What is Timber Frame?

Timber frame is a centuries-old craft using heavy timbers combined with the best traditional joinery techniques and wooden pegs to create a home unlike any other.

These unique, handcrafted structures came into use centuries ago, beginning in Asia. The building method was widely used in Northern Europe before being brought to America by the settlers, where the oldest timber frame structure in the U.S. was built in 1637.

Japanese Style Timber Frame

Though timber framing was used centuries ago, modern design and materials have made it once again a popular way to build. Today, you can see evidence of beautiful timber frame buildings across the world, including these examples of our recent trip to China and Japan.

Timber frame is a specialized traditional method of timber post and beam that is built like furniture, using traditional wood joinery such as mortise and tenon, held in place with wooden pegs or trunnels.

A joint is formed by creating two parts, a “tenon,” or tongue that extends from the beam (the horizontal timber) to fit into the “mortise,” a form-fitting cut into the post (the vertical timber) designed to precisely fit the tenon.

For added strength, builders used “trunnels” (tree nails or dowels) to reinforce the joint. Modern timber frame construction still uses these pegs for the main construction. Although used selectively, a variety of highly specialized modern metal fasteners may be used for some aspects of the construction.

Japanese Style Timber Frame

In addition, timber braces are used to provide structural support to the timber frame. As a result, one timber runs continuously from floor to ridge, providing vertical and lateral support to the building. The timber frame’s components are pre-cut in a shop environment, assembled in sections on-site, and then raised into place using various kinds of specialized equipment from gin poles to modern cranes.

Post and beam construction used for some barns and other agricultural buildings is a variation of timber framing. Instead of complex joinery and wooden pegs connecting the timbers, posts and beams are butted together and fastened using metal brackets, spikes and screws. The posts and beams are assembled one at a time.

Depending on the structural requirements and use of the living space, timber frame construction can span long distances without support posts. Curved or straight bracing and pegs provide structural integrity as well as an appealing aesthetic.

Since there are typically no interior load-bearing walls, floor plans of these homes can be very open and are easily altered as your needs for space change. Remember, timber frame is a method of construction and can be used to achieve most any architectural style. Open floor plans, high vaulted ceilings, and large expanses of glass are readily achievable.

The main characteristic of timber framing is that the structural components remain exposed in your home, allowing the beauty of these natural materials and rich architectural features to reflect a breathtakingly warm home or structure unsurpassed in appearance, strength, longevity, comfort, and quality.

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