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Building Science

Three Easy and Essential Advanced Framing Techniques

Stick-built homes that don’t use these techniques are missing an easy opportunity to save energy and cut construction costs

Standard three-stud T-wall framing is often used where partitions intersect exterior walls. This method creates a hard-to-insulate void behind the three studs.
Image Credit: Energy Vanguard

Most new homes in North America are built with sticks. The early home builders used bigger pieces of wood — timbers — and when the smaller dimensional lumber that we use so much today hit the market, they scoffed at those new-fangled little woody things, calling them sticks. Now our home construction industry is full of people who do stick building and the home you live is most likely stick-built. And sadly, many of the techniques used to build many of those homes are the same used before we started insulating them.

Before insulation became widespread, it didn’t matter if you put extra wood in your walls. In fact, many builders still think more wood is better. But when your insulation goes into the cavities between framing members, every extra bit of wood means less insulation. That means more heat loss in winter and more heat gain in summer because wood has an R-value less than a third that of most insulation. (Putting all the insulation on the outside is better, but that’s more expensive and not likely to happen on a wide scale in the residential market.)

The good news is there are some simple ways to improve the framing and get more insulation without compromising the structural stability of the home. Here are three I think ought to be used on every stick-built home.

Ladder T-walls

This one is a no-brainer. When an interior wall intersects an exterior wall, the standard practice is to use three studs to complete the T-wall. The photo above shows what that looks like.

The oriented strand board (OSB) sheathing you see in the photo above will get covered with insulation. The space between those two studs in the exterior wall, however, won’t get any insulation. There’s no way to get…

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6 Comments

  1. User avater
    Robert Opaluch | | #1

    Further detail please
    Could you give more detail, or a diagram, to clarify the photo describing
    "1-by deadwood for drywall and what is essentially fireblocking through the cavity"?
    Thx.

  2. User avater GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #2

    Response to Robert Opaluch
    Robert,
    Like you, I'm not familiar with Allison's terms. Must be Georgia jargon.

    The 2x4s that are "essentially fireblocking" are horizontal 2x4 nailers, installed stud to stud.

    What Allison calls "1-by deadwood" is what I would call a vertical nailer, installed to catch the drywall in the corner.

  3. User avater GBA Editor
    Allison A. Bailes III, PhD | | #3

    Response to Robert Opaluch
    Robert, sorry about the confusion there. Martin's answer is correct. The 4th photo in the article shows an example of what I was trying to describe. The deadwood is, I believe, a 1x4, nailed to the interior wall in the T and to which the drywall is nailed.

    The fireblocking is like the ladder part that I described in the ladder T-wall except that the 2x4 is nailed with the long dimension running horizontally instead of vertically. That prevents the compression you get with fiberglass behind the ladder "steps" but increases thermal bridging.

    Does that make more sense?

  4. Malcolm Taylor | | #4

    Partition Intersection Framing
    The three stud intersection is a poor detail for other reasons too. Because the studs can't be nailed together it is hard to keep the corner straight.

    Rather than the ladder, we use the variant I've shown below. One of the chief benefits is that the intersection of the two 2'x6"s acts as a guide to the location of the partition, so once the exterior walls are stood you don't need to measure or plumb the partition wall. It also provides continuous backing at the corner. Something that often turns out to be useful if you are adding interior finishes or built-ins.

  5. KEVIN ZORSKI | | #5

    PARTITION FRAMING
    @ Malcolm - I like your solution IF the partition happens to fall on an exterior stud. But when it does not, it's at least one extra stud, and the ladder works better (less wood).

  6. Malcolm Taylor | | #6

    Kevin
    It sure speeds up the framing process. The first thing you do when cutting your walls is count the number of corners and partitions, then make up the Ls. And as I said, once the walls are up you have a precise roadmap to locating all the partitions.

    The continuous backing at the corner is also useful if you are installing an interior membrane or (god forbid) poly. Our code requires all joints to be made over solid blocking, not just taped.

    I'm not as enamoured with trying to reduce framing as an insulation strategy as some builders seem to be. I'd rather keep a robust structural frame and deal with thermal bridging some other way. To me Advanced Framing yields the building equivalent of a high-end racing bicycle. Great in the velodrome, not so great on the street.

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