Properly sizing the headers to transfer loads means using less wood and more insulation. Result: an energy-efficient wall that costs less to build.

This jobsite is in southern Maryland. It was a pleasant surprise because there were so many things right with what I saw.

Energy-Efficient Framing Tip #1: Downsize headers to meet the load
For this non–load-bearing gable wall, the framers skipped the structural header. A doubled 2x4 was added, probably to bridge the opening rather than to support a load. Doubling the window's top sill plate and laying them on the flat would have actually used more wood, because the wall framing is 2x6. (Energy-Efficient Framing Tip #2: Use 2x6s not 2x4s—attaboy!)

Speaking of using 2x6s to frame a wall, does anyone still use 2x4s? (Answer: Unfortunately, yes.) They are lower quality lumber, provide 1/3 less room for insulation, and exude cruddy construction.

Energy-Efficient Framing Tip #3: 24-inch-on-center spacing
Another attaboy for spacing studs on 24-in. centers—this makes 35% more room for insulation and saves money on labor and the framing package. And it makes the wall lighter to lift, which is better for carpenters' backs.

Energy-Efficient Framing Tip #4: Raised-heal trusses
Also in this picture: raised-heel trusses, which make more room for insulation at the critical spot where the roof meets the wall. In cold places, this is where ice dams begin. In hot places, it is always a good idea to have lots of insulation in the roof, so that the air conditioner doesn't have to work as hard.

Energy-Efficient Framing Tip #5: Fewer studs in the corners
The fifth energy efficiency tip for today is two-stud corners. Unfortunately, these guys didn't use them. Red Flag. Exterior corners have a lot of pieces of lumber connecting at the same point. Each of those connections has a crack; cracks add up to gaps, and gaps add up to holes. Adding more studs in a corner makes less room for insulation. More holes and less insulation is bad.

Using fewer studs can make the corners warmer and less drafty. And they cost $5 less to build. If you see your framers using too many studs in the corners, ask them to eliminate all but two of them—one at the end of each wall. When they ask about drywall backing, say "clips."

4 Attaboys, 1 Red Flag. Good job.

Bonus Quiz: Something strange is going on with the wall framing. Can you find it?


More from Builder:
Advanced Framing, Part 1
Advanced Framing, Part 2
Another Article on Advanced Framing

Other Resources:
Toolbase: Advanced Framing Techniques

See something we missed? Make a note of it in the comments.

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Other Mystery Inspector Jobsites:
Arlington, Virginia