Last edited 21 Oct 2020

Balloon framing

Balloon framing is a form of timber construction that was commonly used to build houses in the United States and Canada from the late-19th century to the mid-20th century. It was often incorporated in the Queen Anne style and Shingle style architecture of the period.

This technique was popular at a time when long timbers were readily available, but it was gradually replaced by platform timber framing, in which each storey is formed by floor-to-ceiling timber panels and a floor deck which then becomes the platform for constructing the next storey. The central difference between balloon and platform framing is that the studs in a balloon frame extend from the foundation to the rafters, whereas in a platform frame, the studs are independent on each storey.

One of the primary problems with balloon framing, aside from the availability of long timbers, was that, by creating continuous spans free of any separation, fire could spread easily. Indeed, fires were common in balloon framed houses. Platform framing enabled a fire break to be included between each floor.

In terms of existing balloon frame houses, fire safety can be improved by adding fire-stopping to the walls, particularly in the breaks at each storey. However, this can be a difficult and time-consuming process, as the interior walls or exterior siding need to be removed to allow access to the stud top plates to add the fire-separating element.

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