About Timber Framing

What is timber framing?

Timber framing is the use of heavy timber, typically square, at least 6” x 6” structurally joined together through mortise and tenon held in place with hardwood pegs, utilizing wooden brackets and braces with various truss/bent designs.

How is timber framing different than post and beam?

Post and beam does not use mortise/tenon, but rather a ‘stacking’ method using upright posts supporting vertical beams. Typically, this is held with metal brackets – not traditional wooden joinery.

How is it different than conventional construction?

As an age-old craft, timber frames are inherently structurally sound, standing the test of time for generations (think of the many barns still standing and the ancient timber homes in Europe). Frames can even be engineered to high winds and seismic zones. Timber framing allows design flexibility, even after construction, as there are no load-bearing interior walls. Open floor plans with multi-purpose spaces are easily achieved. Often building a timber frame uses less wood than conventional construction due to efficiency in design and build. There are many other ways these building styles differ and we’d love to share them with you, but we’re trying to be brief here. Give us a call or send us a note and we’ll share all of our knowledge.

Are your frames finished by hand?

Yes. While our CNC machine rough cuts timbers, we have seasoned craftsmen that finish joints, sand, apply tung oil (and more). Our craftsmen will pre-assemble trusses in our timber frame shop before shipping to site ensuring quality and efficiency. And of course, the same folks that cut your frame will raise it.

What is tung oil?

Tung oil is a component of finishes, and is made by pressing the oils from the nut of the Tung tree. When used as a finish, it provides a water-resistant coating which deepens with age developing a natural patina.

Why do you use a CNC machine?

Up until about 10 years ago we cut all our frames by hand. Now with two CNC machines we find we’re able to do more custom work, bigger volume, large timbers, complex joinery, mathematical angles/cuts, difficult species (oak), etc. all while maintaining quality and keeping within budget.

Do you ever use steel to reinforce a frame or truss?

Yes, sometimes purely for the aesthetics, other times to offer more support especially for long spans or loads.

How does engineering work with timberframing?

Our engineering department has the difficult task of designing an attractive and structurally sound frame, factoring in all the loads and stresses it might conceivably have to endure. They draw up the joinery details, designing mortise and tenon joints accurate to 1/64" and specify all the other fasteners that might be required.

They work almost exclusively in 3D, which is great for showing concepts of space enclosed by timber; they've refined the process of communicating ideas over distance through the use of virtual reality modeling. You'll be pleased to know that we conduct a Finite Element Analysis of every frame. For those of us who don't do engineer speak, this just means that our guys try and break your frame in the computer, before it gets anywhere near the shop. If it fails, it gets redesigned. If it passes, it gets built.

Where do you raise your frames?

Across the United States, into Canada and England too.

Do you send a crew to raise your frames?

Yes. The same craftspeople who cut your frame will go to your site and raise it. This is a real advantage offering additional accountability, speed, competence and safety.

How long does a typical timber frame raising take?

Timing is based on many variables including size, complexity, weather and site conditions. On average a frame raising can take anywhere from 2 days to two weeks. The speed and efficiency minimizes time on site and allows your project to move forward in a timely fashion.

What are green aspects of timber framing?

Wood is a renewable resource and using it to build is very environmentally clean with no unnecessary by products as you'd find with steel, particle board or other building methods. We also offer reclaimed timbers. Sourced from agricultural and industrial buildsing reclaimed timbers bring character and history to any home while omitting the need for fresh cut timber.

An analogy we often use starts with thinking of a timber frame like a chair. The chair has all the components it needs to stand. In the same way a timber frame doesn't have load bearing walls (exterior or interior). This allows for a flexible and open interior living space. It also allow the enclosure system, often SIPs (structural insulated panels) to close around the frame. Much like placing a blanket over the chair heating and cooling is highly effiicent with minimal to no thermal bridging or barriers.

How is a timber frame like living in furniture?

Timber frames surround inhabitants with the natural beauty and wamrth of wood. The high level of craftsmanship and strength of structure combine to create a feeling of living in a finely crafted piece of furniture.

Can a timber frame have curves?

Absolutely! In fact, we’re known for some of the industry’s most lyrical and elegant curves. Timber frame design is flexible and can include curved bottom chord trusses or curved walls.

How long can a timber frame span?

Timber spans vary based on wood species but average from 16' to 20'. With modifications including steel reinforcement or use of glulaminates those spans can grow to 32' or longer. We'll have more info soon.

What is a glulaminate?

Glulaminates are created from many layers of wood adhered together so that the grains of all the layers are parallel. Glulams are often oversized beams used to achieve extreme spans or  bear very heavy loads typically experience in commercial settings. Other times a steep curve is needed a single timber can be sliced into several pices, attached to a mold and adhered together resulting in the necessary curve with a minimum of material waste (as compared to cutting the same curve from a very large timber).

Do you make glulaminates?

Yes, we make our own curved laminates.