When I'm arranging dimensional lumber in a frame there are three basic arrangements I can make. Is there a standard for using these arrangements?

Below is an image of a CAD design of 2x4 dimensional lumber in 3 arrangements.

Three differently arranged frames

  1. Having the long ends overlap - Supports vertical forces like house frames.
  2. Having the short ends overlap - Any benefit to this? it seems weak compared to 1.
  3. Having each side overlap once in a spiral - Square frames have each board cut to equal length.
  • 2
    Can you provide some context for your question? How will this frame be used? Is it decorative or structural? Are you limiting the possibilities to butt joints, or are you open to miter, lap, bridal, etc. joints?
    – Caleb
    Commented May 13, 2022 at 16:33
  • This answer definitely needs more context. Please edit. Commented May 13, 2022 at 19:13
  • I've exclusively used the first option but recently saw someone use the third option. Nobody I've talked to has further ideas than what I mentioned and I know so little of the terminology that I didn't get any great search results. Long story short, I'm building a bench and need an underside frame. But I mostly asked the question out of curiosity. Commented May 14, 2022 at 2:07
  • is this for under seat of bench? Probably no difference which arrangement is used. Will you use screws or nails to assemble?
    – Volfram K
    Commented May 14, 2022 at 7:12
  • @VolframK, Screws. Though I haven't really thought of it thoroughly,. Commented May 15, 2022 at 1:56

1 Answer 1


There are probably standard framing practices (note the s) taught formally as well as good handed-down working practices all over the world, with far less consistency than one might expect.

When I'm arranging dimensional lumber in a frame there are three basic arrangements I can make. Is there a standard for using these arrangements?

It's not as simple as this but in terms of basic principles orientation matters — in general you want wood to support wood rather than for fasteners to do the job.

So, your 1 for long side up, 2 for short side up, and 3 perhaps never LOL (although it would be fine laid flat obviously).

But #1: external fixturing changes everything; with metal fastener plates it is now normal practice to totally ignore this basic principle, simplest example is probably joist hangers.

But #2: assuming glue and screws/nails only with no external metal fixtures other construction details matter hugely; there's obviously actual joinery options to consider first, but also modern construction practices such a stressed-skin construction. With stressed-skin construction (think torsion box) you can essentially break all the rules of framing — you can orient framing members the 'wrong' way and even gaps don't matter (!) because the plywood/OSB skin does so much of the work.

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