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I moved from Europe to the USA(OH). I noticed a couple of things that worry me. Every house in the US that I entered makes cracking or squeaking noise. I never experienced this in Europe buildings. I just need reassurance this is normal and safe. I'm not trying to judge or say something is better or worse.

Last night we had high winds and the whole house was making this noise. The roof is made of wooden rafters. Something like this:

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or

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The wooden beams look much thinner compared to the ones used in Europe, see img below: enter image description here

The house will end up looking something like this:

enter image description here

I actuallly lived in a house that looked similar to this one below:

enter image description here

I never experienced this house making any noise, wasn't even able to hear the wind outside.

My question is: Is it normal that the houses constantly make cracking noises when temperature changes or winds are present. Is there anything I can do to fix this issue? Is it safe and can these wooden framed houses withstand high winds, tornados? Especially the roof? The funny thing is that the house I live in now is pretty old(1945) the only thing that is between the roof studs and second floor is drywall. If a tornado rips the roof the drywall would fly away like paper. The house doesn't have a basement so I can't hide anywhere. Why there is no more demand from the public to build houses that don't make cracking and squeaking noise?

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    FYI, "studs" are always vertical, and always part of a wall. Horizontal floor and ceiling members are "joists" and/or "truss chords", respectively. – isherwood Mar 1 '17 at 15:53
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    @JimStewart I'm not sure where you get your information about Europe, but it's not very accurate. We certainly have (small) tornadoes, and sometimes 100-mph winds, in the UK. But the only wood-framed houses are likely to have been built around the time of Columbus, and if they have survived since then they probably aren't going to collapse in the next storm! The basic reason we stopped building wood houses (centuries ago) was the lack of wood. There's no sense importing wood from outside Europe just to build houses, when you can easily use locally produced bricks instead. – alephzero Mar 1 '17 at 19:07
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    For what it's worth, the roof in 'European' picture looks really flimsy compared to how roofs are built in my area but that's probably related to the snow load. Generally roofs in my region would be built with 2 X 10s or 2 X 12s 16 inches on center. The euro-roof you show appears to have much wider spacing than the stick frames in your other pics. It's not just how large the boards and timbers are that matters, it's how far apart they are. For example, a house built with 2X6 studs can have more spacing between them than a house with 2X4 studs. – JimmyJames Mar 1 '17 at 19:26
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    The average newly built UK house looks like this: dailyrecord.co.uk/business/business-news/… - Barratt build them by the thousands. Timber framing is much less common (25% of new build according to theguardian.com/business/2012/nov/12/… ). Timber really is more expensive than brick. UK house prices are mostly determined by land cost and financing rather than actual construction; many new expensive apartments have flimsy plasterboard and inadequate soundproofing. – pjc50 Mar 2 '17 at 0:04
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    (The UK went down to about 5% tree cover in the early 1800s and only since WW2 has mass planting of conifers brought this back up. Structural grade timber is expensive, only pine and wood products like OSB and MDF are cheap) – pjc50 Mar 2 '17 at 0:15
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Roof construction varies depending on where you live. In the north you need to build to contend with a heavy snow load so roof trusses are more numerous and stronger. Sothern climes, not so much. Further, the roof cladding makes a difference. Many roofs in Europe are covered with tile or slate, which is heavy and needs the extra support.

All buildings will creak and groan to some extent in the wind even steel high-rises. Though you may not notice in stronger buildings.

As for tornadoes.... If the roof blows off.. the drywall wont matter.

In some cases, wood frame is actually better than say brick. A wood frame house will creak and groan and bend, but except in the strongest wind, will not, if constructed correctly, catastrophically fail like a brick or cinder build building. In hurricane areas you will often find the timber frame buildings still standing surrounded by piles of rubble. Same goes for earthquake regions.

One more thing though. Creaking and growning is ok... Banging is not and is an indication that a roof panel has come away from its fastening and should be corrected immediately.

  • Thanks, what are the chance the roof could blow off? Did it ever happen? Why doesn't the attic have floor to serve as an extra protective layer? – Grasper Mar 1 '17 at 15:42
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    Trust me.. if your house gets hit with a tornado you are screwed no matter how it's built. – Trevor_G Mar 1 '17 at 15:44
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    Fortunately, the probability of being hit by a tornado are small. "A second opinion according to BookOfOdds.com "those odds [of being hit by a tornado] are 1 in 4,513,000. It is more likely a person will die from a fall off a cliff-1 in 4,101,000-or will be diagnosed with leprosy-1 in 2,930,000."".. SO stay away from cliffs and lepers and you will be fine. – Trevor_G Mar 1 '17 at 15:46
  • Also, a tornado is not a tornado. They vary vastly in structure and strength. Many modern homes would survive F0 or F1 tornadoes with mostly aesthetic damage. Truss hold-down clips are becoming more common. – isherwood Mar 1 '17 at 15:51
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    Twelve or so years ago my sister bought a new 1500 sq ft house in a one-street tract development just outside the city limits of Gulfport MS. These 'smaller' houses were built by a quality builder who had been building larger ones. Her house was 2x4 stud wood frame with brick veneer, and was absolutely solid by MS hurricane code standards. She stayed in the house as Hurricane Katrina passed through snug as could be and lost 1/2 sq of shingles. I visited her many times and I never heard a creak. She recently sold the house in perfect condition for ca $140k. – Jim Stewart Mar 1 '17 at 16:34
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In a word--money. Wood frame stud construction has been the norm in the US for mass housing for a long time, and I am given to understand that newer houses in the UK are being built this way. It is much cheaper than the heavy timber and 'stone built' constructions which have been the standard construction techniques in Europe for centuries. Stud wall construction can be constructed by carpenters of varying skill levels, whereas traditional European techniques require the abilities of skilled craftsmen.

From what I hear most people of modest means in Europe do not 'own' a fully-detached house or even a semi-detached one (in the US one half of a duplex). Home ownership is seemingly more important in the US and to achieve this cheaper construction was called for.

Roof construction is either 'stick-built' or trusses or a combination. Trusses are even more parsimonious with material than stick-built, but can be even more creaky than stick-built.

Edit Roof construction is 'stick built' or trusses or a combination.

On my bike ride today I looked at a house under construction in a neighborhood we could have bought in 39 years ago. There was a rail track right behind the house we looked at with freight trains going through at all hours; we passed. This was a tract development of light duty single story houses <2500 sq ft on 16,000 sq ft lots. Ten years after we looked, the rail line was taken out and it is now slated for a bike path.

The original houses (~ $65k in 1978) are now going for $500k to $600k for the lots. The new houses are two-story >6000 sq ft well designed and constructed. The permit on the house I looked today stated value of the construction $554k for 6400 sq ft. The outside studs were 2x6 and the walls were fully sheathed in OSB. High ceilings and a tremendous amount of 2 x lumber. Roof stick built with ridge beam and collar ties every other rafter. Demonstration panel indicates cladding will be a mixture of brick and stainless steel (scratches show shiny metal) panels with a grey finish. Roof will be standing-seam metal. There is a lot of quality construction in the US today.

Edit more In looking at this 6400 sq ft house yesterday I saw a lot of joist hangers, but I did not see what are sometimes called 'hurricane ties' (metal strapping tying roof rafters to wall studs. I am sure this is not required by our local code, but it would seem to be a sensible enhancement to a stud wall structure.

Twelve years ago I talked to guy who was having a new house constructed in a 'boom town' suburb north of Dallas proper. He wanted his builder to add Simpson Strong Tie connectors, but the builder resisted saying it would greatly increase the cost, complicate construction, was not in the contract . . . The owner persisted and himself purchased all the connectors he wanted. The builder grumbled but installed them, and in the end the builder said it wasn't that much extra work.

  • Koodos for "parsimonious".. I had to look THAT one up :) – Trevor_G Mar 1 '17 at 15:40
  • I always hear the word "money" which surprises me because eastern Europeans don't seem to have them much and still build houses from concrete blocks. – Grasper Mar 1 '17 at 15:44
  • Maybe you meant "within the category of roof construction" in the final paragraph. I haven't heard of truss walls. Or maybe you meant something else altogether with that sentence. At any rate, it could use fixin'. – isherwood Mar 1 '17 at 15:49
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    It's also about availability and transportation costs though. In many regions of North America, suitable stone for building simply is not readily available locally and is cost prohibitive to transport. Timber on the other hand is more available, is renewable, and is relatively cheap to ship. – Trevor_G Mar 1 '17 at 15:50
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    Note that the USA has 1/3 the population density of the EU. There is a lot of wilderness and/or places to grow trees in the USA. If you take North America as a whole, the ratio gets even more extreme (Canada is larger than the USA, and 1/10th the population). There is lots of places to grow wood in the USA; less so in Europe. – Yakk Mar 1 '17 at 16:26

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