People build timber frame homes because they choose to — nobody has to have a timber frame in their house. If you’re building a timber frame home — or thinking about it — you’re in effect telling everybody that when it comes to creating a dwelling for yourself and your family, it’s you that’s deciding on how it looks and goes together, not a builder/developer putting up cookie-cutter McMansions on a tract of old farming land.
With heavy timbers, you don’t usually just open a sample book and say “I’ll have one of those, please.” So get ready to make a lot of choices; choices about architectural style, materials, surfaces and finishes, extent and scale and complexity, and so on. We hope the following will shed a little light on the kinds of things you’ll have to think about.
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We’re fond of saying that timber framing is a method of construction, not a style. In other words, you can adapt heavy timber construction to a wide spectrum of architectural styles and philosophies. Not so with building methods such as adobe or log. With these construction methods, they are the style. Who can — or wants to — imagine an adobe Victorian house, or a post-modern log structure?
Since building with heavy timber has been around for so long, it has been adapted to architectural styles spanning centuries and continents. We’ve built timber frames for homes and commercial spaces that have run the stylistic gamut from medieval hall to contemporary, from craftsman to postmodern. All of this to say, timber framing can be naturally adapted to your personal sense of architectural and interior style. Your architect or one of our designers can help to realize your vision.
Timber Frame Design
Architectural decisions have a big influence on the design of a timber frame. Is the timber frame a major component of the structural system, or is it a purely decorative retrofit “trim-ber” frame? How do window and door placement, interior walls and partitions, floor plan and roof layout affect the overall design of the timber structure? Should the feel of the frame be massive and hulking, or light and airy? Is there timber framing everywhere in the house, even where you won’t see it, or are only certain areas timber framed to maximize visual impact and your timber framing dollar? (Every one of these questions has budgetary ramifications, too.)
Within a given set of factors affecting design, there is a seemingly inexhaustible range of design options and permutations available. A competent timber frame designer should be able to elicit from you the information needed to create a design that will match your vision exactly. Often it’s as simple as showing one of our designers an image or two of something that really speaks to you. Of course, there’s also a vocabulary that it helps to know, so that you don’t have to rely quite as much on gestures and phrases like “that vertical thingy”.
The Timbers Themselves
Just as there is a wealth of architectural and timber frame design possibilities available, so too is there a plethora of options for the timbers themselves. This choice is highly personal, and is driven mostly by the overall feeling that you would like to evoke. Timber frames can feel rustic and simple, or sleek and contemporary; and there are plenty of in-between design sensibilities that can be satisfied, too. Here’s a list of some of the basic options: