Balloon Framing

Balloon Framing – A Framing Method for Building Second Floors

By Mark J. Donovan

Balloon framing was a popular framing technique for suspending second floors onto walls.

However over the years it has faded in popularity and has since been replaced by platform framing.

Balloon framing involves the use of long vertical stud members on the exterior walls that run from the sill plate all the way to the roof.

Floor joists are attached to the long wall studs to create a second floor.

The floor joists are nailed directly to the long vertical stud members and are braced underneath with blocking that is attached to the wall studs. In some cases I have even seen the floor joists attached to the vertical studs via a lap joint.

Balloon framing faded in popularity due to fire concerns. The long bays created between the wall studs raised fire safety concerns.

The bays acted effectively as chimneys to allow fire and smoke to rapidly work its way from the basement of a home to the upper floors.

However, this issue was mitigated by the requirement of solid blocking between the tall vertical stud members at specific points along the stud walls.

Though the fire concerns of balloon framing have been muted, balloon framing also creates hazards for the framing crew, as the walls are extremely tall and heavy. 

Balloon framing for building second story walls

In addition, the cost of long studs is more expensive than their shorter counterparts. For these reasons platform framing has for the most part replaced balloon framing.

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