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Sunday, June 24, 2012

Balloon Framing

Houses built in the late 1880's through the 1930's typically used a type of light weight framing called " balloon framing.  William Kibbel writes in his blog on This Old House Web: "Balloon framing is a style of wood-house building that uses long, vertical 2" x 4"s for the exterior walls. These long "studs" extend uninterrupted, from the sill on top of the foundation, all the way up to the roof. When it first came into use, well before the mid-nineteenth century, it was a radically different type of construction from the "timber frame" or "braced frame" that preceded it for centuries. The earlier style timber framing used large timbers interlocked with chiseled joints (mostly mortise and tenons) secured with wood pegs. The balloon frame relies solely on nails to secure each piece. The only chiseling is for the horizontal boards that support upper level floor joists, the diagonal boards, or for corner braces that are "let in" to the studs so as to be flush with the wall surface. Balloon" was originally intended to be a derogatory term implying a light weight structure that could be easily carried off in a breeze. I'd like to point out that there certainly are many, many balloon-framed structures, between 75 and 175 years old, that haven't floated away." (This Old House Web, 

The house that we're currently restoring was built in 1912 and is built with balloon framing. You can see from the image below how the studs are nailed directly on top of the sill that sits directly on the foundation beam.  The studs run uninterrupted the length of the wall with no stops in between the studs. The studs were typically held together with horizontal "wind bracing" pine boards. These houses may been built for their light weight structure and probably to keep costs down but there is nothing light weight in the fact these old houses are still standing after over 100 years!

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