Knowing the Different Home Structural Systems

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The use of different structural systems used in combination (hybrid) such as SIP and stick-built is increasingly common and Home-Cost delivers with options you will not find anywhere else. You can use one or more structural systems above ground in your custom home design estimate with Home-Cost.

Stick Built

This is also known as standard framing and is the most common of all home structural systems. The home structure is made up of individual pieces of dimensional lumber (often called “sticks”) and they are field assembled, requiring the most labor.

Advantages to this system include field flexibility for changes, universal labor and material availability and no special equipment required for erection.

Disadvantages include labor intensity and difficulty in making the house “tight” or having low air infiltration through the envelope.

Concrete Masonry Unit (CMU) or Concrete Block

CMU construction is typically used for foundation and basement walls. It’s use above ground is fairly limited and found most often in construction areas needing protection from high wind forces such as the coastal areas.

Advantages of CMU structure above ground include strength of the structure and resistance to high wind forces and envelope air tightness.

Disadvantages include high cost, labor intensity and potential lack of material or labor availability. Also with this system it is difficult to make field changes or post construction changes.

Insulated Concrete Form (ICF)

ICF construction has been used for basement wall construction and has gained popularity in recent years as an above ground method of construction. They assemble as interlocking hollow foam blocks that are then interlaced with reinforcing steel and filled with concrete.

Advantages of ICF construction include their strength, quietness, high insulation value and inherent envelope air tightness from having no joints.

Disadvantages include specialized materials and installation labor, higher cost, and requirement of a flame resistant finish like drywall in occupied areas such as a basement. Also with this system it is difficult to make field changes or post construction changes.

Structural Insulated Panels (SIP)

SIP construction involves use of prefabricated structural insulated panels. SIP panels are pre cut from computer drawings and field delivered in a numbered and stacked order. The panels are made from a foam, such as expanded polystyrene (EPS) and then laminating it between two layers of structural oriented strand board (OSB). The panels themselves are airtight, extremely strong and highly insulating.

Advantages to SIP construction include reduced construction time and improved construction efficiency. They are extremely strong, have extremely high insulating qualities, are air tight and erect quickly. Also, unlike CMU construction, SIP panels have chases for horizontal and vertical distribution of electrical.

Disadvantages include specialized materials, erection equipment (crane/operator) and installation labor. SIP construction also requires a sealing of the panel joints. Also with this system it is difficult to make field changes or post construction changes.

Timber Frame

Timber frame construction is post and beam construction and is the oldest construction system known. It provides a natural beauty and strength and character unmatched with other systems. Unlike log home construction, timber frame is extremely dimensionally stable and does not “shrink” like logs when laid on their sides. Timber frame can either be locally fabricated or for more accurate and cost effective construction, is manufactured by a computer controlled machine from computer drawings and like SIP’s, field delivered in a numbered and stacked order

Advantages of timber frame include strength and beauty. It is a framing system that works best with SIP construction for the exterior envelope.

Disadvantages of timber frame specialized materials, erection equipment (crane/operator) and installation labor.