News Article

11 Problems with Wood Frame Construction

For over 100 years, light wood frame con­struc­tion has been wide­spread in the Unit­ed States because it is light, quick, renew­able, eas­i­ly cus­tomiz­able, and does not require heavy tools or equip­ment. How­ev­er, con­trac­tors, archi­tects, and build­ing own­ers must con­tend with sev­er­al sig­nif­i­cant prob­lems asso­ci­at­ed with wood-frame con­struc­tion.

1. High and Increasing Costs of Framing Lumber

The cost of fram­ing lum­ber is reach­ing record highs. The spike in prices is pri­mar­i­ly due to the tar­iffs on Cana­di­an soft­wood tim­ber that took effect in Novem­ber 2017. Lum­ber prices have also been impact­ed by wild­fires that have destroyed some tim­ber­land in British Colum­bia.

The ran­dom lengths fram­ing lum­ber com­pos­ite price reached a high of $582 in June 2018; a thir­ty per­cent increase over the aver­age com­pos­ite price in 2017. The Nation­al Asso­ci­a­tion of Home Builders (NAHB) reports that fram­ing lum­ber, includ­ing instal­la­tion, accounts for around 18 per­cent of a home­’s aver­age sell­ing price. Con­se­quent­ly, accord­ing to Robert Dietz, chief econ­o­mist for the NAHB, the tar­iff will increase the cost of a typ­i­cal new­ly-built wood framed home by about $9000.

2. Moisture Problems with Wood-Frame Construction

Wood-frame build­ings are sus­cep­ti­ble to mois­ture in their wall cav­i­ties. Con­trol­ling mois­ture is chal­leng­ing because effec­tive meth­ods that stop mois­ture from enter­ing a wall cav­i­ty may also pre­vent the mois­ture from leav­ing the wall cav­i­ty. High humid­i­ty with­in a build­ing’s cav­i­ties is dan­ger­ous because mois­ture can cause wood rot and expen­sive repairs. High humid­i­ty can also lead to the growth of mold, which may cause asth­mat­ic and aller­gic reac­tions for the occu­pants of a build­ing.

3. Termite Problems with Wood-Framed Construction

Wood-frame con­struc­tion is prone to ter­mite prob­lems. Ter­mites can dam­age a structure’s integri­ty and cost thou­sands of dol­lars in repairs. In fact, the year­ly esti­mat­ed cost of ter­mite dam­age and con­trol mea­sures in the Unit­ed States is $5 bil­lion. Apply­ing ter­mite pro­tec­tion dur­ing wood-frame con­struc­tion is chal­leng­ing and requires spe­cial­ized equip­ment and a trained pro­fes­sion­al; how­ev­er, it is essen­tial for main­tain­ing the dura­bil­i­ty of a wood-frame struc­ture.

4. Disaster Resistance Problems with Wood-Frame Construction

It is chal­leng­ing and expen­sive to con­struct a wood frame build­ing that has the strength, dura­bil­i­ty, and resilience to resist storms, tor­na­does, flood­ing, hur­ri­canes, and earth­quakes. In earth­quake sus­cep­ti­ble areas, anchor­ing a build­ing to its foun­da­tion is crit­i­cal to avoid­ing struc­tur­al shifts and the threat of water seep­age. In hur­ri­cane and tor­na­do areas, con­trac­tors must fol­low strict build­ing code stan­dards for a con­tin­u­ous load path to the ground and ensure a min­i­mum lev­el of resis­tance to wind loads. Also, to pre­vent dam­age to the building’s enve­lope, the win­dows, walls, roofs, and doors must be mis­sile resis­tant. Con­struct­ing a dis­as­ter resis­tant wood-framed build­ing is doable; how­ev­er, it can cost 25 – 30 per­cent more than stan­dard con­struc­tion.

5. Wood Frame Construction Lacks Thermal Mass

Wood has low ther­mal mass. There­fore, wood frame build­ings are not as nat­u­ral­ly ener­gy-effi­cient as struc­tures con­struct­ed with high ther­mal mass prod­ucts like adobe, stone, and Bau­tex con­crete blocks. High ther­mal mass mate­ri­als draw in and store heat ener­gy in the day and release the ener­gy at night. The process slows the rate of heat trans­fer and helps sta­bi­lize tem­per­a­ture shifts with­in a build­ing, which makes high ther­mal mass prod­ucts an excel­lent choice for warm cli­mates.

6. Waste Problems with Wood-Frame Construction

Wood-frame con­struc­tion often requires a lot of shap­ing and resiz­ing of the lum­ber. The process cre­ates waste and finan­cial loss to the client. How­ev­er, wood waste gen­er­at­ed by com­mer­cial and res­i­den­tial con­struc­tion projects offers the poten­tial for reuse and finan­cial gain. Scraps and cut-offs gen­er­at­ed dur­ing the trim­ming and fram­ing con­sti­tute a clean waste that can make an excel­lent feed­stock for engi­neered wood prod­ucts. To lessen dis­pos­al costs and even gen­er­ate income, builders should con­tact wood waste proces­sors about set­ting up drop box­es on site for wood waste scraps.

7. Sound-Proofing Problems with Wood-Framed Buildings

Con­struct­ing a wood-framed build­ing with ade­quate sound insu­la­tion is chal­leng­ing. Sol­id and heavy con­crete con­struc­tion, like the Bau­tex Wall Sys­tem, pro­vide bet­ter noise and sound insu­la­tion than light­weight tim­ber. There are sev­er­al meth­ods con­trac­tors can use to achieve sound reduc­tion with­in wood-frame build­ings, includ­ing dou­bling up on the plas­ter­board or replac­ing it with a heav­ier board like Fer­ma­cell.

8. Wood-Framed Construction is Susceptible to Fire Damage

Fire pre­ven­tion and resis­tance are cru­cial and chal­leng­ing tasks to builders of wood-framed struc­tures. Wood-frame build­ings are espe­cial­ly vul­ner­a­ble to fire dam­age dur­ing con­struc­tion before con­trac­tors have placed fire pro­tec­tion over the frame. The chal­lenge to builders of wood-framed build­ings is to stop fires and, in the event of a fire, restrict the spread of flames. Lim­it­ing the spread of fire is accom­plished by cladding the frame in mate­ri­als that resist heat and flames and treat­ing the wood with fire retar­dants.

9. Swelling and Shrinkage of Wood Frame Construction

Wood swells or shrinks when it gains or los­es mois­ture above or below its fiber sat­u­ra­tion point of 28 per­cent. The fiber sat­u­ra­tion point for wood is where all the wood fibers are ful­ly sat­u­rat­ed. Above the fiber sat­u­ra­tion point, water starts to fill the wood cells. Decay begins if the wood is above the fiber sat­u­ra­tion point for a length of time. If the wood is below its fiber sat­u­ra­tion point, the wood will shrink. In three, four, and five-sto­ry build­ings, the effects of shrink­age can affect the build­ing enve­lope.

10. Wood-Frame Buildings May Compromise Indoor Air Quality

Wood-frame build­ings may also con­tain volatile organ­ic com­pounds (VOC), chem­i­cals, and adhe­sives, all of which will com­pro­mise indoor air qual­i­ty of a build­ing or home. Emis­sions of VOCs are dan­ger­ous because they can cause eye, nose, and throat irri­ta­tions. VOCs also cause nau­sea, headaches, and harm to the cen­tral ner­vous sys­tem, liv­er, and kid­neys.

11. Limitations on Designs for Wood-Frame Construction

Lim­i­ta­tions in archi­tec­tur­al styles and ele­ments are a prob­lem with wood frame con­struc­tion. With wood frame con­struc­tion, it is dif­fi­cult to include large and numer­ous win­dows, large spans, and can­tilevers and in the design of a wood-framed build­ing.

Make a Better Choice

Though wood-frame con­struc­tion is high­ly pop­u­lar, there are many con­sid­er­a­tions that might not make it the best choice for your build­ing or home. Review­ing these tips and choos­ing a prod­uct like the Bau­tex Block Sys­tem can save you time and mon­ey on your next project.