Timber Frames, Heavy Timber, and Post and Beam Construction

You’ll often hear the term “heavy timber” and “post and beam” when timber frames are discussed.  The terms have come to be used interchangeably, but there are also differences.

Heavy timber can be used to indicate large lumber which is usually expressed in actual sizes (an 8 x 8 timber is really 8 X 8 ) instead of nominal sizes where a 2 X 4 is usually 1 1/2 X 3 1/2.    Timber frames are always built with heavy timber.

Post and beam can indicate heavy timbers attached to one another with metal plates, bolts, joinery, or a combination.  While the term is often used to mean “timber frame”, it doesn’t have to be traditional timber framing.

A 12″ X 22″ X26′ timber ridge beam, shown below, definitely qualifies as heavy timber as it becomes an integral part of a timber frame home.

Timber Frame – A Lesson In English

If you’ve taken to searching the Internet as you pursue your dream of a timber frame home you may be surprised how many “timber frames” there are in the UK.  This is a little confusing if you live in the US.

A timber frame is usually defined as heavy timber construction on this side of the Atlantic.   Timber framing is often used interchangeably with post and beam construction.

However, across the pond, timber framing is the correct term for what we, over here, call “conventional construction” or, if the timber framer is in a snide mood, “stick framing”.   The difference is night and day, but in UK the term is used to distinguish the wood construction method from brick/rock/masonry construction.  The UK Timber Frame Association speaks for this construction method, much as the Timber Frame Business Council is a voice for the timber frame industry in the US.Goshen Timber Frames

While the North American timber frame will have few posts or beams smaller than 6″ X 8″ and most larger, the English structure is more likely smaller, dimensional limber.  You’ll find references on UK sites (those not promoting wood construction) as timber frame being “light weight construction”.  In the US you’ll find timber framers speaking of stick framed homes in the same manner and timber framing is considered “heavy timber construction”.

So don’t let your research lead you off course. Timber frame homes, in North America, are distinctly different than timber frame homes in the UK, even if the roots of timber framing are all the same.   Timber is a renewable resource and roots itself in “green” building.

So, move forward, live your life with abandon, and of course, build boldly.

That said, I’ll close for now.