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.