Magnum Inspections Inc.

Serving South Florida Since 1994          Martin County: (772) 214-9929 Broward/Palm Beach Counties: (954) 340-6615     

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This page will deal with different types of wall construction. You may want to check with your homeowners insurance carrier to see if coverage can be obtained or if there is an additional premium charged for wood frame construction in a high wind velocity zone.


Building with masonry is a timeless art form that goes back to the great Egyptian pyramids, Greek temples and Roman cities. Many of those structures are still standing today! Masonry has always been the choice for enduring, natural beauty. In modern times, masonry has been the choice for residences because of the strength and durability of masonry.
Part of the reason is value offered to the homebuyer. Another reason is that many builders are turning to environmentally responsible
(earth-friendly) building methods, and masonry products play a large role in "green build" or earth-friendly concepts.
Building with masonry offers a number of benefits for the homeowner including protection, low maintenance living, savings and value.

Wood Frame:

Wood frame structures are built with light wood studs and joists. The walls are typically constructed from 2 x 4 or 2 x 6 studs spaced 16" to 24" apart. These walls sit on top of the foundation and support upper floors and the roof. Plaster or gypsum wallboard is attached to the studs to form the interior finish. The exterior finish may be wood or metal siding, brick facing, or stucco plaster. New wood frame houses are required to resist earthquake forces, so some of the walls are usually constructed with sheets of plywood nailed to the studs behind the exterior finish.

The typical wood frame roof is constructed with 2 x 6 or 2 x 8 rafters spaced 16" to 24" apart. Roof sheathing (boards in older structures, plywood in newer buildings) is nailed to the top of the rafters, and the roofing material (shingles, shakes, tile, or built-up roofing) is applied to the top of the sheathing. The floors are usually constructed with 2 x 10 joists spaced approximately 16" apart. The floor sheathing, similar to roof sheathing, is nailed to the top of joists (see Figure 1 for an illustration of a typical wood frame building).

Sometimes a wood frame building may look like it is made from masonry or concrete. Most commonly mistaken is the stucco building. Stucco is Portland cement plaster applied over wire mesh. Nearly all stucco houses are wood frame structures, although the stucco conceals the wood framing. Stucco is used as an exterior finish because of its durability; however, since stucco may not contribute to the strength of the house, stucco houses are not necessarily stronger than other wood frame structures. To determine whether there is a wood frame under the stucco, knock on the wall from the outside---the wall will sound hollow.

Another example of a disguised wood frame is the building with veneer. Exterior siding can look like metal or masonry; for example, there is an asphalt siding that looks like brick. To determine whether a building is wood frame, knock on the siding-it will sound hollow. Sometimes, wood frame buildings have a real masonry veneer which can "peel off" in earthquakes. If you have such veneer on your house, contact an architect or civil or structural engineer for a detailed investigation.


Concrete Block vs. Wood Frame Construction

Most homes built in Florida today have a stucco exterior finish. More important is what lies beneath that stucco finish. Is it wood framing or concrete block? The photos below illustrate the easiest way to tell if the construction is frame or block. With frame construction, the windows will almost always be flush with the wall. With block construction, the window will be recessed about four inches and sometimes will have a precast sill.

Concrete vs. Frame Construction

Truth is, even most homes that are said to be block construction have some wood frame elements. Even a home with all concrete block exterior walls will have wood roof trusses, baseboards, and furring strips for the drywall. While some builders use metal interior studs, the load bearing walls will be built with wood.

Bottom line, concrete block construction is more termite resistant, simply because there is less wood for the termites to eat. Concrete block construction is also considered to be more wind resistant, though wood frame can be built to withstand up to 120 mph winds. Wood frame construction allows for more insulation in the walls, which means higher energy efficiency. It also allows for more detail and angle construction than concrete block. Stucco over wood frame construction is less of a concern than it was five years ago, with the advent of more advanced and effective termite prevention and treatment systems.


Martin County: (772) 214-9929 Broward/Palm Beach Counties: (954) 340-6615

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