2 x 4 or 2 x 6 in exterior walls

athensmomof3March 26, 2010

Our plan sketch is basically finalized and is headed to the draftsman next week to block it out. My architect asked whether we wanted 2 x 4 or 2 x 6 on the exterior. We live in northwest GA so it can get pretty hot here and rarely snows.

He didn't have a real good feel for the cost differential except to say it was not minimal. He estimated 10k-15k but that was a total guess.

I was surprised it might be that high (even though he said he really didn't know and it was just a guess). I was assuming a few thousand dollars difference.

Our house is roughly 5200 square feet (not including basement or 3 car garage) and has a daylight basement across the back and part of one side.

Does anyone have a feel for what the cost differential might be?

We are 40 and expect to be in this house for 25 plus years.

Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I would guess you have such a large cost difference is because of your square footage area- I would have him get a definite cost difference so you would know for sure.
We did 2x6 walls, but we live in northern MT, so definitely needed the extra insulation :)

    Bookmark   March 26, 2010 at 2:12PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Your architect's estimate is way too high.

The more important issue is now much insulation can fit in the roof.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2010 at 2:39PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Good MacV - I just couldn't imagine how it could possibly cost that much even given the few extra inches of square footage and additional brick/roof.

I think he likes it also because of the thicker window/door jambs on the exterior.

My father strongly suggested it but that is just how his house was built 35 years ago so I think that is why.

If it is way too high, I guess we will probably do it :) He is sending it to the draftsman next week to block it out and wanted to have an answer before then . . .

    Bookmark   March 26, 2010 at 3:04PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

"I just couldn't imagine how it could possibly cost that much even given the few extra inches of square footage and additional brick/roof."

And the jamb extensions for every window and door, and the labor to install those jamb extensions.

It is more than just using wider lumber for the framing.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2010 at 3:26PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I would make a wild guess at 1,500 for the window trim and 2,500 for the studs, plates, boxed headers, etc. The cost of the additional insulation should be considered separately since presumably it will eventually pay for itself. But never trust an architect's cost estimate for anything.

Probably a better way to estimate would be to decide what you think its worth to you and then double it.

The deeper windows would be seen from the inside and the inswing doors from the outside.

I am surprised that your architect didn't have more advice to offer you about this subject. What is he/she proposing for the roof framing and insulation?

    Bookmark   March 26, 2010 at 5:13PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

macv - we had a very cursory conversation about it and didn't get into details about other framing. This was really just as an aside before he sends it to the draftsman how it should be drawn out. My husband was not at the meeting so no decisions were being made as to these issues - just discussing options.

We don't have a builder selected yet and our house is not even at the draftsman so we are just guessing at amounts right now.

I am not sure what it is worth to me . . . nor am I sure if we can get the equal or better insulation benefit by doing a foam insulation in the walls and the 2x4s. Is that even more expensive?

I guess I need to get my questions together and give him a call on Monday!

    Bookmark   March 26, 2010 at 6:28PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Athensmom, how tall are your ceilings? With 10 ft. ceilings, 2x4 exterior walls can be a bit wobbly, I understand. It's something to think about.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2010 at 7:29PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Closed cell foam would be required to equal thicker insulation and it is 5 times more expensive.

I believe the code limit for the height of 2x4 load bearing studs supporting a second story is 10 ft. and 12 ft. if supporting only a roof. That limitation assumes a certain spacing, maximum wind load and seismic design category.

I haven't had to think about the strength of tall 2x4 studs for 30 years.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2010 at 8:04PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Bill said 2x4s were fine for 10 foot walls but I think that is the limit like macv said. There are spacing requirements I understand so the load limit is satisfied. I sure don't want a wobbly house!

buckhead - what are you doing? 2x6 on the exterior?

    Bookmark   March 26, 2010 at 8:53PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

If I remember correctly, the price we were given for 2X6 was almost $4,000 higher than 2X4 for a 2400 sq ft house. According to the builder, a good deal of the cost was for jamb extenders for the windows.

Totally Confused

    Bookmark   March 27, 2010 at 6:02AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

With 10 ft. ceilings, 2x4 exterior walls can be a bit wobbly,

Whoa! All those houses I built that way must be falling down.

Actually, I switched to 2x6 walls because it was hard to get straight 2x4 10 footers any more. Even if they looked straight at first, they'd start turning themselves into skis as the framing dried out a bit.

Using 2x6s, there's no wasted materials or extra labour needed to straighten them, sister them or rip them out. I mostly switched to 2x6s for interior walls because plumbing drops and heating ducts require the space. Even on non-bearing walls, once you've run some drains through the middle of the 2x4s, you've hardly got any nailing surface and strength. And on the one-off houses I do, you rarely can accurately plan the plumbing drops and duct requirements until the framing is up.

Nevertheless, townhouse and condo projects here still use 2x4s with exterior foam board sheathing to meet the insulation requirements.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2010 at 7:44AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

IMO that's a way too huge house. Smaller is cooler and will probably end up being more distinctive and valuable as energy/maintenance costs increase and people get sick of the bloated houses of the 1990s and 2000s. 2x6 is the way to go for insulation benefits and rigidity if you are set on stick built. SIP construction is a better alternative offering more rigidity and much better insulation. Look into ICF construction for even more of these benefits.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2010 at 10:13AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

people get sick of the bloated houses of the 1990s and 2000s.

I've been hearing this tune for decades. But the first question prospects ask is "how many sq. ft.?"

The 4,200 sf. home I just sold uses less electricity and gas than the 1,200 sf 1950s rental we moved from.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2010 at 12:07PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I have 11 ft ceilings in 1/2 the downstairs on 2x4 construction. The house hasn't wobbled yet. In fact, it is positively wierd how you don't notice the wind from inside the house. We are 3 sided brick which I would think helps even if it is "only" brick veneer.

You are in a Southern climate. The delta T from inside to outside is nothing like people from the North experience. To them, a 2x4 is a cheap house. Not so in the South.

That being said, in my slightly more northern climate, I wish I priced out 2x6 construction but would never have paid more than $5k more for 4,000 sq feet. In the end, I was in a hurry and didn't bother to price it out. You can get similar performance with some foam sheathing on the outside for less cost.

Remember, your hot is not nearly the North's cold. Think 100 degrees - 78 inside = 22. Nothing like zero degrees in the North. Not even close. Humidity doesn't care about r-value - it cares about infiltration which a 2x6 does nothing for.

Even at $10k - I'd foam the house if you were trying to spend money and you expected to be there for awhile rather than do 2x6 walls....

    Bookmark   March 27, 2010 at 3:55PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

delta T from inside to outside is nothing like people from the North experience.

From Wiki: "ÎT, Delta T, delta-T, deltaT, or DT is the time difference obtained by subtracting Universal Time from Terrestrial Time."


    Bookmark   March 27, 2010 at 5:18PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Worthy, OK, so you can make a bloated house as energy efficient as a 1,200 SF home of years past. Good taste does not dictate that it should be so. Why not still make the smaller house with modern efficiency? Not just bloat because the supplies are available and you can get Energy Star appliances and tight insulation. Bloat is often tacky, but alas it is popular. Probably for the same reason people still get bright red cars and loud mufflers. Gold chains and medallions too :) Badda Bing ... Impress the broads!

    Bookmark   March 27, 2010 at 8:26PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

rethree - I assure you my house will not be tacky!

Big does not have to be. In fact, I would like it to be a little smaller but we have a big family living here and a big dog (and likely another in the future) and our house is a gathering space so we entertain a lot, both adults and kids. It is not unusual for us to have 3 or four families over to grill out and watch football (we live in a college town so football is big) and generally most have 3 or 4 kids. So that is 20 - 25 people, and I'd like to have a place for them to sit :)

Do you even have kids? If so, do you have groups of kids over? We are planning for the future when I expect we will have 15 or more kids over on the weekends . . . hanging out and having fun. You can't do that in 1500 square feet, at least not comfortably.

I would like our house to be a place where our kids and their friends can gather, or we can have a few families over to grill out and not feel like we are stepping on each other.

I was shooting for 4500 but an expansion of our utility hall/mudroom/laundry/home office and an addition of a small study blew out the square footage a bit. Our rooms are not big, our house as drawn will be very cozy, and not the least bit a mcmansion. We have one more bedroom than I would have liked because we had the room upstairs to do it, and I figure it might be a selling point down the road.

This is a 5200 square foot house designed by our architect, and it is hardly huge, tacky or a mcmansion.

Here is a link that might be useful: Baldwin House

    Bookmark   March 27, 2010 at 8:53PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Athens, we will have 10 ft. ceilings with 2x6 exterior and interior walls. BTW you linked to my all time favorite Bill Baker house. I walk past it every day. Some of his later houses are a bit too busy for me, but I really like this one.

To the b.uilders and architects who generously contribute to this forum: I am completely unqualified to weigh in on these issues. I just am parroting the opinions of many of the archtitects and b.uilders I interviewed in my process. The consensus seemed to be that 2x4 was great for up to 9 ft. ceilings, but 10 ft ceilings really needed 2x6 construction. I just wanted to alert Athensmom that the framing could be dictated by the ceiling height.

I am sure that perfectly wonderful houses can be built with 2x4 construction. However, I want a really solid house. I have a passel of large and growing boybarians. When you have boisterous 6'4" and 200 lbs. beings bouncing around your hous.e, you want it to be stout.

Rethree, you are certainly welcome to your opinion about house sizes and .car colors, but I would like to point out that some people buy red cars for the same reason that fire trucks are painted red: they are highly visible. I know one man who has been hit by other drivers so many times that he now always drives a red car. He wants people to see him, not so that they will be impressed, but so that they won't hit him! Perhaps some people's houses have similarly practical rationales?

    Bookmark   March 27, 2010 at 11:28PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Nice house!! As someone already mentioned....try getting quotes using ICF since you planned on staying that long. ck out greenbuildingtalk.com to learn more about ICF. They have a forum dedicated to ICF. I'm not associated with ICF in any way. IMO...one of the best products to build a house IF someone plans on staying a long time in the house.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2010 at 11:33PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Thanks buckhead for your input! I too will have 6'4 200 pound boybarians (although they are still little). . . and a 6'3 190 pound husband who acts like a kid so good point!

You know we are just watching the budget carefully!

I love that house too - ours will be very simple also as I am a simple girl :) and not a fan of too many tricks :)

    Bookmark   March 27, 2010 at 11:44PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I will say that our construction will be 2x4 with both 9, 10 and 11 foot ceilings. My architect, structural engineer and the 5 GC's that bid the job ever mentioned doing a 2x6. The one place that was mentioned doing a "like 2x6" was for where one wall in the master bedroom backs up to the stairs, and it is really for sound control and is 2x4's that zig and zag like 2x6's so the sound has traveling path. If you have the extra money and want to spend it in the wall construction then go for it! But your climate like ours in AL calls for R15 wall insulation which happens to be the exact depth for a 2x4 in both spray and rolled insulation. You can look at the department of energy website to double check. I guess the best suggestion I can give is unless a structural engineer says you need it or your city has it in code that says it is required or your state building code requires it then I would not do it. There are codes for a reason and as many house that are built or have been built with 10 ft ceilings if 2x4's were a problem then the codes would have been changed, IMO!!!

    Bookmark   March 28, 2010 at 1:18AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

A worthy ride.

Damn! He nailed it!

    Bookmark   March 28, 2010 at 1:31AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Oh and one more thing, great house!!! Love it! I to will have 3 boys turn very big one day, but if my 2x4 walls get knocked out by my boys (surely this has happened somewhere) then we have WAY BIGGER problems then the construction of my house, I can only imagine the look on their faces, but what makes me smile is the thought that will go through their head about what is mom going to say abot that!!! :-) too funny!!!

    Bookmark   March 28, 2010 at 1:57AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Delta t - difference in anything starting with the letter T. I thought it was pretty obvious what "t" word I was talking about. It is common usage in any scientific field and in thermodynamics, it always means temperature. I'll have to check and fix that wiki reference.

Please don't spend too much time with icf. I suspect your contractor options will be limited and as a result your prices will be through the roof. Now if you are coastal, then the added protection from hurricanes might be nice.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2010 at 6:03AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Athensmom. With due respect, no one that has a bloated tacky house ever thinks they are bloated tacky mcmansions. It's the objective outsiders who evaluate them as such. Architects and designers LOVE bloat for homeowners who insinuate a penchant for bloat. They spend more time, get more money and the builder makes a fortune. You want fries with that house? ;)

    Bookmark   March 28, 2010 at 7:26AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Mbwaldrop, you made me laugh. I realize how I must have made it sound. We are not quite at the Animal House stage. The issue is really that when my young Giganatosauri walk down the hall or bounce excitedly in the kitchen when they see what is for supper, things rattle and bounce around. I had to take down a shelf with antique teacups and saucers after one fell from the daily earthquake. I know that's more of a floor joist thing than an exterior wall thing, but experience has taught me that I want "solid". Oh, and square and plumb would be a nice added feature (says the hillbilly with one or more legs of most table.s propped with building blocks to bring them level).

    Bookmark   March 28, 2010 at 9:39AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

buckheadhillbilly, I total agree with the way things shake rattle and roll over here in central AL!! I agree with solid, square and plumb for sure!!! I will admit with 11, 7 and 3 year old boys and all their friends, (in our neighborhood we have 8 boys that are 11 and 10 that are 7) already take up a lot of space and it is not uncommon for all the 11's or all the 7's to gather at one house for a snack before they are outside to play ball or ding dong ditch!!! I think that I may send all 18 hungry boys over the rethree's house for an afternoon of snacks, drinks and twister, you'll have room, right? :-)

    Bookmark   March 28, 2010 at 5:45PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

:) well, mbwaldrop, I am sure she has plenty of room and would be glad to see y'all :) Your life sounds like mine! Although mine are 9, 7, and 5 :)

    Bookmark   March 28, 2010 at 6:54PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

we did 2x4 but added spray foam insulation. the foam insulation for the exterior walls of our bloated 5000 sf house cost $16k. we also have soundproofing insulation throughout most walls & floors (that cost very little).

    Bookmark   March 28, 2010 at 10:54PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

The discussion probably should not be 2x4 v. 2x6, but 2x4 with x insulation v. 2x6 with y insulation.

I asked my architect about 2x4 v. 2x6 on the addition we are planning, and he stated that in MA (Boston, coastal) 2x4 with Icynene was what he was building with.

I would think that 2x6 with spray foam would be too costly, so maybe the conversation should be 2x4 with icynene, 2x4 with bats and exterior foam boards or 2x6 with Bats?

One other point, I agree that the roof insulation is more important. I was also thinking about icynene in the roof with bats in the walls. Too many options really, and they all change depending on where you live!

    Bookmark   March 29, 2010 at 3:47PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

or 2x4 with just batts - which is a reasonable option in the South

    Bookmark   March 29, 2010 at 5:11PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

What a shame that a discussion about the pricing differences of the thickness of your walls can lead to someone bashing you for building the house that YOU want and that YOU are paying for and that YOU and YOUR family will be living in and sharing with YOUR family and friends. You are creating a gathering place, building a community place that people that matter to you will be comfortable at. You should be given an award for making sure your kids have a place to hang with their friends, as opposed to the alternative ~ having your kids go elsewhere and goodness knows what would go on.

This is a forum for sharing info, not a forum for bashing someone for what they are building. Not sure, maybe it is penis envy??????????

    Bookmark   March 30, 2010 at 6:44PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Oh, and just for the record, I too have 3 kids and my last house was well over 7000sf (12,000 w/ basement & garages) and I currently live in a corporate rental out of the country that is about 2200sf and I hate it. I have no room to entertain like we used to, and the kids friends never come over because there is no room to put them. We are about to start construction of a 3200sf house with another 600 with the Alfresco and Patio area, which can both be converted to indoor rooms for entertaining in icky weather.

My large house was very tasteful and beautiful (French Castle look) that sat on 2 acres tucked into a hillside overlooking a lake and golf course and no one on the left side of me for a 1/4 mile down the street. A 2400sf house would have looked like the barn on a lot that size.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2010 at 7:05PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Besides being able to get more insulation between 2x6 studs, the studs can be @ 24" centers, thus cutting the wood cost differential to virtually nothing and providing greater insulation value. Not just the R Value between the studs, but the greater efficiency achieved by reducing the thermal bridging effect of the studs themselves.
Leading climate change believer Dr. David Suzuki says we're "maggots living in our own defecation." That explains, I figure, why we need multiple bathrooms and marble floors.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2010 at 7:20PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

LOL, Worthy!! Maybe add a Swiffer for quick clean~up :-)

    Bookmark   March 30, 2010 at 8:59PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

if you can afford to build this size home
look into SIPS systems.
or solid sheet with plywood to interior
put closed cell foam sheathig on exterior walls.
tape seams and close holes before installing exterior
solid sheathing will increase structural strength
and if installed on interior walls will allow
pictures, curtians and towel bars to be easily installed,
just my opinion and experience.fwiw.
best of luck.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2010 at 11:20PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Back onto the OP question, I don't believe moving from 2x4 to 2x6 should be as costly as your architect believes. MacV's breakdown is much more accurate from my experience. 2x6's were around $1 more per 10ft in my area, so the extra lumber bill was in the $3,000 range. If you order the windows and doors from the manufacturer with the jambs built for 2x6, the extra cost is minimal, something like $20 per window or door (maybe $50 for doors).

Insulation, well you can spend as little or as much as you want, but striking the balance between air infiltration and price is the center of most debates. R value is great in a lab, but in the real world, you need your doors and windows to shut tight and keep the walls from allowing wind in. Worthy's mention of an exterior foam board (taped at the seams) coupled with a blown in cellulose or fiberglass is a great economical choice.

He's also right about the interior walls, I should have done 2x6 there as well. You really can't insulate around the DWV pipes for sound in a 2x4 wall.

    Bookmark   March 31, 2010 at 8:59AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Im a gc, def. Go with the 2x6's. If you are building a house like this then i would assume a couple extra thousand dolkars is not going to make a difference for the extra structural integrity younwill get it will well be worth it. Like he said, order your doors and windows from the wholeseller and the cost differential will be minijal.as far as insulation goes there are to many opinions from experts all over the world to even give my opinion. Good luck to you

    Bookmark   February 6, 2011 at 2:14PM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
Doorstopper Dillema
We moved in about 2 weeks ago and are really happy....
homeowner's association
totally OT, but... would you, did you, or will you be...
After building....items you wish you would have thought of..
Hello, for those of you that built a house. After...
Using a contractor question
My husband and I are wanting to build a home. We sat...
Smart Homes Ideas
I am curious about the ideas that people are incorporating...
Sponsored Products
Rhodes Leatherette Dining Chair - Black
Zuri Furniture
Broadway Black 36-inch Wide Hanging Entryway Shelf
Bolla Bath Light - Three Lights
Signature Hardware
Kichler Loom Transitional Wall Sconce
LBL Lighting | Ashland Wall Sconce
$300.00 | YLighting
Long 37 Inch Wall-Mounted Sliding Rail In Chrome Finish
Resin Folded Mimosa Bedroom Wall Lights
Striped Pink Scallop Drum Shade 4x4x4.75 (Clip-On)
$25.91 | Lamps Plus
People viewed this after searching for:
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™