Load Path

A building’s load path starts at the roof and transfers vertically through the framing to the foundation. A simple load path example when trusses and studs line up with each other and bear directly on the foundation, as shown in the photo below.

24-inch-o.c. 2×6 studs lined up nicely with the load path of the trusses above.
24-inch-o.c. 2×6 studs lined up nicely with the load path of the trusses above.

Depending on the wind zone or other structural requirements, framing connectors may be needed to strengthen these aligned connections. Metal connectors, such as those shown in the image below, can may be required to help transfer loads when framing members do not perfectly align.

If the loads are not transferred properly, you end up with cracking of interior finishes or sagging framing. Many cracking problems due to “settling” are actually due to what is commonly referred to as “broken load paths” – paths that put loads on areas not meant to carry them. In seismic and high-wind zones, the consequences of broken load paths can result in complete devastation of the building. This is one of the most common framing errors and an area of concern that will likely be scrutinized by building code inspectors.

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