At Vintage and Specialty Wood, we have the widest selection of new and reclaimed woods. We also have the broadest capabilities to turn those woods into timber framing, structural trusses, non-structural trusses, and decorative beam ceilings.
Our timber framing services include:
- Site visit and field measure
- 3D model or 2D plans with details and sections depending on the need and scope of the project
- Timber frame fabrication in our factory
- Nationwide installation
What is Timber Framing?
Timber framing is an ancient construction technique that uses large timber frames to provide structural support. But instead of nails, these beams are connected by wooden joinery (usually a peg) to secure a mortise and tenon joint. Other methods of joinery are scarf joint, tying joint, lap joint dovetail, and tongue and fork.
Since timber frame structures can withstand very heavy loads, it eliminates the need for internal load-bearing walls. This allowed medieval manors to have open great halls and modern homeowners to have open room configurations.
The beams used in timber framing typically come from sawmills.
Despite this, timber-framed homes possess a kind of warmth and character that just grows on you. Though they’re big and bulky, the timber frames can unify a space, making it more intimate, cozy, and welcoming.
Trusses & Timber Framing – New Material
Trusses & Timber Framing – Antique Material
History of Timber Framing
There is no definite date as to when humans learned that stacking wood beams or leaning them against each other would make a stronger structure. But almost all major ancient civilizations around the world use timber framing techniques to build structures.
In India, for instance, timber framing dates back to 200 BC. While many ancient Japanese temples also use timber frames as structural support. In fact, the oldest surviving wooden building in the world is the Horyuji Temple in Nara, Japan. And yes, it uses timber framings.
The technique was especially popular in places where wood is abundant. That’s why timber-framed structures are common in areas with vast forests like Europe and some parts of Asia and rare in places like Russia and Siberia.
In Europe, almost all ancient buildings that date back to the middle ages are timber-framed. From castles to manor houses, pubs, and inns, all use timber framings.
Though many of these ancient structures have been remodeled, their framings are almost always intact. They were never replaced since they were built hundreds of years ago. This, alone, is a testament to the strength and durability of timber framings.
When European settlers arrived in the US, they also brought their construction knowledge with them. And since the area was covered in forests and woodlands, they made use of the timbers that are readily available.
By the 20th century, the demand for fast and cheap houses increased. As a result, timber frames fell out of favor and were replaced by the more affordable dimensional lumbers.
But in the 70s, the timber framing tradition was revived by several craftsmen. This paved the way for modern timber frame constructions.
Nowadays, building code requirements have become more stringent and designs more intricate. Thus, more and more buildings are built using a hybrid of timber framing and other structural support systems.
Common Timber Framing Terms
Before we dig deep into the topic, here are some common timber framing terms you need to familiarize yourself with:
In traditional timber framing, the most common type of joinery is mortise and tenon.
SIP stands for Structural Insulated Panel. It’s a type of sandwich panel with an insulating layer of rigid core placed between layers of structural boards.
Traditionally, timber frames were enclosed in infill wall systems that expose the timbers to outside elements. But in modern constructions, timber frame structures use SIPs. This allows for better insulation and also makes the structure a lot stronger.
Raising a timber frame is the process of fitting vertical timbers to the already erect horizontal beams to form the timber frame structure.
As you know, the timbers used in timber framings are prepared offsite. After they are cut and planed to specifications, they are brought to the construction site for installation.
Built-up Infill Wall
An infill wall is a non-load-bearing wall built between the floors of the primary structural frame of a building. They provide support for the cladding system and can also resist wind loads applied to the facade.
Modern infill walls are generally made of steel or reinforced concrete. But timber frame constructions typically use masonry infill.
Mortise and Tenon
A mortise and tenon is a type of joint used to connect two pieces of wood or other materials. “Mortise” is the hole or recess cut into the wood and specifically designed to receive a specific projection. While “tenon” refers to the projecting or overhanging part of a wood that’s inserted into the mortise.
Before nails and wood glues were invented, woodworkers have used mortise and tenon joints to build wooden structures.
Also known as “overlap joint,” this is a type of joinery where two members (timbers) overlap. Depending on the type of lap joint, materials may or may not be removed from both members. Unlike mortise and tenon, lap joints are joined with glue. But they can also resist shear forces better than a mortise and tenon joint.
A scarf joint is formed by cutting the tapered ends of each member then fitting them together. This is typically used when the woods being joined are too short for a lap or mortise and tenon joint. Most woodworkers also prefer scarf joints as it shows less glue lines.
A sill or sill plate is the bottom horizontal beam in a framing that typically carries the wall framing and floor joists. In old structures, they’re usually very large and solid timbers that are framed together at the corners and are set on the foundation walls.
Like the sill, a girt is also a horizontal beam or timber in a framing. But the girt is the primary beam that connects the posts and the sills. They provide lateral support to the frame to strengthen and increase its wind load resistance capacity.
Why Use Timber Frames?
Aside from its aesthetics, there are a lot of reasons why timber frames are a better option than other types of framing construction. Here are some of them:
Timber framing uses local wood. Aside from being sustainable, this also reduces the carbon footprint. Plus, the building process creates almost no waste. This means that fewer materials end up in landfills and waste treatment facilities.
2. Reduced site labor
Since the timbers are prepared offsite, there’s not much need for onsite labor. There’s no need to transport heavy machinery or employ a whole team to cut the timbers to your desired size. This translates to reduced labor and other overhead costs.
3. Quick build time
Timber framing is basically a “plug-and-play” type of construction. Depending on the size of the structure, the frames can be installed on-site within a day or just a few days. Remember that they’re already cut to specifications off-site. So all that needs to be done is to fit the joints.
The quick build time also allows plastering and electrical wiring works to begin early and the entire structure to be completed in less time.
4. They’re more durable
As long as timber’s moisture content is below 20%, the risk of rot and infestation in timber frame structures is relatively low. Thus, with proper wood treatment and maintenance, the timbers can last for years.
4. Less wood use
Since timber frames are fabricated in a factory, there are very strict quality control standards in place. This allows for more efficient use of materials.
Because of the air pockets within their cellular structures, timbers are considered natural thermal insulators. This means that they heat up and cool down relatively quickly. It also means that lesser energy is required to warm up or cool down the entire building.
6. High fire-resistance
Yes, timber is a combustible material. But because of its thermal insulating properties, it burns at a much slower and more predictable pace.
During a fire, a thick beam of wood will char on the outside. But the interior will remain intact since the char that formed on the surface limits the flow of oxygen inside the wood. This creates a sort of cover that protects and insulates the timber’s interior.
7. Design Versatility
As mentioned, timber frames eliminate the need for internal load-bearing walls. Thus, homeowners and designers have more freedom as to the design of the structure. This is especially handy for open-floor designs where interrupting walls aren’t needed.
Timber Framing vs. Stick Framing
Stick framing is a construction technique that uses smaller pieces of wood placed closely together (usually 16 or 24 inches apart). The entire process is also done on-site and uses metal joinery.
While timber framing makes use of heavier and more solid woods that are spaced farther apart. It also typically uses mortise and tenon joints or wooden pegs to connect the timbers.
Timber Framing vs. Post-and-Beam Construction
The two methods are similar in that they both use large and heavy wooden beams for structural support. The only difference is that post-and-beam construction uses metal joinery.
Choosing a Timber for Framing
Obviously, choosing the right timber species for framing isn’t as simple as doing an eeny-meeny-miny-moe. There are various factors you need to consider if you want to have the perfect wood species for your timber frames. This includes:
Using locally available woods is generally more economical than importing timbers. You won’t have to worry about expensive transportation costs nor wait for weeks or months for it to arrive. Plus, you can personally inspect it and see the quality of the timber for yourself.
Timbers grow in almost every part of the country anyway. So you won’t have a hard time finding suitable timber for your project.
Not all wood species are fit for timber framing. Some hardwood species have a tendency to twist and check. While some softwoods are more prone to insect attacks and water damage.
Many people prefer hemlock, cedar, spruce, yellow pine, and Douglas fir since they check less and smells great even after a few years. But of course, this still depends on your project requirements.
If you’re not sure which timber species is most suitable for your project, our team of timber experts can help.
This is one of the most important considerations when choosing timbers for your project. Choosing durable timber will save you thousands of dollars in maintenance costs. Plus, it would add value to your home in the long run.
But durability doesn’t only mean using the hardest and strongest wood available. You also need to make sure that they can resist decay and insects especially if they’re exposed to the interior.
If you have a set budget for your building project, this should factor into your decision too. As you know, quality doesn’t come cheap. So if you go for a cheaper option, you might be sacrificing quality. But if you go for quality, you may have to go beyond your budget. It’s a matter of finding the right balance of cost and quality that works for you.
Reclaimed Timber vs. New Timber
Another thing you need to take into account when choosing timber is whether to go for new or reclaimed wood. There are pros and cons to both options.
For one, reclaimed wood is more sustainable than new ones since it doesn’t require cutting down a tree. They’re repurposed from the beams found in old buildings, most of which are hundreds of years old.
Reclaimed woods have also been exposed to the elements for a long time. Thus, they tend to be more resistant to warping and decay. This exposure also allowed them to develop a natural patina giving them a classically rustic charm that just lends character to any space.
New woods, on the other hand, are generally cheaper than reclaimed ones. Reclaimed woods tend to be rare and they require a lot of work, thus the high price tag. When it comes to color, new woods generally have more consistent coloring than reclaimed ones. They also don’t have nail holes, scratches, or any “imperfections” typical in old woods.
If you’re having a hard time choosing between new and reclaimed woods, give our timber experts a call. We can help you choose which options will fit you better.
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