Mass Ply Light Framing

Site Visit: Building with Mass Ply Light Framing

Foreword by Ian Thompson, Editor

In today’s site visit video, Matt revisits his mass ply light ply building project. As you’ll see, this project stands out because it’s not just using LVL (Laminated Veneer Lumber) ply framing, but the building team is also framing the wall panel directly on the slab surface.

The benefits of this approach are that nearly everything is accessible without the need for ladders or scaffolding. However, even though it is efficient, it may not be the most efficient building technique due to potential access issues to the underside of the panel. Therefore, thorough planning is crucial to maximize building efficiency here.

It’s also worth noting that this Mass Ply method is still susceptible to weather events, which can lead to potential delays.

I personally lean towards off-site manufactured panels. However, I suppose we can refer to this as on-site manufacturing. Just go with it.

The key takeaway from this project is the use of LVL framing, which allows for much straighter and stronger members than traditional solid timber light framing. Another advantage is that the LVL wood is dry, unlike many stick frame building projects here in New Zealand. I’m not exaggerating; you can literally feel and see the treated timber chemicals leaching out of the timber here. Also, when that timber framing dries, it tends to twist and even split, making it an unsuitable choice for me. Let’s not mention the potential health issues of working with traeted timber!

Matt’s project is a step in the right direction for me. It represents a building team thinking about how to be more efficient in their build and also using better and more sustainable building products to achieve superior results.

Over to Matt and his team.

Unlocking the Secrets of Mass Ply Light Framing Walls

Video Transcript

What’s up guys? I’m Matt Risinger and I’m Trent Deb from Timber Builder. We are back at our Mass ply light project. Now Trent, we gave these guys a quick tour last time right behind us. These first couple walls were set, those are your first walls on the project. But since then, you’ve made some great progress, haven’t you?

Oh yeah, we’re about to lift a wall right now how about that guys? Let’s go check out a wall lift on a mass ply light project. Let’s get going.

Trent, this is kind of fun. Before we fly this panel in place, you can really see here these are the main building blocks for the house, right? What do we got? Well, right here we have our 4×32 LVL panels that are an inch and a half thick, okay? So not plywood, LVL.

And then over here we have the columns, and they’re made up of 5×5 columns. This is a double column because of the height of the wall, gotta they look just like this. So this is an LVL, it’s just in a column shape 5 in by 5 in. But really, this is an all-wood project. It’s not really that different mentally for me from a traditional residential framed building, just some different building blocks, right?

Yep, and in fact, just like a residential building, we get raw stock. We get raw panels and we get 40ft billets of this, and then we use our cut sheets that are the detail the wall section. Okay, so this is the wall we’re about to crane up. Your guys use this cut sheet to go, “Okay, here’s the dimensions for the column, here’s the cut-out for the windows, here’s everything we need to build it on the ground.” And then we crane it and fry it into place, right?

Yep. Hey TR, how about we show these guys flying a panel into place? Let’s go build a wall, let’s go do it.

Okay y’all, we’re here on crane action time, always an exciting time to visit the job site. So this wall right here, you can see that we framed it on the ground, we sheathed it on the ground, we put the WRB on the ground, put the rock with the rain screen, flashed the windows, even installed the windows.

And now we’ve got this crane all set up to lift this panel into place, and this is a good example of what the rest of the panels on the house really look like. Did all that work on the ground so there’s no ladder work, and then you can see they’ve got lash points on the crane right here. And now that crane is simply picking that up.

I can’t imagine how heavy that is, that’s not a light panel, right there. But having this giant crane allows us to reach the entire job site from one location and crane that into place. That’s really exciting.

I’m assuming this is that outside left corner they’re about to crane it into. This black dog looks very interested. He doesn’t have a hard hat on, that’s awesome! Check that out, very cool.

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Couple things I want to point out right here: notice how the columns stop short and the plywood is beyond down here? That’s because that plywood is going to notch onto the bottom plate, so that’s why there’s an air gap under there. That’s some beefy plywood, an inch and a half thick! While we’re here you can see these columns that are set up for a future wall they’re about to set up. That’s some serious plywood right there, isn’t it? Look at all the PLI on those columns, that’s incredible!

Okay, so now they’re lifting over pipes because we’ve got a few pipes sticking out of this exterior wall in the foundation. Those appear to all be electrical conduits. But I’d like to point out that when you’re using all exterior insulation like we are in this job, we’re not worried about water pipes being in the walls cuz the walls are uninsulated but fully heated. They’re in the same heated and cooled space of the house. So that’s the beauty of a full exterior insulation.

And of course, we really like rock wool. But even more so when you’re in a job like this when you’ve got this wildfire urban interface like we do here, we’re at a ranch project. If heaven forbid something terrible happens and fire were to come up near this building, you’ve got this thick blanket of exterior insulation here that will help protect the wood-framed building. If a fire were to happen, rock wool’s made from rocks and helps give us some good fire protection.

And here we go, you can see this wall here fully sheathed looking amazing, craning that thing right in place. And again, now you can see that I was pointing that out earlier, this plywood here comes down further than the columns. Oh that’s cool, he’s putting a bead of adhesive on there. That looks like Lex L maybe, and then this plywood here will get attached into that bottom plate. He’s also doing an air sealing detail with that cool automatic caulking gun too. I like that, it’s pretty neat. There’s a point of view you don’t get off and see, that’s awesome.

Okay, so he’s got a little air sealing detail here. That’s that bead of Lex L down there which is going to help seal up that to the bottom plate.and you know this isn’t really that different than traditional framing. If you think about it you know this could be around the same thickness as a2x6 or 2×8 wall. It’s just uh using wood in a different way you know. The nice thing about it is these plywood columns these plywood walls perfectly straight bullet straight. You know you think of like LSL LVLLumber like I framed my house with.

One of the reasons I use it is ’cause it’s perfectly straight. Still wood, still easily able to nail or screw into. We still work with it normally in residential construction, but because it’s man-made, we’re really utilizing the best of the wood wood’s properties and the best of modern engineering to get an incredible wall.

Gosh, this thing is a beast. Trent, how much you think that wall panel weighs? 4500 pounds? 4500 lb, dang.

It’s pretty neat. And then Trent, talk to me about the attachment when that wall panel gets in, how are they screwing that into place? It’s going to be attached up through the end plate to the existing column, and then it’s going to be held in place by angle brackets and hold downs at the columns themselves. Okay, and then do they fasten into that bottom plate as well?

Okay, so they won’t fasten, that’s just an air sealing detail at the bottom plate there. That bead of Lex L, got it. So then you’ll actually use those Simpson screws through here in the end, and then on the other side, and then you’ll attach – are there some hold downs on the inside as well?

Yeah, the hold downs are on the column, that’s right. The hold downs are on the columns, gotcha. And you can kind of see one right here on this corner post, and then this panel is going to get anchored through into that post right there. Man, that’s so cool. Now you get to, I don’t know if we measure – man look how thick that plywood is, that’s wild! You can really see that thickness right there, that’s that inch and a half thick. That’s really cool, what a cool view!

I’m assuming he’s going to put a screw here and then rack the wall and then screw to the top, but I don’t know the answer to that for sure. Hey TR, I got a question for you, see how we’re nice and flush down here? Yeah, but the wall is not perfectly plumbed, how you going to plumb that?

Well it’s not set yet, it’s not set yet, it’s still under tension on the crane, gotcha. So then will you screw this bottom into place and then plumb it from there? Mmm, got it, cool.

And we talked about this in our last video, but the reason why he stopped the rock wool here, remember he did this all on the ground, he stopped this 6 or 8 inches shy, is so we can put those structural screws in. Then he’ll air seal this with another layer of Delta WRB, and then we’ll fill that corner in with rock wool and rain screen. And you can see that’s nice thick rain screen that’s going to provide a nice big air space behind our Diamond coat siding so any water that gets back there will be able to flow out, air will flow in.

This is also an interesting idea by Trent. I normally just do an aluminum bug screen, but he said, “Hey, you know we’re in the country, we got to think about making sure that bigger animals besides just bugs don’t get into that rain screen gap.” So he’s using this hardware cloth as a double, so now we’ll get the small bugs out and we’ll get the big bugs out with that as well. That’s pretty smart, I like that idea.

Okay y’all, we’re just about ready to screw these two panels in together, check out those Simpson screws. That’s a structural attachment right there, no need to pre-drill. There you go brother, and we’ve got the wall plumb now. And so now we’re going to use this beefy DeWalt gun here, probably could use a wall gun, that thing is a beast.

So we’re going to screw these two panels together, and there’s a column in the corner there that they’re structurally attaching to. Now we’re still attached to the crane at this point, so we’re going to get this all attached and he’s putting the man lift up ’cause he’s going to have to also attach at the top over… [Music] [Music] Here yes sir. [Music] Good, let’s go see what he’s doing inside there.

Okay, so just to catch up to feed a little bit, this wall which went in first, they’re using these metal braces that they’ve actually attached to the concrete foundation here with an anchor bolt. This is what plumbed this wall. And then once that wall is plumbed and this one could basically be dropped right into the two existing walls, and then they’re screwing that corner in to the plywood corner, or to the plywood column rather.

And then they’ll add those hold downs right here that we talked about on that column. And then this wall is not going anywhere once we got all that in. We’re still another week or so away from flying the roof panels, so stay tuned, we got a lot more fun on here. It’s a really fun and interesting project, isn’t it Trent?

Amazing job dude, looking really good around here. This project, which is really a – we call it a barndominium in Texas, but that’s really a house with a shop space combined. Typically Trent, these are built out of some type of metal framing. I absolutely love this Mass ply light that you’ve got going here. I think it’s beautiful,

I think it’s sustainable. I think there’s so much to like about this. And as a residential builder that’s used to building in wood, it feels like just a slightly different version of what I’ve been building for the last couple decades, just a lot bigger, a lot bigger. We got a lot more, there’s so many details here guys. So stay tuned for future episodes on our Mass ply light project, go follow Timber Builder on social media.

I’ll put a link to those guys in the description below. And of course hit that subscribe button, we’ve got new content here every Tuesday and every Friday, follow us on Facebook or Instagram, otherwise we’ll see you next time on the build show. [Music]

Is Mass Ply Framing a viable house construction method?

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