I've been framing custom homes for more than 25 years, and I've learned that a well-planned layout is the key to an efficient job. Errors are bound to occur: Clients are unpredictable, general contractors can forget to relay important details, framers are always in a hurry, and plans are often inconsistent. A job hindered by mistakes and changes goes slow, costs money, and becomes discouraging for everyone involved. But with a little planning and a well-detailed layout, I can often avoid these problems by following these layout rules.

I don't just roll up to a site, pull out a crisp set of unread plans, and pound away. Before I get to the site, I thoroughly review the plans and mentally put the frame together. I study the roof frame first to determine my stud heights. I check the interior ceiling elevations, looking for any balloon frames and rake walls. I find all the beams...

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