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stud frame in oak instead of pine? Less wood?  RSS feed

 
Connor Ireland
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My reading of various timber frame books indicates that oak is vastly stronger (good) and more flexible (bad?) than light soft woods like pine and the like.

My neighbor is helping me to build a house. Though I am working on a cobb house and am fascinated with timber framing, he's a believer in stud framing and a big part of my life out here. So I figure I'll go with the studs (maybe it will make the house easier to sell down the road if its not made of mud), we're sawing our own lumber so it doesn't feel THAT evil.

I don't have very much big pine, but I have lots of nice, thick oaks all over the property. I'm wondering if I used oak instead of pine (which is heavier, stronger, bendier, slower to dry, harder to nail) could I make the hosue with the studs farther apart?

I have been reading Ken Kern, and he says that if people used big shank nails instead of crummy 16-penny nails they could build with their studs 7 ft on center instead of 2! WOw! But then, he died when a building collapsed on him, so I wonder how seriously I should take him...

Anyway, thanks in advance for any feedback I can get.
 
Ken Peavey
steward
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Location: FL
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Construction codes are designed to prevent houses from collapsing on people. All too often a builder will use the cheapest material available. This would be pine. Testing has shown load capacity and this data is used to develop construction codes.
Oak is much stronger than pine, but it is also more expensive and tougher to work with. A contractor wants to keep his expenses down. Since oak is not commonly used, there are many carpenters out there who are not familiar with using it-those 16d nails are tough to hammer indeed.

Uniform construction codes also bring standardization to the table. All sorts of products work well with 16" centers, 8' ceilings, 4x8 sheets. Stepping outside of the codes even with 10'ceiling can increase the cost of construction-now you need an extra sheet of drywall, with some of that going to the scrap heap.

There's no problem with using oak in lieu of pine studs in building according to code. You'll have a strong frame that will weather the storm. Stepping outside the building codes can be done, but the city inspectors will want your structural engineer and architect reports. These guys get paid handsomely, drying up the savings of using less lumber.

I have a friend who cut oak and maple timber off his property, had it milled into lumber. The oak he sold. This paid for all the pine lumber framing he used to build the house according to building codes. The maple he used for flooring, cabinets, and wall covering in some rooms. In the end he came out of pocket $2000 for the frame, mostly because of nails and strapping.

If you have the timber, you can turn it into lumber, plus you get all the branches for firewood. It will need to be harvested, milled into lumber, and kiln dried. It would be beneficial to sort through the finished lumber to select quality boards for specific uses. Top grade for cabinetry, molding or market, standard grade for framing, low grade for building a chicken coop or concrete forming. Comparing the cost of producing your own lumber to buying commericial pine lumber, you might not save much, and may even spend a bit more, but you end up with a superior material.

Given the opportunity, I would use the oak, stick with code.
 
Jay C. White Cloud
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Hi Connor,

Well, first off, being a traditional timber wright, I going to say "cocky pock," to the stick built frames being better or even less money in many cases, especially ones like yours where you are doing the work. Ken has valid points about Code, so you will have to deal with the differences in that for your area. Some areas are very stringent other's not at all. It is going to be a case by case basis. Now, for you comment about resale. A well designed and built timber frame, (no matter the thermal enveloped-cob, straw bail, etc.) is always going to sell faster in the same price range you would be asking. The "green movement," is gaining ground on a day to day basis, with more folks looking at construction modalities and traditional materials gaining favor.

I don't have very much big pine, but I have lots of nice, thick oaks all over the property. I'm wondering if I used oak instead of pine (which is heavier, stronger, bendier, slower to dry, harder to nail) could I make the hosue with the studs farther apart?


Oak or pine, your stub placement, in a contemporaneity "stick built," structure is going to pretty much be the same. You can mill the oak out to actual 50 mm x 100 mm (2"x4") studs, but the furthest you will place them apart is 600 mm (24".)

I have been reading Ken Kern, and he says that if people used big shank nails instead of crummy 16-penny nails they could build with their studs 7 ft on center instead of 2! WOw! But then, he died when a building collapsed on him, so I wonder how seriously I should take him...


That would be a big NO, for too many reasons to count or list here. If a stud is 2100 mm (84") on center, you are moving into timber framing or post and beam construction area.

Again, I would say build your timber frame, and if you want to do a traditional infill job with some of the added amenities of modern times, do it, you won't regret it. I, on almost a daily basis, face down folks that say stick framing is better for a vast array of reasons. 99.9% percent of them no nothing about timber framing, have never built ,nor truly understand the craft of the timber wright. It is all in what you know, are familiar with and want to do. A simple, small timber frame house, takes about one to two months to cut and about 6 to 12 hours to raise. I wouldn't call that slow by any means.

Good luck and keep us posted. If you click the about.me link below, you can see what a traditional foundation can look like.

Regards, jay
 
Peter DeJay
Posts: 104
Location: Southern Oregon
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First I want to clarify that most framing lumber is actually douglas fir, not pine. I've only ever built in Oregon but I'm pretty sure that's a national standard.

I agree with White Cloud. The material strength is pretty irrelevant when we are talking stud size. Its only in timber frame dimensions that Oak's strengths become more apparent. I think of timber framing and stud framing as similar, just different spacing. A timber post is like having 5 or more studs in a single unit.

It makes much more sense on almost every level to mill the oak that you have on site into either large timbers (less milling work, less waste, better structure, higher resale) and build a timber frame house, or mill it into a wood floor or maybe cabinet lumber. Or mill it and sell/trade it for the type of building structure you want to do.
 
Connor Ireland
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Okay. Well, just to post back a little bit, I live outside of town in the N-central Arkansas. There's no building code that anybody respects around here. My neighbours tell me that there's no process, I could make a fire-trap of a house that would collapse in a strong breeze and sell it, if I wanted to.

I have to be honest, by accepting so much help from my neighbour I'm beholden to him. This guy is my best friend out here (I am a city person by birth) and he looks out for me. So he feels that a cobb house is unproven and probably unfit to live in. He thinks a timber-frame requires an unrealistic amount of skill. (although I did make a timber frame wood shed, its pretty shoddy. Decent first effort, though.) He believes in using the wood I have on property, but in his own life he bought milled lumber to build his spot. NOW he has a saw mill, a tractor (or mules) to skid out the timber, so he can afford to be more idealistic. Still, he errs toward pragmatic whereas I err toward fantastic.

So he wants to do a stud frame, and I'm willing to oblige him. I want to use my own wood (which will be mostly oak. The Y-pine is low diameter) so - on the current trajectory - we are talking about a standard stud frame in rough oak. Is this the worst-of-both worlds? I know, you're probably thinking 'Grow a pair, Connor!' but what can I say, neighbours are few and far behind, and close friends hard to come by.
 
Brian Knight
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Location: Asheville NC
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I say go with the flow Conner. Building in rural areas is tough enough as it is and youre lucky to have help you can afford and trust. Oak studs will be fine. Research Smart framing, possibly going with 2' OC spacing but dont drive your neighbor crazy with the details. If comfort and energy costs are important to you, build as airtight as possible. I also highly recommend getting a layer of exterior insulation, R5 on the outside of your sheathing if youre in Zone3. Airtight and exterior insulation is something I would drive the neighbor crazy over.
 
Rufus Laggren
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Location: Chicago/San Francisco
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A "friend" will respect your sincere wishes and hopes. And respect you for believing in something and following through. Be sure you're not just second guessing him. How old is he? If not too old he might like the interest and challenge of something a little different. Or not. But give him a real chance and see what his real concerns and (possibly) hangups are. He probably mostly wants to use that mill he's got and there's more than one way to do that.

Look carefully at his house. If he's the boss then a house he builds will likely look like his. If there's any areas that concern you make those clear and attend to them.

If you stick frame, it might serve you to check the local market and sell your timber, milled or not, and buy stick frame material. Hem-fir can be used to make excellent houses using Smart framing or standard framing - and it'll be a lot easier to work with (the nails will go in with normal air pressure), manage (they do the drying) and carry (lighter).

You may wish to research who's selling good lumber in your area anyway. You'll be buying lots of it regardless and while you _can_ get decent wood from the box stores you'll have to pick it individually and boy is _that_ time consuming! If you can find a supplier who provides decent quality under his own power, sorta speak, it'll be worth a lot.

Wouldn't hurt to get any design ideas in order before the crew arrives, also.

You're starting on a real adventure. Best luck. <g>

Rufus
 
Jay C. White Cloud
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Hey Connor,

I have to be honest, by accepting so much help from my neighbor I'm beholden to him. This guy is my best friend out here (I am a city person by birth) and he looks out for me.
Brian has a point, but this is also your house. It is your home, your dream and your aspirations. Neighbor is one thing and a friend another, if they really care, they want to help you fulfill you dreams. If I can teach and talk folks through timber frame projects over the web, as I do every day, you can have a timber frame if that is what you want.

So he feels that a cobb house is unproven and probably unfit to live in. He thinks a timber-frame requires an unrealistic amount of skill.
I can not begin to say how wrong and untrue that statement is! Most homes in the world, (all the oldest ones currently lived in,) are earth, stone and timber. You just don't see most homes that are stick build lasting more than 25 to 50 years, and that is coming from statisics direct from some of the major producers in the industry. Today's stick built/modular architecture is designed to and I quote an industry expert, Though the homes are designed and engineered and look good, they have an economic life of only about 25 years. Timber frames do require an unrealistic amount of skill...if you are by yourself, have now one to guide you and perhaps have limited mental faculties. However, if we can have small children cutting simple joints and teenagers designing and cutting there own frames thorough some of our programs, you can cut your own frame with just the simplest of hand tools, moral support, and some guidance. I wouldn't have you build a replica of a Japanese Minka or a Turkish Mountain house, but you could have a simple little frame that incorporates those elements.

So he wants to do a stud frame, and I'm willing to oblige him.
I think you will regret that. You need to build your own house and follow your own counsel after you have considered all the opptions and considerations. Southern Missouri and the Ozarks are where all my mothers people came from. You have a wonderful place to build a home, and beautiful resources to create a timber frame with, more than most. If you don't believe me about some of the things I am saying, contact my friend Ziggy at "Dancing Rabbit," he will tell you the same thing. http://www.small-scale.net/yearofmud/#.UQYtOR1EGSo


Please hang in there, and no you don't need to "grow a pair," but you do need to follow your nature, to be at peace.

Regards, jay
 
                    
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Location: AR ~ozark mountain range~zone7a
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Since your building your house as economically as possible, with resale value in mind, that's nice, but you never really pinned down your 'plan'. Oak or Pine is it less wood?...probably not less pieces, sure Oak is stronger than Pine...but sounds like you don't want to buy Pine lumber, but use your own Oak logs. Since your using your own oak logs, the expense of 2x4's doesn't control whether you put a stud every 12" or 96" on center, anything more than 24" on center and your asking your floors/ceilings/roof deck/walls/lumber to warp till the boards bust loose. Can your sawmill get 2X6's easier than 2X4's?

After reading this thread, I can't understand what your question is, I can't tell if this is a 1 story, 2 room rustic cabin, with or without indoor plumbing and electric, oak slab/drywall/cobb interior/exterior walls, the roof...does it have an attic, insulation? You say something about a 'satisfactory wood shed' you built, and a cobb house your working on, and your dream of timber framing, and your neighbor/friend with a sawmill & ideas of a milling a stack 2X4's, will you have masonry components?

I think anybody with a chainsaw, logs, saw mill, skid equip. & wood drying shed should build a house, just for fun if nothing else...but you could share your plan, with materials list of what YOU expect to accomplish. Also even if you don't live in 'town', you can always go to town & see your local building inspector with your plan, see if they will notice any structural/expensive features.

Good neighbors & good friends are very valuable, the thing is... figure out what you want, then go get it, with your friends help.

james beam
 
Connor Ireland
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The house we have planned is a 24x36 clear-story with a loft, a sleeper beam lengthwise down the centre. The foundation will be recycled telephone pole piers, there is bedrock 1-2' down on most of the home site, though for the back row off piers it doesn't look like there's bedrock down there. No indoor plumbing, no wires (at least for a while) so no masonry. The cobb house is another project, and it might turn out to be a storm cellar. My original question, "can I space studs further apart if they are oak?" has been answered, I guess the conversation has just evolved since then.

http://i789.photobucket.com/albums/yy177/kathrynabbey/buildings/IMGA0095_zps4d295837.jpg is the plan for the stud house. Sorry its on paper, which was then photographed. Its pretty rudimentary, I know. If you want to see the timber-frame woodshed, or my hand-shingled outhouse, or my post-and-beam cookhouse, you can work your way back through the photobucket account. I am very proud of it all, but its really not worthy of bragging.

I do intend to saw a lot of 8x8 and 6x6 timber, I will be needing more structures, a bath house, and intend to delve deeper into framing them out without fasteners. But building that way is a year away, if I start sawing today, right? My woman and I would really like to be building a house this summer. I would be willing, much more than willing, to live in a cobb house, even one as small as I have begun, but my capacity for suffering is super-human. The community would look sideways at raising children in a mud house, barefoot and ignorant as I intend them to be. I know I'm all over the place, but its easy to say 'figure out what you really want.' Does anybody know what they really want? I know what I want for my life - no wires, a lot of sweat and dirt and critters. As for the cave that I live in, it doesn't matter. I would live in a cardboard box if the climate allowed it. Energy savings aren't really relevant, since I will have no gas or electric hookups in the foreseeable future. I heat with wood, there's plenty of that around.
 
Peter DeJay
Posts: 104
Location: Southern Oregon
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While having help and making allowances and compromises to accommodate that help is one thing, doing something you don't or shouldn't do will not make for a happy long term relationship. Remember, YOU have to live with this structure, not him.

It is just not realistic to cut and mill material from your land in the same year you plan to use it. That's asking for all sorts of trouble. I gotta say too, oak studs are just not going to work. Oak is a hard ,dense and brittle wood that doesn't usually have very straight grain, which means checks and cracks that separate the grains will have drastic structural consequences.

I'm really not trying to discourage you from utilizing your own resources, which is awesome that you have. I'm just trying to be realistic. Good luck on your endeavors.
 
Connor Ireland
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Well, if its really like that - I can't build with my own wood within the first year - then thats how it is. .I'm really not interested in trading out my oak wood for milled pine. I suppose thats a good thing, my woman and I an cool off, reexamine our needs and desires.

I lived in a house in New Orleans that was over 100 years old, I believe that was a stud frame house. Why did that place last so long, with all the moisture and termite problems? When you say that a stud frame house only lasts 25-50 years, what does that really mean? What happens?
 
Brian Knight
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Location: Asheville NC
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I think the timber frame path actually lends itself better to building sooner. Around here many of the timber framers prefer green wood. Curious what Jay thinks about that.

Not sure what those stick frame comments are about. Most homes in the country are stick built. If they are well maintained and avoid fire and disasters, they can last just as long as timber frames.

You say energy use is not a concern because you will burn wood but if you built more efficiently, you could easily cut your wood use in half. This means less cutting wood, which can be dangerous, less cleaning ash, more comfortable between burns which can mean better Indoor Air quality, less storage of wood which harbors termites, more wood for hugleculture or forest floor, less chimney cleaning (which is also dangerous) and arguably less chance of burning your house down which is a major cause of premature house failure.

Perhaps most importantly, your neighbors and community wont have to breathe or look at as much of your air pollution.
 
Rufus Laggren
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Location: Chicago/San Francisco
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If you decide to favor stick frame, here's a link to a super insulated modified stick frame that might give you ideas.

http://www.builditsolar.com/Projects/SolarHomes/LarsenTruss/LarsenTruss.htm


Rufus
 
Darren Smith
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Thanks for all the info on this, it's been most helpful.



http://oakdesigns.org/garages/
 
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