As anyone who has discussed building a new home with a builder knows, the subject of building methods is bound to come up. There are several methods, all useful, but none good for any use.
Most new homes are built with conventional stick framing, but there are other ways, including light-gauge steel, modular homes, and others. What follows is an overview of the most common methods of new home construction. With this information, you will be able to discuss your options more intelligently with a builder.
When most people think of new home construction, the image most conjure up is a skeleton of a home being constructed with 2 x 4s, board by board, to create wall studs, floors, ceilings, and everything else to eventually form a home.
Stick framing is sometimes called platform framing because the first floor is built on a platform of the foundation, floor by floor, and finishing with the roof.
In many cases, wall panels are assembled in a plant, then trucked to the site where they are assembled. This method is called panelization. This is very similar to stick framing, except the construction of walls is done off site.
After the frame is complete, other parts such as pipes, wires, ducts, and other elements—called mechanicals—are added. Next, insulation is added, followed by exterior walls. Then comes the drywall on the inside.
There are a few disadvantages to stick framing, but generally speaking, the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) Research Center recommends it, with more than 90 percent of all homes in the U.S. built in this manner.
If you think of a stick-built home but imagine the sticks being made of metal, you get the idea of light-gauge steel. A home built of light-gauge steel has several obvious advantages. These include no burning, rot, shrinking, or termites. And when built correctly, a light-gauge steel home is stronger than wood. Steel won’t shrink or warp either, so there is little concern over drywall cracks. Light-gauge steel is most commonly used in commercial buildings.
Steel studs pose special problems for people like plumbers and electricians, who must negotiate doing their work.
Modular homes are constructed of much the same techniques as stick framing, but they are not built on site. Instead, they are constructed in modules and taken to the site for assembly. Modular homes are built to the same standards as site-built homes, so they hold their value as well.
As is the case with many things, the quality of modular homes varies, although some modules are custom built which allows for complex designs and other features.
Structural Insulated Panels
Structural Insulated Panels or SIPs, is actually a layered foam insulation that results in a panel. SIPs come with pre-cut window and door openings. Some even have precut openings for electrical wiring. SIPs can be used alone to build structures or in combination with other materials and methods.
SIPs are well insulated and cost less to heat and cool than a stick frame house. SIPs are also often less expensive than a stick frame house. They also often take less time to construct because insulation is already in place.
Concrete is probably the world’s most often used building product, but except for foundations, most people never think of it. The truth is, concrete is often used in building, in different forms such as concrete masonry, forms and others.
Another example of concrete forms is foam forms that look much like Legos but are assembled on site. They are then filled with steel rods and concrete for stability. They also become the home’s insulation.
It is critical, regardless of the type of material and method used in building your home, to discuss your preferences with the builder. Regardless of the method you end up using, make sure that the builder has strong experience with that method. This caution also goes for homeowners who decide to work with an architect.
What can be said about the different methods listed above? Quite simply, in the hands of an expert, the use of any of the materials can result in an energy-efficient, high-quality, and durable home that is ready for many years of service and enjoyment. Everything else being the same, materials are different, but the way they are used can result in a high-quality home that will be everything an owner could expect. Each material has its own benefits and drawbacks, but when all is considered, they are all excellent.