Learn about the framing process and the devices used to accomplish that process.
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What Is Framing?
"Framing is basically the skeleton of the house," Rob Brewster, general contractor, said. "It's the structure that supports all of the exterior siding, interior coverings and insulation is held between. Plumbing and electric run through it. So it's basically the same thing as a skeleton on a human being."
The main function of the frame is to give you a base on which to apply all the fits and finishes of a home. And it gives you protection from the elements.
The framing is mostly designed by two people:
The architect, who will lay out the perimeters.
The structural engineer, who will get involved and direct what kind of beam and what kind of reinforcement are needed in conjunction with the foundation.
New Framing Technologies — Concrete and Steel or Metal
With the advent of new technologies, framing that incorporates concrete is becoming more and more common. In southern areas there will be concrete walls partly because of hurricanes (especially in Florida) and termites.
Concrete construction is also becoming more popular on the West Coast in the form of large commercial construction and things where they build big panels on skin pads. They'll frame it on the ground, pour them with concrete with the windows already in place — and then stand up the structure by using cranes.
If you're wondering about the cost of concrete framing, the homes that utilize this type of framing run about 3 percent higher than wood on average. Keep in mind that material costs fluctuate nationally and are specific to your particular region. Be sure to consult your contractor for accurate material costs in your area.
The most common use of concrete in residential home building is done with what are called "ICFs" or insulated concrete forms. They are essentially two layers of plastic foam with a void in between — anywhere from 2" to 6" — into which you place concrete after placing your steel reinforcement or rebar.
ICFs are actually a product that's very easy to use for anybody that has any type of construction experience whatsoever. Most of them are either block or panel type systems. The stack almost like Lego blocks. ICFs are not as common as wood framing, however; they do have some distinct advantages over it. It just creates a warm, comfortable indoor environment. It's quieter and there is less air infiltration. The heat and the cooling tend to be even throughout the house. You don't get hot spots and cold spots like you would with typical construction.
ICFs can be covered with almost any surface material, including stucco, brick or wood siding. The result is a beautiful home with the safety and security of concrete walls.
Steel framing is another viable alternative for framing your home; however, the cost is approximately 15 percent higher than traditional wood framing. And this is why it's used more often in high rise and other, larger commercial buildings.
The Framing Contractor
Whether you're using steel (metal studs), wood or concrete, you'll need to add a new member to your home-building team — a framing contractor, who will lead the group of workers during this phase of construction.
Framing contractors are a "specialized" line of carpenters or builders that basically put together the entire structure of the house, which is why it's vital to find a good framing contractor.
A good builder will work closely with the framing contractor to make sure this important phase of construction goes smoothly. To avoid poor construction during the framing process, here are two things to keep in mind:
Make sure your framing contractor is licensed and insured. Your builder will be able to help you out here by recommending and hiring a framer with the proper qualifications.
Have your architect visit the construction site during the framing stage. If there are problems, he can catch them and work with the builder while they're still easy to solve.
Keeping these steps in mind will help you build a house frame that's sure to last.