I Disagree - Wood is NOT Your Friend in Florida!

Published July 29th, 2019 by Roseadmin

This article in Sunday's paper describes the tremendous volume of multi-family FRAME construction and it's financial allure.  I argue that this is terribly wrong and extremely shortsighted.  WOOD IS NOT YOUR FRIEND IN FLORIDA!  

Take a look at the 3 - 4 story buildings featured in the article - look at the porches.  I am gratified that I will have essentially an endless stream of customers seeking to fix their rotten decks in the years to come!  Multi-family frame construction is more dangerous, inherently weaker, far more prone to leaks, and absolutely WILL have a shorter life.

Of course, there are framed structures that have lasted for centuries.  There are framed structures that are actually more resistant to fire than steel - but THAT IS NOT WHAT WE ARE BUILDING HERE!  The framed buildings that have lasted were, for the most part, constructed of very large dimensional lumber of a high quality [Douglas Fir or equal], not the southern yellow pine and spruce used in our current construction details. 

Florida has the absolute worst lumber in the country.  Aside from the limited choice of species, anyone that has ever gone to the store to buy a few boards knows how difficult it is to find a couple of "good boards"  - damn near impossible!

Frame construction is essentially a series of hinged joints and even our tremendously enhanced building codes do not defeat the end result - we are still relying on nails.  The only aspect of the assembly that adds "real strength" to the structure is the diaphragm of the walls, roof and floor systems.  Without plywood or some other sheeting, a framed wall, roof or floor is extremely weak!  

The thick dimensional timbers of old northern buildings could and have resisted through - burning that would have melted steel skeletons - oh, they might be very charred on the surface but not burned through, whereas steel looses it's rigidity and the building topples in high heat.   

In their drive to meet the market, builders are choosing frame construction because IT IS CHEAPER - but only in the short term!  These structures will be weak, deteriorating in a relatively short span of years.  Moisture WILL find it's way into the building envelopes, either through poorly designed details or poor workmanship or material failure due to climate/weather.  ONE SINGLE PIECE OF FLASHING, improperly installed could destroy much of a fairly large building, especially if it causes a slow to be seen defect!  

Just one porch deck with a railing foot that is screwed down onto the deck rather than side mounted to the beam could allow water in.  And the usual detail for railing attachment is four screws. Think about that - how many "potential leaks" are there on a framed building with exterior porches and railings? Even if there are no mistakes, which is unlikely, and no water intrusion due to violations in the building envelope, how long will it be until the climate/weather allows some moisture to affect the wire lath holding the stucco to the framed building?  Once a bit of rust appears on the wire lath, it will run like a cancer and the stucco will explode from the lath, allowing water to enter in increasingly copious amounts. It's a matter of when, not IF, it will happen!

You don't need to go any farther than the headline of the article to realize that these builders are NOT seeking to build the "best" building possible!  Of course they will meet the required building codes and will look beautiful when newly completed, but do you think they are using the "best" caulk and paint?  These "now beautiful" buildings will be slums in a short time, if constant maintenance and expensive repairs are not continuously made.  NO, WOOD IS NOT YOUR FRIEND IN FLORIDA!!!


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