What is A Better Wall for Florida?

There are two structural methods that use to build the house in most of Florida’s residential exteriors. The two methods are engineered to frame wood construction and concrete block construction or CMU (concrete masonry unit).

Engineered Wood Frame Construction

Usually, the exterior wall is constructed with 2×4 or 2×6 dimensional lumber. The space of lumber member is between 12″ and 16″ on the center and is determined by the engineer using required building codes. The frame is hooked from the bottom of the frame at the slab to the top of the frame. The frame stays on a pressure treated 2×4 on top of a weather barrier that sits on the concrete slab itself. The engineers design a new home for wind loads, sheer value, uplift, and hold down protection. Hardware like Rods, cable, clips, and other materials are incorporated into the design.

Another part of the designs are patterns and use of fasteners and nail spacing. Both method wood frame and CMU construction, use the same wood roof trusses/ rafters, sheeting and interior lumber walls. With CMU homes, the second floor usually built in wood frame for cost savings. The outside of the walls has OSB or plywood as sheeting with a certain nailing pattern applied to penetrate the wood studs for maximum strength and rigidity.

Concrete Block Construction (CMU)

The cement blocks used for construction are CMU made from a mold in a factory. Basically, the house exterior wall made from CMU measure 8″x8″x16″ and is 80% hollow. It laid on top of the slab in an interlocking staggered method and the walls raised to its desired height. The mortar is the one that holds each block in place. When the wall made of CMU is constructed, a few of the hollow block cells are filled with concrete in the cells that hold vertical rebar.

The above of the wall consists of a “poured in place” concrete lintel that ties everything together. All the people are in wonder why Florida has a combination of both wood frame and concrete block home. Some part of Florida namely northern part panhandle and some central part are mainly built in wood frame. Generally, the other part of the state is built with CMU homes.

However, the majority of homes with a second floor are constructed out of engineered wood frame construction. Whatever method that may use is acceptable because both methods meet all current building codes. That require the structure to withstand 120mph winds. Most homeowners prefer CMU because they think they will be safer in a hurricane. The exterior frame in a CMU home is more durable than a wood frame home. Because a CMU home might leave some exterior wall still standing after a hurricane. It does not mean the home will not be missing a roof, windows, and doors, rendering it a total loss.

Likewise, it is a better idea for all of us is to leave town if a “Cat 4” hurricane with winds over 131mph is about to strike. And let our homeowner insurance folks sort out the details later.