What Is Balloon Framing?

Balloon framing is a popular method in house construction. In most cases, it offers a less expensive building option. This allows more consumers to construct or own their own home. Certain circumstances such as moving balloon frame walls may pose a hazard to workers so any construction company or builder should use caution while working on the project.


Balloon framing deals with load distribution on the structure's frame. The weight is equally distributed vertically over 2-inch-by-4-inch studs or 2-inch-by-6-inch studs. Each stud should be centered and in place every 16 inches though builders think anywhere from 12 inches to 24 inches is acceptable. The frame is made load bearing by lateral support through wrapped sheathing.


Chicago architect John M. Van Osdel stated that balloon framing came from carpenter George W. Snow in 1832. Van Osdel's account of the story became an accepted part of construction history. Others now think that Snow did not invent this technique. Instead, scholars point out examples from the seventeenth century as evidence that balloon framing was developed earlier. Colonial era houses in Virginia are just some of those examples. The biggest growth of balloon framing in projects came about during the nineteenth century.

Advantages And Disadvantages

There are both advantages and disadvantages to the use of balloon framing for construction projects. This technique is resistant to high winds and allows for larger windows with angled tops. Rooms with high ceilings such as foyers with two stories or areas in need of a taller chimney are examples of where this is beneficial. A disadvantage to consider is that fires move quicker through a house with balloon framing. Extra costs are necessary to add fire blocking on all floors through additional materials.


Several tips help during balloon framing construction. Lay out studs and make marks for their position before cutting to ensure even levels as well as lengths. Cut square on the short point that is nailed into the frame. For a gable wall, the trusses must be laid out from the center. Remember to use standard wall height with center or bottom plate lines for reference. To make the best use of materials, the wall should be laid out starting from the center. A way to see if the wall will be square is to do a chart with the floor in mind. On the chart, the arcs that come from the center line will show if it is correctly set out.

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