Free Encyclopedia of Building & Environmental Inspection, Testing, Diagnosis, Repair
Ask a Question or Search InspectAPedia
InspectAPedia ® Home
STRUCTURAL INSPECTIONS & DEFECTS
ADVANCED INSPECTION METHODS
AGE of a BUILDING - how to determine
ARCHITECTURE, STYLE, & Building Age
DEFINITIONS of Mobile Home, Doublewide, Modular, Panelized
DEFINITIONS of ENGINEERED WOOD OSB LVL etc
FLOOR, ENGINEERED WOOD & LAMINATES
MOBILE HOMES, DOUBLEWIDES, TRAILERS
MODULAR HOME CONSTRUCTION
STAINS on & in BUILDINGS, CAUSES & CURES
WOOD STRUCTURE ASSESSMENT
This article describes and illustrates common building framing materials used in different epochs of residential construction. Knowing when certain materials were first or last in common use can help determine the age of a building. The age of a building can be determined quite accurately by documentation, but when documents are not readily available, visual clues such as those available during a professional home inspection can still determine when a house was built. See ARCHITECTURE & BUILDING COMPONENT ID and Framing Materials Age for the history and date ranges of various building framing materials. Also see Nails and Hardware, Age, Types and Saw Cuts, Tool Marks, Age of for additional building age clues likely to be available when examining building framing materials. Page top sketch courtesy of Carson Dunlop Associates.
Green links show where you are. © Copyright 2013 InspectAPedia.com, All Rights Reserved. Author Daniel Friedman.
Building methods and building materials should be considered together as the materials available for construction largely defined the building methods used. In very general terms, in North American building construction, later than in Asia and Europe, evolved through log construction, rough cut hand hewn beams and plank construction, sawn lumber, machine sawn lumber, dimensional lumber, factory-produced lumber and sheathing, and engineered wood products such as laminated beams and factory-built trusses.
The Arkansas building framing method became popular in North America following the 1970's arab oil embargo and addressed concern for high energy costs. You might read about Arkansas framing or OVE - optimum value engineering, just about the same design idea that was promoted by the Small Homes Council, SHC, now renamed the Building Research Council.
Modern wood framing uses sill plates, rim joists, floor and ceiling joists, wall studs, and rafters made from dimensional lumber, nominally 2x4's (3.5" x 1/5") and larger members (x" deep by 1.5" thick), spaced 16" on center or in some cases using 2x6 wall studs, 24" o.c. See Balloon Framing and see Platform Framing
How Typical Plank Houses are Built
The following describes plank houses built in various communities in North America as early as the 1920's. The traditional Yuroak Indian plank houses described above will differ somewhat from what we outline below:
A 6"x 6" or 6" x 8" sill beam was placed on the ground or on a stone foundation. Long vertical planks consisting of thick 5/4" (or thicker) boards of varying widths (up to 12" wide) were nailed to the sill beam and extended vertically to the building eaves, at a height of up to 20 ft. The vertical planks were often spaced apart, up to one inch.
In a plank home or box house the floor framing was constructed of floor joists set into notches in the sill beam. To support a second floor in a two story plank house, floor joists were nailed to a rim joist that had been itself nailed to the vertical planks at an appropriate height. In other words, the plank wall is also structural, supporting the upper floor as well as the building roof.
The walls of a plank house or box house were made weather tight by nailing a vertical batten 1"x3" board over the gaps between boards. The wall interior was finished by nailing lath strips to the battens and then applying a plaster wall. The walls were not insulated.
Plank Houses in Some Communities May Be Covered with Modern Siding & Are Tricky to Recognize
From the exterior these homes may look quite conventional since horizontal siding was installed over the original planks on the wall exterior. Owners may not discover that their home was originally a plank house until they attempt to open walls to add insulation, plumbing or electrical wiring. But a clue to plank construction might be the observation that all plumbing was run around the interior of the building walls (to avoid freezing in cold climates and because there was no wall cavity).
Some of the plank houses we've inspected were made from scraps or salvaged lumber such as a home in Dutchess County New York that was constructed from packing crate wood.
Support the Ah Pah Project
More information about the Blue Creek Ah Pah traditional Yuroak Village can be found at Ah Pah Traditional Yurok Village project - http://www.bluecreekahpah.org/
Scale models of plank houses of this traditional design are also available for sale  - proceeds support the Blue Creek Ah-Pah project. [InspectAPedia is an independent publisher of building, environmental, and forensic inspection, diagnosis, and repair information provided free to the public - we have no business nor financial connection with any manufacturer or service provider discussed at our website. ]
Platform Frame construction (sketch above, courtesy Carson Dunlop): also called western construction: the most-common residential wood structure framing method in North America. Our photo (above right) shows typical platform framing from indoors, including an interior wall partition.
A floor is constructed atop of the building foundation, forming the first "platform". Walls are framed either stud-by-stud vertically as each stud is nailed to a sole plate which in turn was nailed to the floor platform, or wall sections for the first floor are framed flat on the floor (the platform) and tilted up into place.
The next floor (platform) is constructed atop these walls and subsequent walls for the floor above are framed on that second floor platform. Typically each section of framed wall is 8 feet high.
In North America, up to about 1930 it was common for dimensional lumber to be full-sized - a 2x4 was really 2" x 4" in cross section. Modern wood framing wall studs 2x4's (a modern dimensional lumber "two by four" is actually 1.5" thick by 3.5" wide) and larger members (x" deep by 1.5" thick). See Dimensional Lumber for details.
Also see Pre-Cut Frame Construction
Adze cuts and axe cuts are normally visible in the rough surface of early hand hewn wood structural beams. Our photos show a barn in upstate New York (above left) and an 18th century Norwegian timber frame building using brick infill and stucco to complete the wall enclosure (above right). See this post and barn post and beam photo for more details. See Hewn beams & planks for details about this framing method.
Post and beam construction (1700 - est. in North America): (timber framing) uses horizontal and vertical timbers that are connected (joined) using mortise and tenon joints pinned with wood pegs (treenails). Timber frame construction initially used hand hewn beams, later manually or mechanically sawn beams cut by a pit saw.; Later timber frame beams were sawn in mills using circular saws.
Keep in mind that even when we can identify specific types of building materials and building methods, precise dating of the time of construction of a building remains difficult: old building materials were often re-used, so beams, siding, and other components may appear in a building built later than when the materials were first made.
Also, in the U.S. various states had machines for making cut nails, screws, and sawmills at different times. For example, New York State was industrialized earlier than some western or southern states, so machine-made nails appear earlier in New York than elsewhere.
Pre-cut framing describes the use of dimensioned lumber that was pre-cut to standard lengths at the lumber yard where it was produced, then shipped to a building supplier or directly to a building site in order to speed, simplify, and reduce the cost of construction of homes.
Details about the history of use of pre-cut lumber are at Pre-Cut Lumber Construction. Excerpts are below.
Leavittown New York Pre-Cut Lumber Constructed Homes
According to the Leavittown Historical Society, the default of the Strathmore development project by a Rockville Centre Long Island developer in the 1930's Great Depression forced lawyer and real estate investor Abraham Levitt to take over and complete development of the project even though he and his sons were not trained in construction. That experience led to Levitt & Sons successful bid on a Navy contract to buildng homes for shipyard workers in Norfolk, VA where they perfected the techiniques used for high-speed, low-cost, mass production of homes built in what became Leavittown at the end of World War II.
On Long Island, in Island Trees, a golden nematode infestation that wiped out much of the area's potato crop led to farmers' selling off land in order to survive.
The combination of a surge in demand for housing for returning GI's from WWII, low-cost land on Long Island, and Leavitt & Son's expertise in mass-produced housing formed a perfect marriage when William Leavitt proposed to his father taht the Island Trees land be divided into small lots on which could be built modest, inexpensive homes. In May 1947 the Leavitts announced the plan to mass-produce 2000 rental homes. In two days, 1000 of the proposed homes had already been rented.
In 1949 the Leavitts changed from constructing rental homes to building slightly larger 800 sq.ft. ranch houses that were sold for $7,990. These homes also were constructed on concrete slabs, but incorporated radiant slab heating. (See RADIANT HEAT). The last of the 17,447 Leavittown homes was built in 1951. For a description of the role that this mass-produced housing project played in the American civil rights movement, also see Levittown: Two Families, One Tycoon... by Kushner.
Welded-wire sandwich framing panels: polystyrene or polyurethane foam core insulation is surrounded by a welded-wire space frame.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about how to determine the age of a building by examining the framing method used
Questions & answers or comments about how to determine or identify the age of building framing materials & framing methods, connectors, fasteners.
Ask a Question or Enter Search Terms in the InspectApedia search box just below.
Technical Reviewers & References
Related Topics, found near the top of this page suggest articles closely related to this one.