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.)

The staggered stud wall.

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?



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8 Responses to Staggered Studs and Wall Panels

  1. Monica Woelfel says:

    Wow, Shannon, that’s exciting. And interesting. What kind of roof have you guys decided on?
    Hugs to you Patrick and the girls.

  2. admin says:

    The roof will be standing seam metal (the standing seam refers to hidden screws versus exposed). So nice to hear from you, Monica. What kind of roof did you put on your cob cottage–I can’t remember? That building was a work of art.

  3. Douglas Hill says:

    Wow! I bet Bill was on site for that. Wish I could have seen it. Any videos?

    • admin says:

      Sadly we do not have any videos. Patrick searched around for a time lapsed camera, but amidst all the other activity we didn’t get one in time.

  4. Gail Hunt says:

    Hello, Shannon and Patrick
    I noticed your blog on The Tyee’s BC Blog list (mine is also listed there today, even though I have been building for 3 years!)
    I’m pleased to find another blog about building green, because my research over the last few years have yielded very few that would have helped me in this process.
    Panelizing your building seems a great idea, for cost savings and to reduce construction waste (my great battle.)
    Welcome aboard!

  5. admin says:

    Thank you for the welcome, Gail. I previously visited your site to admire your house and landscaping. I also appreciated reading your lists of trades and costs. Very enlightening! I will continue to drop by and learn.

  6. Andrew Marani says:

    I am a couple of weeks away from starting home with a very similar wall design. One major difference I would like to make go away. Our double studs are not staggered, because the structural engineer wanted them clipped together with a pair of plywood gussets at the 1/3 points vertically. did you run across this issue? If so, how did you solve it?

    • admin says:

      We didn’t run into this issue per se–our 2 x 4 studs are mounted on a 10 ” plate at distances of 16 inches. We also have a number of shear walls (interior walls sheathed in plywood) given our location in an earthquake prone area. All exterior walls are sheathed in in plywood and we do have a lot of corners, providing stability. Perhaps for all these reasons, our architect and the subsequent design engineer who built the panels didn’t suggest clipping together the studs. However, I’ve seen a lot of double stud walls around here and have never seen the clipped together variety. I would suspect that might increase thermal bridging. You might try posing this question on where building design experts will answer you at no cost. I would be interested to hear the results.

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