How To Control Framing Costs

By Kenny Grono

Smart choices in framing can save in the overall cost of a new house.

In the previous post I discussed how to use smart planning to save money when choosing the type of foundation. Most houses these days are built with wood, or "stick-framed.” Once the foundation is solid, it's time to bring in the sticks and start framing. Read on to find out ways a design can affect costs when it comes to framing.

Framing lumber comes in standard lengths designed for ceiling heights that efficiently use wood and drywall. A plan that utilizes these lengths efficiently is less wasteful and will save you money. For instance: Drywall comes in 4' and  4 1/2' widths, so 8' and 9' ceilings require two sheets each, run horizontally. A 92 5/8" 2x4 with two 2x4 top plates and a bottom plate (plates are just 2x4s on their side) will give you a finished ceiling height of 8' - without cutting any studs. This means the wall goes up faster and there is less waste - and it is why you'll see so many 8' ceilings in modern homes. A plan calling for a 9' 9" ceiling means we need to cut every 10' 2x4 that goes into those walls. One strategy would be to save on the 2nd floor where you spend less time, in order to get the tall ceilings that let light deeper into the house on the 1st floor where everyone hangs out.

Of course not building walls saves a lot of wood. An open layout like a great room is a good way to avoid building walls - combine several uses into one room and you have less framing, fewer doors and less drywall corners. Just don't put a huge vaulted ceiling on that great room and cancel out your savings. Vaulted spaces are expensive to frame and to drywall. But remember, don't let saving money force you into a bad design. These are tips to keep in mind, but a poorly designed house will need to be remodeled sooner and that's penny-wise but pound-foolish.

Any house plan can be framed more efficiently if your builder is familiar with smart framing techniques. If roof rafters are lined up with wall studs the top plates can be reduced from two to one. Wall studs can often be spaced at 24" instead of 16". There are many ways to reduce the amount of wood that goes into a wall without compromising the structure. Even better than the upfront savings, a wall with less wood means more insulation can fit into the wall, so you will save on energy costs. Check with your local building inspector to make sure this is approved in your area.

Though it won't save you money, and could even increase the cost of your framing lumber, you should consider the life-cycle cost of the house you're building and try to purchase certified lumber. FSC and SFI certified lumber is from sustainably managed forests. Life cycle costs consider more than the sticker price of the products we put into our homes, but also the less tangible costs, like the impact on the environment, and whether materials can be recycled down the line when they need to be replaced. The best home is the one we can afford to build without unnecessarily harming the planet or future generations.  


09/29/2013