Tim­ber Fram­ing 101

Mod­ern de­sign meets tra­di­tional crafts­man­ship in to­day’s tim­ber frames.

Timber Home Living - - Contents -

Atim­ber home is a kind of house that uses a frame struc­ture of large posts and beams that are joined with pegs or by other types of dec­o­ra­tive join­ery. Al­most al­ways, the walls of the struc­ture are po­si­tioned on the out­side of the tim­ber frame, leav­ing the tim­bers ex­posed for vis­ual ef­fect.

Tim­ber fram­ing is strong, old and so well-es­tab­lished that they used to just call it build­ing. It forms the ba­sis of a build­ing that will last for hun­dreds of years. One of the big ad­van­tages of tim­ber-frame con­struc­tion is that it is so strong it doesn’t need load-bear­ing walls cut­ting through the mid­dle of the house, so you can de­sign the lay­out in any con­fig­u­ra­tion you want, in­clud­ing a to­tally open great room/din­ing room/kitchen/en­try. On the other hand, in open de­signs, the frame con­nects the vol­umes and brings them down to a more hu­man scale due to the warmth of the wood and the join­ery.

The skele­ton of tim­bers also can be cov­ered any way you want, so your tim­ber home can look like any other style of house and can fit in any­where.


Tim­ber frames are of­ten con­fused with, but are quite dif­fer­ent from log homes. The main dis­tinc­tion be­tween log homes and tim­ber homes is how they use the wood. As a re­sult, they achieve sharply dif­fer­ent looks. And be­cause tim­ber homes can use a va­ri­ety of ex­te­rior ma­te­ri­als hav­ing noth­ing to do with the in­side, they may not be rec­og­niz­able as tim­ber frame homes, whereas log homes are al­ways iden­ti­fied as such.

In gen­eral, log homes have a hor­i­zon­tal profile and tim­ber homes are ver­ti­cal. These ten­den­cies re­sult from the way to logs are laid and the frame is raised. See more about how tim­ber­frame homes are built in the “Build” sec­tion, be­gin­ning on page 36.


Be­yond the aes­thet­ics of ex­posed tim­ber and open floor plans, tim­ber struc­tures en­joy a dura­bil­ity un­matched by con­ven­tion­ally-built homes. They also pro­vide more struc­tural in­tegrity in the un­for­tu­nate event of fire dam­age, as the large tim­ber sup­ports are more re­sis­tant to burn­ing com­pletely through than the thin­ner cuts of wood that make up con­ven­tional build­ing struc­tures. Fi­nally, a tim­ber home af­fords the owner op­por­tu­nity to make a bold de­sign state­ment, as tim­bers come in a num­ber of sizes, shapes and col­ors. A tim­ber home can take on a ca­sual or rustic mountain style, an or­nate Vic­to­rian style, the more re­strained feel of a clas­sic New Eng­land home, or any style in be­tween.

Tim­ber homes are ver­sa­tile and — be­cause you can use any ex­te­rior ma­te­rial on a tim­ber frame — can look good in any set­ting.

ABOVE: Tim­ber homes are sturdy and strong, but the frames are raised quickly. LEFT: Tim­ber frames lend them­selves to open lay­outs, al­low­ing for un­lim­ited de­sign flex­i­bil­ity, cathe­dral ceil­ings and the op­tion to elim­i­nate load-bear­ing in­te­rior walls....

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