Choices – Dimensional Lumber – “Sticks or Bricks”?

There are so many cool ways to build the structure of a home. SIPs panels, ICF blocks, Steel framing, Rammed Earth, Straw bale, Earth ships, they just keep getting more interesting!

The advantages of these alternatives is that they are more resistant than wood to fire, wind, insect and moisture damage. They also practice an efficient use or reuse of materials. It makes sense to check into these materials to explore what might work for your building project.

But the fact is that 90% of homes are built with typical dimensional lumber. Sometimes it is the initial cost of an alternative building material that deters home owners. It can also be the labor if some alternatives are so labor intensive that it is expensive or so unique that a local experienced trade does not exist. More often it is the builder who either is not familiar enough with an alternative and does not want to experiment or is building a spec home and does not want the added cost to pass onto a potential buyer.

So, that leaves most people with a traditional dimensional lumber built home. This does not have to be bad; it just has to be done right.

Start by using lumber with the FSC stamp (Forest Stewardship Counsel) FSC is an independent, non-governmental, not for profit organization established to promote the responsible management of the world’s forests. The FSC certified forests must follow the rules in managing their forests. The basic principles are:
• Prohibit conversion of forests or any other natural habitat
• Respect of international workers rights
• Prohibition of use of hazardous chemicals
• Respect of Human Rights with particular attention to indigenous peoples
• No corruption – follow all applicable laws
• Identification and appropriate management of areas that need special protection (e.g. cultural or sacred sites, habitat of endangered animals or plants)

Many forests around the world are harvested illegally. By using FSC lumber you can guarantee that the wood in your home was taken with care.

Engineered products are an efficient way to minimize the wood required and to strengthen your structure. Manufactured finger jointed studs made from shorter lengths of lumber, have no knots and actually are stronger than a single piece stud. Finger jointed millwork also have no knots and are straight and smooth for a more quality finish. Trusses for roofs and floor systems are stronger and better too. Less lumber is used especially when attic trusses are specified and they are easier to run duct work and other mechanicals through them. I-beam floor joists are made from wood particles and are engineered to hold the load.

In construction, wall studs are typically framed at 16” on center spacing. Code allows 24” spacing and works well structurally and even helps because roof and ceiling framing that is typically at spaced 24” on center can be stacked directly onto the stud.

Sometimes exterior walls are framed with 2×6’s instead of 2×4’s to allow for thicker batt insulation. Save the lumber, cost and space by using 2×4 exterior walls with a quality total fill insulation such as damp blown cellulose or open cell spray foam. These choices are better than batt because they guarantee a total fill application. The spray foam also will create an air barrier that eliminates the need for caulking all the joints in your wall system. These insulations do cost more, but you will get a much better wall and a higher R-value using 2×4’s and higher quality insulation.

In the demolition phase of remodeling a home, make sure your builder saves every scrap of studs, trusses, joists and rafters for reuse on your own job site. Trusses can be either reused as is or the 2×4’s can be cut out for reuse. Even small pieces can be used on site for blocking or fire stopping between studs. Watch the dumpster every day and pull out scraps that might have been tossed in and make sure your builder understands your desires. If you don’t have a need for all of it, find another use in a future project, with a neighbor or a reputable resource for recycled building materials. These values can be used in new construction too. For small projects, try to find a source of unused or discarded lumber from another job.

When building a “stick” framed home, your builder is going to be your best advocate for building sensibly and smart. Be sure that your choice in a builder is one who believes in and understands green building the way that you expect them to. Check their references and make sure they are a member of Austin Energy Green Building.

In Green building, the things you don’t see are sometimes more important that the things you do see.

Green Living Tips!

Please welcome this new segment of our newsletter! I welcome inspirations from your home to put into future newsletters. Email them to me; Cammi Klier. Thanks!!

If you have children that play hard like mine, you have to deal with stains on their clothes. Nothing seems to work better than a conventional stain treatment like “Shout”. To keep as much of this out of our ground water as possible, I dilute it 2/3 parts water, 1/3 parts solution and I do one stain load a week. After spraying it on the stains, I put the clothing in my washing machine and close the door (with out turning it on) to sit for about 20 minutes. During this time, the watered down solution soaks into the clothing. Then I start the wash as normal and do an extra rinse at the end if needed. Before the clothes go to the dryer, I check to make sure the stains are gone. Usually only the heaviest stains are not completely gone and they skip the dryer and go into the dirty laundry again to repeat the process.

Here’s an interesting, natural way to clean your clothing! They are called Soap Nuts and they come from a tree in the Himalayan Mountains.