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All About: Timber Frame

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Article:

A timber frame is a post and beam structure that incorporates a centuries old building technique – locking together solid timbers with traditional joints secured with hardwood pegs. The artistically crafted timber frame creates the skeleton of the building (which includes posts, beams, timber rafters, ceiling joists, diagonal braces etc.) which is fully exposed to the interior of the home. Since there are typically no load bearing walls, homes often have open floor plans, dramatic vaulted ceilings and window walls incorporated into their design.


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Timber frame construction is a sustainable form of construction where the use of metal, including nails, is normally not practiced. Each building frame is a distinctive wooden sculpture composed of interlocking large wooden beams that make use of wooden pegs.  Part of its inner beauty is its entirely visible interior. When the frame of the house is put together the only element that is holding the entire structure together is wood. The wooden pegs and timbers expand and contract harmoniously in weather and time to create a long-lasting and powerful bond.


Timber frame homes provide an owner with the rich beauty of wood within a bright, airy, insulated interior. The timbers are not exposed to the weather and the outside of the home is flexible in appearance –traditional, rustic, contemporary, shingle style, Adirondack, etc. The exteriors can be finished with brick, stone, stucco or siding. 


Timber framing has existed for millennia as a basic engineering method. The world's oldest wooden structures, found on the grounds of Japan's seventh century Horyu Buddhist temple, were built using timber-framing techniques. In the United States, timber framing was common until the late 1800s.

Then, a growing population helped push this traditional way of building aside. Sawmills started producing dimensional lumber, which was much easier to transport, cut and erect than large posts and beams. Carpenters found they could use cheap, factory-made nails to assemble these "sticks" into structures in which the walls — rather than a heavy frame — supported the weight of the building. Known as balloon framing, the technique required much less skill and time than working with enormous timbers. Though stick framing remains the dominant method of homebuilding in the United States, timber framing began a comeback in the 1970s due to their hand-crafted quality.


Today, with the aid of computer design and manufacturing, timber frame designs and production are able to happen much more quickly.  Homeowners can now get a near-custom design in a timber frame home in a similar time frame as the more common balloon framing.

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