Mass Ply

Is Mass Ply Framing a viable house construction method?

Foreword by Ian Thompson, Editor

Today, we’re joining Matt on a tour of his company’s groundbreaking new Mass Ply project. Instead of the usual solid timber, this construction is built with ply framing, offering superior strength and precision while reducing warping and twisting.

Right from the start, you’ll see this project breaking the mold. Traditional dimensional lumber? Not here. This structure is crafted entirely from 1.5-inch thick plywood and LVL material, meticulously measured and cut into 4-foot wide, 32-foot long planks.

And it’s not just about what they’re using, it’s about how they’re using it. The construction process is a masterclass in innovation. Watch as the team lays out bottom plates with surgical precision, using Simpson Hold Downs for optimal wind resistance. Marvel at the intricate wall framing created from those huge LVL panels.

Every step of the way, you’ll see clever techniques and ingenious solutions. Whether it’s the unique blend of Oregon freeze lumber, the strategic 8-foot column spacing with additional Simpson stabilizers, or the clever use of hardware cloth as a structural element, there’s something interesting at every turn.

But that’s not all. Wait until you see the design aesthetics and architectural touches that make this project so unique. Think Monopoly-style insulation and a variety of plywood types for a stunning visual effect. Plus, smart planning like a 3-inch utility channel for optimized living space.

So come along, let’s delve into the world of cutting-edge wood science and bold, innovative thinking. This Mass Ply project is changing the game in construction and giving us a sneak peek into the future of home design and building. So let’s tie those boot laces tight, we’ve got some new frontiers to explore.

Matt, take it from here.

Mass Ply Revolution: Unveiling the Groundbreaking Mass Ply Light House/Barn Project

Video Transcript

Coming to you from a ranch property outside of Austin, Texas where my company is building probably one of the coolest projects I’ve ever built. What you’re about to see on this video is something we’re calling Mass Ply Light Framing.

This is basically going to be a giant timber-framed house, but all the framing, the wood is not traditional wood. It’s basically plywood, it’s LVL material made specifically for this project. In fact, look behind me here, see that plywood, that LVL material? That’s 4 feet wide, 32 feet long, and 1.5 inches thick.

This is kind of similar to what you’ve maybe seen when you think about a pole barn or pole framing. It’s done a lot in the Midwest, but in Texas, when people build big ranch buildings, we sometimes call them “barn aminium”. They’re often done out of metal framing. This is going to be so much more interesting.

Today’s build show: Mass Ply Light Framing. Let’s get going!

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Alright, so we’re working with a company called Timber Builder. We’re going to introduce you in a minute to my buddy Trent, who’s kind of the mastermind behind this type of framing. But what you’re seeing here is we’ve got all the SE plates set on the house, and again, this isn’t traditional lumber. This is that same LVL material.

Now, this is not treated, so we’ve put a sill sealer down, and we’ve used a detail that Steve Basic gave me a long time ago. I really like where we put a bead of sash’s lexel down first, sill sealer, another bead of lexel down, and then you’re going to notice that all these hold downs here are Simpson drilled.

These are Titan HDs that we’ve used their gusset plate on top so we can really spread out that force. We’ve got a fair amount of wind load here, so the engineer put these on a probably more aggressive schedule than you might see in kind of typical residential construction. But we’re just about to frame the very first wall. Let’s show you how this process is done.

Alright, y’all, let me introduce you to my buddy Trent Depp. Trent, this is looking unbelievable. Thank you, it is unbelievable. So, I told these guys at the start of the video that this is mass ply light. You kind of coined that phrase. Let’s walk them through the process.

Let’s start at the very beginning. We put our bottom plates down, all the Simpson hold downs are in place. Kind of looks like a traditional bottom plate, but then everything from there on up just beefier, doesn’t look traditional at all.

So after that, we lay each wall section out on the ground for the exterior walls. We start with the columns, and then once the columns are on, we fly the panels, and that’s the inch and a half LVL panels. Got it.

We fly those in and fix those to the columns, cut out our window penetrations, put our window buck on. Well, then we put our WRB, put our window buck on, and then we flash the windows, install the windows, put the rock wool on, put the rain screen on, and then fly them into place. Nothing to it, we could probably stop the video there, right?

You guys totally get it, no? Right, super easy explanation. I’m just saying, let’s walk this way and talk about it.

So tell me first off, Trent, the components that are involved, ’cause these are big components. Yeah, I showed them the ply, that’s that inch and a half ply that’s 32 feet by 4 feet.

This is all from Freese Lumber in Oregon, so that’s what makes up the majority of the wall that you’re seeing, right? And then how often are the columns spaced? Approximately every 8 feet, okay. So we have a little bit of wiggle room in there as far as where they have to be located, but it’s about every 8 feet.

And then at the columns, you have a specific Simpson hold down. Is that a special product, is that what we’d normally use? And so kind of the theme that we’ve been doing for the whole project, we wanted to make sure we had fasteners and connectors that we could get from any lumber store or big box store. Yeah, so all the Simpson hardware we’ve got, you could order that from any of your builder for source locations or other places as well.

So when you look at this wall panel, Trent, I’m seeing a corner piece, and then I’m seeing a bunch of screws. That’s one big wall section from bottom plate all the way to bottom of the roof, right? That’s correct. And so the window box, you’re making those plywood bucks so the window is actually at the outer face of the facade.

We could have used a flangeless window and set those mid-wall, which could have worked for us as well, but we kind of like the easy flashing details of setting those windows at the front. It kind of makes it more kind of quote-unquote normal with a standard American style nailing flange. We’re using all Dorken products here. This is the Vent SA, which by the way is a vapor open product.

I think it’s interesting how you guys are installing all those flashings, really, now windows and everything on the ground first. This was our first wall panel, we didn’t do all that on this one, but now we’ve moved to that, right?

We timed ourselves flashing this, and then we timed ourselves flashing on the ground, and in the time it took us to flash one window standing up, because you know you had to get on a ladder, move over, do all of that, we were able to flash four full windows and install the windows on the ground. That’s pretty awesome, yeah.

I want to point out that this was a monopoly style or perfect wall style, as Joe Lstiburek says, meaning all the insulation is outboard of our WRB and our air barrier. And this peel and stick Delta Vent SA is both stopping all the air from blowing into the building. It’s also our last line of defense for water on the building.

We’re using all their accessories, this blue Delta flashing, the red tape which is Delta multi-band. We also have taped between the panel and the concrete foundation at the bottom, and then we’re using full rock wool on the whole outside of the building.

I’ve heard Joe Lstiburek say, you know, if you were cold, would you stuff insulation in between your ribs, or would you put a big coat on? And that’s what we’ve done on this job, is we put a good raincoat on, right? This is our jacket that’s made from GoreTex, so to speak. And then outboard of that, we put a nice insulation layer.

You know, we put our goose down coat on, and that’s what our rock wool comfort board is doing here. And then for maximum durability, we’ve screwed on this rain screen detail, which also happens to be plywood. Pretty beefy, yeah.

And I also like your kind of bug screen detail. Now we’re on a ranch property outside of Austin, Texas. We’re not just worried about bugs getting in there, but there could be some snakes, scorpions, rats, rodents, whatever, so you actually went one step beyond what I’ve ever done before and put more like a hardware cloth on there, yeah.

So we have expanded metal on the outer shell, so that’s the durable outer shell, and then we have an all-weather metal screen, and that goes all the way up and in. Yep, makes sense.

So then, when this section went up, and then you’ll notice as we walk down here, we’ve got a break in the panel. He left his insulation off, and what are these screws that you’re using here between this inch and a half plywood column?

Yeah, those, so that’s a structural Simpson screw as well. Those screws, there are the 5-inch screws, and so this is the same type of screw we’d use to put a ledger board on a house for a deck project. This is a structural screw, it’s got a big fat washer head. I’ll actually put the name below as we’re talking about it.

I can’t remember the exact product name, but the idea now is these two plywood wall sections are joined at the column structurally, and you’ve done some pretty serious wind load tests in the computer model on this too, right? Yeah, yeah, the engineers have modeled it to 170 mph. This thing’s not going anywhere. 170 is crazy, yeah, serious.

Okay, now let’s walk this way, guys, around the building because I want to kind of show you the inside, and this is a building, Trent, that I got to say takes a minute to wrap your mind around the construction here. It’s not, it doesn’t kind of compute in our typical residential brains as to what’s happening here.

So you can see we’ve wrapped the building around here, and this corner of the building is, for the most part, complete. But how, now you can kind of see that progress. So here’s our bottom plate right here, here’s where those anchors go in, yep.

So we put these Simpson Titan HD screws into the anchor later, rather than using J-bolts. These are a drilled product, and then this is also a Simpson plate that’s spreading that load, and the spacing on these was designed by the engineer as well, so we knew exactly how much hold down power.

And then Trent, what’s going on with this bad boy? So that’s an embedded that goes to the hold downs, so there’s a bracket that sits above that and tightens down to this, so this sinks into the slab 6 inches, and it’s sealed with an epoxy, okay? So that’s epoxied in, we’ll slide that anchor over there by Simpson, that’ll get screwed down, and that’s going to hold that column down to the foundation as well.

And then if you come around this way, you can kind of see there’s really no traditional 2 by interior framing. It’s still the same system where we’ve got on some interior walls, we’ve got that same inch and a half plywood that’s being used on the outside of the structure, same type of column.

This is an all plywood column, this looks to be kind of 4×6-ish. And then you’ll also notice that he’s using regular kind of Simpson hold down hardware, nothing super, nothing custom fabricated here, nothing special, right out of the Simpson catalog. The engineer helped us spec all those.

And then what’s happening with these cross braces, are these doing anything structurally for us? No, those are there because the client didn’t want to see any of the wires or pipes, yeah. So that’s why they’re held off, there’s a 3-inch gap at the back, yep. And so everything will fit right behind that, and we’ll be able to nail our paneling to the front, screw our paneling to the front, no nails, yeah.

So in other words, there’s no drywall on this project unless we decide to do some later, but it’s not intended at this moment. So Trent’s got this kind of like 2×4 plywood piece on here, just as a backer, and then we’re going to come in and add some 1/2 inch plywood to make a continuous backer, and some 3/4 inch ply, or it’ll be a 3/4 inch in this area, it’ll be a 3/4 inch maple veneer, got it.

So we’ll have this beautiful kind of maple interior that we can, at this moment we’re thinking that we’re probably going to, since the windows came black, we’re going to do an extension jamb on the inside out of some trim. We’ll paint that black or kind of whitewash it, black wash it. The rest of the walls are probably going to be whitewashed in here, but you could do whatever you want.

I mean, this plywood’s very high grade. One of the finishes that we looked at was putting a traditional drywall texture on a knockdown, and it looks just like drywall, yeah. I love it.

Trent, there’s so many other details, there’s much more to go here. We got a lot more to talk about, but on this video, we thought we’d give these guys a bit of a flavor for Mass Ply Light, a sneak peek of mass ply light as you’ve coined it. So stay tuned for more from our barndominium Mass Ply Light. I’ll put a link in the description to Trent’s company, Timber Builder, and you should also go follow these guys on Instagram, they’re posting pics all the time from this job site.

This is a small project for their company, they’re used to doing very large projects, so if you’re interested in working with these guys, I’ll put a link in the description too. Great work, dude, keep it up. Thank you.

We got a lot more to go here from the barndominium mass ply light job. Hit that subscribe button below, guys, we got new content here every Tuesday and every Friday. Follow us on TikTok or Instagram, otherwise we’ll see you next time on the build show.

Hey Trent, let’s give these guys a quick sneak peek on what we got coming up on future episodes here. We’ve got platform construction, which is columns and beams and wall panels and trusses, and we got a second floor going on here.

We have a second floor, panels we’re going to fly in. We’re going to talk through some of the details on siding. We’re going to be using Diamond Coat siding on this project, my first time using them. We’re going to talk through all the details on Diamond Coat. We’re going to get into a few more details on the exterior Rockwool, and also some air sealing details between the roof and the wall.

And also in future episodes, I’m going to see if I can get Trent to reveal some costs on this project too, so if you’re interested in doing one of these, you get kind of a good sense for what a project like this costs. Be ready to be surprised, this is a super fun project, guys. We’ll see y’all later.

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