Energy-Efficient Framing, a.k.a. Advanced Framing

Use Less Material and Build a Better House

Bird's-Eye View

Saving materials through advanced framing takes some planning

Here are some rules:
Frame walls with 2x6s on 24-inch centers rather than 2x4s every 16 inches can save a lot of wood and increase the energy performance of a house because it makes more room for insulation.

Stack the framing
Aligning framing members between floors transfers loads efficiently. This means that you can omit the double top plateIn wood-frame construction, the framing member that forms the top of a wall. In advanced framing, a single top plate is often used in place of the more typical double top plate. in favor of a single one. It also means a better-quality nailing job of the plywood that spans these transitions.

Place doors and windows on the grid
Moving door and window openings so that they line up on the 2-foot grid reduces waste and, again, leaves more room for insulation.

Use less wood in the corners
Exterior corners can do well with fewer studs and more insulation in them. The same goes for where interior partition walls meet exterior walls — less wood, more insulation.

Omit unnecessary headers
Walls that don't carry roof loads — for example, most gable-end walls — don't require structural headers over windows or doors.

Key Materials

Steel strapping, hangers, and clips

Advanced framingHouse-framing techniques in which lumber use is optimized, saving material and improving the energy performance of the building envelope. requires only a few materials that may be unfamiliar to builders of conventionally framed houses. When windows are framed without jack studs, the headers are attached to the king studs with steel clips (for example, Simpson HH header hangers). When walls have a single top plateIn wood-frame construction, the framing member that forms the top of a wall. In advanced framing, a single top plate is often used in place of the more typical double top plate., steel strapping is used to tie partition top plates to intersecting walls.

Design Notes

Design with materials in mind

Plywood and oriented strand board (OSB) come in 2-foot increments, so why not plan for that in building dimensions? Research conducted by the National Association of Home Builders Research Center on this optimum value engineering concept revealed mixed results for floor plans done on 2-foot increments, but adjusting roof pitches/overhang dimensions to 2-foot increments significantly and consistently reduced materials and waste.

Some siding isn't compatible with 24 inch on center stud spacing. For example, the VinylCommon term for polyvinyl chloride (PVC). In chemistry, vinyl refers to a carbon-and-hydrogen group (H2C=CH–) that attaches to another functional group, such as chlorine (vinyl chloride) or acetate (vinyl acetate). Siding Institute requires that most types of vinyl siding be installed with fasteners spaced no more than 16 inches apart; fasteners must penetrate studs. The standard notes, "These distances may be increased if the manufacturer permits greater spacing based on wind load testing."

Planning for advanced framingHouse-framing techniques in which lumber use is optimized, saving material and improving the energy performance of the building envelope. can be challenging
Design preferences about the appearance and layout of a home can conflict with the goal of reducing the number of necessary framing members. This makes it really critical to consider optimizing framing material as early as possible in the design process, and to repeat that goal frequently. (Like many other design considerations, advanced framing is most successfully accommodated if it is part of the design, not an afterthought.)

The smaller the home, the more challenging it can be to use advanced framing techniques. Focus on those that deliver the highest lumber savings, such as spacing of repetitive members (studs, joists, and rafters).

Builder Tips

Transitioning to advanced framing

Although advanced framing is often presented as a package of measures, some builders prefer to adopt some, but not all, advanced framing details. Some builders who quickly adopt two-stud corners still retain double top plates, preferring to tie partition walls to exterior walls in the traditional way. Others are happy to switch to single top plates but prefer 16-inch-on-center stud spacing because it permits more closely spaced nailing for siding.

It takes time and attention to learn how to frame a house in a new way, but the material savings can be big, and the energy performance of the house can be much improved.

The Code

The code

Section 602 of the International Residential Code (IRCInternational Residential Code. The one- and two-family dwelling model building code copyrighted by the International Code Council. The IRC is meant to be a stand-alone code compatible with the three national building codes—the Building Officials and Code Administrators (BOCA) National code, the Southern Building Code Congress International (SBCCI) code and the International Conference of Building Officials (ICBO) code.) relates to wall framing. All code references are to the IRC unless otherwise specified.

With the rising popularity of advanced framingHouse-framing techniques in which lumber use is optimized, saving material and improving the energy performance of the building envelope. techniques, the IRC now has some exceptions to a few standard framing details. Two-corner studs are allowed if clips or wood cleats are used to support drywall [F602.3(2)], and single top plates are acceptable if 3x6-inch steel plates with 6d - 8d nails connect all joints [602.3.2X]. If you use a single top plate, joists, rafters, and trusses can only be offset from studs by 1 inch [602.3.2X].

The above information is from the book Code Check Building 2nd Edition. Buy it at the Taunton Press online .


Wood is much more common than metal when it comes to framing homes, but light-gauge steel studs outperform their wooden counterparts in how much recycled material they contain, their rot resistance, and reduced job-site waste. In practice, though, they tend to cost more for both their installation and their energy performance.
Read more


In one study by a large production builder in California, switching to 2x6 studs on 24-inch centers reduced framing costs by more than 40%. Because there was more room for insulation, heating and cooling costs in the OVE house were 30% lower. Builders elsewhere have reported similar results.


Advanced Framing Details


  • It's easier to walk between the studs with your nail bags on.
  • It's safer to walk on top of a 5 1/2-inch wall than a 3 1/2-inch wall.
  • It's easier to lift framed walls that have fewer studs and foam instead of OSB sheathingMaterial, usually plywood or oriented strand board (OSB), but sometimes wooden boards, installed on the exterior of wall studs, rafters, or roof trusses; siding or roofing installed on the sheathing—sometimes over strapping to create a rainscreen. .

    LEED for HomesLeadership in Energy and Environmental Design. LEED for Homes is the residential green building program from the United States Lakesideca Council (USGBC). While this program is primarily designed for and applicable to new home projects, major gut rehabs can qualify. Up to 4 points for material-efficient framing in MR1 (Materials & Resources); points available in MR2.2 for environmentally preferable wall framing materials, e.g., FSCNonprofit organization that promotes forestry practices that are sustainable from environmental and social standpoints; FSC certification on a wood product is an indicator that the wood came from a well-managed forest. lumber.

    NGBSNational Lakesideca Standard Based on the NAHB Model Green Home Building Guidelines and passed through ANSI. This standard can be applied to both new homes, remodeling projects, and additions. Under Chapter 6, "Resource Efficiency": up to 9 points for advanced framingHouse-framing techniques in which lumber use is optimized, saving material and improving the energy performance of the building envelope. techniques (601.2).


    Less lumber means more insulation
    The whole point of advanced framing, also known as optimum value engineering (OVE), is to frame a house so that it meets its structural requirements without wasting material. A welcome corollary is that the same house will have more room for insulation inside the walls and will therefore be more energy efficient than a conventionally framed house. Minor downsides, for example, attaching trim in areas with less structural lumber, and wider spacing of siding fasteners, are easily overcome.


    Load paths must line up
    The main principle of advanced framing is to eliminate unnecessary lumber. For example, double top plates can be eliminated as long as each joist and rafter is lined up with a stud and partition walls are tied into intersecting walls with steel strapping.

    Lining up framing materials in this way may require the designer to draw up a framing plan for each wall and floor.

    Use more engineered wood
    OSB, finger-jointed studs, laminated veneer lumber, and I-joists are all examples of reliable building products that can replace conventional plywood and large-dimension sawn lumber. Pressure on old-growth forests is reduced, waste is reduced, and better performance often results.

    Omit needless wood

    Using two studs instead of four in outside corners saves a lot of lumber. Instead of using the same header size over all openings, engineer each header for the load it will actually carry. Headers in non-bearing walls can be eliminated entirely.

    Consider insulating sheathing
    Building scientists recommend replacing OSB or plywood sheathing with rigid foam insulation. This reduces the transfer of heat and cold through wood framing, a phenomenon known as thermal bridgingHeat flow that occurs across more conductive components in an otherwise well-insulated material, resulting in disproportionately significant heat loss. For example, steel studs in an insulated wall dramatically reduce the overall energy performance of the wall, because of thermal bridging through the steel. . Diagonal bracing and shear panels can provide racking strength.


    The Pros and Cons of Advanced Framing

    Image Credits:

    1. Chuck Lockhart/Fine Homebuilding #174
    2. Rob Yagid/Fine Homebuilding #197
    3. Daniel S. Morrison/Fine Homebuilding #174
    4. Code Check Building 2nd Edition
    Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
    Nov 2, 2013 7:00 AM ET

    Response to Richard Bower
    by Martin Holladay

    Here is a link to an article that explains what you need to know about bracing foam-sheathed walls: .

    Here is a link to an article that answers you question about whether Tyvek goes over the foam: Where Does the Housewrap Go?

    Nov 1, 2013 10:00 PM ET



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