I recently helped a friend remodel the bathroom in his 150-year old house. The room had been gutted, and the exposed framing was a graphic reminder that we really dont build houses like we used to. The exterior wall was framed with timbers bigger than my leg, and the wall separating the bath from the bedroom was framed with 8-in. wide chestnut planks on occasional centers. These 1-in. thick studs had many edges and were turned flat to provide a broad nailing base for the accordion lath that held the plaster. It was beautiful, at least to a couple of old carpenters, and we wondered for a moment how we might leave it all exposed.
The transition from building with planks and timbers to the way we build houses today started 200 years ago with the invention of a nail-making machine, but didnt really get going until the widespread mechanization of sawmills over the next few decades. At that point, you had studs and nails, which are what we still use today. But the methods and materials have evolved continuously over the years. Balloon framing, where the studs ran uninterrupted from foundation to roof, gave way to the platform framing we use today. Studs got smaller. Plywood replaced board sheathing. Nail guns overtook hammers. And so on.
Efforts to make better use of our dwindling forests, to build houses faster and to make them safer in the wake of hurricanes, earthquakes and fires have all led to changes in the way we stitch our homes together. If youre building today, whether its a new house or a partition wall your basement, you need to keep up with new materials and changing codes. The articles in this book will help you do that (among other things). Collected from past issues of Fine Homebuilding magazine, these articles were written by experienced builders. If they worked beside you on a job site, or lived next door, youd ask their advice about the header over your new picture window. But good builders arent that easy to find, which is why we got these folks to write down what theyve learned.
Kevin Ireton, editor