Panelized framing walls can be a godsend. Or, they can be a pain in the butt. With a little forethought and planning, you can ensure that you experience the advantages.
Most home builders use some form of panelization. Framers on site at a “stick-built” home, typically build the framework in panels and tilt them up and into place. But, that’s not what I’m talking about. A panelized home is where a factory pre-builds these panels, in various lengths, and delivers them to the building site.
Will Pre-Panelized Walls Work for You?
If you’re an owner-builder who is going to be involved in some labor and looking for labor cost savings, panelization may be ideal for you. If, on the other hand, you intend to hire a crew of experienced professionals to frame a complicated home structure, you should probably stay away from pre-panelizing unless the framers prefer and ask for them.
The following Pros and Cons will help you decide whether or not to use them as well as ensure quality if you do.
PRO: Speed. A well panelized home that the on-site framers are prepared to work with, can allow for the home to be framed in as little as one third the normal framing time. The benefit is money saved.
CON: Shipping & Handling. Panels must be shipped to your site … sometimes from great distances. This can be costly and cause damage during shipment. Also, the panels can be difficult to store, move around the site, and then into place – especially on two story homes.
PRO: Many Panel Choices. Traditional 2×4 & 2×6 wood studs are popular but you can choose steel framing studs, SIPs (Structural Insulated Panels), and other types as well.
CON: Dealing With Issues. Rarely is a panelized framing package error free. These mistakes will drive an experienced framing crew crazy if they were not in favor of using pre-built panels. And, getting the manufacturers of the panels to correct their errors quickly can be a real chore.
PRO: Quality & Uniformity. Panels are made in controlled environments to exacting specifications and usually utilize the better quality materials. They often incorporate better and more uniform framing practices than many homes built on-site. These advantages can give you a stronger home in the face of nature, and a more square home that makes it easier to hang cabinets and doors, and lay tile and wood floors.
CON: Difficult to Ensure Quality. While the advantages stated are extremely valuable, it’s difficult to ensure that you’ll receive what is promised. You may need experienced professionals to help you analyze their framing methods as well as inspect what is delivered to you.
PRO: Reducing Onsite Waste. Panelizing can be a green building approach. Limiting waste and/or using Structural Insulated Panels give you that advantage.
CON: Panelized Homes are not Always Kits. Just ordering a panelized framing package is not going to streamline your entire homebuilding process. If that’s what you want, use a kit home. Kit homes usually panelize your walls but panelization factories don’t always provide complete kits. Be sure you know what you’re ordering.
You Do Have Options
As you can see, you have options. But it pays to remember that you also have the option to not use pre-panelized framing walls. The advantages may be insignificant or even non-existent in your situation.
My advice is to honestly assess your situation and goals. Keep researching your options. Hire a home-building coach to help decide. Then go in the direction that best serves your needs.