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Balloon Framing 101: How to Tell If You Have a Balloon Frame House
Life and Style Daily
October 02, 2021
5 min

You should also see that you know your house’s design, whether it is still using the balloon framing design or utilizing the new ones. Buying your own house or inheriting them can be tedious as you invest your lifetime money, and if you know the house design you’re using, you can rest assured that there will be just a few adjustments you can make for its renovation.

Balloon framed houses are popular in the construction of historic residences due to their cost-effectiveness. However, as time passes, this type of framing has been phased out and replaced by new types of home framings.

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But before we dive in, what is Balloon Framing in the first place? Don’t worry because our article will answer all the things you need to know about this specific house design.

What Is Balloon Framing?

The fact that houses created with balloon framing have been on the market since the 1890s and were a popular house build design until the 1950s may have escaped your notice. But it is true. In fact, it was a well-known house design in the United States and some areas of Canada during that period.

It was a prominently known house design due to its inexpensive materials like lumber with 2x4 and 2x6 sizes and nails. These materials are long enough to reach up to two to three-story height using studs or long lumbers that are fastened together with the nails.

The build is also cost-effective as it does not cater to any laborious job. It only requires a few people working on it so builders can do it faster than the expected building date, unlike the recent ones that require many workers to finish it all up.

The balloon-framed homes have very tall walls and a high ceiling which can be good to construct a very tall chimney and a large window area.

They are also resistant to heavy winds that prevent the drywall from cracking and rusting the nails. However, even though it is seemingly advantageous, it has been replaced by new house building designs due to the problems like fire spreading in the homes that may need to install fire-blocking to relieve the house fires.

What Is the Difference Between Platform Frame vs. Balloon Frame?

Since balloon frames are commonly used as the design to follow, many builders and homeowners are singing their praises and immediately adapted the design into their own homes, making it widespread and industrialized. However, platform framing swept the prior in their feet, making it the innovative version.

While balloon framing is popularized in North America, “Platform framing” was coined in Switzerland to describe the technique of framing platforms on a platform. Instead of using tall studs, they used timbers to eliminate the need for the balloon frame technique in most cases.

Talking about the timbers, one of the most significant distinctions between the two structures is that the balloon frame employs extremely long studs from the foundation up to the rafters.

Platform frames are different from the balloon because building it will separate studs on each story, rather than employing the same measures as the former building design. The platform only demonstrates a significant improvement in the uniformity of its parts as well as its flexibility.

Unlike the floors found in the balloon frames, the floors found in the platform frames are either positioned between successive wall panels or suspended from the inside panels of the platform frames themselves. Because of these factors, the fires are less likely to spread in this type of framing, but you have to expect that it will be more expensive than the initial design.

Is Balloon Framing Good?

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Most of the time, when it comes to building a cheap two-story house, balloon framing is a suitable option. Construction of this structure is less expensive than the other designs, mainly because it is produced entirely of tall studs and nails that can reach up to two-storey houses. Plus, it only requires fewer personnel to put it all together.

However, if you are concerned about the safety of your home, it is also noteworthy to remember that a balloon-framed house can quickly spread fires because of its materials.

Distinguishing Your House If It Is A Balloon Framed One

The issue about balloon-framed houses is that they are as out-of-date as their architectural form allows. If you know if the house is made of balloon frames or not, you can take precautions to allow it to sit in because it is not necessarily constructed entirely of wood as the cover.

Other coverings, such as stucco or the addition of more wood to the framing, will require you to tear it open to determine whether the house design is allegedly wearing a balloon frame or not.

You can, however, utilize an alternative method to determine whether or not your home is built in the same style as another.

To begin, you must determine when your home was initially constructed (its construction date). If you can ensure that it was built between 1880 and 1950, has bungalows, or is in the mission style, you can conclude that there is a good possibility that it is one of these buildings.

If that is not the case, you can also peek into your attic and see any evidence indicating your house is a balloon frame house there. The attic edges are supported by a ledger board rather than simply laying it on top of the platform frame.

However, if you want to discover whether your house is designed in a balloon frame, you can open the walls and renovate them afterward. Your house needs some rewiring because it uses a knob and tube wiring, which is outdated, so it would be safer to live in.

How to Make Your Balloon Framed House Safer

And since it came to us how important the safety of a house should be, you can improve your house safety by implementing some necessary steps.

Knowing that the balloon-framed houses are not precisely fireproof and are vulnerable to spread instantly, you can try to add fire protection by applying some fire-blocking woods by adding framing lumber between studs.

But before you can do so, you will have to remove the plasters first or the interior wall to do that process. Yes, it can be difficult, but doing so will stop the fire from spreading throughout the house and containing the fire for quite some time, making you and your family efficiently evacuate the house or kill the fire as soon as it happens.

Additionally, some of the materials used as the studs are pressure-treated woods that contain harmful chemicals such as asbestos. If you block it with plasters or other coatings to protect you, it will also keep your health from harmful elements.

Takeaway

The house prices are hiking up every year, so having a house you own is necessary. However, owning a house like a Victorian or mission-styled home is more than likely to sport a balloon house framing, which is not necessarily bad. Still, you can take several measures to protect your house’s state as well as your family.

Things such as fire-blocking and renewing your home’s wires are some things, but if your budget can afford it, some simple repairs may be helpful in the overall health of your house.


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