When most people think of a house, they don’t actually picture the pieces that allow it to stand up. The frame of a house is what gives it rigidity and keeps it standing, even through extreme weather.

In this guide, we’ll be discussing exactly what house framing is, what it’s made of, how it’s constructed, and much more. By the end, you should have a good idea of how house framing works to support the structure and keep you and your family safe inside.

What is House Framing?

House framing is the skeleton of a home that runs behind all of the internal and external walls, supports the roofing shingles, and attaches the home to the foundation. It’s what cabinets and wall decor is attached to through the sheetrock, and it’s what your floors, ceilings, and walls are affixed to.

House framing’s primary purpose is to provide support for the other building materials in your home. These include doors, windows, floors, roofing materials, and more.

Materials and Types of House Framing

There are four primary materials that are used in modern construction for building framing. These include wood, steel, structural insulated panels, and insulated concrete forms. We’ll discuss each of these materials in the sections below.

Wood Framing

Wood framing — also called stick framing and timber framing — consists of construction lumber that is nailed together and mounted to the foundation. Most wall studs and frames around door and window openings are made of 2x4s, while rafters, joists, and sill plates are usually made out of wider material, like 2x10s and 2x12s. Other parts of wood framing include roof sheathing, subfloor, and more.

Wood framing is comparatively affordable and easy to construct. However, wood is naturally prone to rot and moisture damage, and it can lead to some settling over time.

There are two types of stick framing: balloon framing and platform framing. Balloon framing is more commonly used in old houses and uses long 2x4s that extend up the load-bearing walls from the bottom to the top. Platform framing is more common and uses multiple sets of 2x4s: one for each floor.

Steel Framing

Steel framing is more rigid than wood framing, so it doesn’t have the same issues with settling. Steel also isn’t prone to rotting or mold growth, making it a more desirable material in terms of durability and longevity.

Unfortunately, steel is more expensive than wood, so steel framing will almost always cost more for the same-sized home. Steel also conducts heat more readily, so it can contribute to lower energy efficiency and less comfortable indoor temperatures. Far more home builders are familiar with wood as well, so you might have difficulty finding a company that is experienced with steel house framing.

Structural Insulated Panels

Structural insulated panels are prefabricated panels made from rigid boards and come fitted with foam insulation. They make construction on-site much easier, as the actual frame doesn’t need to be assembled from scratch.

Structural insulated panels are very expensive and prohibitively so for many people. However, they do make construction time much shorter, and they provide outstanding insulation.

Insulated Concrete Forms

Insulated concrete forms are made by constructing a lightweight foam form on site and then filling the form with concrete. This process reduces the construction time quite significantly and leaves you with a highly insulative house frame.

Unfortunately, insulated concrete forms are very expensive, so many homeowners building their homes opt for more affordable framing materials.

What is the Most Common Type of Framing1

Wood framing is, by far, the most common type of framing in the United States. It’s preferred for its wide availability, ease of construction, and, most importantly, relatively low material costs.

Parts and Layers of Framing a House

Looking at a house frame without building materials covering it makes it look rather intimidating. There are lots of pieces that fit together to provide the structural integrity required for a safe building. In the sections below, we’ll discuss the types of lumber typically used for house framing and the parts of a frame that you can identify when looking at a standalone frame.

Types of Lumber Used for Framing

In most cases, lightweight and affordable softwood is used for house framing. Douglas fir and other pines, like spruces, are the most common options. These provide good rigidity and durability, and they are far more affordable than hardwood options.

Some homeowners choose redwood or cedars, as these resist movement in response to moisture. However, they are quite expensive. If moisture or humidity is an issue, most homeowners will opt for pressure-treated pine instead.

Parts of a Frame

There are many different parts to a house frame that are required to support the various building materials that will be affixed to it or laid on top of it. We’ll include a brief list of the different house frame parts below.

house framing diagram
  • Sill Plate: This is the portion of the frame that gets mounted to the concrete foundation
  • Floor Joist: A floor joist is a horizontal support that holds up the subfloor and flooring
  • End Joist: An end joist is the last floor joist in a series, which is sometimes attached to the ends of other joists
  • Ledger: A ledger is a horizontal support that runs between joists to provide additional structural integrity and resist shifting
  • Subfloor: The subfloor is typically made of particle board or oriented strand board (OSB). It gets affixed to the floor joists and provides structure for the flooring above
  • Window Sill: This is a horizontal support that runs along the bottom of window openings in the frame
  • Header: A header is the horizontal support that is placed at the top of a window opening
  • Stud: Studs are vertical posts that get installed every 16 or 24 inches — on center, depending on the building code in your area — where all interior and exterior walls will be placed. Studs support the double plate up top
  • Girder: A girder is a large horizontal support that provides much of the structural stability of a house
  • Brace: Braces are used to distribute loads from one part of the home to another, such as between the roof joists and the studs
  • Bridging: Bridging is made of two braces that form an x-shape between girders or other supports to provide stability
  • Double Plate: The double plate is a horizontal support that rests on the top of the studs. It provides support for the rafters and roofing material above
  • Tie Beam: The tie beam is the horizontal support that runs beneath the rafters. It typical connects both sides of the sloped roof from below
  • Ceiling Joist: A ceiling joist is like a floor joist, but it provides a place to secure ceiling material rather than flooring. It runs above the studs and below the rafters
  • Rafter: A rafter is a somewhat horizontal support for the sheathing. Rafters typically rest on the double plate or tie beams
  • Sheathing: Sheathing is like the subfloor but for the roof. It provides a level and even surface to which the roof material is attached
  • Gable Stud: A gable stud is a vertical support that transfers weight from the roof to the double place. A gable stud doesn’t always appear, as it’s only required for specific roof styles
  • Strut: A strut is an angled brace that distributes the load from the roof onto horizontal supports, such as girders

How to Frame a House: Basic Steps

Framing a house is a somewhat straightforward process if you know the steps to take and how to arrange the different pieces. In the sections below, we’ll briefly discuss how to assemble a house frame. Keep in mind that this process can be done as a DIY project, but it is best left to professionals if you don’t have carpentry experience.

Step 1: Attach the Sill Plate

Your first step should be to mount the sill plate to your foundation. This process can vary based on your location. Keep in mind that homes in areas that are prone to earthquakes typically require additional securing.

Step 1a: Install Floor Joists

Floor joists can be installed if you have a crawlspace or basement foundation. These will serve to support the first floor above the under-home area.

Step 1b: Install Subflooring

If you’re installing floor joists, subflooring can then be nailed to the joists to provide even support for your flooring.

Step 2: Install Studs

Next, you can construct your walls. Most construction companies will build entire walls — including studs, a bottom plate, and the top plate — and then stand them up and square them with the foundation.

Step 2a: Make openings for the windows and doors

During the wall construction, you should add openings for windows and doors, including window sills and headers. The bottom plate should be removed below all door openings.

Step 3: Attach Top Plates

Once the walls are raised, you can attach the double top plate.

Step 4: Attach Tie Beams and Ceiling Joists

If you’re not adding a second floor to your home, the tie beams and ceiling joists can then be attached using framing nails. The orientation will depend on your ceiling style.

Step 5: Attach Rafters

Rafters can then be attached to your tie beams and joists. These will serve as the main support for your roof sheathing.

Step 6: Attach Roof Sheathing

Finally, you can attach your roof sheathing and install your roof shingles. This process completes the house framing, although you’ll still need to add exterior wall material and roofing material.

Useful Framing Terms to Know

Aside from the parts of the house framing we’ve mentioned above, there are quite a few terms that you should learn before beginning a wall framing project of your own. We’ll include these below with brief definitions.

  • Butt wall: A butt wall is an internal wall that butts up against an exterior wall
  • By-wall: A by-wall is one that makes up the exterior side of a home
  • Corner stud: A corner stud is a vertical support at the corners of the home. These are sometimes reinforced for additional structural integrity
  • Cripple: A cripple is a portion of a stud that falls above a window or door opening
  • Intersecting wall: An intersecting wall is one that separates interior rooms
  • Ladder back: A ladder back is a structurally sound way to attach an intersecting wall to an exterior wall. Horizontal supports are added between studs
  • Trimmer: Trimmers are vertical supports that run from the header to the window sill. These aren’t required for all window openings, and it depends on the type of window you choose to install
  • Wall panel: A wall panel is a portion of an exterior or interior wall that is constructed before standing it up

Frequently Asked Questions

Cost to Frame a House

The average cost to frame a stick frame house — traditional wood framing — is between $7 and $18 per square foot. For a 1,000-square-foot home, the framing alone would cost between $7,000 and $18,000. Keep in mind that the price can vary wildly depending on the framing method, the company, and the materials you choose.

How Long it Takes to Frame a House

The framing process for building a new home typically takes between two and four weeks. This can vary based on the builder’s availability and the weather where you’re building your home.

What’s Required Before Frame Construction?

Before the framing process can get started, your home’s foundation must be poured. That process itself requires excavation, ground compaction, concrete pouring, and enough time for the concrete to dry.

How Long to Finish a House After Framing?

While framing lays down the structural support for your home, the process after framing includes installing all exterior and insulative materials, as well as finishings, like floors, drywall, painting, kitchen and bathroom installations, and more. You’re likely looking at an additional month or two after framing is completed for your home to be finished.

When Frame Repair is needed

Frame repair isn’t a common repair for homes. However, you might need frame repair if you notice a rotting frame, bowed or unplumb walls, warping floors, a sagging roof, or other movement in the exterior shell of your home.

Editorial Contributors
Dan Simms

Dan Simms


Dan Simms worked in real estate management for five years before using his experience to help property owners maintain their own homes. He got his master’s degree in English Literature and Creative Writing, and he now enjoys sharing his knowledge about homeownership and DIY projects with others on Today’s Homeowner. When he’s not writing, he’s usually outdoors with his wife and his dog, enjoying mountain biking, skiing, and hiking.

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Roxanne Downer


Roxanne Downer is a commerce editor at Today’s Homeowner, where she tackles everything from foundation repair to solar panel installation. She brings more than 15 years of writing and editing experience to bear in her meticulous approach to ensuring accurate, up-to-date, and engaging content. She’s previously edited for outlets including MSN, Architectural Digest, and Better Homes & Gardens. An alumna of the University of Pennsylvania, Roxanne is now an Oklahoma homeowner, DIY enthusiast, and the proud parent of a playful pug.

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House framing gives a home support and shape and provides the shell for the outer coverings. The primary considerations of a builder, when selecting a framing material, take into account the project’s initial material and labor costs and the long-term expenses to the homeowner. 

Understandably, the many house framing options available make it challenging to select the best choice for home construction. For builders and homeowners in search of the most durable and cost-effective framing product, this guide presents the pros and cons of five different framing options. The products include insulated concrete forms (ICF), structural insulated panels (SIPS), wood, concrete block, and steel framing. 

1. Structural Insulated Panel

Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs) include foam insulation sandwiched between two OSBs (oriented strand boards) or plywood boards. Manufacturers of SIPS often use expanded polystyrene (EPS) to make the core foam of the insulation panels. The end product carries the structure’s loads.

Pros of SIP

  • Contractors can install SIP faster and with less waste than some other house framing products, which saves on labor costs.
  • SIP’s thick layer creates airtight and energy-efficient homes. 
  • SIP’s produce straight and smooth walls for successful application of the exterior cladding and interior finishes.
  • SIPs provide good structural strength and stability against earthquakes and hurricanes.

Cons of SIP

  • SIPs constructed with OSB and composite structural siding panels have inadequate fire performance ratings.
  • The durability of SIPs can diminish if the OSB gets wet. 
  • The design of a SIPs home must coordinate with the panel’s dimensions. 
  • SIPs require insecticides to protect against pests like termites.

2. Insulated Concrete Forms (ICFs)

The building of ICF walls involves pour­ing rein­forced con­crete into hol­low pan­els (often made of expand­ed poly­styrene or extrud­ed poly­styrene foam), sep­a­rat­ed by six to eight inch­es of rein­forced rebar. 

Before pouring the con­crete, builders dry-stack the inter­lock­ing units, like Lego bricks. After the concrete cures, the outer and inner polystyrene ICF pan­els produce a per­ma­nent exte­ri­or frame­work. In the building process, these pan­els allow the instal­la­tion of plumb­ing and elec­tri­cal con­duits.

Pros of ICF 

  • Energy-efficient, airtight ICF homes lessen energy use and reduce utility costs.
  • Thick and solid ICF walls create acoustically, pleasing homes.
  • The lightweight nature of ICF allows for secure handling so contractors can build quickly and efficiently.
  • ICF construction can proceed in adverse conditions such as rain, which saves money on costly delays.  
  • The durability and strength of ICF creates long-lasting and disaster-resistant homes.
  • Moisture-resistant ICF’s control water accumulation in the wall interior.

Cons of ICF

  • The pouring of the concrete into the ICF wall requires qualified and experienced contractors. These professionals know how many feet of concrete to pour at a time without risking a blowout. Concrete poured too rapidly can burst through the poly­styrene panels (blowout), causing costly cleanup and con­struc­tion delays.
  • Contractors must sufficiently vibrate the concrete while pouring to prevent honeycombing (air pockets and voids) – hollow areas that lessen the strength and stability of an ICF wall.
  • The susceptibility of ICF panels to groundwater intrusion requires builders to include drainage tiles and sheeting to minimize the adverse effects of moisture. These features add to the overall costs of the building project.
  • Termites may burrow through the ICF poly­styrene panels and tiny cracks in the concrete where they can feast on joists, flooring and other wood elements of the home. Applying termite-resistant methods adds further costs to the ICF con­struc­tion process.

3. Light Wood Framing

Builders in the United States commonly use light wood framing made from softwood trees (pine, spruce, and fir) sawn and machine-planed to standard sizes.

Pros of Light Wood Framing 

  • Builders can easily carry by hand every component of light wood framing, which allows for quick construction with no heavy tools. 
  • The adaptability of light wood allows for design flexibility.
  • The availability of machine-made nails and cut lumber make light wood easily accessible to builders.
  • Renewable light wood benefits the environment.

Cons of Light Wood Framing

  • The vulnerability of wood to moisture can cause unhealthy mold and may lead to costly repairs. 
  • The combustibility of wood mandates construction techniques that prevent potential fires. The design of a wood-frame structure must also limit the spread of the flames in the event of a fire. 
  • Termites can invade wood frame buildings, which can damage a home’s durability and cost thousands of dollars to repair. 
  • Building a wood-framed home with the strength and resilience to resist storms, flooding, extreme wind events, and even earthquakes challenges most builders. It is also expensive. Constructing a disaster-resistant wood-framed building costs 25–30 percent more than standard construction.  

4. Concrete Block Construction

The building industry refers to a concrete block as a concrete masonry unit (CMU). Generally, concrete block manufacturing uses materials like Portland cement, different aggregates like stone or quartz, and water. CMU’s come in a range of standard shapes and can be hollow or solid, with two or three cores.

Pros of Concrete Block Construction

  • Moisture-resistant concrete blocks prevent the growth of mold.
  • Fireproof concrete blocks act as a firewall between rooms or structures. 
  • Pest-resistant concrete blocks improve a home’s durability and lessen future maintenance costs.

Cons of Concrete Block Construction

  • Modern wall systems require concrete block construction to include more features, extra layers, and extra steps, all of which takes more time and money, compared to projects from several decades ago. 
  • The industrial look of the concrete block requires applying a facing, like stucco.
  • The R-values of concrete blocks range from 2 to 3, which does not contribute significantly to an energy-efficient home.

5. Steel Frame Construction

Strips of galvanized steel in cold rolling machines produce the steel studs for framing a home. Load-bearing walls required studs with heavier gauge metals than steel studs for non-load bearing walls. 

The Pros of Steel Framed Homes

  • The strength of steel frame construction stands up to dangerous wind events.
  • Workers can easily carry and store the lightweight and hollow steel studs.
  • Because moisture does not affect galvanized studs, a steel stud does not warp or rot and can remain straight and sturdy for its lifetime. 
  • Manufacturing metal studs with recyclable steel creates a green product.
  • Steel studs do not emit volatile organic compounds.
  • Termite-resistant steel eliminates the need for pest control features.

The Cons of Steel Framed Homes

  • Limited availability of less common dimensions of steel studs may slow the building progress.
  • Steel loses strength at high temperatures, like during a fire, which makes the steel framing prone to buckling and even collapse. Also, steel actively conducts heat, so materials near the steel studs can ignite, causing flames to spread to other areas of a home rapidly.
  • Builders find it difficult and hazardous to cut steel studs. 
  • Taping a drywall screw into a steel stud requires experienced carpenters.
  • The conductivity of steel framing leads to thermal bridging.
  • Studies find that a steel framing system can cost 15 percent more than wood framing systems.

Comparing the Initial and Long-Term Costs of House Framing Materials

The initial costs of framing materials and labor can vary by locations, which makes comparing the costs difficult. However, for many regions of the country, wood and concrete block are the least expensive framing material, followed by steel, SIP, and ICF.  

Features of framing materials that affect the long-term costs of a house (utility bills, maintenance, and repairs) include energy-efficiency and disaster-, pest-, and moisture-resistance. 

  • Energy-efficiency lowers utility bills. The design of ICF and SIP create energy-efficient walls. Wood, steel, and concrete framing require an application of insulation to achieve energy-efficient walls. 
  • Disaster-Resistance saves on costly repairs. All framing methods can provide disaster-resistance; however, wood requires costly additional features to obtain disaster-resistance. 
  • Termite-resistance saves on expensive maintenance and repairs. Steel and concrete resists termites. ICF, SIP, and wood all require treatments against termites.
  • Moisture-resistance protects a home’s integrity and prevents costly repairs. ICF, steel, and concrete block framing contribute towards a moisture-resistant home. SIP and wood require more features to control moisture accumulation in the wall system.  

ICF Wall System: the Best Choice for a House Framing Product

An ICF Wall System provides all the benefits of the other framing systems and none of the problems.

  • ICF Blocks save on initial building cost. The lightweight concrete material of the ICF Wall System, along with its built-in insulation and a self-anchoring stay-in-place system, make it easy and fast to install. 
  • Several components of ICF wall system lessen long-term expenses.
    • Energy-efficient ICF Blocks reduce utility bills.
    • Moisture-resistant ICF Blocks protect a home’s durability and lessen maintenance costs.
    • Fire-, disaster-, and termite-resistant ICF Blocks minimize repair costs and ensure a long-lasting home.

When selecting a framing material, builders must weigh the pros and cons of each product to best manage initial construction costs and long-term expenses to the homeowner. The decision often requires builders to compromise important features, like energy-efficiency and moisture-resistance, in order to save on initial construction costs.

Fortunately, an ICF Wall System offers a solution to all the problems associated with framing materials. An ICF Wall System saves on upfront costs by reducing the time and labor needs during construction. An ICF Blocks further save on long-term expenses by lessening energy use and minimizing replacement, repair, and maintenance costs.

Editorial Contributors
Matt Greenfield

Matt Greenfield

Matt Greenfield is an experienced writer specializing in home improvement topics. He has a passion for educating and empowering homeowners to make informed decisions about their properties. Matt's writing focuses on a range of topics, including windows, flooring, HVAC, and construction materials. With a background in construction and home renovation, Matt is well-versed in the latest trends and techniques in the industry. His articles offer practical advice and expert insights that help readers tackle their home improvement projects with confidence. Whether you're a DIY enthusiast or a seasoned professional, Matt's writing is sure to provide valuable guidance and inspiration.

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