Framed Structures


A framed structure in any material is one that is made stable by a skeleton that is able to stand by itself as a rigid structure without depending on floors or walls to resist deformation. Materials such as wood, steel, and reinforced concrete, which are strong in both tension and compression, make the best members for compression. Masonry skeletons, which cannot be made rigid without walls, are not frames.

The heavy timber frame, in which large posts, spaced relatively far apart, support thick floors and roof beams, was the commonest type of construction in eastern Asia and northern Europe from prehistoric times to the mid-19th century.

American light wood frame (balloon frame) , composed of many small and closely spaced members that could be handled easily and assembled quickly by nailing instead of by the slow joinery and dowelling of the past. Construction is similar in the two systems, since they are both based on the post-and-lintel principle.

Steel framing is based on the same principle but is much simplified by the far greater strength of the material, which provides more rigidity with fewer members. The load-bearing capacity of steel is adopted for buildings many times higher than those made of other materials. Because the column and beam are fused by riveting or welding , stresses are distributed between them, and both can be longer and lighter than in structures in which they work independently as post-and-lintel. Thus, large cubic spaces can be spanned by four columns and four beams, and buildings of almost any size can be produced by joining cubes in height and width. Since structural steel must be protected from corrosion, the skeleton is either covered by curtain walls or surfaced in concrete or, more rarely, painted. The steel frame is used also in single story buildings where large spans are required. The simple cube then can be abandoned for covering systems employing arches, trusses, and other elements in a limitless variety of forms in order to suit the functions of the building.


Light-frame materials are most often wood or rectangular steel tubes or C-channels. Wood pieces are typically connected with nails or screws; steel pieces are connected by screws. Preferred species for linear structural members are softwoods such as spruce, pine and fir. Light frame material dimensions range from 38 mm by 89 mm (1.5 in by 3.5 in; i.e., a two-by-four) to 5 cm by 30 cm (two-by-twelve inches) at the cross-section, and lengths ranging from 2.5 m (8.2 ft) for walls to 7 m (23 ft) or more for joists and rafters. Recently, architects have begun experimenting with pre-cut modular aluminum framing to reduce on-site construction costs. Wall panels built of studs are interrupted by sections that provide rough openings for doors and windows. Openings are typically spanned by a header or lintel that bears the weight of structure above the opening. Headers are usually built to rest on trimmers, also called jacks. Areas around windows are defined by a sill beneath the window, and cripples, which are shorter studs that span the area from the bottom plate to the sill and sometimes from the top of the window to a header, or from a header to a top plate. Diagonal bracings made of wood or steel provide shear (horizontal strength) as do panels of sheeting nailed to studs, sills and headers.

Light-gauge metal stud framingWall sections usually include a bottom plate which is secured to the structure of a floor, and one, or more often two top plates that tie walls together and provide a bearing for structures above the wall. Wood or steel floor frames usually include a rim joist around the perimeter of a system of floor joists, and often include bridging material near the center of a span to prevent lateral buckling of the spanning members. In two-story construction, openings are left in the floor system for a stairwell, in which stair risers and treads are most often attached to squared faces cut into sloping stair stringers.Interior wall coverings in light-frame construction typically include wallboard, lath and plaster or decorative wood paneling.Exterior finishes for walls and ceilings often include plywood or composite sheathing, brick or stone veneers, and various stucco finishes. Cavities between studs, usually placed 40–60 cm (16–24 in) apart, are usually filled with insulation materials, such as fiberglass batting, or cellulose filling sometimes made of recycled newsprint treated with boron additives for fire prevention and vermin control.In natural building, straw bales, cob and adobe may be used for both exterior and interior walls. The part of a structural building that goes diagonally across a wall is called a T-bar. It stops the walls from collapsing in gusty winds.


Light-frame buildings are often erected on monolithic concrete slab foundations that serve both as a floor and as a support for the structure. Other light-frame buildings are built over a crawlspace or a basement, with wood or steel joists used to span between foundation walls, usually constructed of poured concrete or concrete blocks.
Engineered components are commonly used to form floor, ceiling and roof structures in place of solid wood. I-joists (closed-web trusses) are often made from laminated woods, most often chipped poplar wood, in panels as thin as 1 cm (0.4 in), glued between horizontally laminated members of less than 4 cm by 4 cm (two-by-twos), to span distances of as much as 9 m (30 ft). Open web trussed joists and rafters are often formed of 4 cm by 9 cm (two-by-four [sic]) wood members to provide support for floors, roofing systems and ceiling finishes.