Timber Framing: A Timeless Structure

When Johnny Miller founded OakBridge Timber Framing 26 years ago, he started with a small team of three. Today, the Amish-owned and operated company is comprised of 10 family members that have a passion for building and working together.

"My father, Andrew, is our master craftsman," Miller said. "He and the rest of our team are the very same people who assemble and raise our timber frames after hand crafting them."

Timber Frame Benefits

Miller said a timber frame is a mortise and tenon structure held together by wooden dowels. Because timber frames are known for their strength and beauty, their structures are highly valued. A timber frame home uses less material than most other forms of construction, and there are timber frames that are hundreds of years old that still are in use today.

Like Miller, Pam Hinton, the Executive Director of the Timber Frame Business Council, said many home owners enjoy the beauty, warmth, and sustainability of using wood in their structures. Wooden homes also are beneficial because they withstand high winds and are slower to burn than traditional stick built homes.

Miller said the aesthetic benefits of a timber frame structure are boundless because wood offers a unique look depending on where it grew. Whether the wood was found in a mountain or valley and how much room it had to grow contributes to its individual properties.

"The frames themselves are both structural and visually stunning," he said. "You can have high vaulted areas and lower, more intimate spaces. It can be as rustic or as modern as the home-owner prefers."

Hinton said while the wood selection varies based on quality and species, each choice has pros and cons. Quality includes characteristics such as dryness and growth pattern. The choice of which to use depends on aesthetics, cost, and builder preference.

Frame detailing, such as carvings and embellishments, and finish on the timbers also are factors to be taken into consideration, she said. Oils, stains, and washes are some of such finishes that can be applied.

Construction of Timber Frames

Each timber frame requires a lot of careful planning and engineering depending on the structural need, Miller said. More specifically, the joinery in the frame needs to be appropriate for the tension and compression before it is hand-crafted.

"Different geographic areas need to allow for snow loads," he said. "A home we built in Colorado allowed for 70 pounds of snow load per square foot."

Hinton said according to surveys the Timber Frame Business Council has done, timber accounts for less than 4 percent of overall new buildings today. This is partly because of timber frame hybrids, which use timber framing for a portion of the building and traditional stick built construction in other areas.

"I believe that individuals looking to build a quality structure, and who have educated themselves about timber framing, will choose this sustainable method of construction," she said.

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