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The Fundamentals of Framing a House

Looking to save money, control the materials your house is made from, and use your creativity to design the house of your dreams? There’s no better way to do this than to frame your own house.

Framing a house may look intimidating, but the sense of accomplishment you’ll experience after completing the project will make your efforts all worth it. In this post, I’ll walk you through the basics of framing a house so you can decide if you’re ready to tackle this DIY project.

Keep reading to learn the fundamentals of framing a house!

framing a house

The Different House Framing Types

To understand the fundamentals of framing a house, you must first understand the different framing types.

Timber Framing

This type of framing was popular in the 18th and 19th centuries, and it’s been making a comeback in recent years. Timber refers to wood that has not been cut or processed.

Timber-framed homes are constructed with large wood posts and beams without interior load-bearing walls. Metal fasteners are not used, and the joints are secured with wooden pegs.

Timber-framed homes are eco-friendly and energy-efficient, so it’s no surprise that we’ve seen an uptick in this frame type in recent years. These frames are also more fire-resistant than other frames’ building materials.

The downside of timber wood is that it can rot in wet and humid conditions, so it’s not ideal for areas with fluctuating weather conditions.

Lumber Framing

Also known as wood framing, lumber framing is the present-day most popular building structure when framing a house. This type of wood has been processed and cut. Lumber framing uses 2” x 6” or 2” x 4” studs spaced 16” to 24” apart to build walls.

There are three types of lumber framing: platform, balloon, and semi-balloon.

Balloon Framing
Balloon framing was the original modern-day frame. Lumber balloon framing usually uses vertical 2” x 4” studs spaced at 16” intervals. Balloon frames rely strictly on nails to secure each piece.

This type of framing also has a continuous stud from its foundation to its roof.

Semi-Balloon Framing
Semi-balloon framing is a mix of the balloon and platform framing. The biggest difference between the two frames is that semi-balloon framing requires hangers, and balloon framing does not. Semi-balloon framing does not have a continuous stud from its foundation to the roof.

Platform Framing
Platform framing has been the dominant type of house framing since the 1940s. It uses shorter lengths of lumber that are 2” x 4” or 2” x 6” and spaced 16” in the center. Walls are framed with sill or sole plates, studs, and two top plates, and floor joists sit on top of the plates.

Platform framing does not use hangers like semi-balloon framing. This framing type is also ideal for designing prefabricated houses.

Materials and Tools Needed for Framing a House

If you’re new to framing a house, you will most likely start off using platform framing. These are the materials and tools you’ll need to get started.

Materials Used in Framing a House

  • Dimensional Lumber Boards (2” x 4”or 2” x 6”); All lumber boards, including your top and bottom plates, should be the same size.
  • Wood Studs (2” x 4” or 2” x 6”); Studs are vertical beams that support the walls of your house.
  • Blocks (often called fire blocks) are shorter pieces of dimensional lumber used to block off one area from another. They are used for fire safety and are required in many codes for walls over 10 feet high.
  • Joists join opposite walls together and support the ceiling below or the floor above. They are supported by beams (installed after the drywall is done during the building process). Note: Unless you have significant knowledge of home construction, it’s best to leave the placement of beams and joists to a professional.
  • Fascia Boards: a fascia board is a thin, long board that runs along the lower edge of the roof. Its purpose is to keep moisture out of your house.
  • Rafter Ties: rafter ties are used to tie rafters (a series of wooden beams) and support the roof, shingles, and more.
  • OSB or Plywood is used to sheath (cover and protect) the walls, floor, and roof decking.

Recommended Tools for Framing a House

framing a house

The Steps for Framing a House

Step 1: Begin with the Floor

After your foundation is laid and finished, you are ready to start framing your floor.

Parts of the Floor

  • Sills or sole plates (the lumber where vertical pieces of wood are attached)
  • Girders or large horizontal beams
  • Joists
  • Nails
  • Plywood

How to Frame the Floor

  1. Use your chalk line and tape measure to lay your sole plates over the foundation
  2. Cut wood with a circular or miter saw as needed and attach the plates with a nail gun
  3. Remember to build basement-bearing walls, if applicable
  4. Arrange joists over the sole plates
  5. Attach rim joists
  6. Install floor joists, cutting if necessary
  7. Frame stairway and balcony openings using beams
  8. Sheath the floor with OSB or plywood

Step 2: Frame the Exterior and Interior Walls

Parts of the Walls

  • Lumber boards
  • Studs
  • Plates (Horizontal parts of the wall connected by studs–the bottom is used to connect the floor, and the top is used to connect the ceiling)
  • Headers (Used to create openings for windows, doors, and interior hallways)
  • OSB or plywood

How to Frame Exterior Walls

  1. Lay out wall studs, windows, and doors using a chalk line. Plates should be at the edge of the framed door. The edge should be measured at 3.5 inches for 2” x 4” walls and 5.5 inches for 2” x 6” walls.
  2. Nail all walls together using a nail gun, nailing doors and headers first. Studs should be between all plates and walls, and the bow in all studs should be curving up. 2” x 4” walls should have two nails, and 2” x 6” walls should have three.
  3. Square the wall by putting the bottom plate on the exterior chalk line and toenail the bottom plate. Measure with your tape measure diagonally from the top corner to the bottom. You will know the wall is square when the dimensions are the same each way.
  4. Sheath the walls with OSB or plywood.

How to Frame Interior Walls

  1. Measure out two 2” x 4” for interior walls or 2” x 6” for interior plumbing walls until you have the entire length of your wall, and crown your boards by standing two plates on their edge. The bow needs to be upward on both boards, and the ends should be flushed with each other.
  2. Lay your studs out, marking every 16 or 24 inches, and nail them together. Like exterior walls, you will use two nails for 2” x 4” walls and three for 2” x 6”.
  3. Stand up your wall and nail your walls into the bottom plate. If you are nailing on concrete, you need powder-actuated shots to nail the bottom plate into the concrete.

Step 3: Ceiling and Roof

Parts of the Ceiling and Roof

  • Ledger board (Lumber that supports joists)
  • Joists
  • Rafters (Lumber that supports the roof)
  • Rafter ties
  • Fascia boards
  • Top Plates

How to Frame the Ceiling

  1. After you’ve measured and made your marks for where your boards will go, cut and securely install your top plates into the wall studs. Space your nails about 16 inches apart.
  2. Measure the distance between opposing walls, cut your lumber with a circular saw, and install ceiling joists
  3. Add headers or blocking if needed (not all ceilings will require them)
  4. Measure the length required for the joists
  5. Position ceiling joists between the top plates of framed walls with nails or screws
  6. Use construction adhesive for added stability between the contact points of joists and top plates
  7. Install rafter ties
  8. Install a drop ceiling if needed to cover pipes and wiring

How to Frame the Roof

Laying out the roof is the most difficult (and important) part of framing a house because of all the angles required. If you’re not well-versed in construction, you may want to leave this part to a professional. This is a general overview of how to lay out your house’s ceiling and roof.

How you frame a roof will depend on the type of roof you are installing. In modern-day homes, the most popular type of roof is a gable roof. These are the basic steps:

  1. Start by laying out the outline of the roof
  2. Identify the direction the rafters will go
  3. Draw the centerline at right angles
  4. Measure the between the rafters and lay out the roof
framing a house

Wrapping up the Fundamentals of Framing a House

Framing a house isn’t for the weak. If you are determined to do it yourself, you will be able to frame part of your home yourself.

Are you thinking ahead to how you’ll paint your new house? Check out which painting tools and supplies you’ll need.