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Advanced Framing?


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By Steve in Cramerton, NC on 8/16/2009


I put this on a journal post, but figured I'd get more responses on the forum...


So, I am on my 8th book so far... Reading about getting my plans engineered. I plan on using advanced framing to build this house. Has anyone done this? Did you see a good bit of cost savings in the lumber purchase? Was it difficult to find a framer who was knowledgeable? When you had the house engineered, did he/she change the requirements for your foundation?


I am reading so many ways to cut costs by hiring an engineer, just wondering who out there has done it, and did the fee for hiring them pay for itself?

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By David in Greenville, SC on 8/17/2009


Hey Steve,

Advanced framing, as you are aware by now, is nothing more than a variety of techniques used to eliminate a certain portion of framing lumber. Wider on-center spacing. Vertical "stacking" of studs to eliminate a double top plate. And, using drywall clips at corners rather than using two-by lumber as a nailer are just a few of these techniques. They all work and are valid ways to build a home. However, they usually don't save enough lumber or time to save much money.

An example. I have a friend who once framed homes for a regional production builder. All their homes were designed from the start to be framed this way. The builder's volume was such that they could retain crews that became very skilled in advanced framing techniques. However, even with this high level of skill and design prep, the savings per home was estimated to be only about $600 given an average 2,400 square foot two-story home. My friend estimated that about half of that was in labor savings. Why? Well, advanced framing doesn't eliminate any sheathing or subflooring. Nor does it eliminate any roof deck. Floor systems don't change much and when they do it is often at much higher expense for a product that will carry more load with less lumber. So, the portion of framing lumber eliminated is, by and large, 2x4 and 2x6 material. Neither of which is particularly expensive. But for a builder throwing up a hundred homes a year (not now) that $600 translates into $60,000.

Now, how much would you save? It would all depend on the size and design of your house. Former production framers would almost certainly be familiar with these techniques and there will likely be a few in your area with nothing to do right now! So, finding a framer could be easier than you might think. However, finding someone to re-engineer your plans could be tougher and or expensive. It could also force changes to the floor plan and elevations of a house that wasn't originally designed this way. Anything can be worked around though. One thing my friend did mention that drove him crazy was the amount of blocking they had to put in because of the extra distance between studs. Blocking can be of great value in a house framed at sixteen inches on center. Move that out to nineteen or twenty-four inches and blocking is mandatory for almost anything you want to hang (and keep hung) on the walls.

So, for my two cents, yes, it can be done. But the minimal material savings will either not be worth the trouble or it will be eaten up by the process of making it work. Does save some trees, though.


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By Lori in Reno, NV on 8/20/2009


Steve,

I am sorry you've had to buy so many books. We purchased one book and DVD set, The Owner-Builder Book,  before we started our planning process. I am not sure I will be able to answer all your questions, but I will try and help the best I can. Since we live in Nevada, our requirements are completely different then yours.

Once I knew what I wanted the house to look like, I got on the phone with a designer in Nevada he did the blueprints according to Nevada codes. The cost was $6,200. I will look back at our journal to see, but I know we got several official sets included in that price. They were then sent to an Engineer in Utah who did all the required work by again by code. I don't remember what the cost for this was at all. Not even to save my life, I will look, but I know it wasn't much.

We got our walls panelized, when we purchased the home from Instant Home Equity the walls were to come from Canada and they were NICE, but the price of gas made it impossible for the company to make a profit (we should have pulled out then). So the walls came from a company in California that threw them together and it shows to this day. If had a time machine and for some reason didn't go ICF? I would do on site framing with a crew. We found the fastest, nicest, most cost-effective guys in Reno. I think there are no time machines - because then there wouldn't be mistakes, hahaha.


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By Jeff in Hartland, WI on 8/20/2009


Hi Steve,

We initially put advanced framing in our specs. The lumber savings is one benefit--although a fairly small one. For us, we wanted the energy-saving benefit: slightly more room for insulation, less thermal bridging through fewer studs.

But after talking to multiple builders and framers, we didn't find anyone who wanted to do it. It isn't common in our area yet, and we didn't want to be pioneers on this particular technique. We made do with standard framing.

Jeff

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By Steve in Cramerton, NC on 8/21/2009


So as an update to this thread. I have found a structural engineer who will engineer the plans at 25 cents/square foot. I also spoke with my framer, who has done some form of advanced framing and he is comfortable with this approach... Since I have some time before I break ground, I plan on having a little sit-down with the engineer and and framer to ensure there are no questions remaining. I might also give the engineer a few extra bucks to come out to the site and make sure everything is getting done properly; after all, I only have one chance to get this right.


But to everyone's point above, and to reiterate what Jeff said, I think I know that my cost savings up front may be minimal. But using spray foam with these studs 24" OC should save me quite a bit of money in the long run...

I'll keep the updates coming, but for now I am waiting on the architect to finalize our plans, so I can get them to the engineer...

BTW, I thought by reading 8 books I was behind the ball compared to the poll and how many books other people read!

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By Terry in Phoenix / Oracle, AZ on 8/21/2009


I would add that some building inspectors will spend more time going over homes constructed this way than they would a conventionally-framed and fully-sheathed home. I know that in the county I am building in, advanced framing and/or partial sheathing will get you nitpicked on your rough-in inspection, where a conventionally-framed and fully-sheathed home will be passed much more easily. Several inspectors and code officials have mentioned this as they have had a lot of problems with commercial developers using these methods.
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By Grant in Blacksburg, VA on 8/22/2009


I personally like the idea of inspectors paying additional attention and helping make double sure everything is constructed properly. It saves money and maintenance/energy costs over the life cycle of the home. A picky inspector is an ally, as long as he is knowledgeable and not just obstructionist.
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