In the building process of any structure, Framing comes after the foundation is poured and has dried. Then the construction crew will create the framework of the building, which consists of, among other things, beams, trusses, walls and partitions, flooring, ceilings, doorways, and window openings.
The framed skeleton of a new residential building
Looking at a framed house, the project may seem somewhat complicated and intimidating. However, the whole process works in a logical order that makes it manageable. There is one intimidating part, however, and that is the framers' safety.
Out of 25 different construction sub-industries, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that framing contractors, identified under NAICS 238130, have the highest percentage of injury incidents: 7.2 for every 100 workers. This statistic should send safety shockwaves through any framer and remind them of the need to wear personal protective equipment (PPE).
This article outlines different construction framing types, occupations that make framed buildings possible, and workers' safety concerns in this industry. We even provide a quick rundown of essential framing terms, along with a review of the personal protective equipment framers should wear.
Let's build up your framing knowledge and framer safety awareness!
What is framing in the world of construction? Well, Framing is an exciting stage of any construction project, as it's when the building begins to take shape into what the builder envisioned. An adequately framed structure is the skeleton that supports all other participating elements, such as the drywall, doors, and windows.
As Constructionknowledge.net explains, Framing is broken up into either light, heavy, or expedient Framing. Here are the necessary components of each:
- Light Frame Construction – a system of framing that uses numerous small and closely spaced components assembled by nailing. Barracks and bathhouses are examples of structures requiring only light-frame construction. We will not cover them here, but there are three main types of light-frame construction that Constructionknowledge highlights: Western, balloon frame, and braced.
- Heavy Construction – also referred to as post and beam construction, this method uses large, heavy timbers to build permanent structures.
- Expedient Framing – some framing requires more convenient forms of framing techniques. Examples include using salvaged framing and wood substitutes to erect light siding onto structures.
Regardless of which type is used, almost all frames come back to using one of three core materials: wood, steel, or concrete. We highlight all three below.
Wood Frame Construction
Wood is the most often used material used in construction today. Wood framing is the technique defined as the assembly of dimensional lumber that is regularly spaced and fastened together with nails to create the floor, wall, and roof constructions.
The floor, wall, roof, and stair assemblies are each made up of specific wood components, like a skeleton, which are then fastened together to form the structure. Here is a quick breakdown of the wood measurements used in the different parts:
- Walls – are usually erected with 2x4 or 2x6 studs and spaced 16 inches or 24 inches apart.
- Roofs– are usually built using 2x6 or 2x8 rafters.
- Floors– are typically constructed with 2x10 joists.
Once the floors and roofs are in place, sheathing is nailed to both before additional material is applied.
Sheathing on a Roof
Despite the "bones" of the structure being built out of wood, a wood frame structure can look very different on the outside, depending on its exterior finish. Metal siding, brick facing, and stucco plaster are all used to provide different exterior finishes. The most common construction exterior applied to wood frames is stucco, an exterior finish that goes over the constructed wood frame. If you want to determine if there is a wood frame under an exterior finish, knock on the wall. A wood frame will create a hollow sound.
Carpentry is best defined as the art and trade of cutting, working, and joining timber. This makes carpenters perfectly suited for wood framing. Not all carpenters find employment in construction; however, a vast number of them do. Roughly 201,000 carpenters work in the industry, which is 21% of all carpenters in the U.S. workforce. And, of this number, most will find work as framing contractors.
Professional framers, known as framing carpenters, are responsible for building and repairing structures made of wood. While their work on a building may start with that building's actual framework, they can also build other wooden components during the construction process.
Wood Hazards and Safety
As mentioned above, Framing is considered one of the most dangerous branches of the construction industry. When you dive into the actual injuries, the BLS reports for framing contractors, and some areas stand out:
- One of the most prevalent types of injury that occurs is to the hand, with 290 total injuries reported in 2019. After back injuries, hand injuries come in as the second-highest number of reported injury cases.
- Foot injuries are the third most injured part of a framing contractor's body.
Fingerless gloves are an excellent choice for framers, as they allow workers to grasp fasteners and hold tools while also protecting most of their hands.
When you examine injuries that involve carpenters, 14% of all cases reported include cuts and lacerations, with another 7% involving puncture injuries. However, like most injuries on construction sites, proper precautions can help significantly prevent these injuries. Cut-resistant gloves become necessary protection for those who understand that sharp material and other cut hazards lurk everywhere on a construction site. Also, safety glasses help prevent flying debris from damaging one's eyes.
MCR Safety's 9373 Cut-Resistant Fingerless Gloves
For those framers who are looking for a durable leather framing glove, be sure to check out our dedicated Leather Work Gloves page, where you will find an entire section devoted to heavy-duty leather options.
Lastly, before moving on to steel frame construction, we encourage any carpenter to visit our dedicated Carpentry page, highlighting all the PPE that MCR Safety offers for this dangerous occupation. In addition to our resource page, here are some other educational resources for wood framers:
Steel Frame Construction
The great strength of steel makes it an excellent material to use in erecting buildings. A building constructed using steel framing is structured very much like those that utilize wood in that they are both built by assembling various components. The most significant difference is that the pieces are made of steel instead of wood.
Steel framing is most often constructed in a rectangular grid to support the floors, roof, and walls attached to the frame. This technique is how skyscrapers are built. Industrial buildings and warehouses are two other types of structures that are typically framed with steel. Here are some others that utilize a steel frame:
- Auto shops
- Aircraft hangers
- Car washes
Steel-framed structures may be more expensive than wood frames, but they have many advantages that come with the price tag. For one, steel is durable and provides immense strength to any structure. It's also ductile, waterproof, and fire-resistant. Instead of cracking like glass, steel will bend its shape, making it an extremely ductile material. While that can't always be said for the materials attached to it, a structure's steel skeleton will remain sturdy. Steel also weighs less than wood and takes less time to construct.
Steel frames can either be cut to correct lengths and then welded together or assembled using prefabricated steel bolted together at the job site. Regardless of which approach is used, the workers who make this all happen are called ironworkers. They are responsible for connecting steel columns, welding metal components, bolting steel frames together, and hoisting girders into place.
There are roughly 95,000 ironworkers in the U.S. Their work is demanding, and safety concerns are always present. Anyone who works at great heights welding together metal using heat torches must always be on guard against potential hazards.
Like framing contractors, ironworkers experience a high percentage of hand injuries, roughly 20% of all injuries. Also, O*NET OnLine, a sponsored website from the U.S. Department of Labor, polled ironworkers across the nation to better understand their working environment. When asked, 100% of workers answered that wearing PPE is a vital part of their work.
From safety glasses to welding protection, ironworkers are decked out in PPE. Here are some recommended MCR Safety websites that feature the PPE ironworkers often wear:
In addition, here are some educational resources that will help an ironworker better understand the safety requirements they should follow when framing any building:
Concrete Frame Construction
Our third frame material type to cover is concrete. A concrete frame goes up by utilizing beams and columns to connect the structure. In fact, a concrete frame is recognized as one of the most popular frame types used in constructing buildings worldwide. The main advantage of concrete frames is that they are economical compared to steel, and they are strong when reinforced with rebar.
A concrete worker is wearing our Ninja BNF breathable gloves.
In addition to concrete frames, some buildings utilize load-bearing masonry walls. We break each industry into separate educational industry pages, so simply click one of the links below to learn more:
What is timber frame construction?
- Timber framing is a distinct style of building construction that features heavy timbers instead of slender lumber pieces.
How much does it cost to frame a house?
- Costs will typically range from $10 to $20 per square foot. There are extra costs for labor, which vary from $5 to $10 per square foot.
How long does it take to frame a house?
- The framing stage of construction traditionally requires two months. However, bad weather can slow work down, causing longer lead times.
How to frame a house?
- We've covered the topic of house framing in great detail above. If you are interested, here is another in-depth article on house framing.
What is post-frame construction?
- Post-frame buildings are built faster due to the need for less structural material. The frame features heavy-duty trusses that can be made with multiple different exteriors. Post-frame construction is primarily used in industrial buildings.
Do framers install windows for new construction?
- Window installation is a separate job from Framing or construction. Installers fit windows in new homes and existing structures.
Many elements make up a building's structure. Hence, framing contractors, carpenters, and even the DIYer needs to be familiar with construction terminology. Below are the key terms to know within the framing world and an explanation of what each means.
- Anchor Bolt: a fastener that locks the frame to the foundation
- Brace:provides additional strength to walls
- Brackets and Connectors:brackets and connectors are used all across framed structures, from joist truss brackets to roof truss clips and strong angle brackets; they all serve the purpose of keeping framing elements in place
- By-Walls: known as a through-wall, a by-wall extends down the entire outside edge of a building
- Bridging: small wood pieces that fasten between joints and provide additional stability
- Butt Walls: walls that intersect with through walls; they butt up against the exterior walls
- Cripples: shorter studs positioned between the header and a top plate or placed underneath a sill and the bottom plate; cripples serve a load-bearing function within the frame.
Cripples are the short studs.
- Collar Beam:a horizontal connector positioned at the top part of a rafter
Collar Beam is horizontally positioned at the top.
- Corner Stud: a post set at a corner for interior and exterior nailing
- Cornices:protect the walls by guiding rainwater away from the structure
- Doubling:used in reference to doubling the number of structural supports, often studs
- Header:a beam that runs horizontal and perpendicular to joists, usually over a window, door, or ceiling opening
Header is above the short studs.
- Fascia:a straight board that runs down the lower edge of a roof
- Joists: the parallel, horizontal framing components that carry the load of a floor or ceiling and strengthen the overall foundation
- Intersecting Walls:the walls that provide interior spacing
- Plates: beams that run horizontally at the top or bottom of any framing piece
- Rafters: like the floor's joists, rafters make up the central part of the framed roof
- Sheathing: material used to cover floors, walls, and roofs
- Sill or Saddle: the horizontal framing member positioned at the bottom of an opening, which creates the base (as in the case of a window sill)
- Studs: the vertical framing members, composed of wood or steel, found in a wall; studs are the most recognizable component of any framed structure and are usually spaced out 16 or 24 inches apart
- Struts:found in roof framing, they act as a brace and transfer loads to load-bearing walls
- Tie Beam: connects two structural components in the frame, keeping them from spreading apart (for example, the rafters used to frame the roof)
- Trimmers: often referred to by framers as jack studs, they are shorter studs that provide support at the ends of a header and help distribute weight at openings
- Wall Panel: the structure that creates the Framing for one wall of a building
- Wall Plates: load-bearing structural components that are used horizontally at the very top and bottom of the frame
MCR Safety - Keeping Framers Safe
We understand that each material used in Framing requires different PPE, which is why we've broken each trade onto its specific industry page. We highlight each industry overall, along with some of the most common hazards workers face within that industry. Click the next construction image to see our list of construction trades and sub-industries.
MCR Safety's dedicated Construction Industry resource page.
MCR Safety PPE
From safety glasses that guard against flying debris to gloves to protect your hands from injury, MCR Safety has everything you need to stay safe while completing your framing job.
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