Balloon Framing

Many homes built before1930 used balloon framing. Balloon framed houses require temporary support headers called whalers when making alterations that affect more than one stud in a load-bearing wall.

For instance, say you plan on making an opening for an archway or window on a ground floor exterior (load bearing) wall. The whaler would be anchored to the wall studs above the planned rough opening, and extend at least 20-inches beyond each side of the opening. It would be supported with wall studs and bracing that would run adjacent to the rough opening.

To accomplish this, you would follow the directions below:

  1. Mark the area for the rough opening; remove wall surfaces around the rough opening, from floor to ceiling.
  2. Using a 2X8 long enough to extend beyond the planned opening; center the whaler against the wall studs, flush with the ceiling. Tack in place using 2-inch wallboard (flattop) screws.
  3. Cut two lengths of 2X4 to fit snuggly between the bottom of the whaler and the floor.
  4. Slide the 2X4s into position at the ends of the whaler; carefully tap until the 2X4 and whaler surfaces are flush and the 2X4s vertically straight. Attach using nailing plates and 3-inch nails.
  5. Use a drill with a 3/16-inch bit to drill two holes through the whaler and into each stud it spans; secure the whaler using 3/8 X 4-inch lag screws with a washer.
  6. Using a hammer, carefully tap tapered shims into place between the bottom of each temporary 2X4 support and the floor.
To make changes to an interior load-bearing wall on a balloon framed house, or one located on an upper floor, confer with a professional contractor. Have the contractor assess the wall before suggesting the best placement and type off temporary support for your project needs.

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