1747 Views |  Like

Sorting Through Timber Home Terminology

Intricate trusses and soaring cathedral ceilings are a hallmark of timber frame technology. Photo courtesy of PrecisionCraft Log & Timber Homes.

Intricate trusses and soaring cathedral ceilings are a hallmark of timber frame technology. Photo courtesy of PrecisionCraft Log & Timber Homes.

Dramatic design often draws many to timber homes.  Soaring cathedral ceilings and the warmth and sturdiness of exposed timbers, provides a rustic elegance that is comforting. Plus, who can argue with modern energy efficiency when it’s combined with old world craftsmanship?

Those are only a few of the reasons people choose to live in a timber frame or post and beam home. Just as with log and timber homes, deciding on the style of construction that’s right for you is often a matter of personal preference. Having an intimate knowledge of the construction techniques used in the frames isn’t necessary to love the look of these homes. However, a basic awareness of the terminology is necessary for making a choice in producers and understanding what the inside and outside of your home will subsequently look like.

Defining Styles
Post and beam construction is where vertical posts are connected to horizontal beams to create a structure’s frame. They are most often wood, but they can also be steel or concrete. Posts and beams are connected with metal fasteners that can include screws, nails and through-bolts.

Timber framing, in contrast, is a specific style of post-and-beam construction that uses solid wood timbers. Since this ancient building method originated before metal fasteners, the timbers are joined by mortise and tenon. This traditional form of joinery involves the use of a wooden peg (tenon) from one timber that fits snugly into a hole or slot (mortise) of another.

Sometimes metal hardware is needed for additional strength or to satisfy building code requirements. In this instance, timber framers will often hide the connectors through a variety of trim applications. Some timber framers handcraft the timbers and joints with old world tools like chisels and mallets. Other producers use high-speed computer controlled cutting machines that make precise cuts that duplicate the craftsmanship of old.

Be aware that your producer’s method of fabrication can affect the price for the package, length of time needed to construct it and delivery times.

Envelope Around Frame
Producers will often offer one or more options for enclosing the frame of your home. The difference between enclosure systems often is a matter of energy efficiency, function and form. Some provide a thick blanket to surround your timber frame, other enclosure systems offer the performance of a warm sweater. Your choice will likely by influenced by which producer you select and the climate of your building site. When weighing your decision in choosing your timber frame producer and their enclosure system, keep in mind that four factors should influence your choice in enclosure systems: cost, ease of construction, energy performance and structural integrity.

By far the most popular method for enclosing timber frames is structural insulated panels or SIPs (also known as stress skin panels). The reason for this is that SIPs can be quickly fastened to the frame and they offer unsurpassed energy efficiency, reducing heating and cooling costs by as much as 60% over conventional 2×4 construction. Other enclosure systems include the infill stud, exterior stud, and horizontal nailer.

Exhibitors here today that specialize in timber frame or post and beam construction can provide you with more information as to the services they offer and how their frames and enclosure systems are specifically constructed.

What to Ask Members of the Log & Timber Home Council:

Timber Home Producer Checklist

  • Which does the company offer?
  • Post & Beam?
  • Timber Frame?
  • Both?
  • How Do You Construct Your Frames?
  • Handcrafted?
  • Milled by Machines?
  • What is the average length of time between final design and delivery of home package?
  • What Kind of Enclosure Systems?
  • SIPs?
  • Infill Stud?
  • Exterior Stud?
  • Horizontal Nailer
  • What is the advantage of your system?
  • How will this affect cost, ease of construction, energy performance and structural integrity?

You Might Also Be Interested in These Stories
A Primer on Timber Home Design, Definitions and Style