Tag Archives: walls

Raising Walls

 

We have progressed as far as raising the walls.

Heating coils

With help from son Wayne and wife Bobbi, I was able to run the heating coils for the floor.. This is a much larger, and more difficult, job than it appears.

You will notice that I used cross bracing, instead of blocking,  between the floor joists. This avoids pulling pipe through holes drilled in the blocking. When installing this type of bracing, fasten the top only, until after the floor deck is down. This allows you to adjust joist spacing as you fasten the sub-floor. We used construction glue (PL400) and spiral nails to fasten the deck. Neighbor Bill helped me and this was only a short days work.

When framing, I use two air nailers. A coil framing nailer holds more 2 inch nails for applying sheathing. It saves time by not having to change nails in your gun. I have a Paslode coil nailer that I purchased used for 50 dollars. My Mastercraft nailer is a new one purchased at a yard sale for 40 dollars. I am pretty certain that I can get my money back when the project is finished, if I so desire.

Subfloor installed

Sub-floor done and ready for walls

One of our next steps was to apply waterproofing to the foundation. In this case it was likely not really necessary, considering soil conditions and the type of foundation, but it is always better to err on the side of caution. This is my son Wayne and myself preparing for the job. Needless to say, I let  Wayne get splattered with the tarry stuff.

Foundation waterproofing

Let the tarring begin

The rubber boots I am wearing has been a wardrobe necessity lately. With the historic floods occurring in Alberta right now, I am glad we are high and and a little drier.

I am beginning to need a haircut rather badly, but hate to take the time. I guess I am lucky to have hair at my age.

Once the waterproofing was done we began building walls

Building a wall

Building a wall

The two longest walls have been built and I am preparing to raise one. Notice that I am installing stops to prevent pushing the wall too far. Necessary when you have little help.

The bottom of the wall is toe nailed to the floor to prevent it sliding off. Just a few nails are necessary.

Preparing to raise a wall

Preparing to raise a wall

Nieghbor Bill helped to raise these two longer walls. With jacks, it is possible for one person to acomplish this but it is faster with two.

A wall is raised

A wall is raised

Don’t skimp on bracing. I have several times seen walls blown down, due to insufficient bracing.

These are the jacks that make raising a wall possible without help.

Tools to raise a wall

One person can raise a wall with these

The two side walls are up.

Raising walls

Side walls up and laying out the end walls

The headers over the window and door are two 2 x 10 and a 2 x 6 with insulation in the middle. These walls bear the weight of the roof, so adequate headers are essential. A bit of overkill doesn’t hurt here.

Window header in bearing wall

Window header in bearing wall

The end walls going up. You may note that the end walls are not completely sheathed. This allows for sheating to tie the walls together. Considerable strength is added. Sheathing is also applied to allow for tying the wall to the top foundation plate. Just a little more wind resistance.

Raising an end wall

End wall going up

Raising an end wall

Raising an end wall

The toe nails holding the wall were mostly pulled out and this wall was still threathening to slide so I put in a few more for insurance.

We acquired a supervisor this week.

Our cute dog helping out

Our new supervisor

Oh,oh, It is too hot out here. I think I will find some damp floor in the shade.

Puppy in the shade

It is hot. Must find shade

Headers are not really required in non bearing walls. I do like to add some strength without providing too much thermal bridging. This has been done here by ripping 2 x 6 to 5 inches and making a header box faced with 1/2 inch OSB. This allows for full insulation with the minimum of thermal bridges.

Header in non bearing wall

Header in non bearing wall

The walls are up and Bobbi is surveying her living room

Living room

Bobbi in her living room

Trees

A view from our bedroom window

By using our imagination, we can now get a little feel for what our house will be like.

I love this type of work. The results are so obvious.

I would like to do the backfill but it has been too wet to use equipment on site. I have not even been able to get the foundation drainage to inspection stage. Well, it is bound to quit raining eventually. There are always things that can be done in spite of the weather. This is one of the advantages of doing all your own work. You are seldom stalled for long. You are not likely to get any breaks at all, unless you just arbitrarily take one

Overall things have been going very well. I did fight with one of my nailers for half a day, until I realized it worked much better with the right brand of nails. No other real problems were encountered.

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Framing tips and techniques

Some degree of framing is required for every house

There are different methods of wood framing.  Balloon framing is rarely used today. We will not enter into detail, but the link is provided if you are interested. Post and beam construction is another alternative not often used in residential buildings. The method of choice for most residential projects today is platform framing.

Framing is a large subject and I will have to rely on links a great deal. I am including the best and easiest to understand that I could find. I may add more in the future if I accidently hit on good ones. Please Note: I do not link to commercial sites except in rare cases. The links provide valuable information or graphics. They are primarily to info sources or other blogs.

Doing your own framing is not terribly difficult, but if you do not have experience there are many places to go wrong. Consider hiring an experienced carpenter to help. This is particularily true if your house is complicated in any way.

a house in the framing stage
A house in the framing stagemugley / Foter.com / CC BY-SA

Wood is commonly used for framing material in residential construction.

Wood is easily cut and fastened with ordinary tools. Strong and somewhat flexible, a wood frame house stands up well to many of the forces that may act upon it. Wood’s strength is not compromised by heat or cold. Although flammable, proper construction limits the risk from fire. If wood sheathing is used in the form of plywood or OSB, it becomes an integral part of the frame by acting as bracing. Wood is available in different grades suitable for different puposes.

Steel is sometimes used in interior walls for studs, bracing or beams. It is not flammable except at extreme temperatures and high levels of oxygen. Steel beams are very strong, and are used where long spans are desirable. Steel reinforcement is often used to achieve greater wind or siesmic resistance. If angle bracing is necessary, steel is a good choice for ease and speed. Steel interior studs can make walls that are truer and easier to finish.

Using steel studs The Family Handyman

The strength of steel decreases rapidly when heat is applied. For this reason, it is not a good choice for bearing walls in a house, as a structure may collapse quickly in a fire. Steel is also an excellent conductor, and it can create an undesirable thermal bridge if used in outside walls.

Even if the exterior walls are of a material that does not require framing, the interior walls, roof and ceiling will still need a framing system. Most builders today will use roof trusses. These provide the framing for both the ceiling and roof. No interior bearing walls will be necessary unless the structure is unusually complicated. Trusses are usually manufactured in a factory setting, so there is no point in going into detail on their framing. Trusses will need lateral bracing near the bottom or ceiling chord.

For this article, we are dealing primarily with wood framing.

Other types of walls such as straw bale construction require some framing as well, but  I have no experience. I will try to provide a link or two though. Some other types that require little framing are concrete, concrete block, log, or SIP (Structural Insulated Panel) walls.

framing material
—Framing material—Foter.com / GNU Free Documentation License

soon to be framing material

It Starts With LogsSeanMack / Foter.com / CC BY-SA

Wood frame exterior walls in hot or cold regions are usually 2 x 6 construction to allow for more insulation. In moderate climates, 2 x 4 construction is adequate. 2 X 4 is used for interior walls, except where extra cavity space is needed for plumbing or ventilation. For metric conversions on nominal lumber sizes use this link.

Floor framing may be with dimension lumber, or with engineered members such as trusses.

Engineered wood floor joists can speed construction and allow for longer spans. They are economical in many situations, and can compare in final cost to conventional solid wood floor framing. Floor trusses can allow even longer clear spans. Floor trusses are constucted similarly to roof trusses. Steel cross members are sometimes used. Both are worth considering for uniformity and dimensional stability.

Floor joists need to be firmed up against twisting done by installing bridging or by furring strips attached to the underside. Bridging can be steel or wood cross braces, or they can be solid wood. The second joist from the end should be laddered with the end joist. Framing a floor.

Openings for stairs need a double joist on either side and double cross joists at either end. Double stair openings should have further support underneath.

Floor joists are usually sheathed with 3/4 inch tongue and groove plywood or OSB. (Oriented Strand Board). Gluing and nailing is my favorite attachment method. Use a bead of construction adhesive on each joist. Nail with an air nailer loaded with nails specifically designed for floors, or use spiral nails.

Most walls are built laying flat on the floor platform, then lifted into place. They consist of studs placed 16 inches apart with a plate on the bottom and top. 24 inch spacing may be used for stud but does not provide as much support for interior drywall. A second plate is usually added to the top after the wall is raised. This is so trusses do not need to be placed directly over a stud and to tie the walls together

If plywood or OSB is used for sheathing, no further bracing should be needed in the exterior walls. Temporary interior bracing will be needed until the roof trusses are secured and interior sheathing is complete. If foam board or gypsum board is used for exterior sheathing, steel or wood bracing will be needed. If boards are used for some reason, they should be applied on an 45 degree angle. It has been many years since I have seen that done, but occasionally some one may saw their own lumber, and may not want to use more modern materials.

Said the stud to the drywall “I shouldn’t be in here. I’m innocent. I was framed.” Said the drywall “Quit complaining, you were nailed fair and square.”

Openings for doors and windows need headers and special framing techniques Provisions needs to be made for corners, and where interior walls meet exteriors. These are easiest explained with diagrams. Follow the link for a good explanation. There is more than one acceptable method.

Always consider the crown on the dimension wood (studs, plates and joists) when framing. Face all the crowns up on floor joists. They will sag to near level. If a few are extra high, you may have to plane them a bit. It is easier to nail a wall frame together if you keep the crowns up as they are laying on the floor, they won’t be rocking on you. Keep your straightest studs for kitchens and bathrooms where you have to hang cabinets. If you have an obviously bent stud in an interior wall you may be able to straighten it by cutting a saw kerf partly through it and scabbing a scrap piece alongside. When nailing on a top plate, place the crown opposite to the one underneath. You should be able to pull them straight if you work from one end.

TJ harvesteri
Log harvester16valve / Foter.com / CC BY-SA

You can save time by checking crowns ahead of time and marking with a v. Fasten the 2 bys with 3.5 inch coated nails or 3.25 with an air nailer. Length of nails for sheathing will depend on the thickness. 2 to 2.5 inch should be good, and spiral or ring nails are a good idea for sheathing, especially for the roof. Check your local codes for sizes and minimum spacings. I always put in a few extra to make up for unnoticed misses. It is sometimes hard to tell if you have hit the stud when using a nailing gun.

Caulk along the bottom plate after standing the wall. It would be better to caulk underneath, but this could make things slippery and dangerous when you stand the wall.

You can add a lot of strength against uplift if your sheathing laps over the rim joists and the top plate. If you feel this is too difficult, then use steel ties to hold things together. In some areas, this might be required by code anyway. I think steel hurricane ties should be used for trusses no matter where you are, and whether required by code or not.

Steel ties require special nails.

When laying out walls, always work from the same corner, so you will know where to find studs later, usually from left to right.

Blocking is required if a wall is over 8 feet in height.

If you are building on a slab, the bottom plate should be treated wood. A sill gasket should be added, or caulking should be applied beneath.

Felling a gumtree c1884-1917 Powerhouse Museum
The way it was doneCharles Kerry or Kerry and Co. via Tyrrell Photographic Collection, Powerhouse Museum / Foter.com / Public Domain Mark 1.0

Framing a preserved wood basement or stem wall is not much different from framing the rest of the house. Extra ties may be required at windows. Blocking will also be required. Definitely check codes and manufacturers recommendations.

You should consider advanced framing techniques. By using some or all of them, you can save considerable material. These methods also make a house easier to insulate well, with less thermal bridging.

Building stairs is also part of the framing if, you are building on a basement, or have more than one story. Most houses will have at least a few steps that need to be built. Building stairs is the subject for a whole article in itself,  so I am just going to include a few links on the subject.          Alternately you can purchase stairs ready made, or ready to assemble.

Building stairs 

Stairs: the next level by Skip Thomsen

Details for conventional wood frame construction–American Wood Council

Construction glossary–Home Building Manual

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Windows and exterior doors

Windows and doors are not only necessary for the proper functioning and livability of your home. They can add a great deal to the beauty and architectural interest of any building.

The variety available in window design, functioning and construction is huge, and largely limited only by your imagination. In some cases, you may even want to design a portion of your house around a window or group of windows.

The front entry door can make a statement about you and your house, and suggest what a visitor may find inside. An entry can be large and ornate, suggesting a palatial interior, or it can be warm and inviting, suggesting a cozy space inside.

Doors are often of glass, or partially so, and often have windows surrounding them as an integral part of the entry.

The purposes of doors and windows need to be considered ,when designing your house, and before purchase. Doors are usually chosen and placed with utility in mind, with appearance as the secondary consideration. There may be several motives for choosing and placing a window.

Interior and exterior appearance is always a factor for windows. Ventilation should be considered. Is a window placed to take advantage of a pleasing view, or do you want to watch your children in the yard? Is light a part of the equation? What about security, or safe egress, from bedrooms in an emergency?

windows

Lots of windows

Windows can open or be a non opening “picture” window or a combination. There are also bay windows, bow windows, skylights and garden windows. Picture windows may be used in garages, outbuildings, in places where they are hard to reach, or if the shape of the window is unusual. Windows that open can save some of the energy used for cooling, if placed to provide cross ventilation. A Window that opens widely enough to provide an escape route from bedrooms are required by most building codes. Removable screens should be provided to prevent insects, birds and animals from entering.

Windows that open are normally rectangular, but there are different types. A common and inexpensive type is the slider, which can be horizontal or vertical. They can be double hung, as in a vertical slider that opens from either the top or the bottom, or single hung in which only one half opens.

They can be a casement window which opens similarly to a door, awning which swings open from the bottom, or hopper which opens from the top. These three may have a crank mechanism for opening and closing, and locks which tighten them. They provide a better air seal than sliders which need to be a little loose to operate. An awning type window can afford a little better protection against the elements if inadvertently left open.

Casement window

A casement window

Material used in making the window frames is varied.

Vinyl has become quite popular in recent years. Economy, low maintenance, and low thermal conductivity are some of the reasons. Vinyl is not damaged by moisture which is an important consideration in cold climates where frost may form on the inside of the glass and later melt. Voids can be incorporated to provide thermal breaks. Expansion and contraction is minimal which can mean a window will remain easy to open in different conditions. Paint does not adhere well, so choose your original color carefully.

Wood is another popular choice, which gives more interior decorating options. The exterior should be clad with metal or vinyl to reduce maintenance. Painting or staining is possible with wood. Moisture is the bane of wood, and causes rot and mold problems. Wood will swell when damp, and may make it difficult to open windows.

Metal is seldom used anymore, except for structural reasons. The main disadvantage is its conductivity, which can create thermal bridging.

The thermal qualities of windows will vary by a wide percentage, but no matter how good, their insulating value is still pretty dismal.

It is quite expensive to achieve an R rating of over 4, and more common is a rating of less than 3.5. A double glass window sealed with an inert gas inside and with a low E coating is probably the best you will get at a reasonable payback. The low E coating is inexpensive and very worthwhile. This will give a rating of about 3.2. Compare this to a normal 2 x 6 wall, which has a rating of about 22 when properly insulated. This is a compelling argument for keeping window space to a minimum. Building codes may require that 10% of the wall space be devoted to window. Most people would want more than this. I don,t believe in spending large sums on extra window efficiency. The percentage gain on the window may be quite large, but the overall energy savings are quite small. Better options may be lined window treatments, or wide eaves to block the sun. Your motives , however, could be quite different from simply looking at the best value.

Note: R values can be confusing and are expressed differently in much of the world. Please use this link for an explanation which I hope doesn’t confuse you more.

Doors can be purchased in many styles and materials, and at costs ranging from a couple of hundred dollars up to several thousand. Most people would spend the most attention and money on a front door, and use more utilitarian doors in other locations.

A door may be mostly of glass, and as such, is similar to a window. It can have various sized and shaped openings with glass, often called lites, which may be decorative. Stained glass can give interesting effects. There can be one or more side lites, and there may be a transom window over the door, which may or may not open.

Double doors are a possible choice, and are commonly used for a patio entry, as well as for a front entrance. There are several different styles.

Sliding glass doors are popular for the patio or deck, and can open from either side, or both sides. It is possible to have blinds built in between the glass panels on sealed double glass doors. Maintaining a sliding door free from air leaks is more difficult than with other types.

When ordering doors, you must specify left or right swing and in or out opening. An in swing is not as easy to make secure, and their use is uncommon in exterior doors. All exterior doors should have a deadbolt lock, and if there is glass within reach, it should be keyed from both sides.

Material besides glass for exterior doors include, wood, metal and fiberglass.

An unusual front door

An unusual front door

Wood can be one of several species, and can be finished in different ways. There are craftsmen who make hand carved wooden doors to order, which can be beautiful and distinctive. One way your front entry can really make a statement.

Metal doors for residential use usually have a wooden frame, and are composed of a sandwich of wood and an insulating material between two sheets of steel. They require painting for protection against moisture. These are likely the most economical door.

Fiberglass doors may be superior for energy efficiency and maintenance, but are more costly in most cases.

A door like a window, is not great as far as insulating values are concerned. Keeping them well sealed requires regular maintenance. Storm doors may be a help, but the jury is still out on their insulating value. I think they have value beyond simple energy efficiency, such as reducing freeze ups and as a screen door if so equipped.

Careful window and door selections can greatly add to the appeal of your home and its eventual evaluation.

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Walls

 There are several choices, of construction methods and material you can use, when you build the walls for your home.

Once the foundation is in and the floor is on, the next step is the walls. Despite the lesson of the three little pigs, we still build our homes from straw or sticks, with the most common in North America being the wood frame building. I will deal with this type more extensively, because it is also where most of my experience lies.

Another less conventional style of wall construction is the insulating concrete form filled with reinforced concrete. This produces a strong, energy efficient and quiet building envelope. Often built from the footing to the roof, this method does not require a lot of special skills, and is quite fast. Interior and exterior finishing is not much different from wood frame. The walls are nearly a foot thick, so doors and windows will have to be modified, or purchased specifically, for this type of wall. Probably a little more expensive than other methods, this can still be an excellent choice for cold climates, and likely for hot locations as well. An added advantage is that the concrete can be poured in cold weather.

My experience is limited on this type of construction, as I have only built one commercial building and one basement using it. Both were reasonably uncomplicated, and went very well, considering my lack of firsthand knowledge.

Conventional poured concrete walls are a possible choice for moderate climates, but should be reinforced, if there is any chance of earthquakes.

SIP (Structural Insulated Panel) is another intriguing method for hot or cold climates. Basically a sandwich of various exterior and interior sheathing, bonded to a polystyrene core. They can be of various thicknesses, and can be used for foundations and roofs as well. I will have to depend on links to other sites here, as I have little knowledge and have only seen the method used in a few instances.

Steel frame with metal cladding is not very common in residential construction. Although strong, it has the bad habit of collapsing quickly in a fire.

Wall layersOther methods include various types of masonry wall, straw bale construction, rammed earth walls and many location specific methods using easily available material. Climate and tradition are two of the common deciding factors.

The common exterior wood frame wall can have a few variations as well. The structural framing is usually 2 x 6 or 2 x 8 spaced on 16 inch centers, in cold or hot climates, to allow for more insulation. In more moderate climates a 2 X 4 wall is adequate. A wall with staggered 2 x 4 studs can provide a thicker wall for insulation, while eliminating some thermal bridging.

Exterior cladding is usually a sandwich starting with 4 ft x 8 ft sheet goods of OSB (Oriented Strand Board), plywood or a fire resistant material such as gypsum board. Next would be well sealed layer of house wrap which is designed to allow air and moisture penetration outwards, but not towards the inside. There may also be a layer of rigid insulation over, between, or replacing other layers.

The final or cosmetic layer is widely varied. Commonest today is vinyl siding, because it is attractive, low maintenance, easy to apply and very inexpensive. Although given an R rating I don’t feel it has any insulating value, as it doesn’t provide any real air barrier.

Conventional cement based stucco is still quite common. Very cheap material wise, it takes considerable skill to apply, and is rarely a do it yourself project, although I have done it with moderate success. It can have a great range of textures and colors.

A newer innovation is acrylic stucco. Although not so variable as to texture, it can be used to add a great deal of detail to an exterior. Often applied over a layer of foam board, it provides an extra level of insulation. Detail is added by building up areas with foam board. It can be very attractive.

Natural wood siding is not as popular as it once was, probably because of increasing cost and maintenance issues.

Aluminum siding, steel, various types of composition siding board and brick or stone veneers may also be used. Artificial stone or brick facings are available. Two or more types of exterior treatments may be used together.

concrete wlls

A concret walled building

If you are building in a high rainfall area such as coastal British Columbia, there are some other considerarions. With some combinations of siding, insulation, etc. a rainscreen may be mandatory or advisable. I am from the prairie and am not familiar with this, so will have to rely on links to sites that seem knowledgable. If you think this may apply to you, please do your research.

Insulation is placed between the studs. Batt type is the most common, with the insulating material most often fiberglass, although other material may be used. Foamed in place insulation of polyurethane or other formulations may be used. Although providing higher R values and less gaps, it is somewhat more expensive. Loose fill insulation is often used in ceilings, but seldom in walls, as it may compact and leave a gap at the top. In Cold climates at least, a polyethylene film of at least 6 mil thickness, should be placed on the inside wall over the insulation and well sealed. With foamed in place insulation this might not be necessary. Without a vapor barrier moisture could penetrate the wall cavity and condense, or even form an ice layer against the outside sheathing. If moisture penetrates into the attic cavity, it can cause frost to form against the underside of the roof, which will melt in warmer weather. This can reduce the effectiveness of the insulation, cause rot, promote mold growth and even cause staining of ceilings.

I am not sure what should be done in hot and humid climates, so if any reader has experience or knowledge, please comment.

Interior walls of course, require no insulation, unless desired for soundproofing. Framing of inside walls are usually 2 x 4 wood, but can be other sizes to allow for plumbing, heating or ventilating runs. They may also be of finger jointed wood or steel. Drywall is applied directly to both sides.

Older homes often had interior finishes of plaster or wood, but modern homes are almost exclusively done with drywall (gypsum board,) with joints taped and “mudded”, after which a primer\sealer is applied, and followed by paint, texture or other decorative material.

Drywall slows the spread of fire, and should cover all structural wood, without any gaps for fire to travel through. Door and window openings being the exception.

The subject covered here is too large for a single post, so I have only covered the basics, and will have to rely on links to other sites, if you want more detailed information on specific items.

There you have it, I have actually admitted that I need some help. Twice!!!.

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