Should I reinforce the frame of a 20x30 outbuilding?

Answered by Jeffrey ~ December 20, 2010 ~ No Comments

I have an outbuilding/workshop that I spend quite a bit of time in. It was framed using 2x4 recycled barn lumber on 2 foot centers. The structural integrity of the building is great. There is no sign of warping anywhere. It is currently uninsulated and I will be insulating it to make it more comfortable to work in during the summer/winter. Before I get to insulating, do you think I should reinforce the framing by adding a 2x4 between the current 2 foot centers, essentially making a framed building with studs every 12 inches? My grandpa built the shop in the 1950s and I don't ever plan to tear it down so any advice you could give to maintain its durability/dependability would be a big help! Thanks!

Ron ~ Kearney, Nebraska

Jeffrey Anderson

Hi Ron, I really don't like giving advice on something like this when I can't see the condition of the old barn lumber that was used for framing, especially when the safety of anyone who happens to be in the outbuilding is concerned.

Residential building code states that any wall considered to be weight bearing should have the framing on 16 inch centers. I'm assuming this is a one story building; if it's a two story building or has an attic that you use for storage, then there is no question that you should reinforce the framing with the additional material. However, if it is just a one story building and the vertical 2x4 lumber is located directly under the roof trusses or rafters, or close to it, you may be able to get away with the framing as it is.

I know old barn lumber is usually pretty strong and if the lumber is old, the 2x4s might be true 2x4s rather than the abbreviated versions we use now. Some old barn lumber is so dense it can be difficult to drive a nail into it. On the other hand some old lumber can appear to be okay from the outside, but be eaten up from termites or moisture rot on the inside. You may have already done this and know the answer, but if you haven't, try hammering a nail into some of the old framing lumber to ensure it's solid.

My main concern would be snow load on the roof during the winter. I don't know about Kearney, but I know a lot of Nebraska gets quite a bit of snow during the winter and the weight on the roof could cause it to collapse without proper support. We had a very heavy snowfall in my area last year and I saw a lot of outbuildings around the countryside with collapsed roofs due to the unusual weight, but if your workshop has been around since the 50s, it's probably had plenty of snow on it in the past.

I think you should do what you feel comfortable with. I can tell you what I'd do if it was my outbuilding; if I felt sure that the framing was in good shape structurally, then I would probably leave it as is with the rationalization that if the building had survived in good shape for 50-60 years, it should be good for another 50 years.

One nice thing about the 24 inch spacing is that you can buy rolls of insulation that won't have to be cut to fit in the cavity. If you added framing in between your current spacing, you would more than likely have to split insulation to get the proper fit.

It sounds like a nice workshop and it must be especially enjoyable working in a structure built by your grandpa.

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