construction practice is protecting wood whenever possible from decay, termites, moisture, etc.
Basic protection includes the removal of tree roots in the area around the structure before backfilling.
You should also carefully tamp loose backfill to decrease any future settlement that may occur.
To prevent excess moisture, create a certain degree of slope at the foundation (and over the building) to force water away from the structure.
You can also treat all wood structural elements based on the exposure to weather and proximity to the ground.
12. What are the environmental advantages of wood frame construction?
Wood is by far the most ecological framing material.
It’s a renewable resource that helps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions when used in the place of other materials.
Why is this?
For one, it requires less energy to produce when it comes to resource extraction, manufacturing, and transportation.
Building with wood can help to make a measurable impact as we combat climate change.
You may be thinking, “But wait…I thought that wood frame construction was the most common type of framing?”
Wood is still prevalent in residential construction; however, it has largely been replaced in commercial applications by both concrete and steel.
This is bad news for the environment as research shows that the lifecycle of steel and concrete results in 26 to 31 percent more greenhouse gas emissions than wood.
A lot of people are surprised by this.
They would think that cutting down trees to build houses or commercial buildings would be worse for the environment than using concrete or steel.
Yet, provided that an equal number of new trees are planted, harvesting trees for wood is the better route.
We want as many trees around us as possible — they help to capture and convert carbon into oxygen and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Yet another factor on wood’s side is its lifespan.
As long as it’s well-maintained and protected against moisture damage and pests, it can last for a long time.
It’s also incredibly light compared to its alternatives.
With these advantages on the environment’s side, it’s time to make use of wood frame construction for as many future builds as possible!
Are you considering a wood frame construction on your land?
Although wood isn’t perfect, it’s better than most of its other alternatives.
If you take care to replace the trees you’ve harvested for your project, it can be a light, quick, adaptable, and environmentally friendly option.
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Disclaimer: we are not lawyers, accountants or financial advisors and the information in this article is for informational purposes only. This article is based on our own research and experience and we do our best to keep it accurate and up-to-date, but it may contain errors. Please be sure to consult a legal or financial professional before making any investment decisions.