Sketch comparing platform framing and balloon framing methods (C) Carson Dunlop Associates Panelized Construction Methods
History, dates & methods of panelized building construction

  • PANELIZED CONSTRUCTION - CONTENTS: Photographs of a 1950's panelized kit home show construction details, labels, numbering, assembly information. How to determine the age of a building from the construction or framing methods used. Building framing eras: log homes, balloon framing, platform framing, arkansas framing, modular construction, panelized construction, straw bale construction, welded wire construction, trusses, engineered lumber construction
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This article describes panelized low-cost "kit" homes that were rapidly assembled on site from factory made wood-stud panels covered on both sides with glued-on gypsum board. We include photographs of a disassembled panelized-construction kit home built after WWII, showing construction and assembly details.

Panelized residential construction: knowing when certain materials were first or last in common use can help determine the age of a building. Our page top photo shows interior walls of a panel-built home after the interior drywall was removed for renovations.

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Panelized Building Construction Defined & Illustrated

Panelized kit home from 1950s (C) Daniel Friedman

Panelized construction: floor and wall panels constructed in a factory are delivered to and assembled at the building site.

Panels may be conventionally-framed stud walls in modular sections or structural panels may be constructed of a sandwich of OSB (oriented strand board), plywood, or wafer board on either side of solid foam board insulation.

Panelized construction makes use of wall, floor, ceiling or roof "panels" which have been framed off-site and brought to the site by truck.

Panels are lifted into place by crane and fastened together on a foundation, and possibly a framed-in floor which have been prepared before the panels arrive. Small panels for some kit homes (left) were light enough to be lifted into place by two workers.

Some framing panels make use of special materials, such as plywood and foam roof panels for insulated cathedral ceilings.

The home shown above and in other photos provided here document panelized kit home framing details from what we think is a post Korean war low-cost fast-assembly government surplus "kit" home built of factory-made panels. Our photographs and comments document construction details of this home.

Gypsum board wall sheathing bracing (C) Daniel Friedman

Notice the pair of wall studs in the photo at left? That stud pair marks the abutment of two panelized wall sections in this building. The corner panels were built flat in the panelized home factory and measure just 1/2" under 8' x 4'. Larger nominally-sized 8' x 8' wall panels were also produced and were used for this home.

Even the early panelized construction shown here used gypsum board for both exterior wall sheathing and interior wall cladding. The gypsum board was glued to the building studs for extra rigidity.

When gypsum board was used for exterior wall sheathing, as we show in these interior photos, let-in cross bracing was required at building corners.

Additional details about use of gypsum board or "drywall" for building exterior wall sheathing or roof sheathing are at SHEATHING, GYPSUM BOARD.

A vertical steel angle iron was used to connect the corner panels for this building (pointed to with our pen, below left). You can see the framing nail that secured this brace protruding through the wall stud above the author's hand.

Wall panel sections were tied together at the top plate by a short overlapping 2x4 (below right). Construction design included leaving a 1/2" gap between mating wall panels (probably to permit alignment). That explains why the panels were built just 1/2" under their nominal width. The angle cut on the end of the top plate 2x4 made it easier to slide the mating panel into place.

Panelized construction wall corner brace detail (C) Daniel Friedman Wall framing for panelized home (C) Daniel Friedman


Where workers have removed the interior drywall as part of renovation/repairs for this home, we see glue drip lines that show the orientation of the panel when the interior drywall was glued - the panel was assembled flat on the floor of a factory in this case.

Glue marks on panelized home (C) Daniel Friedman

These details permit the conclusion that this home was constructed using pre-fab exterior and interior wall panels, all clad with gypsum board that was glued to the wall studs for extra strength.

Gypsum board wall sheathing bracing (C) Daniel Friedman Panelized wall construction details (C) Daniel Friedman

Our photo at above left shows additional bracing that was incorporated into the gypsum-clad wall panel bottom.

We're not sure about the function of this wire - it does not appear in every stud bay; the wire is nailed to the sill plate and runs through a notch cut in the wall top to the top of the panel(photo, above right) and apparently down into the neighboring panel. We speculated that the wires helped assure that when loading, later unloading and assembling the wall panels they would be arranged in the proper order.

Steven Bliss, a building expert and contributor to this website [TIMBER FRAME ROT] , suggests that these wires may have been installed to make it easier for an electrician to snake wires through the wall for later electrical circuit additions. Mr. Bliss wrote:

If you knew where the wires were buried, you’d cut your hole in the drywall for the electrical box, snip the buried wire at the level of the box then pull the Romex down from the top plate – assuming the buried wires stuck out far enough at the top of the wall to let you to connect your Romex to the “snake.” The location of the wire next to a stud and the notch in the top plate are consistent with a wire snake for fishing electrical cable. Just a guess, but running electrical cable is a frequent complaint of subcontractors working with various types of panelized walls.

Identifying Marks in Early Panelized Construction

Framing stamp in panelized home (C) Daniel Friedman Panelized kit plywood stamp (C) Daniel Friedman

Stamps on the plywood roof sheathing (above right), wall studs (above left and below left) and drywall (below right) from the above home are shown here. However while these may indicate the type of building materials (Doug fir studs) they do not always confirm the panelized home manufacturer.

Stud stamp in panelized construction (C) Daniel Friedman

Printed identification number on drywall (C) Daniel Friedman Interior wall stud in panelized home (C) Danie Friedman

Interior wall partitions in this pre-fab panelized home were constructed as factory-made site-assembled panels, using nominal 2x2 studs, actually measuring 1 1/2" square as our photo shows (left).

You can also see remains of the glue used to bond drywall to both sides of this very thin wall partition.

Partition height was 1/2" less than eight feet.

Additional numbers or codes were marked on the wall stud panels to aid in section identification and house assembly, shown in our photos below (left) where you can also see the remains of glue used to bond the gypsum board to these thin wall panels. Typical interior partition wall panel construction is shown at below right.

Interior wall panel, panelized home (C) Daniel Friedman Printed identification number on drywall (C) Daniel Friedman


Continue reading at KIT HOMES, Aladdin, Sears, Wards, Others or select a topic from closely-related articles below, or see our complete INDEX to RELATED ARTICLES below.


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