“Progress is what happens when impossibility yields to necessity.”
–Arnold H. Glasgow
-If you have time to lend a hand for a couple hours here and there, offer to help! The framing crew might appreciate an extra set of hands to get rid of scrap wood, fetch any needed materials, help guide trusses, etc.
-Be on-site during the framing process daily to monitor progress. If there are slight (or significant) adjustments or changes that need to be made, it’s easier to address them sooner rather than later.
Topics of Discussion in this article:
Now that the weather had finally started to cooperate for several consecutive days, the framing crew was able to make some descent progress. The house is finally starting to take shape!
Framing the Walls
Now that the subfloor was installed, it was time for the framing crew to start studding up the walls. Before they could do this, they needed to use the blueprints to chalk lines for all the locations of the walls. As has been the theme of this project, they had to put this process on hold for two days because the weather was misty and wet. They would have been able to work in these conditions; however, they were unable to snap the chalk lines with any moisture on the subfloor. The chalk would spread out under wet conditions, which would not make their lines precise, and it would ruin their chalk lines.
After the subfloor had dried out, they carefully measured and marked the locations of all walls. Once marked, they chalked the lines for all of the walls. With only the chalk lines defining the rooms, they felt very small. After all of the lines were chalked, they started framing the exterior walls first. All of the exterior walls were built with 2x6s for support and insulation purposes. They framed the walls using a similar process as with the basement walls. First, they laid the bottom and top plates together on the floor. Unlike the basement, both of the plates could be standard wood (not treated) since neither would be in contact with concrete. They marked the locations of the studs (every 16”), windows, and doors. Next, they fastened the bottom plate in the proper location nailing through the plate into the subfloor/floor joists below. Then, they nailed each individual stud to the bottom plate using 6 nails in each. Keith had previously constructed and labeled all of the window and door headers off-site, which made it easy for the framers to install where needed. All of the wall studs were delivered “pre-cut” which meant they were all a standard length, eliminating the need for each one to be measured/cut. Finally, once all of the vertical studs were installed, the framers fastened the top plates and finished installing any other small pieces above the window headers.
They continued this process framing all of the exterior walls first. I asked why they did not build the walls on the ground and then stand them up. Jeff said it was because the long walls would be too heavy to lift with just three guys. They didn’t want to only build wall sections, which they would then have to splice. After each wall section was built and installed, they added temporary support braces to hold them in place until all the walls could be tied together.
With the exterior walls completed, they began working on the interior walls. The interior walls are all being constructed with 2x4s. The framers were able to build these walls on the floor, stand them up in the correct place, and then fasten to the floor. These walls were much smaller and lighter. At this point, all of the rooms were taking shape, but were still feeling a little on the small side.
I was on-site a couple hours a day during this process. I’m glad that I was as I was able to catch some issues that needed to be addressed. For example, we chose to move the great room windows up as high as possible so they wouldn’t be blocked by furniture placement. On the prints, the windows were drawn to be 10” off the floor; however, we had told Keith that we wanted them as high as possible, which would be about two feet off of the floor. The framers did not receive this information, so they built them as shown on the plans. Another issue was with the transom windows in the bedrooms. As built, the bottom of the windows were about 5.5 feet off the ground. This was surprising because a headboard or bunk bead would block out half of the window. Seeing this, I had the framers move the windows up as high as possible. There were other items like these, but being on-site allowed me to identify these issues, allowing them to be resolved more easily than if they were caught after the sheeting was installed.
Once all of the interior walls were framed, the workers added braces throughout the entire house. At this point, we had to be contortionists just to walk through the house. Before adding the braces, they used a long level to make sure all of the walls were plumb (straight from top to bottom). This was especially important as they would be fastening all the trusses to the top of the walls.
Once the house walls were finished, they moved to the garage. They had to frame these walls in place and utilized the lifts in this process. One of the biggest challenges in the garage, was the building and placement of the laminated beam that was installed above the locations of the garage doors. Once the garage walls were framed, it looked like the house had just doubled in size from the road.
While the framing crew was framing up the walls, Keith started to construct the stairway going to the basement. Before the framing and flooring system was built, Keith and the framers made a slight modification from the prints regarding the stairway. The original plans had one stairway landing and then an awkward angled step about half way down. They were afraid that anyone going down the stairway could miss this small angled step and possibly get hurt. Therefore, they made modifications so there would be two landings to eliminate the awkward step. To begin the stairway construction, Keith had to build the landings. He calculated the appropriate location and height for each, framed the landings using 2x10s, and fastened pieces of subfloor to each.
The next step was to build the stairway stringers. To do this, Keith had to calculate the total distance of each section to determine how tall each step should be. I’ve been around a lot of construction, but this is something I have never learned how to do. After making his calculations and marking his cuts, he cut the stringers and I helped him fasten them in place. We repeated this process for all three stairway sections. I then cut 2x4s the width of each stairway section. I fastened three boards for each step. We are using 2x4s as temporary stairway treads that will be replaced near the completion of the home with the permanent treads. We used these temporary treads since they would be getting scuffed and dirty during the rest of the construction process. With the completion of the stairway, we no longer had to trudge through the mud to get to a basement window to get into the basement.
Once all of the walls were framed, the next step was for the framing crew to install plywood sheeting around the exterior of the home. The plywood comes in 4’x8′ sheets. These sheets are placed and then fasted to all of the studs. Due to the muddy conditions and lack of back-fill around the basement walls in some areas, they installed most of the sheeting using the lift with a platform. As they were installing the sheeting, they would cover up some of the smaller windows in order to save time versus cutting the sheets to fit. Once installed, one of the workers went back and cut out the window opening from the inside using a reciprocating saw.
The installation of plywood on all walls is different from what you might witness when seeing the construction of new homes, especially in production neighborhoods. Other builders use 4’x8′ sheets of insulation board in place of the plywood sheeting. What are the pros and cons of using one versus the other? When plywood sheeting is installed, your cost will be higher; however, you gain more structural support and there is a solid surface making the installation of siding/trim easier in some areas. When insulation board is used, your cost will be lower and you will gain some added insulation value for your home.
Truss Delivery and Installation
With the framing of the walls and sheeting complete, the next step was to install the roof system. The trusses were delivered on Wednesday morning. Trusses are delivered on a flat trailer with rollers that tilts allowing the trusses to roll off of the back. The biggest trusses were too big to be hauled on a standard semi load. Instead, they had to be labeled as an oversize load and had to be escorted with an escort vehicle. The truss company also shaved down the top two inches off the points on the tallest trusses so they would be road legal. Without doing this, the trusses would have had to be modified and assembled in two pieces.
When the semi arrived on site, the trusses had to be dumped/unloaded on the vacant lot across from ours as there wasn’t a flat, dry location for them to be placed on our lot. If the trusses aren’t laying flat on the ground, they can become warped over just a few days during the install process, which would present some additional issues. The driver didn’t want to dump the entire load at once, so he only unstrapped part at a time, tilted the bed of the trailer, and let some roll off a at time. The trailer had rollers on the bottom that helped with the unloading process. Once one group was unloaded, he repeated the process with the remaining trusses.
Now that the trusses were unloaded, the framing crew sorted through the stacks and came up with a plan for installation. Each of the individual trusses were labeled on one end. Using a print supplied by the truss company, the framers could tell where each one should be set.
They started off setting the smaller end trusses first. The smaller trusses were loaded on the platform of the lift and the workers worked off of the lift during installation. Once all of the small trusses were set and secured, they moved on to the bigger trusses. To set these, they installed a boom on one of the lifts, which would allow it to reach higher and farther. Two of the workers were inside of the house on ladders to secure each truss, while the other operated the lift. I happened to arrive one morning early in this process and offered to lend a hand since no one else was available. My job was to hook the strap from the boom onto the truss. I also tied a guide rope to one tail (end) of the truss and helped guide the truss into it’s location. The purpose of the guide rope was to help control the truss while it was in the air so it wouldn’t be spinning and banging against the other trusses. Once lifted into place, each truss was secured to the top of the walls on each end. Blocking and bracing was added after each truss was set to tie them all together and keep them from collapsing.
I continued to help them set the big trusses over the next two days. In all, it took the framing crew about three and a half days to set all of the trusses. There were some areas, where two roof lines connect, that will have to be built once sheeting is installed on the main areas.