This week our walls arrived, or more accurately, our entire downstairs. Loaded on a flatbed truck about 1.5 hours away, they found their way to our building site on the back of a crane truck. Within two days the floor joists for the main house sat on top, ready to support the second floor, which will arrive next week.
Deciding how we would frame this house was a difficult decision. Previously Patrick and I built a stick-frame cottage from the ground up, on site and by hand, with a lot of help from my father. I wouldn’t change much about that experience, because it taught us about the structural components of a building and how things fit together. We learned how to cut and install rafters the old fashioned way (leaving space for an attic) and how to frame a standard 2 x 6 stud wall.
This time we opted for a staggered stud wall ten inches thick. The staggered stud provides two main benefits. First, our wall is actually two 2 x 4 walls running parallel but offset on a ten inch plate (also called a “double stud wall”). This gives us extra room for insulation. Second, because they are staggered, no single stud runs from the inside of the wall to the outside, thereby creating a path for heat to travel. (Wooden studs are just like little highways–I’m told. Their density makes them conducive to sending heat outside your walls, precisely where you don’t want it.)
Rather than frame these walls on site and by hand, we decided to buy wall panels created to our specifications. This is different than buying a modular home–which is a topic for another discussion. In essence, panelization takes the technology used in roof trusses and extends it to the walls.
There are good points on both sides of the panelized construction debate, but for us, the benefits included saving time and resources. In one comparison, a panelized house required 63% less hours, generated 76% less waste, and was 16% less costly to build than a traditionally framed house. (Our panels came from Pacific Homes, who use wood certified for sustainability. More on them in another post.)
Seeing the walls come together over a few days was a humbling experience. Did I mention our cottage took more than two years to complete?