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What is Light Framing?

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  • Written By: Cassie L. Damewood
  • Edited By: C. Wilborn
  • Last Modified Date: 13 September 2016
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Light framing is a type of construction that is widely used for residential housing in the United States, Canada, and Europe. The technique is based on using studs, normally pieces of 2 inch by 4 inch (5.08 cm by 10.16 cm) lumber, nailed together to construct a light platform frame. Diagonal braces are attached between the studs to increase stability and strength. Interior and exterior walls are attached to the stud frame, which eventually has a roof attached to it. Although the finished structure is very substantial and strong, the individual frames created by the studs are light enough to be easily manipulated by two or three people.

The light-frame sections are normally reinforced with firm panels to create wall sections. These sections are often made of sheetrock or drywall panels, which are compressed sheets of gypsum covered in heavy paper. These panels are attached to the frames with nails.

After all the walls are built, floors and ceilings are attached. The ceilings, which will ultimately provide the base for the roof, are also regularly reinforced with diagonal bracing much like that used in the walls of the house. The fully constructed walls and ceilings can be plastered, covered with plasterboard and painted, or concealed by paneling.

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Light frame buildings are often built on concrete slab foundations. These can serve a double purpose as both the floor of the house and the base that holds up the structure. Sometimes they are built on top of a basement made of concrete or concrete blocks.

Exterior finishes for light frame buildings can be as simple as wood or siding or be made of more textured materials such as brick, stone, or stucco. Aesthetics and weather conditions have significant influence on what exterior materials are chosen. In some neighborhoods, some exterior finishes may be banned or restricted by homeowners' associations.

Light framing techniques also facilitate simple construction of practical and attractive roofs. Pitched roofs remain the most popular design due to their superior drainage. Flat roofs have gained popularity in recent years as innovative drainage systems have been developed. Roofing materials vary based on climate, material availability, and local fire risks. In some areas, certain roofing materials are prohibited if they are considered too highly flammable.

Houses built using light framing techniques remain popular based on their versatility in styling and relatively low construction costs. Light framing uses inexpensive building materials so both small and large frames can be cheaply and quickly constructed. The architectural structure of light frame homes can easily be modified based on aesthetic tastes and family needs, like the required number of bedrooms and bathrooms.

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