Advanced Framing Modifications – Quality Home Building in Massachusetts Through Critical Thinking

Here at Masters Touch we always strive to design and build happy and healthy living spaces while maintaining a keen focus on sustainability. We employ the latest technology in our design and build process to ensure that we deliver the most energy efficient and safe homes possible, while minimizing our impact on the environment.

Today we’ll take a look at Advance Framing and how it can help save on energy use and natural resources.

Residential custom home building and remodeling has long been about quality and style here in Massachusetts, with very little consideration given as to how design and construction methods can impact the environment. A method known as Advanced Framing is beginning to gain in popularity. The initial design process has always consisted of working within a strict budget while creating a good balance of quality and style in order to respect that budget. However, once we moved into this new century, sustainability and green building methods have become more and more prevalent in the design phase. Advanced Framing is a concept in which the goal is a more energy efficient home with sustainable purchasing and use in mind. Many of these concepts are in their beginning stages, but they are a good start! Unfortunately, many of those pushing for it are often blindly following the words of an article they just read, and are either celebrated for their “forward thinking”, or discredited (and rightfully so) for trying to push a poor quality home.

What we have been lacking in the area of Advanced Framing is critical thinking. A better method is needed, one that fits our culture and melds well with builders and contractors. My purpose here is to share a few basic conceptual techniques to help engage Boston area homeowners and contractors. I believe that most people considering a new home builder or major addition would want to know about and use Advanced Framing without compromising what we hold in high regard here in Massachusetts – quality, style, and comfort at a reasonable price. By hiring builders who will design and employ Advanced Framing techniques, homeowners can help lessen their carbon footprint.

Advanced Framing with Solid Corner Blocks in a Custom Home Build

The title above is considered by most to be an oxymoron. Solid corners are almost a thing of the past at this point, as most building officials are requiring builders to be able to insulate them. The method which has replaced it is basically a simple “L”, in order to provide just enough contact surface for exterior sheathing and interior gypsum, thereby creating a pocket to insulate. This works just fine for partition blocks (so yes, get out of the habit of a three-part PT block; you only need two!), as vertical loads are not part of the equation.

At Masters Touch we use an alternative method. Rather than completely eliminating the traditional four members tied by spikes, we add two flitch plates of ¾” insulation board to a three member package. Note: This should also be used whenever possible if you encounter a multi-layer structural post on an exterior wall. This way you create strength and can use it as a load bearing post, so not only have you properly insulated, but you’ve sealed your building envelope much better by eliminating studs from touching each other.

That brings us to our next method of attack – combating air spaces that cannot be insulated.

Jack/King Studs, Corner Cripples, Plates and Header

A Header is a big source of both air leakage and non-insulated space. There are many ways to build a “green” Header; you just have to consider all the variables. Taking structural integrity into consideration, we use ½” insulation board as flitch plates rather than CDX or particle board, and in gable ends where deflection worries are not as prevalent, we use only two members with a single ½” rigid board insulation flitch plate, thus leaving 1 ½” of insulatable space on the interior. When this is not possible and a CDX flitch is needed for structure, we move into an LVL so that the former methods can be applied. These methods save flitch cutting time, and provide for a tighter, more energy efficient Header.

Wherever two boards are installed parallel to each other, (Jacks, corner cripples, King studs, double sills, and plates) we are creating space where it is not possible to insulate. We are left with a space in which air can travel from outside in because of multiple air passages. While common Advanced Framing concepts call for the elimination of a double sill, the corner cripple, and a second top plate while caulking the gypsum to all contact surfaces, it is wasteful and leads to the building of low quality homes (and crooked, in the case of eliminating a top plate). We recommend simply adding a bead of silicone between any two parallel members that are married together.

A common discredit to Advanced Framing techniques is that they call for as much elimination of lumber as possible. Most builders immediately dismiss such a notion (assuming the entire concept of AV is of the like), as one could argue for years on designing custom homes based 16”OC vs. 24” OC (and I suspect that there is no right answer). While it is fine to remove lumber in some instances (where we are overbuilding), we feel that in general it is better to save the structural integrity of the home, yet purchase materials from sustainable forestry in order to negate the argument entirely. It is this type of critical thinking that we must entertain in all phases of construction, as there are so many areas where we can analyze and reevaluate our methods. It is through the advancement of these techniques that these new practices will gain credit. While our current practice here at Masters Touch is not yet perfect we are constantly trying to improve, and because of our dedication we continue to advance and remain at the forefront of our field.

 About the Author: Jacob Gadbois is the Production Manager at Masters Touch.  Educated at Wentworth Institute of Technology in Boston, MA, and experience certified through the Project Management Institute (PMI.org), he has found great personal advancement through the Core Values set forth by Masters Touch (http://masterstouchweb.com/about-us-core-values.php), the words on the Wentworth crest (Honesty, Energy, Economy, System), and the principles of the PMI; which certifies competent Project Managers and is dedicated to this proposition of continual system improvement and higher learning.  

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