How Long Does Wood Framing Last?

As you shop for houses, you probably notice there are a few strategies for framing a house, but that wood framing is by far the most common. Or perhaps, you live in a wood-framed home. Either way, you are wondering, how long does wood framing actually last? Well, you have come to the right place. Using contractor experience and research, we answer that question here.

Wood framing can last 50 to several hundred years, depending on care and construction quality. Here are the factors and issues to consider when deciding how long a wood frame house will last:

  • Quality of Construction
  • Frequency of Repair and Maintenance
  • Local Climate

Keep reading the rest of this post for details on each of the above bullet points. This post mostly focuses on residential construction but also includes a brief section on out-buildings such as sheds and barns. We also include a section on the pros and cons of wood framing as well as the answers to several questions related to the topic of this post.

Skeleton of a wooden two-story home surrounded by building materials, How Long Does Wood Framing Last?

How Long Does a Wood-Framed Residential Home Last?

Wood-framed structures are known to last hundreds and even thousands of years. There are examples of temples, businesses, and homes in Europe and Eastern Asia that not only have stood so long but look great doing it. However, you are likely more interested in how long common wood-framed residential homes last. This topic is considered in the next several sub-section.

Quality of Construction

Perhaps it goes without saying, but more well-constructed wood-framed homes last much longer than poorly constructed ones. While there are several clues that an experienced contractor or realtor can use to determine the quality of construction, this feature is often hidden from the average person.

Interior view of a house under construction home framing

Easy ways to determine construction quality include cracks in walls, foundation level, attic inspections, and material quality. Expect well-constructed wood-framed homes to last on the upper end of the predicted life span.

One of the common locations for wood-framed homes is in large developments. To learn more about the pros and cons of these specific homes, read this great article, "Tract Homes: What Are The Pros And Cons."

Wall Cracks

While the occasional crack in the drywall is very usual, too many cracks start to raise red flags. These cracks can indicate a home that is out of level or shifting too much. These features put stress on wood framing, which starts to lead to expensive and constant repairs.

Foundation level

Every well-intentioned contractor builds level foundations. However, sometimes builders make mistakes, and other times the ground shifts unexpectedly. Either way, an out-of-level foundation puts stress on a home and begins to pull home joints apart.

Concrete foundation for a new house

This process leads to leaking, repairs, and worse. To check the level, take a marble or other round object and see if it rolls across the floor. If it rolls, you might have a problem. However, an out-of-level home is not a deal-breaker. There are tons of houses that lose their level and still last for decades and more. Instead, use levelness as an indicator that maybe you should check overall quality especially carefully.

Attic and Crawl Space Inspections

Many services claim to perform attic and crawl space inspections before selling a house. However, only trust yourself or a private company to perform these inspections carefully and with the buyer in mind. While inspecting attics and crawl spaces, look for water damage, failing joints, pests, and other indications of poor home quality.

Male construction worker wearing white hard hat crouching on elevated scaffolding

Further, the attic and crawl space are two of the only places where you can see home construction without siding or interior cladding in the way. Often an inspection will not raise any red flags or specifically answer all of your questions but will help determine overall home construction quality. This makes the inspection of these places important whenever you are considering buying a new home.

Material Quality

Generally, homes that use higher-end materials also enjoy more high-end construction. This is because quality materials are expensive, and the original buyer would also pay for high-end construction. Like all these tips, high material quality is not a guarantee of quality construction but rather an indicator.

Frequency of Repair and Maintenance

While wood-framing can last centuries, the same is not true for a 2x4 fir board left out in the rain. For this reason, the regularity of repair and maintenance is very critical to how long wood framing lasts. The more often and prompt the repair, the less likely pests, moisture, and other damaging conditions can interact with the wood framing of the home.

Man examining and repairing leaking house roof

Look for siding and roofing quality as well as water damage to determine the home's maintenance schedule. You should also ask the buyer and previous owners. Importantly, keep maintenance in mind if you plan on owning a wood-framed home that you want to last for generations to come.

As mentioned, roofing is one of the most critical areas that need regular repair and maintenance in order for wood-framing to last a long time. Read this article about how long wood shingles last without needed repair, "How Long Does A Wood Roof Last?"

Local Climate

To begin, wood-framed homes can last a very long time in any climate. However, weather interacts with the quality of construction and maintenance frequency to potentially wear away wood-framing more quickly. Particularly, look out for heavy rain and high humidity. These are both factors that can lead to rot and serious damage in poorly built or poorly maintained wood-framed homes.

Wood Framed Out-Buildings

Wood-framed out-buildings contrast with a wood-framed home. The framing in a shed or barn is often much more exposed to the elements than in a house. This is a bit of a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it is very easy to see failing or damaged framing. On the other hand, the framing's exposure to the elements makes for much shorter framing life spans.

Old barn at sunset

A shed or barn's framing will only last about a hundred years. However, with regular maintenance and replacement of failing boards, this number can be greatly extended. Local climate also moves this number up or down.

Are wood-framed houses any good?

Skeleton of a wooden two-story cottage surrounded by building materials

Yes! Wood-framing is a classic, reliable way to frame homes. Wood is affordable, long-lasting, and durable. In fact, wood-framed homes are preferred in areas with significant earthquake risk because they flex and bend instead of breaking.

How long does the framing of a house last?

The framing of the house, as the most integral component of the home, lasts as long as the home does. As stated above, this is usually several hundred years. Sometimes, with proper care and maintenance, framing can last even longer.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of timber-framed houses?

Timber framing is a type of construction that uses large pieces of wood, or timbers to build the frame. This contrasts with the common type of wood framing, which uses dimensional lumber. Take note, a timber frame does not indicate a raw log cabin look. There are several advantages and disadvantages to timber-framed homes.

Timber frame detailing

Disadvantages of timber-framed are they generally take longer to build and are more expensive than traditional wood-framed homes. Sometimes the increase in price is quite significant. Advantages of a timber-framed home center on the timeless raw look of the construction.

Can wood frame houses withstand hurricanes?

Yes. Wood-framed homes routinely withstand hurricanes. There are several specific building codes in hurricane-prone areas to ensure that a wood-frame home can withstand the strong sustained winds. However, be sure that all doors and windows are closed because once the wind enters the house, even the most well-built wood-framed home can begin to fail.

Is concrete block better than wood frame?

Concrete block is not better or worse than wood framing. In some ways, concrete is better, and in some ways, it is worse. Advantages of concrete block over wood frame include better noise canceling, pest resistance, and decrease insurance premiums. Disadvantages of concrete block compared to wood framing include the increased price and difficulty of insulating concrete blocks

Is steel frame better than wood?

Steel is lighter and more durable than wood. However, it is also significantly more expensive. Generally, steel construction is only used for very large commercial buildings. Wood-framing provides plenty of durability and strength for all but the most extravagant homes.

In Closing

This post has answered how long wood framing lasts. To provide this answer, a thorough investigation included research, contractor experience, and the answers to many related and overlapping questions. As you shop for homes, good luck!

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