Balloon and Platform Framing

I apologize if this has already been discussed but I could not find it.

I understand the drawings and definition of the difference but I am unclear as to how one would know the framing type if the house is finished? I can obviously tell if there is an open, unfinished, wall but is there another way to tell? How do you put in the report about the potential fire issue if you cannot tell the framing structure type?

Please advise.

This article may help you out.
Balloon framing was around from the 1880 to about 1930 or so.


with Balloon framing all walls with have their own foundation wall of sorts. as the walls are built before the floors. you can see this from the crawlspace.

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Thank you both.

Mr. Jones,
How do you tell if there is no crawlspace or access is unsafe? The article mentions dropping a penny but as far as I can tell, there is no real scientific method of telling. Being in the south, there are a lot of older homes that I am going to have to deal with.

In the attic you will see the rafter tails resting on the exterior walls. In platform framing this will be the top plate (sealing the wall cavity). In balloon framing the 2nd story ceiling rests on a ledger and there will often be a space (wall cavity) between this ledger and where the rafter tail rests (exterior wall). Bear in mind that houses this old quite often have additions that were added with more modern (platform) framing techniques so there is no guaranteed identification method. It depends on what you can get to and see. The additional weight of interior walls is often supported by columns (large wood) just as in platform framing. Understanding and looking for historical traces of old electrical and plumbing can also help date the building.


IMO you don’t, at least I never have with Older homes with balloon framing.


You really cant tell by looking at a finished house. But what purpose would it serve anyways? I never report on the framing method, unless there is something wrong with it. I usually have to send in the crawlbot into these crawlspaces, as they are usually very tight. or send in the ferret cam on a pole.

but just looking into the crawlspace should give it away. as there is no main beams holding up the floors.
as the floors are attached to ledgers on the wall framing. and there will be walls sitting on footings.

But there is really no need to know or report on this. The only reason I know about it as I was a contractor for 28 years working on these older homes.

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Eli Ness, Lic.# 2052

Washington State

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Thank you all for the information.

I always describe the framing type, because my state requires me to describe the construction type and materials.

wood framed :wink:

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When there’s a basement and I see balloon framing, I recommend installing fire blocks to to help prevent the spread of fire. CYA people.