Wood Framing

Careful planning and thoughtful selections can improve the quality of wood framed buildings while reducing the impact on forests and saving money.

1 Minimize lumber use
2 Alternative framing materials
3 Sustainable wood
3 Salvaged lumber

Goal: Design to save wood & labor

Conventional wood framing is inherently wasteful, producing piles of useless wood scraps and using expensive full–size wood members for minor tasks such as supporting sheetrock in building corners. A good design will use wood efficiently and eliminate redundant members.

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Use spacings, sizes and modular dimensions that minimize lumber use and optimize performance

What is this?

Conventional wood construction uses many redundant members and can result in a substantial amount of waste. Planning carefully can allow the use of fewer or smaller structural members such as studs, joists, and window headers. "Optimum value engineering" is a term that refers to this kind of planning.

Why do it?

Reducing inefficiencies in wood design saves time, money, and trees — smaller members are cheaper and easier to install, and building with fewer members goes faster. Savings from this approach can amount to more than $3,000 per house or over $1 per square foot.

How to do this?

Lay out the building so that dimensions are multiples of two feet, — boards and plywood sheets typically come in multiples of two–foot lengths. Place joists and studs at 24 inches on center (thicker subfloors, wallboard, or sheathing may be necessary at this wider spacing). Design window headers to actual structural requirements, using double 2x lumber instead of 4x where possible. Use drywall clips instead of corner studs.

Who does this?

Architects, structural engineers, contractors, framing subcontractors and crew.


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Use engineered lumber or metal stud framing to replace solid–sawn lumber

What is this?

Engineered lumber is made from small pieces of wood glued together: common examples are glue–laminated beams, plywood, oriented strand board ("OSB"), finger–jointed studs, and wood truss joists ("TJI"s). Sheet metal studs are long folded sheet metal pieces that are arranged the same way as studs and joists and connected with self–tapping screws instead of nails.

Why do it?

Engineered lumber is made from wood from small trees, reducing the cutting of the larger trees that supply joists. Engineered lumber is also straighter, less likely to shrink or warp, and often stronger than dimensional lumber. Steel studs replace wood framing entirely, and if they contain significant recycled content, can be an environmentally beneficial solution.

How to do this?

Most engineered wood products are made to directly replace solid wood pieces: joists, studs, and beams all have engineered counterparts. Steel studs can be substituted for solid–sawn lumber but cannot easily be combined with wood pieces. Your structural engineer should verify the appropriateness of engineered or sheet metal members and, where appropriate, account for their extra strength to reduce member sizes and save money.

Who does this?

Architects, structural engineers, contractors.


Goal: Support sustainable forests

Wood stud framing — our most common building system – involves heavy and often destructive use of forest lands and ecosystems. Forests in the United States and all over the world continue to suffer from indiscriminate logging including frequent clear–cutting. The loss of forests impacts us in many ways, from species extinction to water pollution, reduced fisheries, and increased risk of climate change. While one approach is to use alternatives to stud framing (see Chapter 13), the versatility and ease of stud framing can still be employed in an environmentally sustainable manner by using various alternatives to lumber taken from clear–cuts.

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Use sustainably harvested lumber (FSC certified) for wood framing

What is this?

The Forest Stewardship Council ("FSC") is a nonprofit organization that sets environmental standards for timber harvesting. Timber companies can certify their operations to its standards and then sell their wood as "sustainably harvested," or "FSC certified."

Why do it?

While the world's forest crisis is undeniable, it is also inconceivable to immediately stop using wood for construction. Ultimately, people must learn to provide for the ongoing life and health of forest ecosystems while continuing to take trees for our own use. The FSC system is a good step in the direction; purchasing FSC wood supplies crucial positive encouragement to timber companies to transform their management practices.


FSC logo

The FSC logo identifies products which contain wood from well–managed forests that are certified in accordance with the rules of the Forest Stewardship Council.

FSC Trademark © 1996 Forest Stewardship Council A.C.


How to do this?

Wood certified to FSC standards is marked with the logo of the FSC, as well as that of the third–party certifier. Many San Mateo County and Bay Area lumber yards now stock FSC certified wood. For larger projects, planning ahead with a lumber supplier is often necessary to ensure availability. Writing a requirement for FSC certified wood into project specifications is an important tool to educate contractors about this issue and ensure certified wood is actually purchased. While other claims are made for sustainable harvesting of lumber, the FSC system is the only one recognized by the US Green Building Council as meeting the standards of the green building community.

FSC in partnership with Forest Products Solutions has completed Designing & Building with FSC, a training guide for building owners, architects, interior designers, general contractors, sub-contractors, green building consultants, and other building professionals. This guide was developed to offer professionals a single source to learn, specify, build and account for the use of FSC certified products.

This new one-source guide can be found on the 'Green Building' section of FSC's website.

Who does this?

Owners, architects and specification writers, contractors, lumber yards.


Redwoods Image

San Mateo County's redwoods are beautiful and irreplaceable; finding and using alternatives to the products of destructive forestry practices is essential to the health of forests worldwide.


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Use reclaimed or salvaged lumber

What is this?

Reclaimed lumber is wood that was used in structures that have fallen out of use, such as old barns or railroad trestles. Salvaged wood also refers to previously cut and used wood, reclaimed by a salvage yard rather than a lumber company.

Why do it?

While old–growth trees have the highest–quality lumber, it is not only environmentally devastating to cut them down but increasingly hard to find available trees. Reclaimed lumber is often of high–quality old–growth stock, but can be reused without damaging living forests. The structural performance of reclaimed lumber can be greater than wood from harvested trees, and the aging process can produce distinctive and beautiful wood pieces.

How to do this?

Reclaimed lumber is mostly sourced by specialty lumber companies. Contact them early in your project about availability for the sizes of framing members you will need.

Who does this?

Owners, architects, contractors.


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