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Timber-Frame Dwellings

Timber-frame construction has a unique, rustic appeal, showing off craftsmanship and providing structural soundness for years to come. It can be used in small buildings or increase in size all the way to large houses and barns in the Harrisburg, State College, PA areas.  


Timbers are usually made from hemlock, Douglas fir, pine or cedar.

Joint angles are precision cut for that "perfect fit" look.

Pins are made from oak for strength.

Interior beams are exposed for rustic appeal.


We carefully select timbers at the sawmill and bring them to the shop for preparation and joinery work. We test the beams to make sure they fit before taking them to the job site. Onsite, final assembly is done with care and precision to give you lifetime satisfaction in quality craftsmanship.


What is a timber-frame building?

Timber-framing is the process of constructing a building using heavy timbers for the main structure. Most residential buildings today are built using 2x4 construction. Walls are built by nailing 2x4 or 2x6 studs together with a bottom plate and two top plates. Typically a sheeting of OSB (oriented strand board) or plywood is then nailed on the outside and drywall is fastened to the inside. This type of construction comes from the advance of modern wood machining equipment.  


Back in the 19th century and before, builders didn’t have the ability to mass produce 2x4's like we do today. Instead, they took long logs and squared them up with axes, draw knives, and lots of elbow grease. Then they most commonly used the mortise and tenon joint to hold the beams together. Angle bracing in the corners helped keep the main frame square and solid. Open areas were then filled in with stone and mud, wood, or other materials.

What is the difference between log, post and beam, and timber-frame buildings?

Before the day of 2x4 construction, builders working with wood made either log homes, post and beam buildings, or timber-frame buildings. A person might ask, “Are they all the same since they all use whole logs or heavy timber, or are there differences?”


Log homes are built by stacking logs on top of each other and notching and lagging them together to provide structural integrity. Log homes were very popular in pioneer days when logs and manpower were plentiful. Building a log home involved very little transportation. Men dragged the logs from a spot on their farming plot to where they planned to construct their homes. The men shaped the logs and heaved them into place.


Post and beam construction is similar to timber-frame building, and the terms may be used interchangeably. Both of these structures are joined by splices and joints that are mortised and tenoned and pinned together with pegs.


When we refer to post and beam construction, we are speaking of uprights that are round posts, giving the log look. Sometimes people prefer posts. Perhaps it is trees they planted in their youth, and they wish to keep that “tree” look.


Timber-frame, as we refer to it, speaks of logs that have been turned into beams by a sawmill. The timbers have four flat sides and are similarly sized for appearance sake. The four flat sides of the beam provide a flat surface to create a very tight and durable joint.


How does a timber-frame building differ from a regular-framed home?  

In cosmetics, a timber-frame has the main frame visible on the inside with your panels or finished wall sitting outside of the frame. You can also turn that around and have the frame showing on the outside. Timber frame adds character and rustic appeal that cannot be achieved with a regular-framed house. The joints and lofty expanses of timber frame provide a beautiful primitive setting.


In structure, timber-frame is sound. Many timber-frame buildings have lasted for hundreds of years by giving them simple care and protection.


In insulation value, a timber-frame house can be made up to fifteen times more energy efficient by the type of construction used.

What kinds of timber-frame buildings can be built?

All types of buildings can be built in the timber-frame style. Often timber-frame construction is used in building homes, cabins, restaurants, reception centers, pergolas, and pavilions because of the rustic eye appeal. Barns and stables are also commonly constructed with the timber-frame method because it fits the theme of outdoors and horses.

Actually, any type of building can be built in the timber-frame style, including sheds, pool houses, garages, offices, and portable buildings. You tell us what you are thinking, and we will explain the fine job we can do for you!

Are we limited in design options with a timber-frame building?

Not really. Sometimes when customers ask for free-span trusses of more than 50' we need to figure out extra engineering, but we are usually able to come up with a structurally sound plan. We enjoy the challenge of your “out of the box” ideas.

What types of wood are used to build timber-frame structures?

We usually work with pine, hemlock, and Douglas fir. We can work with whatever is available if you have a specific source or a special species you want to use in your building construction.

What is the process for building a timber-frame structure?

Bring us a plan with the size of the building you envision. Your plan may be a simple sketch with a few ideas jotted down. List your goals for the building along with any special preferences. Together we will come up with a design for the structure of your dreams!

After creating the blueprint, we go for permits.

Once permits are secured, we order the materials and prepare the timber-frames in our shop.

While we prepare the framework in our shop, our workers place the foundation at the job site. When everything is ready, we bring the materials out and erect the building on your site.

What type of foundation do we need to put under our timber-frame structure?

For pergolas and pavilions, we recommend laying a concrete pier under each post. This provides aesthetic eye appeal and is sufficient for outdoor structures.

For all other permanent structures, we recommend a typical cement block or poured concrete foundation wall.

Are the timber-frames stained or finished to preserve them?

You choose how you finish the wood. Wood exposed to the weather without any preservatives will turn grayish/brown. Some folks prefer this natural look. Others wish for the fresh wood look which must be preserved by an exterior coating.

How are timber-frame buildings enclosed?

Timber-frame enclosures are determined by the type of building. A barn or outbuilding typically is filled in by connecting a framework of ties from post to post and installing wood siding on those ties.

For buildings that require insulation, we use a conventional frame outside the timber-frame, or we use SIP’s.

What is a hybrid timber-frame?

Hybrid timber-framing is the timber-frame style without the joinery work. The pieces are typically nailed or screwed together without mortise and tenon and pegging construction. This type of construction is cheaper and less structurally sound.

What are SIP’s?

SIP stands for structural insulated panels. Recently, it has become common practice to enclose the timber structure in manufactured panels such as these. We use OSB inside and out with a foam core in the center.


Although the timbers can only be seen from inside the building when it is enclosed, construction is less complex and insulation is better than in traditional timber building. SIP’s fasten directly to the frame and provide wall to finish interior and exterior applications. SIPs reduce dependency on bracing and auxiliary members because the panels span considerable distances and add rigidity to the basic timber-frame.

SIP’s are very energy efficient! They add up to 50% savings on cooling and heating bills. More than that, they are environmentally friendly. The foam used has a class 1 fire rating because a structural insulated panel (SIP) is solid. There is no cavity to create the “chimney effect” that causes so many fires to quickly rage out of control.

A timber-frame home enclosed with SIP’s can be as much as fifteen times tighter than the typical frame enclosure system.

What are the benefits of timber-frame?

    •    Longevity of structure

    •    Rustic appeal, attractive appearance

    •    Cathedral ceilings with outstanding character

    •    Exposed timbers throughout the building

How long do timber-frame buildings last?

With reasonable care, timber-frame buildings last for generations to come. In Europe there are buildings that have existed for over one thousand years.

How much maintenance do timber-frame buildings require?

Timber-frame buildings typically do not take much upkeep. If the roof is maintained and none of the wood is repeatedly exposed to moisture, the wood will last a long time. If you want to a stained or preserved-wood look, you will need to apply stain or sealer approximately every 5-10 years, depending on the quality of stain you use and the amount of exposure the building has to sun and rain.

Can a timber-frame building be insulated?

Yes, it can. Insulation can be provided either through SIP construction as explained above or through conventional framing with stud walls and insulation between the studs.

Are timber-frame structures more expensive than traditional buildings?

On the whole, timber-frame structures are slightly more expensive than conventional framing. Of course, if one wishes to add exposed posts beams and rafters in a conventional home, then timber-frame would be the better way to go.

All in all, with the savings on a well-insulated home and the aesthetic appeal found in timber-frame construction, many customers are choosing timber-frame and are satisfied with the price.

Are post and beam or timber-frame buildings “green”?

All wood is “green”. It grows naturally and provides the environment with oxygen for mankind and animals. If left to rot in the forest or burned, it produces a good bit of CO2. Used in construction, it produces no toxic waste or gasses for the environment.

Will timber-frames shrink and get checks? Does that matter?

All wood expands and contracts with moisture. All wood also naturally develops minor cracks or “checks” as they are called. Some species resist checking more than others, which is one reason why Douglas fir is often chosen for interior beams.

Neither checking nor the natural expanding and contracting of wood impair or hurt structural soundness. We carefully select all wood beams and only use those that are structurally sound. Any checking or shrinkage that occurs will not weaken your building.

Give us a call. Our old-fashioned craftsmen would enjoy creating a home or building for you and your family to enjoy for generations to come. Remember, quality doesn’t really cost. It pays!

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