If you’re in the market for a home, you may have come across the term “balloon framing.” But what exactly is balloon framing, and what do you need to know about it before considering a home that uses this construction method?
What is “balloon framing”?
Balloon framing is a residential construction framing method that was popular in the US from the mid-19th century until the mid-20th century. The method involves constructing the framing of the home with long, straight studs that run the full height of the building, from foundation to roof.
Why was balloon framing used?
At the time, balloon framing was a revolutionary development in residential construction. It replaced traditional timber framing, which was more time-consuming and required skilled craftsmen. Balloon framing allowed for quicker, cheaper construction, which was especially beneficial during a time of rapid population growth in cities.
What issues exist with balloon framing?
Balloon framing has its issues. One of the main concerns is the risk of fire. With the studs running the full height of the building and little to no insulation, a fire in the basement or lower levels could easily spread up the wall cavities to the upper levels. This risk was recognized early on, and building codes were put in place to require the use of fire stops between the floors to help prevent the spread of fire.
Beyond the fire risk, non-updated balloon framed homes often have little or no insulation in the walls can result in energy inefficiency and higher heating and cooling costs.
Ultimately, balloon framing fell out of favor due to these issues, as well as the introduction of platform framing in the mid-20th century. Platform framing, which is the most common method of residential construction today, involves essentially building each floor separately as you move from bottom to top, limiting the length of studs to the height of that particular floor. This method eliminates the long wall cavities and makes it easier to insulate properly, in addition to creating a fire break between floors.
In conclusion, if you’re considering a home that uses balloon framing, it’s important to be aware of the potential issues with this construction method. While balloon framing was once revolutionary and allowed for the construction of taller buildings, it has been largely replaced by other methods that are safer, more energy-efficient, and easier to insulate. As with any home purchase, it’s important to do your research and weigh the pros and cons before making a decision.