Using conventional light framing construction techniques, what is the maximum height of a wood framed building (in floors above grade)?

I'm looking for any limitations in current building code, and actual limits based on the strength of the building material.

  • Well, a building four stories tall uses heavier lumber in the lower floors than a one story home does. Do you have a limitation on how heavy the lumber can be? – wallyk Aug 28 '13 at 19:01
  • @wallyk "Using conventional wood framing construction techniques". – Tester101 Aug 28 '13 at 19:03
  • Yep, got that. Conventional techniques cover building multistory wood frame structures, unless you really mean "conventional two story techniques". – wallyk Aug 28 '13 at 19:07
  • @wallyk I'm not sure I understand what you're asking. Obviously if you framed a wall with 2x4s 1 1/2" o.c., you could build a strong wall. Though I'd hardly call that "conventional". – Tester101 Aug 28 '13 at 19:26
  • do you mean 'light framing'? Timber framed structures can be quite tall (see: Japan). But light framing has limitations. – DA01 Aug 28 '13 at 19:26

There are probably various limitations per region and per type of code. It also depends on what we mean by 'conventional' framing.

For stick framing (platform) it appears the limit is 5 stories primarily due to fire code:

Residential Stick Framed Building Size Codes


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  • Also, from a historical perspective, before metal structures were possible, the limit seemed to be 5 stories. – Edwin Aug 28 '13 at 20:18
  • @Edwin I believe the Japanese built taller structures out of wood. And of course, we've built tall structures too (towers, train tressles, etc.) But for stick-framing (which is relatively modern) I does appear that 5 stories has been a defacto limit for a while. – DA01 Aug 28 '13 at 20:28
  • @Edwin concrete has been used for a couple thousand years and some buildings were much more than 5 stories. – DMoore Aug 28 '13 at 20:49
  • @dmoore Yes, but we aren't talking about masonry structures. See construction.about.com/b/2013/05/06/… – Edwin Aug 28 '13 at 22:59

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