Ladder Framing Allows Better Insulation

Increase space for more insulation by reducing the amount of wood needed.

The framing for most homes is wood. The problem is that wood is not a very good insulator. So we use what are called "ladder panels" when we attach interior walls to exterior walls. This allows us to better insulate the home and use less wood during the framing process.

Reducing energy bills is important to everyone, especially during the winter. However, during cold months the house's protective heat shield is compromised because the spaces around framing joists are not insulated. These spaces can allow cold air to enter the home, which in turn will make the heating system work harder.

A procedure called ladder framing creates space for more insulation while reducing the amount of wood we need to frame the home. By using less wood but keeping the structural integrity of the frame, we are using what engineers call OVE, or optimal value engineering.

The best application of the ladder panel technique is when we connect an interior wall to an exterior wall. By using short lumber pieces and attaching them between the studs of the exterior wall, we provide a nailing surface to support the interior wall.

Here's how you do it:

  1. Start by cutting small blocks of 2" x 4" lumber. The blocks will fit between 16" or 24" on center studs with the wall studs in the bay.
  2. Nail the blocks in lengthwise. For an 8' wall we want to use three blocks; for a 10' foot wall, four blocks.
  3. To attach the interior wall, nail the first stud of the interior wall to the blocking pieces on the exterior wall.
  4. After attaching the interior wall frame, fill the space between the ladder framing with spray foam or batt insulation.

Your framing crews may be more familiar with the common method of connecting interior to exterior walls: by simply butting the interior stud wall to the exterior wall and nailing in. However, when we use the common method of connecting interior to exterior walls, we can't place insulation behind the studs. This is why ladder framing is a better framing technique.

Ladder framing allows more space for insulation. This added space stops cold air and helps create a protective heat shield for your home. And by using fewer wood studs in the stud bay, it keeps framing costs down.

Next Up

Installing Spray Foam Insulation to Boost Your Home's Air Quality and Energy Efficiency

Improve your home's energy efficiency with spray foam insulation. Learn about the difference between open-cell and closed-cell, the cost of spray foam insulation and whether it's a good DIY project.

Insulating Beneath the Basement Slab

Keep heat in and keep moisture out with an insulation layer under your home.

Installing Fiberglass Batt Insulation

Use these tips and techniques to ensure proper installation of fiberglass insulation.

Foam Sheathing on Exterior Walls

The best practice for increasing the R-value in exterior walls is to protect them with insulated foam sheathing.

Sealing Building Penetrations

Learning how to properly seal building penetrations will help reduce utility bills, prevent drafts and stop the infiltration of moisture.

SIPs: Structural Insulated Panels

Frames prove stronger and more energy efficient than conventional stud frames.

Air Sealing the Home Garage

Learn how to keep harmful fumes from spreading into your home with simple steps.

Insulated Concrete Forms

Insulated concrete forms (ICFs) offer several advantages: energy efficiency, safety and soundproofing.

House Wrap: Air Sealing and Protection From the Elements

Use house wrap when framing a home to block out moisture and unwanted air.

Attic Ventilation

Proper ventilation helps water vapor to exit the attic, helping to dry out existing moisture.

Go Shopping

Get product recommendations from HGTV editors, plus can’t-miss sales and deals.


Follow Us Everywhere

Join the party! Don't miss HGTV in your favorite social media feeds.