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.
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…