Category Framing

Checking the Building for Level

Using a transit or laser is the best way to check for level. A water level can also be used. Once a level foundation has been established, you are ready to cut, drill, and set the mudsill in place.

The foundation and/or slab should be ready for you to start framing when you first arrive. Sometimes, however, this is not the case, and time will be needed to “shoot" (measure using a transit or laser) a foundation and slab. Time must also be allotted to fix any problems in the concrete. It will be your responsibility to check and make a suggestion if you think corrective work is necessary. Start by checking and recording your findings. Record your findings in a way that lets you use the information if you decide the concrete needs corrective work. To record your findings, make a footprint sketch similar to the one you used for dimensions and squaring, and write the readings on the footprint. (See “Footprint Sketch Elevations" later in this chapter.)

To take the measurements using a transit, one framer should hold a tape measure at the spots to be measured, while another framer uses the transit to record the height to the transit line from the concrete. To take a measurement using a rotary laser, one framer records the measure at the spots to be measured using a detector that reads the laser beam.

If you are working with a foundation wall or an existing wall, a rotary laser is efficient because once you have the laser set up, you can just mark the red line and measure up or down from it. If the concrete work is done well, typically within a variance of W, then just shooting at strategic locations on the concrete should be
sufficient to check for level. If you quickly find out that the concrete is not level, you will need to shoot the concrete every four to eight feet along the walls. Either way, be sure to record the measurements on the footprint sketch. Mark the locations where the measurements were taken. When you start building walls, you will use the measurements in the footprint and the marks on the concrete to determine stud heights. The marks are only made every 4′-8′, because when you are laying out walls, a level can be used to find the heights between the marks. Another way to find the stud heights between marks is to use a chalk line at the top of the wall to rub studs against and mark the heights.

(See “Chalk Line at Top of Wall" photo.)

Once you have finished a footprint with the elevations marked, you can determine if any corrections need to be made. With the elevations written down, you can show the footprint to the superintendent or owner to let them decide what tolerance they will accept on their building.

If you look at the “Footprint Sketch Elevations" illustration, you will notice that most of the building elevations center around 49W and are within W. The top wall on the sketch, however, appears to be low, with the lowest point at 495/8n. Although 495/8n is more than 49W, it actually represents a low point, because the measurement represents the distance from the transit line down to the concrete.

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On the footprint sketch example, you would probably want to use a height of 49W and recommend adjusting the section of the building that is low.

The Xs on the footprint represent the position of your tape measure when you shoot the height with the transit. Mark the X on the concrete so that when you start building walls, you will have a reference point if your heights need adjustment. Also keep your footprint sketch for this purpose.

Finding Stud Heights for Different Height Foundations

Finding stud heights when the slab or foundation is not level is difficult. It is even more so when the foundation steps up or down to different heights. Using a transit requires you to measure everything from the height that is established when you set the transit. It could be measuring up or down from the transit reading line. It is hard to keep all the numbers in your head when you start adding and subtracting for the different concrete levels and the levels of the foundation.

The best way to find the individual stud heights is to write everything you need for each individual stud down on a piece of paper and figure the stud height from those figures.

The illustration “Stud Heights for Different Foundations" illustrates how to do this and includes a “Job Site Worksheet." Whenever you move the transit, it changes the measurements, so you would have to start over if you did not have all the measurements you need for a particular area. It is easier to finish one area completely before moving the transit.

Adjusting Reference Lines

It is common that concrete foundations or slabs are not the exact dimensions that are shown on the plans. These need to be identified and corrected.

Common sense and experience are the best decision-making tools for approaching and correcting errors. Once you have your footprint sketch with the dimensions and square checks on it, you’ll be able to determine if there are any errors.

If a diagonal line is too long, then some of the lines at the end of the diagonal must come
in to make the diagonal the right length. (See “Square Correction" illustration.) Check the wall dimensions lines to see which lines can be shortened. Once you’ve determined the best way to make adjustments, speak to the superintendent about your suggestions. Typically, a fix will involve moving the wall in or out on the concrete foundation.

Depending on the finish, there is a certain tolerance that will allow for moving the walls without
affecting the appearance. It is common to have finish material that overhangs the foundation, so moving the wall out slightly may not be noticeable. It is also common to have the sheathing on the outside of the foundation, so that if the wall needs to come in, it can be adjusted in the thickness of the sheathing without affecting the look of the finish.

If corrections would cause visible errors in the finished building, then consider alternative measures. An example of a visible error would be if the concrete finish wall sticks out past the siding on the finished exterior wall. There are three methods that can be used to address errors in the foundation. These are as follows:

• Correct the foundation wall. This is the best solution, but often cost-prohibitive.

• Change the dimensions of the building. This is easy, but very often causes problems later on. Make sure to check that the change does not affect truss span if using roof trusses.

Also, check to see that the change does not affect dimensions of items such as bathtubs or cabinets. If a change is made, make sure it is made on all copies of the plans.

• Do not correct the errors. Correcting the errors might cause more problems or imperfections in the building than the errors will.

The “Footprint Sketch Dimensions" illustration is made on the job site. It will help determine how to best adjust your reference lines to make the building square. In this example, four dry lines are established to form a square. The diagonal distances that should be the same are then checked. Because they are different, the reference lines will need to be moved to make the diagonals the same. By comparing the actual and the planned dimensions of the walls that the reference lines are measured from, you can determine which reference lines should be moved. When you move a reference line, the other lines are affected.

If you have all the information down on your footprint sketch, you can come pretty close to knowing exactly how much to move each line, and keep making adjustments until you are comfortable with your accuracy. Once your reference lines are established, you can set all the other lines in the building from them. The measurements in circles on the sketch show the distance that the reference lines would be first moved. It is difficult to determine exact amounts because of the proportions, but if you study the footprint for a little while, you can come pretty close.

Checking level using a rotary laser.

Checking Reference

To check using four reference lines, measure the two diagonals, then write down the measurements on the footprint you used for measuring the dimensions. If the corner points are set correctly, then the diagonals will be the same length. If the reference dry lines are square, then the diagonals will be the same length. (See “Start-up" example.)

If you have only two reference lines to work with, you’ll need to use a triangle to help you check for square. The two reference lines will be “square" with each other if they create a right angle (90°). You can use a 3-4-5 triangle or the Pythagorean

theorem to determine whether the two reference lines create a 90° angle. In each case, the three sides (the rise, run, and diagonal) of a triangle must have a certain length relationship for the reference lines to be “square." Since we can let the two sides of the triangle be the reference lines and make them any length, it is the third line (the diagonal), which will determine if the reference lines are at a 90° angle.

A 3-4-5 triangle works well because as long as one angle is a right angle (90°), and the lines on either side of the right angle (the rise and run) have a relationship of 3 to 4, then the third side (the diagonal) is a 5 in the same relationship.

To use the triangle, use your reference dry lines to replicate a right angle, then create a triangle using the 3-4-5 relationship for the sides. To do this, measure a distance out on each reference string line from the point where the two lines intersect. The measurements of each leg should be a multiple of 3, 4, or 5. Note that the longer the length, the better assurance you have of accuracy. So if you are using a 25′ tape, for example, measure out 20′ on the one side and 15′ on the other side. The distance between these two points—across the diagonal-should be 25′.

The Pythagorean Theorem system sounds a lot worse than it is. If you use a calculator like a

Construction MasterPro®, all you need to know is that the three sides of the triangle are represented on the calculator by a “run" button, a “rise" button, and a “diagonal" button. You’ll need to find the length of the third side of the triangle (diagonal) that is required to make the two reference lines square (90°). Enter into the calculator the lengths of the two sides of the triangle that are next to the angle that needs to be 90°. (Press the run button for the one side and the rise button for the other side.) Pressing the diagonal button will give you the length of the third side of the triangle. This length is the distance needed to have the reference lines square and the angle to be exactly 90°.

If the diagonal length is not what it is supposed to be, then write on the footprint how much over or under it is.


Certain activities must take place before you begin framing. The dimensions and level of the foundation and slab need to be checked. If they are not perfectly level (which is not unusual), you must determine how far from correct they are, whether they are within tolerances, and what types of adjustments you must make. It is important that the dimensions are accurate, and the building is square before you start. Note, too, that the cabinets, floor covering, drywall, roof trusses or rafters, and much more depend on the measurements being accurate and square.

The four steps to getting started, covered in this chapter, are:

1. Checking the exterior wall dimensions

2. Checking the reference lines for square

3. Adjusting the reference lines to correct dimensions and square

4. Checking the building for level

Checking Exterior Wall Dimensions

If you have the concrete-work reference points handy, getting started will be easier for you. If you don’t, establish reference lines of your own. Be sure to mark these lines well, since you will be using them throughout the job. Using clear marking paint in inverted cans makes it easy to protect your lines on the concrete.

You will want to use the reference lines to find any deviations from plan measurements or any out-of­square parts of the foundation. Start by stringing dry lines that will allow you to measure. The more of the building you can measure from these lines,

the more likely you are to find any mistakes. Look at the plans, and string two dry lines perpendicular to each other and covering as long a distance of the building as possible. If you can add two more dry lines, one on each side and opposite to the first two, that will help. (See the “Start-Up" example.) Once you have established your lines, take measurements between the lines and to the major exterior walls in the building. Make a quick footprint of your building, and as you measure the distances, write them down on the footprint. (See “Footprint Sketch Dimensions" example later in this chapter.)

A laser can also be used to establish square lines.

The laser will give you dots that you just need to connect. Set the laser up at a convenient position so you will be able to chalk reference lines. Once you have established the lines, use your tape and a 3-4-5 triangle to check for accuracy.

Laser Dots. Note: a fifth laser dot would be visible under the back of the laser.

Organizing the Job Site

After the plan review, you need to organize the job site. Figure out what your initial manpower needs and schedule are, and what tools you’ll need for the job. The first day on the job site is usually a challenge.

1. Manpower needs. Typically, on the first day, your crew is ready to go to work and will be looking to you for instruction. At the same time you may not be sure if the concrete

is level or the right size. Meanwhile, the superintendent may be on his way over with his list of things you need to take care of. If you have too many framers, everyone might be standing around until you get the job organized. If your schedule allows, start with just a two-man crew to check the foundation or slab for level and size and to get some lines chalked and some detailing done.

2. Manpower tasks. Knowing which jobs you want each framer to do before you get there always helps. Also, keep a couple of back-up tasks (such as cleaning out the truck or fixing tools) in mind in case something prevents you from starting right away. First-day jobs might include:

• Cleaning the slab or foundation

• Checking concrete dimensions

• Checking level of concrete

• Cutting makeup and headers

• Nailing makeup and headers

• Chalking lines

• Setting up chop saw (radial arm or similar)

• Building plan shack

• Detailing plates

3. Tools. Not having the right tools can be like trying to cut the Thanksgiving turkey with a table knife. The tool list that follows will help you determine what you need. For example, you can look at the plans to find out what size bolts are being used so you can be sure to have the appropriate drill bits and impact sockets ready.

It’s easy to show up the first day without some of the necessary tools. Also, you might use different tools at the beginning of a job and at the end of a job. Highlighting the tools you need on the Tool List before the job starts will help you prepare and save time.

Note that the “Location" column on the Tool List at the end of this section refers to the location where the tools are kept. (See legend on tool list.) The locations listed can be adjusted to your own situation.

4. Plans. Any time you can devote to the plans before you start the job is probably well spent. Two things are particularly important for getting started. First, decide where you are going to pull your layout from (see Chapter 7), and second, decide which lines you are going to set for reference (see “Getting Started" in Chapter 13).

Looking at plans on the job site can be like trying to read a map while on a motorcycle: there is always the sunshine, wind, or rain.

On the job site, you’ll be juggling a number of things. Your crew will be asking you what to do next, and you’ll have to think about the material you need and if you have enough nails, for example. It will take you about an hour to absorb as much information from the plans on the job site as you can in fifteen minutes off the job site. A good habit is to review the plans for ten minutes every morning away from the job site. You’d be surprised at how many mistakes are avoided by doing this.

Tool List






1 per crew

Chalk bottle


1 per crew

Knife blades case


1 per crew

Vice grip


1 per crew

5" crescent wrench


1 per crew

8" crescent wrench


1 per crew

Allen wrench set


1 per crew




2 per crew



2 per crew


Retractable safety line


2 per crew



4 per crew



V2 per gun

Compressor oil


1 per crew

Gun oil


1 per crew

Plumb bob


1 per crew

Electric three-way


2 per crew

Air three-way


2 per crew

Saw guides


1 per crew




Chain saw


1 per crew

Chain saw blades


1 per crew

Palm nailer


1 per crew

Ear plugs



Back support



5. Schedule. Developing a schedule is a difficult task, and one that should be a responsibility of the contractor. If, however, the framing contractor does not provide one, the lead framer should create his own. It is a valuable tool that will help you organize the job and then analyze how the work is going.

6. Plan shack. On bigger jobs, a plan shack is a good tool to have. It doesn’t have to be fancy, but if it keeps your plans dry and helps keep the job organized, it is worth the time and material.

Plan shack


Your time spent preparing for a job sets the tone for managing the whole job. It lets you hit the job running and puts everyone on notice that you are serious about making this job run smoothly.

With a picture of the plans in your head, a job site check list complete and your tools organized you will start out answering questions and taking control of what needs to be done to get your project framed.

Reviewing the Plans & Making Preparations

Plan review will save you time and energy, and make your work more productive. If you are framing a house with a plan you have used before, then you have already done the review. But if you are framing a new house design or, particularly, a multi-unit or commercial building, then it becomes very important to review the plans. Here are some of the most common ways of reviewing plans:

1. Study the plans. Sit down with the plans and figure out how the building is put together. Read the specifications. Most often they

are standard and you can skim through them, but make sure to note anything that is new or different. Know enough about the new material so that you can understand the architect’s explanations. If you can’t figure it out, ask the framing contractor, superintendent, or architect about that particular element. If you are on a large job where the specifications come bound by themselves, you should know that they are probably organized under the Construction Specification Institute’s (CSI) MasterFormat. Under this system, rough carpentry is listed in Division 6 as 06 10 00. This section contains the basic specification information about framing this job.

2. Make a list of questions. While you are studying the plans, have a pad of paper and pencil handy so you can write down any questions. Go over these questions with the superintendent at the pre-start job site review meeting. Often, getting a question answered or a problem solved before the job begins saves an interruption in the framing. Even a little thing like the architect missing a dimension on the plans can cause a delay. If the superintendent okays scaling the missing dimensions, there won’t be a problem; but if you need verification on missing dimensions, it’s best to get them before you begin.

3. Highlight the plans. It’s a big help to highlight easy-to-miss items on your plans. Use the same color highlights on all jobs so that it becomes easy to identify items for you and your crew. An example would be: Orange-Hold-downs Pink—Shear walls Green—Glu-lam beams Blue—Steel Yellow—Special items

Highlighting the plans

4. Establish framing dimensions. Most rough openings are standardized, but because of exceptions and differences in floor covering, it’s important to go over the rough openings before the job begins. The information sheets that follow can be used for reviewing these dimensions with the superintendent.

There is a sheet for 885/в" studs and one for 92s/8" studs. These can be adjusted for different size studs. Go over each item with the superintendent or whoever is in charge of the job. Ask him/her to review the sheet and indicate that you will be using the rough­opening dimensions listed unless you are instructed differently. Note that 885/8" studs are standard because with a 4 x 8 header, they leave a standard 82%" door opening. Note, too, that 92s/8" studs work with a 4 x 12 header.

(See "Standard Framing Dimensions” sheets.)

These sheets apply to residential framing. Commercial framing is not so standardized. Note that the use of hollow metal (H. M.) door and window frames is common in commercial framing. The frames are usually 2" in width. Rough openings (R. O.) for H. M. frames would typically be 2" for the frame plus W" installation space. As an example, a 3′-0" door would have an R. O. width of 3′-4%", which is made up of 3′-0" for the door opening, 4" for the frames on each side, and W for the W" installation space on each side. The R. O. height would be 7′-2W", which would be made up of the 7′-0" for the door opening, 2" for the frame, and W" for installation space.

Tape the plans. Plan deterioration can be a problem, particularly at the end of a job. Use the same set of plans when possible so they include your highlighting and any changes that you have marked. When possible, request water-resistant print paper for the plans. If you’re in a rainy area or season, this will keep the lines from running. Plastic covers are made to cover plans, but they can make it difficult to turn the pages. Clear plastic adhesive covering can be used, but then you can’t write on the plans to note changes. A good system is to use clear plastic wrapping tape to tape the edges of the plans. This treatment usually provides the stability to make it through the job while still allowing for notes written on the plans.

Taping the plans

These dimensions should be checked with the job site superintendent before beginning each job. * Furr = furring under header after header is in place.

** Trimmer heights will increase by IV211 it lightweight concrete is used or %" if gypcrete is used.

*** Cut T. P. —Cut the top plate out and leave the double plate.

R. O. (rough opening) – Any opening framed by the framing members.

These dimensions should be checked with the job site superintendent before beginning each job. * Furr = furring under header after header is in place.

** Trimmer heights will increase by IV211 it lightweight concrete is used or %" if gypcrete is used.

R. O. (rough opening) – Any opening framed by the framing members.


The best way to make any project start smoothly is to adequately prepare for the job. This means spending time looking over the plans, and organizing information, and talking with whoever is overseeing the job before you start working on the job site.

Often, the lead framer does this preparation the night or morning before a job starts. You’ll find that the work will flow more smoothly if you begin preparation earlier and do it right.

If you’re a carpenter working for a framing contractor or a general contractor, many of the preparation tasks listed in this chapter will be done for you. If, on the other hand, you are the lead framer, framing contractor, and home builder all in one, then it’s up to you to get these done.

In this chapter, the word superintendent refers to the person on the job site who answers any questions related to the building. This person’s actual title might also be builder, owner, or framing contractor. Although this book is about house framing, we use the word building, since the preparation is very similar whether it is a house, multi-family housing, a commercial building, or any structure where wood framing is used.

If you are preparing to start the job with the foundation slab in place, you will need to perform these four tasks:

1. Develop a job start checklist.

2. Review the plans and make preparations.

3. Organize the job site.

4. Conduct the pre-start job site review meeting.

Developing a Job Start Checklist

Using a job start checklist is a good way to prepare. Your framing will be organized and will move at a steady pace if all the items on this list are addressed. You can fill out the checklist in a pre-start job site review meeting. While the pre­start visit is not absolutely required, it is a very productive part of the preparation.

Following is a blank Job Start Checklist that can be used at the job site review meeting. Along with the checklist is an explanation of some points to consider as you check off each item. Although the items may vary from job to job, most items on this list are common to all jobs. You should also add your own items to this list.

Job Start Checklist-Explanation

Consider as you check off the job start items.

1. Power Source

• Will you need more than one power source? Bigger jobs sometimes require more than one source.

• What length of extension cords will you need for power tools? A cord that’s too long can burn out your tools.

• Will you need a heavy lead cord?

• Is there enough voltage for your tools?

A compressor, for example, may require 220 volts.

2. Backfill

• Backfill all possible areas before you start. The more backfill completed, the easier it will be to perform your work.

3. Lumber Drop Location

• Ask for lumber to be dropped as close as possible to the building, and in a central location. If a forklift will be available, you can have the lumber dropped in a more out-of-the-way location, as long as it’s easily accessible.

• Often the lumber you need first is on the bottom of the lumber load when it is dropped. Sometimes you can request that the lumber company load the lumber in the order you will use it.

4. Material List

• Be sure you have a copy of the material takeoff list. This list will help you figure out which size, length, and grade of lumber will be used for which part of the building. It is a good check, and helps prevent mistakes.

5. Anchor Nuts and Washers

• The anchor nuts are generally delivered with the anchor bolts used by the foundation crew. Ask the superintendent to have the nuts located before you arrive on site, since trying to find them can be difficult.

6. Standard Framing Dimensions List

• Go over the list (shown later in this chapter) with the superintendent if applicable. He/she may need to check with the architect, or door or window manufacturer, in order to verify rough openings.

7. Plans: Two copies

• Be sure you have two copies of the plans. You will need one set for the job site. The second set can be used by others, such as the framing contractor, by yourself off site, or by the layout framer on bigger jobs.

8. Framing Hardware

• If you purchase the framing hardware yourself, you can have good control of quantities and delivery. If you don’t purchase it, request a hardware purchase list, which will help you identify quantities and type of hardware. It is common for the architect to specify a piece of hardware with a specific identifying number on it, then have the superintendent purchase

an equivalent piece of hardware with a different identifying number. It helps to carry a hardware manufacturer’s catalog with you for identification purposes. The Simpson Strong-Tie catalogs are most often referenced on plans.

9. Subfloor Glue

• Is subfloor glue required? It may not be called out on the plans or specifications, but sometimes superintendents require it.

10. Mudsill Insulation

• Determine whether mudsill insulation is necessary. Again, it may not be identified on the plans or specifications, but the job superintendent may intend to use it.

11. Hold-downs, Tie-downs, Anchoring System

• It is best to install the hold-down studs when the wall is built, and it is easiest to drill the holes for the hold-down bolts before the hold-down studs are nailed into the wall.

• Have at least one hold-down of each size on the job site when you start. Because the hold-down sizes vary, it’s good to have different sizes available so you can determine stud locations and bolt hole sizes and location. If you do not have the hold-downs, you can use a hardware catalog to determine hole sizes, locations, and stud locations.

12. Truss Plans and Delivery Schedule

• Many buildings have truss plans in addition to the plans provided by the architect. Because you want to line up the studs, floor joists, and roof trusses where possible, it is important to know where the truss manufacturer started the layout. You should use the truss layout and align the studs and floor joists. Truss plans typically call out where the layout starts.

• Often the truss plans are not drawn until shortly before they are needed. It is best to request the plans early so that they will be available when you need them.

• Check on the delivery date. Depending on the economy and the local truss manufacturers, the lead time for trusses can vary from days to weeks. You don’t want to get to the roof and have to stop because the trusses aren’t yet built.

13. Steel Plans and Delivery Schedule

• Typically if you have steel on the job, it should be in place before the wood framing is started. Check to see when it will be ready.

14. Reference Point for Finish Floor

• When you check the floor for level, it helps to have the benchmark used for the concrete work. If you don’t have the benchmark, then you have to take a number of different readings to come up with an average before you can determine whether the concrete work is within tolerance. Sometimes the superintendent will be able to give you the benchmark.

15. Reference Points for Wall Dimensions

• Having the reference points will save you time in determining where the lines are actually supposed to be. Since the concrete work is seldom exactly where it is supposed to be, you will have to decide by how much the concrete is off and the best way to compensate for it without doing extra work or compromising the building.

• If you don’t have reference points to work with, you will have to spend extra time taking measurements to determine where the mistakes are located in the concrete.

16. Location of Job Site Truck

• Be sure to locate your truck, trailer, or storage container close to the job site. Planning ahead with the superintendent can often open up a location that later could be occupied by other trades, material, or supplies.

Material Selection

Material selection is a concern for green framing. The following are six ways in which material selection is considered green.

1. Use of Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and Sustainable Forest Initiative (SFI) certified lumber. This is lumber that is harvested following environmentally

Forest Stewardship Council Label

friendly guidelines for sustainable practices. This lumber is tracked through the chain of custody from the forest to the end user. It is labeled for identification.

2. Use of salvaged or reused material. reusing lumber minimizes the need for new lumber.

3. Use of regional material. This is material that is harvested typically within 500 miles of the end use. The value gained is from the transportation energy savings.

4. Use of rapidly renewable material. This is usually considered material that has a 10 year or less growth cycle.

5. Use of composite panels that contain no added urea formaldehyde resins. Plywood and Oriented-Strand Board (OSB) commonly use adhesives containing urea formaldehyde which is a known carcinogen. No-Added – Urea Formaldehyde composite panels are available.

6. Minimized use of volatile organic compounds (VOCs). VOCs release toxins. Products such as subfloor adhesives will list the amount of VOCs that they contain.

A tube of subfloor adhesive labeled “VOC Compliant" (see “VOC Compliant Subfloor Adhesive" photo) has VOC less water, less

Sustainable Forestry Initiative Label

exempt solvent: <196g/l and <10.6% wt/wt. This makes it compliant with California ARB, which are among the strictest standards.

Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs)

SIPs are a structural sandwich panel made of a foam plastic insulation core bonded between two structural facings usually made of oriented-strand board (OSB). SIPs are most commonly used for walls and roofs, but can also be used for floors and foundation systems. SIPs are considered green because of their expected energy savings. It is also expected there will be conservation of material because SIPs are made in shops.

SIPs Organized, Transit for Leveling, Sill Plate and Bottom Plate Attached

2. Check the foundation or platform for level, square and dimensions. When starting out it is important the walls have a level surface to sit on and the building is square. Where necessary, shim your bottom plates or use a power plane to make sure they are level, and when you are chalking lines for setting your bottom plates, adjust the lines so they are square and dimensioned per plan.

3. Install sill plate. If you are using sill insulation you will need to apply it before installing the sill plate. It is usually a piece of foam about 1/8" thick and the width of your sill plate. To install it just hold it in position over the anchor bolts and press down to punch a hole in the insulation (see “Sill Insulation" photo).

The sill plate will probably need to be ripped to the dimension of the full width of the panel. For installation follow the same process used in standard wall framing. Mark and drill for your anchor bolts using your chalk lines for location and then align with the anchor bolts and drop into place.

4. Install bottom plate. The bottom plate needs to be the same width as the foam area of the panel, commonly 5-1/2". It will be bolted to 6. the center of the sill plate so that the faces

the one it will be connecting to. If the panel ends with an opening or a corner, check the location and trim if necessary. Circular saws and chain saws are commonly used for trimming panels and foam scoops can be used on the foam.

Where factory-supplied electrical chases are in the SIPs you will need to make sure that any splines you install have corresponding holes to allow for running electric wire. Mark and drill the splines if necessary before you install them.

7. Seal panel to be installed. Because SIPs are meant to be energy efficient it is particularly important to continuously seal all adjoining surfaces (see “Sealing" photo). The spline details in the SIP Details illustration later in this chapter show the locations of the seal.

8. Set panel in place. Tip the panel into place hinging on the far corner of the bottom of the wall (see “Installing SIP Panel" photo).

9. Plumb and brace panel. After the panel is standing check for proper placement, plumb both directions, and then nail in place and brace if needed. Sledge hammers, crow bars, long bar clamps, and come-alongs can be used to pull the panels together when needed. Allow a 1/8” space between panel faces.

Attaching Spline

10. Nail and screw panel. Panel screws come with the panels and you need to follow the manufacturer’s suggested location for their installation. Also follow the manufacturer’s instructions for size and

spacing of the nailing. You will be using your standard framing nails. See the SIP Details illustration later in this chapter.

11. Install top and double plates. Top plates and double plates are installed to provide overlapping at intersections, corners, and splines. The top plate needs to be made of 2x wood, recessed into the panel, and nailed between the faces. The double plate needs to overlap the top plate a minimum of 2 feet and be the width of the SIP including the faces.

12. Apply SIP tape. As a last step, apply the SIP tape to the inside seams of all SIPs (see “Applying SIP Tape" photo).

The following SIP Assembly SIP Details illustrations are from a SIP manufacturer and give you an idea of what you can expect for instructions from SIP manufacturers.

See “SIP Tools" photos for examples of tools that are commonly used for SIP installation, but not often used in standard framing. Standard framing tools are also used in installing SIPs.

Most important to SIP installations is organization. If you want to have a successful and productive job, do your homework and make sure you have all the tools you will need, your foundation is level and square, and you have a good understanding of where each and every piece of the puzzle will fit.

Green Framing Feeling

Green framing feeling sounds a little subjective, but that’s because it has to be. For example, you are out on the job site framing, and the questions is whether to throw a small cut off of 2 X 6 into the trash or try to find a place to use it in your building process. Your decision is not only based on the cost of that piece of cut-off, but also the ease of just trashing it and the effect on the environment by using a new piece. Not an easy call to make, but you will have to make decisions like that all the time. If you choose the extra effort to conserve material, you will get a good green framing feeling.

Advanced Framing

A more tangible aspect of green framing is advanced framing. Based on the concept that wood is not as good an insulator as insulation, reduce the amount of wood in the exterior skin of a building and you will save energy and conserve building resources.

There are numerous ways to reduce the amount of wood in a building, but reducing the wood will reduce the building’s strength. There are ways, however, to reduce the amount of wood that either don’t affect the strength or still create strength enough to meet code requirements.

Some of the most common ways to reduce the amount of wood are the following:

1. Changing the stud layout from 16” O. C. to 24" O. C.

2. Changing common 3 stud backer to

2 X 4/2 X 6 L backer or ladder blocking

3. Using drywall clips instead of wood backing

4. Using insulation in headers instead of wood fillers

5. Using a cripple header instead of solid headers for non-bearing walls

6. Using single top plates

7. Eliminating trimmers where not necessary

8. Eliminating window cripples

9. Adjusting layout or door and window locations so layout aligns with stud-trimmers

10. Changing the exterior wall from 2 X 4 studs to 2 X 6 walls.

11. Using standard lengths during building so that standard material can be used with less waste.

The “Advanced Framing" illustration shows these 11 techniques. They may already be
integrated into your plans or you can integrate them on your own. If they are not already on your plans, make sure they do not conflict with the plans or that you receive the engineer’s approval.

Advanced framing was originally developed to assist builders in using methods that would save energy in houses. Because energy conservation is a major component of green building it is now a part of green framing.

Advanced Framing


Green Framing is as much an attitude as it is an act of doing certain forms of framing. There are some framing designs and materials that are considered “green" but to be a green framer it takes a belief that you want to be a part of the global effort to reduce our effects on the ecosystem. In this chapter I will show you how the green movement is affecting the materials we use and in some cases the way we frame. I will also give you a basic understanding of the construction industry efforts to become green. In additions to this, I will discuss some behaviors that if you so choose will make you a part of the movement.

A little history is probably a good place to start.

It’s hard to say when the first discussions about how the human race is effecting the environment occurred and what we can do to our building practices to prevent ill effects, but Optimum Value Engineering, which has become known as Advanced Framing, was one of the first applications of green building. Advanced framing is an effort to conserve energy by altering framing techniques. It was soon realized, however that an overall building effort was needed to direct the construction industry in order to achieve the best effects. In 2000 the United States Green Building Council (USGBC) was formed and they created LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) which is a construction and design industry joint effort to define and certify construction using green methods. The LEED program creates a tool for measuring the green building effectiveness by assigning credits in six areas: Sustainable Sites; Water Efficiency; Energy and Atmosphere; Materials and Resources; Indoor Environmental Quality; and Innovation and Design Process. Credits are totaled for individual jobs allowing for certification at different levels including, Certified, Silver, Gold, or Platinum. These certifications can be used in marketing programs.

LEED is an excellent construction – and design- oriented program to promote green building, however, it is a new and separate organization requiring its own fees and training. In 2008, the International Code Council (ICC) and the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) came out with the National Green Building Standard ICC700-2008. Designed to guide the residential construction industry in green building, this standard was similar to the LEED system. It provided a rating system of environmental categories similar to LEED and performance levels of Bronze, Silver, Gold or Emerald. The ICC700-2008 is a good guide, but is hard to regulate.

In 2010, the ICC published the International Green Construction Code (IGCC), the first ever compilation of international green building codes and standards. USGBC along with other agencies worked to help develop the IGCC. USCBC’s LEED program set the format for guiding the design and construction industry in green building; however, it is a voluntary program and does not have jurisdictional enforcement capabilities.

The IGCC has similar topics for its five main content chapters, however, once the IGCC is accepted by a jurisdiction it becomes law for that jurisdiction. Unique to the IGCC for the other building codes is a section of regulations that relates to individual jurisdictions, so that each jurisdiction has to select from a group of regulations as to which ones they will require. There is an elective section where jurisdiction is required to determine the amount of a list of elective requirements that must be met.

It’s all a bit confusing and most of it does not apply directly to framing, however some items will. For example, Chapter 5 of the IGCC, “Material Resource Conservation and Efficiency," notes a requirement to develop a construction material and waste management plan that requires not less than 50 percent of non-hazardous construction waste to be diverted from landfills.

Green building is wide spread in the construction process, however green framing is limited. Four parts of green framing that I will discuss are as follows:

1. Greening Framing Feeling

2. Advanced Framing

3. Material Selection

4. Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs)