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Remodeling 101 – Framing and Floor Joists

With commencement of framing, the house construction got into a very exciting phase. This is when you start to get an idea of what the final house is going to look like, and you can reap the fruits of months of working and refining your plans.

Floor Joists

For a house with a crawl space, the framing starts with framing of the floor joists that are used to support the floor above. Joists are like a mini-bridge supported at each end. When many joists are installed next to each other and a sub-floor sheeting like plywood is nailed on top, they create a full floor system.

Flooring Choices

We retained some old flooring in our home, but a majority of the flooring is new. There is a clear difference between the original floor joist system built when the house was originally constructed in the 1960's and the floor system. This is primarily due to changes in building codes over the years. Under the old guidelines, beams were spread further apart and a subfloor constructed using 2x6" tongue-and-groove planks. If done incorrectly, this could lead to annoying creaks. In new floor systems, beams are much closer together, and floor sheeting is made from plywood, thereby avoiding this problem.

As you can see from these pictures, a good builder will also bring in a plumber to install sewer drain lines and copper supply pipes while the floor joists are open. This is so much easier than having to crawl under the house once the subfloor is already installed. This is also a major inspection point. Once you pass this stage of approvals, the builder can install under-floor insulation and cover things up.

Wall Framing

It's also very difficult to start wall framing until and unless there is a subfloor to work from. Once the floor joists are complete, wall framing begins. In my house, we had to retain 50% of the outer perimeter wall in order for the house to be considered a “remodel” as opposed to "new construction". I have heard my share of horror stories of careless builder who did not follow simple rules and got the homeowner dinged by the city building department and caused substantial delays and additional costs.

My house had a few walls that were non-conforming (walls that sit in non-conforming setbacks per the latest zoning rules) and could not be touched. These walls were built on the old foundation and as per code, these foundations had to be reinforced in some cases with rebar and new footings. California has also become very strict with building codes related to earthquake safety. In the event of any major remodels and/or reconstruction, all existing walls have to comply with these building codes — some of the major components of these new codes are installation of “HDU” (hold down units) and shear walls. The best advice I can offer is to make sure your contractor knows what they're doing!

I hope these continued blogs are useful to you. We'll discuss trusses and more framing-related issues in the next post. Until then…

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