home/body analogy 1: the frame

A previous post offered the home/body analogy as a way of understanding the complex and interconnected system of parts that is your house.  The matrix above organizes this analogy into six categories.

First up: the frame.

A fundamental, but oft-ignored aspect of sustainability is durability.  If it doesn’t last, it isn’t green.  Around these parts, a wood frame supports and protects houses the same way the skeleton supports our bodies.  There is no point in any home greening until you are sure that the frame is in good shape.

Most common threat to frames: water.  Occasional flooding or constant dampness will eventually rot the framing, and/or cause mold growth.  You don’t want either.  There are many ways to prevent or manage water problems.  Start by keeping it away from the perimeter of your foundation outside the house with good gutters and downspouts.  If that doesn’t do it, Pioneer Basement has a good website which outlines the various ways of stopping water infiltration.   Lousy construction or time-worn details can also allow water penetration above the ground, via wind-driven rain or snow/ice melt.  A clue to this situation is blistering paint or stains on your exterior siding or interior wall/ceiling surfaces.

Second most common frame threat: termites.  Less visible than water problems, but sneakier.  And hungry.  See Terminix for more info on this one, and then see your basement for clues.

If there is a home expansion in your future, you have the opportunity to use better, and less framing than most older homes.  Using bigger (2×6) framing, or double-stud walls rather than conventional (2×4) framing allows the requisite space for good insulation.  Through careful design and engineering, it is possible to use less framing – by aligning and eliminating redundant framing members (aka Advanced Framing).  That’s a good thing, because wood is a lousy insulator, and by reducing the amount of it, there is more room for real insulation.

Once you’ve got your frame in shape, move on to the envelope…(coming soon).