Term Paper: Framing Is a Fundamental

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[. . .] Examples of timber-framed private houses abound on the American Eastern seaboard. "Timber frames still stand in older Atlantic coast cities and towns like Philadelphia, New York and Charleston and throughout New England," (Blue Ridge Timberwrights).

The timber revolution slowed for a while during the Industrial Revolution. By that time, timber supplies had dwindled in the Eastern United States due to overuse of the material -- the same thing that happened in Europe. Therefore, a new technique called balloon framing came into favor. Balloon framing was an almost entirely American phenomenon. From the middle of the nineteenth century to the early twentieth century, balloon framing was used in "an overwhelming majority of residential buildings" but also in commercial edifices (Turan 176).

Balloon framing has been called "an icon of tectonic culture and a power of dominance in the realm of building construction," (Turan176). The most basic definition of balloon framing is that the materials used were lighter than timber -- thus the balloon reference. Balloon framing grew in popularity when lumber supplies were down, as less timber was required in the construction process. But less labor was also required, as the materials were lighter and easier to manipulate. As the Blue Ridge Timberwrights point out, balloon frame builders " did not need the joinery skills of a timberwright." Using balloon framing, one could DIY. Balloon framing fell out of favor around the 1940s. One of the drawbacks of balloon framing is that the wall studs would need to run the entire height of the house, whether it was one story or more. "Today, lumber that strong and long just isn't readily available," ("Framing"). Also, balloon framing poses building code and safety problems due to the possibility of a fire traveling from floor to floor through the stud cavity ("Framing").

From balloon framing in the United States came platform framing, an obvious step in the evolution of framing from balloon framing towards increasingly economic forms of wood framing. In fact, most homes in America still use platform framing in the construction process (Blue Ridge Timberwrights). The pieces of lumber in a platform frame are even smaller than they are in a balloon frame, and far smaller than in an old-fashioned timber framed dwelling. With platform framing, the entire structure is composed of wood frames, including the floors. "The subfloor sets on the foundation walls and functions as a platform for the wall framing to set on," ("Framing"). Sill plates, which is a common wood-frame floor system, may be anchored to the foundation ("Chapter 3: Framing and Closing In"). Platform framing "utilizes notched sill beams that run on top of the foundation perimeter," ("Framing").

Numerous framing techniques and materials have made their way into the builder's lexicon. Posts, girders, center beams, steel I-beams, and floor joists are all components that are used in platform frame construction. Based loosely on the same post and beam concept that has been used for millennia, and which was used in ancient Greece, platform framing.

Issues that have plagued building designers and carpenters since the advent of framing include wood shrinkage and differences in wood varieties. Building code issues vary by locality, which would impact the design and structure, material and technique, used in a framed structure. Likewise, environmental regulations might delimit the type, amount, or size of the construction materials. Structural issues such as stairways complicate wood frame constructions. New generation framing employs structural insulated panels known as SIPs or "stress skin" panels consisting of an insulated material sandwiched between two strand boards (Blue Ridge Timberwrights). The added insulation boosts the efficiency of the dwelling and reduces overall energy consumption for the interior.

In spite of the various limitations and contingencies framing poses, framing offers a wealth of building possibilities that cannot be obtained using masonry. The skeleton of a building, a frame provides structure and integrity. "This is a significant achievement of the human intellect and an important step towards rationalization of design decisions," (Turan 176).


Blue Ridge Timberwrights. A history of timber framing. Retrieved online: http://brtw.com/historyoftimberframing.php

Chapter 3: Framing and Closing In. Retrieved online: http://www.engr.sjsu.edu/dmerrick/164/framing/ah73chapter3.pdf

"Framing." Hometime. Retrieved online: http://www.hometime.com/Howto/projects/framing/frame_1.htm

Original Barn Company. "History of Timber Frame and Oak Construction." Retrieved online: http://www.originalbarnco.co.uk/history.php

Turan, Mete. "Reconstructing the Balloon Frame: A Study in the History of Architectonics." METU JFA 2009: 175-209. [END OF PREVIEW]

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