What’s in a frame?

Welcome back, ladies and gentlemen. This week we will be discussing framing – no, not picture framing – good old fashioned house framing.

Last week, in a 3-day work week shortened by an informative “Solar Photovoltaic” (read: solar panel) workshop and a day spent doing touch-up work on last semester’s strawbale house, we framed our house. In 3 days! Yesterday and today we continued with roof planking, siding, and fascia, with more in store for tomorrow.

Today’s blog will examine the structure (pun intended) of a wood-framed house.

First, let us ask ourselves – what is a frame? Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines a frame as “the underlying constructional system or structure that gives shape or strength.” The frame that we have just built for our house is a rigid structure of connected wood boards and beams which defines the shape of our house and provides a bulk of the strength of our house.

The bones of our house.

The bones of our house.

So, what are the components of a frame? Let’s take a bottom-up look at it.

A typical section of our wall frame. From bottom up: foundation, bottom plate, post/stud, beam, and top plate.

A typical section of our wall frame. From bottom up: foundation, bottom plate, post/stud, beam, and top plate.

First, before we even begin to frame, we must have a solid foundation. As Becca wrote about last week, we have a solid concrete foundation, which distributes and transfers loads from the house to the earth. It also functions as an anchor, preventing wind from uplifting or displacing the house.

Solid.

Solid.

We can then look at our wall frame as a single unit. The bottom plate and top plate serve to tie the wall studs and beams together, which distributes forces more evenly across the entire wall, serving to prevent failure in any individual stud or beam. The bottom plate also ties the frame to the foundation via anchor bolts (see photo) to prevent uplift and lateral movement.

Our homeowner Lorenzo nailing down a bottom plate. The anchor bolts (with nuts and washers attached) are visible in the foreground at the corner.

Our homeowner Lorenzo nailing down a bottom plate. The anchor bolts (with nuts and washers attached) are visible in the foreground at the corner.

The wall studs are primary structural elements – they are our wall, structurally speaking. Once braced for shear strength, we can create any sort of interior and exterior wall without worrying about their structural capacity. For instance, if we wanted to create an interior wall of gummy bears and an exterior wall of graham crackers, we could. (In the instance of our building, we couldn’t really because the earthen plaster that covers our strawbales provides our walls with shear strength. In a conventional wood-framed house, the wall studs are sheeted with composite materials such as plywood, which provide the shear strength.)

The beam sits on top of our wall studs and transfers the weight of our roof to our wall studs, which in turn transfer the weight through the bottom plate to the foundation. It also braces the wall together, similar to the top plate.

The final element of our frame is the roof. The roof is composed of a layout of interconnected trusses. A truss is the basic building block of a wood-framed roof. It is composed of wood planks formed together in a series of triangles to make the shape of the roof and ceiling, utilizing the inherent strength of the triangular shape.

Look at all those trusses!

Look at all these trusses!

The roof frame supports itself, the roof deck and finished roofing, and any live loads such as snow that may fall on the house. It also ties the frame together to form the house. The bottom of the truss is where our ceiling will be, the top is where our roof will be, and in between is attic space.

Put all these things together and you get a pretty solid frame. I hope none of you fell asleep during today’s lecture and that you tune in next week for another episode of: Community Rebuilds!

Our house with a hat on!

Our house with a hat on!

A big shout out to Mark Sutton, local builder, who acted as our framing instructor and helped us raise the roof on this sucka. Also, a shout out to Lorenzo Watson McGregor the Third, our homeowner, who has been kicking butt with us on the jobsite since Day 1. And I can’t forget to shout out our instructors Eric and Kate, who have been patient and helpful as we 8 interns build and learn.

Comments
One Response to “What’s in a frame?”
  1. laurenbuilds says:

    The house looks great! Love the edits to the design. I miss hearing “Nail it” from Mark, ha.

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