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Building a panel house: pros and cons of building with panel walls

Paneled frame walls can be a godsend. Or, they can be a pain in the butt. With a little thought and planning, you can ensure you experience the benefits.


Most home builders use some type of panelization. On-site framers in a “stick-built” house, typically build the frame in panels and angle them up and into place. But, that’s not what I’m talking about. HAS panelized house is where a factory pre-builds these panels, in various lengths, and delivers them to the job site.


Will pre-paneled walls work for you?


If you’re an owner-builder getting involved in some work and looking for labor cost savings, panelizing may be right for you. If, on the other hand, you intend to hire a team of experienced professionals to frame a complicated house structure, you should probably avoid pre-paneling unless preferred and requested by framers.


The following pros and cons will help you decide whether or not to use them, as well as ensure quality if you do.


PRO: Speed. A well-paneled house that on-site framers are prepared to work with can allow the house to be framed in as little as one-third of the normal framing time. The benefit is money saved.


CON: Shipping and Handling. Panels need to be shipped to your site…sometimes from great distances. This can be expensive and cause damage during shipping. Additionally, panels can be difficult to store, move around the site, and then snap into place, especially in two-story homes.


PRO: Lots of panel options. Traditional 2×4 and 2×6 wood studs are popular, but you can also choose steel frame studs, SIPs (structurally insulated panels), and other types.


CON: Dealing with Problems. Rarely is a panel frame package free of errors. These mistakes would drive an experienced framing crew crazy if they weren’t in favor of using pre-made panels. And getting panel makers to fix their mistakes quickly can be a real chore.


PRO: Quality and consistency. Panels are manufactured in controlled environments to exact specifications and typically use the highest quality materials. They often incorporate better and more uniform framing practices than many site-built homes. These advantages can give you a stronger home against nature and a squarer home that makes it easier to fit cabinets and doors, and to lay tile and hardwood floors.


CON: Difficult to guarantee quality. While the perks listed above are extremely valuable, it’s hard to be sure you’ll get what’s promised. He may need experienced professionals to help him analyze his framing methods as well as inspect what is handed to him.


PRO: On-site waste reduction. Panelizing can be a green building approach. Limiting waste and/or using structural insulation panels gives you that advantage.


CON: Panelized houses are not always kits. Simply ordering a paneled frame pack is not going to speed up your the whole process of building the house. If that’s what you want, use a home kit. Kit houses often panelize their walls, but panel factories don’t always provide complete kits. Make sure you know what you are ordering.


you have options


As you can see, you have options. But it is worth remembering that you also have the option of No use pre-panelized frame walls. The benefits may be negligible or even non-existent in your situation.


My advice is to honestly assess your situation and your goals. Keep researching your options. Hire a home building coach to help you decide. Then go in the direction that best suits your needs.

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