The Timber Framers Guild, a non-profit educational membership association in Washington, US, shed light on the benefits of timber frame buildings.
Timber frame buildings receive a double dose of durability through the use of timbers and the strong mortise and tenon joinery design. These structures have withstood earthquakes, hurricanes and tsunamis. Heavy timber is inherently fire resistant. As a credit to their strength, timbers that have experienced fire can be planed down and reused as structural beams in new designs. These strong, durable timbers are connected by joints known to withstand massive amounts of pressure. The combined strength of the timber and the joinery serves to create a structure of extreme strength and long-lasting durability. It is not uncommon for the frames to remain standing after 300 years.
Through the use of large timbers, the design of a timber frame building ensures that the building’s frame is efficient, allowing little to no temperature transfer between the exterior and interior of the building. New insulation techniques have allowed the timber framed structure to achieve soaring new levels of energy efficiency, which means that timber frame structures can qualify for energy rating programmes and see reduced power bills for heating and cooling. Many timber framers are eco-friendly, supporting sustainable forestry and the use of reclaimed lumber.
Timber frame homes are remarkably customizable in design, with the ability to adapt the floor plan, illuminate the house with natural light and make use of drywall. Homes built with a frame of timber have a strong exterior shell, so no interior wall is needed to hold the shape of the structure, enabling walls to be placed where desired or for no interior walls to be used at all, creating large open spaces. The strong frame also enables architects to make more use of windows.
A timber frame structure represents the pinnacle of craftsmanship, structurally interesting and complex, but also emotionally engaging through the visible use of heavy timbers. Timber frame builders exist as part of an industry of craftsman who constantly collaborate and strive to reach the heights of their art form. A testament to the thousands of years that this style of building has been practiced, the beauty of a timber framed structure is enduring and immediately felt.
Prior to the emergence of dimensional lumber as a commodity, timber framing was a common practice throughout the world. Found in archaeological sites in the Middle East, Europe and Asia, this woodworking technique has been in use by humans for a very long time. Its consistent use historically points to the value and strength that ancient builders have learnt to rely on. Modern timber frame builders engage this historical technique to build strong structures that beautifully employ wood, one of the world’s oldest building materials.