Frames: what are they?

by Joost Nusselder | Updated on:  June 11, 2022
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A frame is a support structure that holds something in place. This is often a window, but also a door or even pictures can be held in place by a frame.

It is typically made of wood, metal, or plastic, and it can be either interior or exterior. The frame must be strong enough to support the weight of the window and keep it from sagging or breaking. It also helps to insulate the window and keep out drafts.

Frames are everywhere in construction. From the frame of your house to the frame of your glasses, they’re everywhere! But what exactly is a frame in construction?

A frame in construction is a structural system that provides support for a building. Frames can be made of wood, steel, or concrete, and can be either braced or rigid. Frames can be used to support walls, floors, and roofs.

In this article, I’ll explain what a frame is and how it’s used in construction. I’ll also discuss the different types of frames and how they’re used.

What are frames

Types of Frame Structures: Beyond the Basics

Frame structures are generally classified into two types based on how they resist applied loads: ended frames and braced frames. Ended frames are those that have fixed or rigid connections at their ends, while braced frames are those that have diagonal bracing to resist lateral loads.

Differentiated by Shape and Components: Rigid, Fixed, Gabled, and Portal

Frame structures can also be differentiated based on their shape and components. Here are some examples:

  • Rigid frames: These are frames that have fixed connections at both ends and are generally used for large structures such as bridges.
  • Fixed frames: These are frames that have fixed connections at one end and a hinge connection at the other end. They are commonly used in house construction to support the weight of the roof.
  • Gabled frames: These are frames that have a triangular shape and are commonly used in house construction to support the roof.
  • Portal frames: These are frames that have a rectangular shape and are commonly used in industrial construction to support large openings.

Advantages of Combining Framed Structures

Frame structures can also be combined to create a struccore that has the advantages of both types. For example, a house can be constructed using a combination of braced and ended frames to create a structure that is both strong and resistant to lateral loads.

In summary, frame structures are a combination of beam, column, and slab components that are used to resist both lateral and gravity loads. They are subdivided into ended and braced frames and differentiated by their shape and components. By combining different types of frames, structures can be created that have the advantages of both.

The Evolution of Framing in Construction

Framing has been a critical part of construction for centuries. The ancient Neolithic period saw the use of timber frames in buildings, and the tradition continued through the Roman era. The carpenters of that time used markings and numerals to identify and assemble the timbers, a technique still used today. The topping ceremony, where the last timber is attached to the frame, was a religious occasion in some countries.

Materials and Techniques Used in Framing

The materials used in framing have varied throughout history and across different regions. In areas where pine was available, it was commonly used, while stone and clay were popular in other regions. Later, hardwoods like oak and red cedar became more commonly used. The techniques used in framing also varied, with different methods used in different countries and periods. Some of the most popular techniques include:

  • Balloon framing
  • Braced frame
  • Vernacular architecture
  • Tudor framing

Framing Across Different Climate Zones

Framing has historically been favoured in areas with deciduous hardwoods, which are prevalent in the northernmost areas of the world, including the Baltic and northern continental zones. In southern areas, where hardwoods are less common, framing was typically done using softwoods like pine. The climate and available materials have played a critical role in shaping the evolution of framing in construction.

The Art of Wall Framing in Construction

Wall members, such as studs and plates, are cut to length and placed in their proper positions. The edges of the members are then aligned to ensure that the wall is true and level.

Supports and Platforms

Wall framing provides support for the upper floors, ceiling, and roof. Platforms, such as joists and platforms, are used to support the weight of the upper floors and roof.

Sheathing and Covering

Once the wall framing is complete, sheathing, such as plywood, is added to provide lateral support and resist wind. Covering materials, such as drywall, are then added to finish the wall.

Bracing and Stiffness

Wall framing requires bracing to resist lateral forces, such as wind. Diagonal bracing is often used to provide stiffness to the wall.

Bearing Walls and Boxed Sections

Bearing walls are walls that support the weight of the structure above. Boxed sections are used to contain mechanical trades, such as plumbing and electrical.

Strength and Codes

Wall framing must meet building codes and jurisdictions to ensure its strength and safety. The strength of the wall framing depends on the type of wall and the materials used.

Braced Frame: The Backbone of Strong Buildings

A braced frame is a type of structural system commonly used in buildings that are subject to lateral loads, such as wind and seismic pressure. It consists of a set of interconnected elements made of structural steel that are arranged in a way to resist these forces. Braced frames are designed to carry and distribute these forces from the upper levels of a building to the ground, ensuring the building remains stable and safe.

How Does a Braced Frame Work?

The primary function of a braced frame is to resist lateral forces that affect a building. These forces can be caused by wind, seismic activity, or other external factors. Braced frames work by carrying these forces down to the ground through a series of steel elements that are arranged in a specific way. The steel elements are designed to work effectively in both tension and compression, which enables them to carry the forces equally.

What Influence Does Bracing Have on Building Design?

Bracing is an important aspect of building design that can affect the way a building looks and functions. Some of the ways bracing can affect building design include:

  • The shape and form of the building
  • The location of the bracing elements
  • The type of materials used for the bracing elements
  • The way the bracing elements are connected to the primary force-carrying elements
  • The level of additional thickness and strength needed for the building’s structure

Balloon Framing: A Revolutionary Method in Construction

Balloon framing is a popular method of framing in construction that began in the mid-1800s. It is a predecessor to the modern platform framing method and is commonly used today for smaller buildings. Unlike platform framing, balloon framing consists of continuous studs that extend the full height of the building, typically two stories, from foundation plate to rafter plate. This allows for a more complex and massive structure to be built using smaller pieces of lumber.

The Advantages and Disadvantages of Balloon Framing


  • Balloon framing allows for a great deal of flexibility in the design of a building, depending on the skills of the builder.
  • It allows for the incorporation of massive timbers, which can bring a sense of history and grandeur to a building.
  • Balloon framing is typically less time-consuming and less intensive than platform framing, which can save on costs.


  • Balloon framing requires a vast amount of lumber, which can be difficult to find and costly.
  • The continuous studs can allow for the negative flow of fire, making it a less safe method of construction compared to platform framing.
  • Balloon framing is not commonly used today due to the depletion of virgin forests in America, making it harder to find the massive timbers required for this method.

Building Materials: The Backbone of Frame Construction

Wood is the most commonly used material in frame construction. It is a natural product that is readily available and easy to work with. The most commonly used types of wood in frame construction include pine, poplar, red and rosewood. The thickness of the wood used in frame construction typically ranges from 2 to 4 inches. Wood is cut into pieces called sticks, which are then connected to form the frame of the building.

Steel: A Strong and Durable Material for Frame Construction

Steel is another material commonly used in frame construction. It is a strong and durable material that is able to resist the effects of time and weather. Steel is typically used in buildings that require a higher level of strength and support. It is commonly used in the construction of commercial buildings and large industrial structures.

Glue and Drying Techniques: Key to Strong Frame Construction

In frame construction, the use of glue and drying techniques is key to creating a strong and durable frame. Glue is applied to the edges of the wood or metal pieces to prevent them from moving or shifting. Drying techniques are used to ensure that the glue is fully dried before the pieces are connected. The shoulder and block methods are commonly used to position and cut the pieces of wood or metal.

Horizontal and Vertical Supports: Increasing the Strength of Frame Construction

Horizontal and vertical supports are used to increase the strength of frame construction. Horizontal supports are typically placed at the upper and lower levels of the building, while vertical supports are placed at the center of the building. The number of supports used in frame construction will vary depending on the size and design of the building.

Finishes: Adding the Final Touch to Frame Construction

Finishes are used to add the final touch to frame construction. They include a range of products such as paint, polish, and other coatings that are applied to the surface of the frame. Finishes can be used to prevent the wood or metal from deteriorating over time and to improve the overall appearance of the building.

Combined Materials: Using Different Materials to Improve Frame Construction

In some cases, different materials are combined to improve the performance of frame construction. For example, wood and steel can be combined to create a frame that is both strong and durable. The use of combined materials can also influence the service life of the building and its overall performance.

Wooden window frames

You use wooden frames in your home and wooden frames must be maintained regularly.

When you are going to build a house, you have to make choices in advance.

Which stone you want, which roof tiles and which frames you choose.

You can choose from plastic frames, aluminum frames and wooden frames.

You will certainly look at the price and you will see that wooden frames are more expensive than plastic frames.

Aluminum windows are the most expensive.

You can then make your choice based on a price.

What also counts, of course, is the appearance.

Wooden frames give your home a warm look and add value.

In addition, they are easier to work with and have a long service life.

Personally, I opt for a hard wooden frame.

This is because this is much stronger wood and resistant to weather influences.

Well-known varieties are merbau and meranti.

A different type of wood is usually used for indoors.

After all, these windows are not dependent on the weather.

Spruce and pine wood is often used for indoors.

Making a choice is always personal.

It’s the addition of pluses and minuses.

If you are handy, the choice is quickly made.

Wooden frames which paint system do you choose

If you would like to continue to see the structure of the wood, choose a transparent lacquer or stain.

If you want to put a color on it, you will do this with a paint based on turpentine.

I am now talking about the outside of the window frames.

Use acrylic paint for the inside.

You have to realize that wooden frames need regular maintenance.

You should assume that every 6 to 7 years you have to paint a new coat of paint over it.

With this you optimally maintain the condition of the frames.

If you are going to use stain, you will have to do this every three or four years.

In addition, it is very important that you clean your wooden windows twice a year with an all-purpose cleaner.

If you do this regularly you will see that your periodic painting can be postponed.

So you need less maintenance.

It is also important that you carry out an inspection every year.

That means that every year you walk around your house and write down the defects.

These can be cracks or tears.

You often see this in the corners of the window frames.

Then solve this immediately by applying acrylic sealant so that no water can get in.

After all, you can paint over acrylic sealant.

If you cannot do this yourself, have a painter do this work.

If you always carry out these two aforementioned points, you will see that your paintwork remains in top condition!


So, that’s how a frame in construction works. Frames can be used to support the building’s walls or roof, or just the walls, and they’re used in both industrial and residential construction. Now you know all the ins and outs of frames, so go ahead and use that knowledge wisely.

I'm Joost Nusselder, the founder of Tools Doctor, content marketer, and dad. I love trying out new equipment, and together with my team I've been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with tools & crafting tips.