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Community and Q&A

Who the heck can draw an advanced framed house…or is it even drawn that way?

Andrew Bennett | Posted in Plans Review on

So I’m working toward building an affordable house and am not working with an architect (Talked to a friend of mine’s firm and the $10,000 price tag is a huge part of my budget so no can do). I’ve also talked to a couple of draftsmen who don’t know anything about advanced framing. Where can I find a semi-affordable draftsman who knows how to draw advanced framed plans?

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  1. Expert Member
    Malcolm Taylor | | #1

    Andrew, A lot of advanced framing is in the detailing. Metal connectors rather than double studs, single top plates, etc. Where it affects the design is primarily in locating opening for doors and windows so that they align with the layout of the load bearing wall studs. To answer your first question: Yes they do need to be drawn by someone familiar with the techniques involved, and unfortunately you can't just ask your builder to build that way from a conventional set of drawings.

  2. Andrew Bennett | | #2

    Are you aware of a home designer that is familiar with the technique?

  3. Expert Member
    Malcolm Taylor | | #3

    No sorry Andrew. I'm a designer, but I don't think advanced framing is a good idea. Hopefully someone here can be of more help.

  4. Andrew Bennett | | #4

    Oh, you can't leave me hanging like that. If it's not a good idea why not?

  5. Expert Member
    Malcolm Taylor | | #5

    Primarily for two reasons:

    I don't think the marginal increase in the energy efficiency of the envelope justifies the constraints it puts on the design. Saving a couple of studs shouldn't dictate the positioning of important architectural elements like windows or doors.

    One of the greatest attributes of wood frame platform construction is it's robustness - and part of this comes from what advanced framing considers the "redundancies" in the structure. When you decide to subordinate one element of the building, in this case the structure, to some other aim, that is energy efficiency, there is definitely going to be a compromise - where I don't think there needs to be any.

    My preferred approach is to design a appropriate, robust structure, which also supports the projects architectural elements. Then insulate this structure, on either the interior or exterior, if the structure ends up taking what you consider to be a too large proportion of the wall area.

  6. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #6

    I tend to agree with Malcolm. For more information on this issue, see The Pros and Cons of Advanced Framing.

  7. Aj Builder, Upstate NY Zone 6a | | #7

    I always frame with less wood where possible and do so on the fly. Single jacks at windows, never add window sill jacks, I even have my own tricks using 2x4 jacks with 2x6 framing so I can insulate the jack. Headers above the wall instead of in the wall sometimes, stack the loads, move windows inches if it helps, I just don't put some studs in sometimes. I move walls inches so carpet works sometimes, I thicken plumbing walls when the arch forgets to or sets up the wrong wall for such. I predrill floor joists for electric and plumbing runs once in awhile when the mood strikes me to be more factory productive onsite.

    Find my clone your way and have at it. Less is more, sometimes.... sometimes not... you have to hold the load.

    "Know when to hold em know when it will fold em."
    sing along with aj

  8. Expert Member
    Malcolm Taylor | | #8

    I guess my question would be; why should an energy efficient house have a poorer structure than a conventional one?
    I also feel that the changes made to structures for efficiency weren't proposed by engineers who identified areas where platform framing could be improved (on the contrary - take your plans to a structural engineer and you will invariably end up with a lot more wood in your walls), but rather parts of building assemblies that were causing trouble for energy efficient designers, like sheathing, got eliminated, and alternative workarounds to deal with shear were patched in.
    Single studs around openings? Good luck finding backing for trim or hanging curtains - and try getting a brad nail through the Simpson connector holding up the header. Eliminating the headers in non-loadbearing exterior walls means opening them if you ever want to put on an addition. I'm doing that extra work on a project right now from basement to trusses.
    To me a well designed house is one where you get the best of conventional construction plus energy efficiency, not one that sacrifices other things to that end.

  9. Richard McGrath | | #9

    Malcolm and Martin are accurate .
    Leave the framing the way it has been done . A couple detail changes make a big difference . Framing detail at Intersection of interior / exterior walls and corners should be able to be insulated . These details don't wreak havoc on the design budget and get very little resistance from design professionals.

  10. Rick Van Handel | | #10

    If you stick to prescriptive code and learn to use Google Sketchup, you can do most of the drafting yourself. I did my own drawings for exterior elevations, framing plans, and foundation plan, and things got built without a hitch.

    As others have alluded, there are a lot of quirks with advanced framing, but a lot of it makes sense. For example, keeping your house dimensions in multiples of four works great. Why make your house 40'6" deep if 40' deep works. I Alonso used 24" on venter spacing for wall studs and have trusses on the same spacing so I have a continuous load path. A double bottom plate isn't all the useful, dobit was eliminated, but I kept the double top plate. In lieu of header hangers, I used taller insulated box headers. Windows were an issue. If you keeps studs on a 24" spacing and size windows to fit between one stud opening will look really small. All my windows were 43.5" wide tip to tip, so they fell between two stud openings. This worked for my style of building. I would definitely skip the metal header hangers as I like the idea of a solid jack stud. Although I don't believe it meets code, you could probably use a 2x4 jack stud in a 2x6 wall (as AJ suggested) would get you some insulation.

  11. James Morgan | | #11

    At the risk of piling on:

    It really won't do you a bit of good to have a draftsman or a designer who's familiar with with Advanced Framing if you haven't first found a builder who is experienced in the technique and totally committed to doing it right. If you ARE able to find such a builder (they're not thick on the ground), the chances are they will probably be able to connect you with a drafting service that can produce the drawings correctly.

    Having said that, I rather doubt you'll get a draftsman who can do a custom house plan for much less than the $10K you say you can't afford. As the old saying goes, you pay peanuts, you get monkeys. If you can't afford custom, buy a stock plan from a decent professional shop and be done with it.

  12. Aj Builder, Upstate NY Zone 6a | | #12

    At the risk of unpiling...

    Any set of plans can be built with less wood in the frame. I can do it and I am not Einstein. There are plenty of resources on this site and others that detail many aspects and more than one ideal. As to window headers, really architects, you all must have access to load software as I do. How many jacks does a microlam need? My software spits out one jack per side much of the time. Window sills... so many load up a wall with way too many sill jacks. And a place to nail trim? I oversize the RO except for the sheathing that the window lands on and attaches to. The window is much easier to insulate and seal up and trim goes on just fine. Glue, nails, caulk, nice. Of course it matters if the home is in high wind areas or is a multimillion dollar pad with 6" wide built up trim being finished to what I call library grade specs. If you ever checked out the work at the NYC library you know what I mean. Special needs need special plans. I am lucky to build in an area where snow loads are the only extra factor.

    And no you don't have to go to single top plates and who the heck uses double bottom plates anyway?????

    A nice basic home set of plans stamped here ranges from $2,500-$10,000 if multiple redraws are asked for. And many builders have some plans that they would include in the contract cost.

    Development sell homes with the most for the best price. One off builds not in developments cost more as there is quite a loss of efficiency and repetition savings along with large orders of materials and the ability to give a sub a series of projects.

  13. Jon Michael Wyman | | #13


    Although I agree with a lot of what is said here, having a clear and concise set of detailed drawings can save in the long run. When details are thought out in advance and worked into your specific project, it will save time and costs.

    That said, I am a residential designer with many projects of this type; green, super insulated, double wall, rigid insulation/thermal break willing to help get you started. I can provide solid references and samples of my work in the Western Massachusetts area. Provide an email address and let's talk.

    Jon Wyman

  14. Andrew Bennett | | #14

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