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Friday, November 22, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Ask The Builder: Building or adding on? You need to consider factory-built walls

All of the exterior and interior walls of this house were made in a factory. The precision is remarkable. (Tim Carter)
All of the exterior and interior walls of this house were made in a factory. The precision is remarkable. (Tim Carter)
By Tim Carter Tribune Content Agency

Q. A new house is being built near me using wood walls made in a factory. I was astonished that the house was under roof in just two days. What’s better, walls built on the job site by carpenters or those built in a factory? Can you get walls like this for a room addition or a separate outbuilding like a garage? Where do you find the places to order these things? – Steve B., Akron, Ohio

A. It’s not unusual to pass a huge tractor trailer on the highway that’s loaded with prefabricated walls. These walls make it possible to build houses in hours instead of days. And, yes, prefabricated walls, both interior and exterior, can be used on your next project.

Back when I was building, I didn’t have the opportunity to use these magical building components, but they’re being used to construct my daughter’s new home right now. I witnessed the exterior walls of her home be set and secured in just a few hours. A standard carpentry crew could never achieve this task in the same amount of time cutting studs and headers and pounding nails at the job site.

The prefabricated wall panels go together like giant Lego blocks. They’re perfectly square from the factory, and the precision is astounding. My daughter’s home was 44 feet long and the dimension was only off 1/16 inch. It’s possible that error was in my tape measure, not the wall panels!

There are countless advantages to using prefabricated wall panels. The walls are built in an enclosed factory, so the material stays dry. High-tech computer programs are used to create the layouts and assist with the cutting of the material. Nails are driven exactly as engineering specifications call out. The walls can be delivered to the job site in the morning, and the walls set by the end of the day.

The factory generates a plan for the carpenters in the field to set the panels. The panels arrive in stacks, so the panels only need to be pulled off the pile and put into position. The carpenters don’t have to scratch their heads trying to find a panel. They’re erected in the reverse order that they were stacked on the delivery truck.

Builders and remodeling contractors are having increasing difficulty locating and hiring carpenters who treat what they do as a vocation instead of a job. If quality is important to you, then you’ll do whatever possible to have prefabricated wall panels on your job.

The builder of my daughter’s home had only dealt with prefabricated panels on one previous job when he was a carpenter. After setting all of the exterior and interior walls that make up my daughter’s two-story home in just a few days, he told me that he’ll never again stick build a house again. He was astonished at the amount of time the panels saved him.

Odds are any factory that makes these panels will gladly do smaller jobs for garages or room additions. You can find out for yourself by visiting a new website I discovered back in the fall:

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