Prior to the 1950’s balloon framing of new homes was the standard construction method, until the advent of platform framing. Platform framing is a safer, quicker, and more cost effective method than balloon framing. With that being said, balloon framing still has many effective uses in modern house framing that can be incorporated with platform framing for a safer, sturdier, and more cost effective home.
Balloon framing originated in Chicago in the early 1830’s and replaced the prior construction method of mortise and tenon. The name originated from the old mortise and tenon carpenters when they first saw the framing method in use. With the long skinny framing members being utilized and held together with only nails, they thought it would probably be blown away with the next strong gust of wind just like a balloon. The name caught on and has endured to this day.
- Balloon framed gable walls are very tall, usually eighteen feet or more above the floor level. This added height requires the use of scaffolding for the framing carpenters, electrician, plumber, heating ventilation and air conditioning, insulator, drywall installer, painter, and trim carpenter resulting in higher labor costs.
- Fire can travel up the stud bay just like in a chimney, to mitigate the risk of fire, blocking should be installed at each ceiling and floor level.
- The required use of longer studs increases the cost per lineal foot resulting in still higher expenditures.
- These walls can be very heavy and dangerous, even life threatening, to raise requiring the use of proper lifting equipment and highly trained personnel. The hazards of manually lifting balloon framed walls has been clearly defined by OSHA.
- The longer studs resist wind loads better and help to reduce drywall cracking and nail pops.
- Very large windows with rounded, arched, or angled tops can be installed to enhance the aesthetic appeal of the home.
- Ability to construct a tall chimney.
- Two story open foyer.
- Great room.
When considering the use of balloon framing to enhance the look and livability of your new home the advantages and disadvantages should be weighed carefully.