In the world of timber frame homes, there are two main varieties: the lighter timber frame home and heavy timber frame homes. Before getting into the differences between the two, let’s first look at where timber framing originated.
Timber framing is an ancient art that originated mainly in Europe. It can be seen on some old homes and also in barn construction. Logs were felled for the building, then they were sawed flat on each side. Thus the square timber emerged. Then these timbers were each fashioned to go in a specific place in the superstructure. Mortise and tenon joinery was applied to the ends of the timbers to hold them together. Other joinery included dove tails and double dovetails.
Today the vast majority of timber frame companies offer a lighter, more universal form of timber framing. Typically thinner glue-lam beams replace the large timbers. On traditional timber framing, timbers can range from 10″x10″ to 12″x12″. Instead of each timber being handcrafted, CNC machines are used to make every beam the same. The CNC timbers are then interchangeable within the structure. Also, metal plating replaces all of the specialty mortise and tenon and dovetails. Though still offering wide open expanses and high cathedral ceilings, these homes lack much of the intricate craftsmanship and extreme detail of their heavy timber frame home predecessors.
From the early 1900’s until the 1970’s, traditional heavy timber framing almost became extinct. Then a group of master artisans got together and learned the true art of timber framing from a few craftsmen who had kept the tradition alive. Now each year, more and more people have seen the extreme difference between the lighter, more modern timber framing and the traditional heavy timber framing, aka handcrafted heavy timber post and beam homes, and have chosen the latter.
No matter whom the builder or timber supplier is, timber framing is more expensive than standard construction. Many homeowners readily accept that. But when they realize the difference between the two different types of timber frame home construction, many choose to upgrade to the heavy timber frame homes. The quality and look of heavy timber frame construction is simply unmatched and is worth the added expense.