What’s a Tim­ber Frame?

Tim­ber homes are known for their strength and beauty. But what else do they of­fer? Find out here.

Timber Home Living - - Annual Buyer's Guide -

Ask any tim­ber home owner what’s so spe­cial about liv­ing in a tim­ber frame and you’re bound to get a dif­fer­ent answer each and ev­ery time. From the awe-in­spir­ing de­sign op­tions to the close-to-na­ture feel that seems to ooze from these beau­ti­fully hand­crafted homes, it’s hard to pin­point what makes them so spe­cial.

To start, the con­struc­tion method of tim­ber fram­ing has been around for cen­turies. A sym­bol of history and strength, tim­ber fram­ing tech­niques date back to Ne­olithic times, and since then have been used in many ar­eas of the world, in­clud­ing Ja­pan, Den­mark, Eng­land, France, Ger­many, Scot­land and the United States.

They also have been used to con­struct build­ings and homes dur­ing dif­fer­ent time periods in history. For ex­am­ple, while an­cient civ­i­liza­tions like Egypt and Rome used mostly stone to build, they also used tim­ber fram­ing meth­ods for many of their roof sys­tems. Today, you can still visit 12th- and 13th-cen­tury Euro­pean churches to see some of the world’s old­est ex­am­ples of tim­ber fram­ing. In the United States, English set­tlers in Vir­ginia used the land’s nat­u­ral abun­dance of tim­ber to raise a va­ri­ety of build­ings within the walls of Jamestown in the early 1600s.


Since the 1970s, tim­ber fram­ing has be­come in­creas­ingly pop­u­lar in the world of cus­tom wood homes, and it stands to rea­son — tim­ber homes of­fer the best of both worlds. Out­side, they usu­ally re­sem­ble more con­ven­tional homes. In­side, how­ever, they ex­pose art­fully crafted tim­ber posts and beams and thought-out join­ery, tra­di­tion­ally se­cured by wooden pegs, to cre­ate dra­matic in­te­rior spa­ces, of­ten punc­tu­ated with lofty trusses. This tim­ber frame pro­vides not only the struc­ture for the

home, but also sup­ports the weight of the roof by trans­fer­ring the load to the frame’s prin­ci­pal posts and the home’s foun­da­tion.

Other ben­e­fits in­clude:

En­ergy Ef­fi­ciency. De­spite their link to tra­di­tion, today’s tim­ber homes have taken the lead in en­ergy ef­fi­ciency. “When I meet with new clients, I typ­i­cally de­scribe a tim­ber frame as the vis­i­ble skele­ton of a build­ing. I ask them to visu­al­ize a 12-foot-long wall; with con­ven­tional con­struc­tion that wall has ten 2-by-6 studs, each act­ing as a small post. The in­su­la­tion is then in­cor­po­rated be­tween each of the struc­tural mem­bers, al­low­ing for ther­mal bridg­ing at each stud and low­er­ing the cu­mu­la­tive R-value of the wall,” ex­plains Jeremy Bonin, prin­ci­pal ar­chi­tect and owner of Bonin Ar­chi­tects. “In a tim­ber home, on the other hand, large SIPs (struc­tural in­su­lated pan­els) are ap­plied to the ex­te­rior of the frame, al­most elim­i­nat­ing ther­mal bridg­ing and pro­vid­ing a more air­tight struc­ture.”

Be­cause tim­ber struc­tures are wrapped from the ex­te­rior with su­per in­su­lated walls and roof pan­els, you not only get to en­joy the beauty of the struc­ture in­side the home, but you can achieve some of the best en­ergy ef­fi­cient-rated walls in the build­ing in­dus­try. (Tim­ber homes can re­al­ize as much as 35 per­cent in en­ergy sav­ings with the su­per in­su­lated en­clo­sures used com­pared to stan­dard stick-built con­struc­tion.)

De­sign Ben­e­fits. Tim­ber homes boast a num­ber of inherent ben­e­fits, but it’s the beauty of the tim­ber beams and the end­less amount of awe-in­spir­ing de­sign op­tions and ad­van­tages that turn po­ten­tial home­own­ers cu­ri­ous about the style into full-blown tim­ber devo­tees.

Adapt­abil­ity. When most peo­ple en­vi­sion a tim­ber home, they think of large ex­panses of wood and sprawl-

ing, barn-style ceil­ings. But to many peo­ple’s sur­prise, tim­ber homes can be built to suit any look or life­style. From mod­ern to rus­tic, cozy to el­e­gant, the op­tions truly are end­less.

Size Op­tions. Tim­ber fram­ing gives you the op­por­tu­nity to have as open or as in­ti­mate of an in­te­rior vol­ume as your de­sign sug­gests. In the case of more scaled-down de­signs, the beauty of the frame will draw eyes up­ward, mak­ing a more hum­ble home feel larger. 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.

Open Lay­outs. One of the most sought-af­ter de­sign at­tributes in mod­ern homes, a wide-open floor plan, goes hand-in-hand with the tim­ber-frame style. Be­cause of the way the frame is con­structed, the home’s outer shell rests com­fort­ably on the home’s frame, lend­ing it­self to an open-con­cept de­sign that’s ca­sual and in­for­mal, yet visu­ally im­pres­sive. Plus, less-struc­tured lay­outs mean you’ll be able to mod­ify your home’s in­te­rior liv­ing spa­ces as your life­style and needs change.

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