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What is a Timber Frame House?

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  • Written By: Amy Hunter
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 16 September 2016
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    2003-2016
    Conjecture Corporation
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The timber frame style of building dates back hundreds of years. In timber frame construction, logs are hewn into square pieces which are then used to frame the house. The pieces are joined together with pegged joints rather than nails, screws or bracketing materials.

In the early days of timber framing, the scribe framed method was used. In this method, each timber would fit in only one spot. When the craftsmen were making these logs, they numbered each one.

Today the scribe rule method of timber framing has been replaced by the square rule. In the square rule method, all of the main joints are the same size. All of the pieces are interchangeable. As you can imagine, the square rule method, which was developed in the 18th century, made the process of building a timber frame home much quicker.

The spaces between the timbers in one of these homes were filled with stones, brick or some other type of rubble. The craftsmen then applied plaster over the rubble on both the inside and outside of the home. This created a finished look and increased the insulation properties of the home.

Today, structured insulation panels, or SIPs are commonly used in timber framing. These cover the timber entirely on the outside of the home, but leave the timber exposed and visible on the inside. SIPs increase the energy efficiency of the home and speed up the building process.

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There are many advantages to building a timber frame home. If you have access to an old home or barn, reclaiming the wood from the structure can help you cut costs and add a beautiful patina to your new home. Often this type of timber is available for free to whoever is available to haul it away.

If you are using new timbers to build your timber frame home you can expect the building process to move quickly. The technology of computer numerical control, or CNC, allows machinery to quickly cut the timbers into the same sized pieces. The wood is then pre-fitted at the workshop, so that when it arrives on the job site the construction work moves quickly. It is not unusual for the timber frame home to be ready for windows, doors and the heating and cooling system within two weeks of the beginning of the project.

There are disadvantages to building a timber frame home. Like any other type of wood structure, timber framing is susceptible to infestations from pests, such as termites and mice. Wood can rot or fungus can grow on it. The wood is also a great transmitter of sound waves, so noise, such as people walking or moving around in one area of the home, is often heard easily throughout the house.

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