Before the 1950s, the standard construction method was balloon framing for new homes, until the advent of platform framing. The platform structure is a safer, faster and more cost-effective method than the balloon structure. That being said, balloon framing still has many effective uses in modern home framing that can be incorporated with platform framing for a safer, stronger, and more cost effective home.
Balloon framing originated in Chicago in the early 1830s and replaced the earlier mortise and tenon method of construction. The name originated from the old mortises and tenons carpenters when they first saw the framing method in use. With the long thin framing members being used and held together with just nails, they figured it would probably blow up in the next strong wind like a balloon. The name caught on and has endured to this day.
- The balloon-framed gabled walls are very high, usually eighteen feet or more above ground level. This additional height requires the use of scaffolding for carpenters, electricians, plumbers, HVAC, drywall installers, painters, and trim carpenters, resulting in higher labor costs.
- Fire can go up the stud bay like a chimney, to mitigate the risk of fire, blocking should be installed at each roof and floor level.
- The required use of longer studs increases the cost per linear foot, resulting in even higher expenses.
- These walls can be very heavy and dangerous, even life threatening, and their lifting requires the use of proper lifting equipment and highly trained personnel. OSHA has clearly defined the hazards of manually erecting balloon frame walls.
- Longer studs better resist wind loads and help reduce cracking in drywall and nails.
- Very large windows with rounded, arched, or angled tops can be installed to enhance the home’s aesthetic appeal.
- Ability to build a tall fireplace.
- Two story open home.
- Good room.
When considering the use of balloon frames to enhance the look and livability of your new home, the advantages and disadvantages must be carefully weighed.