Wood Light Frame Construction

Wood light frame construction is the most versatile of all building systems. There is scarcely a shape it can-
not be used to construct, from a plain rectilinear box to cylindrical towers to complex foldings of sloping
roofs with dormers of every description. During the century and a half since it first came into use, wood
light framing has served to construct buildings in styles ranging from reinterpretations of nearly all the
historical fashions to uncompromising expressions of every contemporary architectural philosophy. It
has assimilated without difficulty during this same period a bewildering and unforeseen succession of
technical improvements in building: central heating, air conditioning, gas lighting, electricity, thermal in-
sulation, indoor plumbing, prefabricated components, and electronic communications cabling.

Light frame buildings are easily and swiftly constructed with a minimal investment in tools.  Many observers of the building industry have criticized the supposed inefficiency of light frame construction, which is carried out largely by hand methods on the building site, yet it has successfully  fought off competition from industrialized building systems of every sort, partly by incorporating their  best features, to remain the least expensive form of durable construction. It is the common currency  of small residential and commercial buildings in North America today.

Wood light frame construction has its deficiencies: If ignited, it burns rapidly; if exposed to  dampness, it decays. It expands and contracts by significant amounts in response to changes in  humidity, sometimes causing chronic difficulties with cracking plaster, sticking doors, and buckling floors. The framing itself is so unattractive to the eye that it is seldom left exposed in a building. These  problems can be controlled, however, by clever design and careful workmanship, and there is no arguing with success: Frames made by the monotonous repetition of wooden joists, studs, and rafters  are likely to remain the number one system of building in North America for a long time to come.

Figure 5.1 Carpenters apply plywood roof sheathing to  a platform-framed apartment building. The
ground floor is a concrete slab on grade.  The edge of the wooden platform of the
upper floor is clearly visible between the  stud walls of the ground and upper floors.
Most of the diagonal bracing is temporary,  but permanent let-in diagonal braces occur
between the two openings at the lower left  and immediately above in the rear building.
The openings have been framed incorrectly,  without supporting studs for the headers.

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