A Two Inch Difference (2x4s versus 2x6s)

As the blueprints from the architectural drawings are coming to life on the ground before you, there are many choices to be made about your future home. Very early on in the framing conversations it has to be decided whether to use 2 x 4inch lumber or 2 x 6inch lumber.

Initially, the reaction may be to simply assume that 2 x4 is the most practical and well known and therefore the best; however, this notion is simply not a holistic picture. 2 x4s have been the standard in housing for years, but along with many aspects of the construction industry, technology and knowledge has advanced those standards. Today, it’s encouraged to at least consider using the 2 x 6 inch boards for the framing of homes.

But why have the extra space in the walls?

The extra space allows for a greater amount of insulation on exterior walls, leading to less impact from weather variables and a more consistent interior temperature and climate. This helps to reduce electrical and gas expenses spent on heating and cooling, which overall reduces your environmental footprint. Today, electric companies are offering rewards for builders who adhere to a higher set of more energy efficient, greener standards. Among these standards is the use of 2 x 6 inch lumber, in place of the 2 x 4s.

Additionally, the larger boards provide a thicker and sturdier support system for the house. The North Carolina building code allows for the spacing between the 2 x 6 inch boards to be upgraded to 24 inches, rather than the 16inch spacing used with 2 x 4s. This allows for more room to install electrical, duct work, plumbing fixtures and other needed items, without comprising the soundness of the structure.

On a community awareness level, it’s possible that 2 x 6s can assist in providing a damper for exterior noise. Especially when building on a busy road or developing area, a quieter interior can make all the difference.

Why isn’t everyone using 2 x 6inch boards?

Without a doubt, there is a cost component to using the 2 x 6inch framing. The lumber costs increases as well as the need to order special windows and door frames (to meet the 6 inch width, verses the standard 4 inch width). As well as these costs, there also will be the additional insulation that is needed to fill the space. Some of the costs will be offset by the lowered heating/cooling costs that the house will see, due to the added insulation.

Another point to note is the loss of interior space. Houses and square footage are measured using the exterior walls, not interior. Therefore rooms will an exterior wall will lose 2 inches of interior room, per an exterior wall.

Ultimately, it is encouraged that you clearly evaluate all options and speak with your contractor about what is best for your situation and your future home. Factors like budget, environmental conditions, and personal preferences make each case unique and therefore does not give a clear answer to all scenarios.