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The technology that makes your home's walls more durable

(ARA) - With an $8,000 federal tax credit available for first-time homebuyers and tax incentives on the table for home improvement projects, you may be thinking this is the right time to build or renovate a home. While you're diving into the fun aspects of choosing paint colors and light fixtures, don't overlook the importance of what's behind the walls.

Paying attention to the wall construction is crucial for the home's strength and value, especially given current design trends toward walls with many windows and doors, and walls and ceilings over 10 feet high, says Stephen Hann, president of Hann Builders in Houston.


"Most homebuyers don't think to ask about the wall studs and other materials they don't see," says Hann, recipient of the 2008 National Custom Home Builder of the Year Award. "But the types of studs and how the structural framing is built help determine how well the home will stand up to the environment."


Two key aspects of the home's walls that homeowners should speak with their builder about are the lateral bracing, and the construction of any tall walls -- those over 10 feet high. The right materials in these areas will help create a solid, quality home for years to come.


Shake, rattle and roll


Your home should be able to stand strong against tough environmental conditions, such as high winds and earthquakes. When these forces act on a home, it is at risk for having the walls pushed out of alignment with the roof and floors.



To help solve these problems, builders include specially designed bracing in the walls. This often involves 4-foot-wide sheathing panels with extensive nailing. But in many modern home designs, numerous windows create narrow walls in which this isn't possible.


For such walls, building product manufacturers have developed pre-made engineered wood panels that provide the needed strength in widths of 12, 18 or 24 inches. Such panels fit into tight spaces, yet provide more predictable and consistent performance than wall bracing built on site.


"Making the wall braces in a factory, rather than in the field, means greater precision," says Carlos Guilherme, vice president of sales and marketing for iLevel by Weyerhaeuser, manufacturer of the wood iLevel Shear Brace. "When the wind blows or the earth shakes, homeowners want to know that the house is built strong."


Reach for the sky


In many modern home designs, walls over 10 feet high are common in entryways, family rooms and great rooms. Typically, builders construct these tall walls using conventional lumber. As lumber is usually only available in lengths up to 12 feet, builders stack two shorter walls on top of one another to achieve the necessary height. This creates a hinge point that can cause drywall cracks and leaks around windows.


To provide greater stability, more builders are using engineered wood wall studs, such as laminated strand lumber (LSL). The boards are strong, straight, and long -- up to 30 feet. The continuous pieces run the entire height of the wall, avoiding hinge points. Their high stiffness also helps the wall remain straight during high winds, rather than bending and creating openings near windows. To make the studs, manufacturers take logs apart into small wood strands, which they bind together under heat and pressure with durable adhesives.



"Homeowners like the look of tall walls, but they don't realize that the type of stud can make a big difference in how well the wall holds up over time," says Guilherme. "With engineered wood studs, you can build taller and have a high quality wall."


While you may not be accustomed to thinking about wall framing issues, speaking with your builder now can save years of hassle and thousands of dollars in repairs later.


For more information on structural framing solutions, visit www.ilevel.com or call (888) 453-8358 to speak with an iLevel by Weyerhaeuser expert.


Courtesy of ARAcontent

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