Graphic guide to Frame Construction

Graphic guide to Frame Construction

This book has been enriched immeasurably by the contributions of professional architects, contractors, and engineers throughout the country

Thomas Grant 3 years ago 0 31


This book has been enriched immeasurably by the contributions of professional architects, contractors, and engineers throughout the country. The first edition was reviewed in its entirety by the following architects and builders: Edward Allen, South Natick, MA; Judith Capen, Washington, DC; Steve Kearns, Ketchum, ID; Scott McBride, Sperryville, VA; Jud Peake, Oakland, CA; Dan Rockhill, LeCompton, KS; Joel Schwartz, Princeton, NJ; Stephen Suddarth, Miami Beach, FL; Blaine Young, Santa Fe, NM. In addition, portions of the second edition were reviewed by: Edward Allen, South Natick, MA; John

Carmody, Minneapolis, MN; Walter Grondzik, Talla-hassee, FL; Christine Theodoropolous, Eugene, OR.

This third edition was reviewed in part by the following: Edward Allen, FAIA, South Natick, MA; Chris Anderson, Contractor, Eugene, OR; Chris Brandt, P.E., Weyerhauser/iLevel; Donald Corner, Professor, University of Oregon; Tom McClain, P.E., Simpson Strong-Tie; James McDonald, Contractor, Eugene, OR; Hal Pfeifer, P.E., Eugene, OR; Joe Johnson, Architect, Portland, OR.

The participation of all these reviewers has made the book significantly more comprehensive and the process of writing it more enjoyable.

It has been almost 20 years since the first edition was originally conceived. My gratitude to those who helped to formulate and develop that first effort persists because the importance of their contribution has only increased with the passing of time:

Paul Bertorelli, for helping to define the scope of the book and the method of producing it; Joanne Bouknight, for patient and skillful editing with just the right touch of humor; David Edrington, my architectural partner, for his patience and understanding; Dee Etwiler, my wife, for her research assistance, her loving support, and her patience; Lloyd Kahn, for inspiration and support for this project long before it was realized; Chuck Miller, for listening to my ideas and suggesting the project to the publishers in the first place; Don Peting, for valuable assistance in articulating my thoughts about structural relationships in early chapters; Scott Wolf, for insightful assistance with the format and for putting as much energy into rendering the original drawings as humanly possible.

And for the second edition, I remain grateful to:

Steve Culpepper, for his unwavering belief in the importance of the Graphic Guide series and his deft facilitation of the second edition; Jennifer Renjilian Morris, my editor, for gracious management and astute tuning of the writing; David McClean, my assistant, for helpful suggestions about and multiple drafts of most of the new drawings; Anthony Baron, for skillful rendering of the new drawings in the style of the originals.

The production of this third edition has benefited greatly from the existence of the first two editions as well as from the digital revolution.

Whereas for previous editions I have thanked long lists of people who contributed in numerous invaluable ways, this time around the work that did not fall to me directly was very graciously and efficiently managed at the publishers. For this I thank Peter Chapman, Senior Editor, and assistant editor, Courtney Jordan. Peter, of course, was also responsible for working with me to define the scope and focus of this edition, a task for which I am very grateful. Lastly, I need to thank my colleagues and especially my family for enduring unpredictable behavior and schedules on my part during the development of this volume.


Light wood-frame construction originated in this country over 150 years ago and quickly evolved into the predominant construction system for houses and other small-scale buildings. Today, over 90% of all new buildings in North America are made using some version of this method. Remodeling projects follow the same track.

There are many reasons why this system has been the choice of professional and amateur builders alike over the years. A principal reason is its flexibility. Because the modules are small, virtually any shape or style of building can be built easily with the studs, joists, and rafters that are the primary components of wood-frame construction. In addition, the pieces are easily handled, the material is readily available, and the skills and tools required for assembly are easily acquired.

Given the popularity of the system, it was surprising to find that, before the publication of the first edition of this book, there existed no detailed and comprehensive reference focusing on light wood framing.

Now, seventeen years and two editions later, over 275,000 copies of Graphic Guide to Frame Construction have found their way into the libraries of architects, contractors, owner-builders, and students.

The acceptance of the Graphic Guide as a standard reference has corresponded with great strides in building technology. Wood frame buildings today are built faster, stronger, and with more efficient use of materials. Engineered lumber products, relatively rare just 20 years ago, are now more common than sawn lumber for many parts of a building. Wooden buildings are now greatly more resistant to the forces of hurricanes and earthquakes. Vinyl windows, which were just being introduced, are now the standard.

Advanced framing that both conserves material and allows for upgraded insulation is rapidly gaining acceptance. These and many other advances were incorporated into the second edition, but the building culture is not static. Best practices are evolving rapidly because of improved communication and building science, and innovative materials are proliferating to meet increased demand.

This third edition expands on those issues covered in the first two editions with the addition of the most recently developed practices and materials.

In particular, this edition updates the details for engineered lumber products and takes a closer look at the important issue of moisture in wood frame building assemblies. These two subjects have dominated the research in recent years and significantly impact each chapter of the book. The topic of environmental responsibility, which has gained serious traction in recent years, has been covered extensively in previous editions but receives further discussion here.

With all the attention given to advanced practices and materials, it is also important not to forget traditional principles and materials. These form the backbone of the system of wood frame construction and are the starting point for the important and considerable work of remodeling and renovation.


To provide a detailed reference, the scope of the book had to be limited. I decided to focus on the parts of a building that contribute most significantly to its longevity. Virtually all the drawings, therefore, describe details relating to the structural shell or to the outer protective layers of the building. Plumbing, electrical, and mechanical systems are described only as they affect the foundation and framing of the building.

Interior finishes and details are not covered because they are the subject of a companion volume, Graphic

Guide to Interior Details (The Taunton Press, 1996).

The process of construction, covered adequately in many references, has here been stripped away so as to expose the details themselves as much as possible.

Design, although integral with the concerns of this book, is dealt with only at the level of the detail.

The details shown here employ simple, standard materials. With this type of information, it should be possible to build a wood frame building in any shape, at any size, and in any style. Many local variations are included.


Although the details in this book have been selected partly on the basis of their widespread use, the primary focus is on durability. I believe that wood-frame buildings can and should be built to last for 200 years or more. To accomplish this, a building must be built on a solid foundation; it must be designed and built to resist moisture; it must be protected from termites, ants, and other insect pests; it must be structurally stable; and it must be reasonably protected from the ravages of fire. All these criteria may be met with standard construction details if care is taken in both the design and the building process.

There are some accepted construction practices, however, that I do not think meet the test of durability.

For example, the practice in some regions of building foundations without rebar is not prudent. The small investment of placing rebar in the foundation to minimize the possibility of differential settlement is one that should be made whether or not it is required by code. The stability of a foundation affects not only the level of the floors but also the integrity of the structure above and the ability of the building to resist moisture. Another common practice that I discourage is the recent overreliance on caulks and sealants for waterproofing. This practice seems counterproductive in the long run because the most sophisticated and scientifically tested sealants are warranted for only 20 to 25 years. Should we be investing time, money, and materials in buildings that could be seriously damaged if someone forgets to recaulk? It is far better, I believe, to design buildings with adequate overhangs or with flashing and drip edges that direct water away from the structural core by means of the natural forces of gravity and surface tension.

Durability, however, does not depend entirely upon material quality and construction detailing.

Durability also depends heavily upon the overall design of the building and whether its usefulness over time is sufficient to resist the wrecking ball. The more intangible design factors such as the quality of the space and the flexibility of the plan are extremely important but are not a part of this book.


Every effort has been made to ensure that the details included in this book conform to building codes. Codes vary, however, so local codes and building departments should always be consulted to verify compliance.


The book’s five chapters follow the approximate order of construction, starting with the foundation and working up to the roof (however, the last chapter on stairs is intentionally out of sequence). Each chapter begins with an introduction that describes general principles. The chapters are divided into subsections, also roughly ordered according to the sequence of construction. Subsections, usually with another more specific introduction and an isometric reference drawing, lead to individual drawings or notes.

Subsections are called out at the top of each page for easy reference. Each drawing has a reference letter, a title, and often a subtitle. Sometimes a reference and title is assigned to an entire topic. With this system, all the drawings (and topics) may be cross-referenced. The callout “see 42A”, for example, refers to drawing A on page 42.

As many details as possible are drawn in the simple section format found on architectural working drawings. Most are drawn at the scale of 1 in. equals 1 ft. or 11⁄2 in. equals 1 ft., although the scale is not noted on the drawings. This format should allow the details to be transferred to architectural drawings with minor adjustments. (Details will usually have to be adjusted to allow for different size or thickness of material, for roof pitch, or for positional relationships.) Those details that are not easily depicted in a simple section drawing are usually drawn isometrically in order to convey the third dimension.

Any notes included in a detail are intended to describe its most important features. By describing the relationship of one element to another, the notes sometimes go a little further than merely naming an element. Materials symbols are described on page 226. Abbreviations are spelled out on page 227.


My intention in writing and now in twice revising this book has been to assist designers and builders who are attempting to make beautiful buildings that endure. With the drawings, I have tried to describe the relationship among the parts of every common connection. Alternative approaches to popular details have been included as well. I have relied primarily on my own experiences but have also drawn significantly on the accounts of others. In order to build upon this endeavor, I encourage you, the reader, to let me know of your own observations and critical comments.


  • Footings
  • Foundation Walls
  • Pier & Grade-Beam Systems
  • Basement Walls
  • Retaining Walls
  • Drainage & Waterproofing
  • Wall Caps
  • Slabs
  • Utilities


  • Beams
  • Joist Systems
  • Girder Systems
  • Subflooring
  • Porches & Decks
  • Insulation


  • Framing
  • Lateral Bracing
  • Sheathing
  • Shear Walls
  • Moisture & Air Barriers
  • Windows
  • Doors
  • Flashing
  • Exterior Finishes
  • Insulation0
  • Introduction ix


  • Framing
  • Sheathing
  • Flashing
  • Roofing
  • Gutters & Downspouts
  • Insulation & Ventilation


  • Framing
  • Treads & Risers
  • Balustrades
  • Handrails
  • Exterior Stairs
  • Exterior Steps

List of Abbreviations

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