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What’s the difference between Post and Beam and Timber Frames?

There is often a lot of confusion when it comes to post and beam frames and timber frames. The main reason for this is because there is a bit of a grey area where they are in fact very similar, but if you take the time to understand the differences, then you will soon find that you are able to make the best choice for your home construction.

What’s the biggest difference between timber frames and post and beam? The joinery used to connect the timbers. Unless you’re familiar with the two, it can be very hard to tell any difference at all. However, they are entirely different methods of construction.

Post are Vertical. Beams are Horizontal. Timber frames are roof systems. Post and beams are on porches, holding up porch rafters, in kitchens, holding up the loft, etc.

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One Key Characteristic of Post and Beam and Timber Frames

One characteristic that is present in both timber frame constructions and post and beam constructions is the articulation of the frame. This is achieved by exposing log or timber components to give the building a rustic, or rugged appearance. The beauty of timber when it’s thoughtfully designed and constructed will ultimately become the primary element of the building, providing a unique yet homey atmosphere that is still highly sought-after in this modern era.

About Timber Framing

Timber framing is a traditional form of construction that dates back to early furniture making. Some timber frames that were erected during the medieval era are still standing as a testament to the quality and longevity of this construction.

True timber frames rely on very tight-fitting joinery. The quality of the materials and the geometry required to create an entirely self-supporting structure really do matter. Mechanical fasteners were not available until modern times and for this reason, timber frames had to be held together through pegs and wedges. The pegs were driven into misaligned holes in the frame, providing a stiff and sturdy connection. Some of the woods used to make the pegs include ash, oak or even maple. Pegs are sometimes exposed and used to emphasize the importance in the system, making the whole construction even more admirable.

Post and Beam vs Timber Framing Illustration

Timber Framing requires Careful Joinery, Skill and Patience

Timber framing is a craft that requires careful joinery, skill and patience. Some purists only use hand tools when constructing timber frames to show respect for the tradition. Timber framing is more expensive when compared to post and beam construction, but this is offset by the fact that a good timber frame does not need infill framing or sheer walls in order to achieve structural stability.

About Post and Beam Framing

A lot of mountain-style homes tend to use various elements of timber construction. This can be either the main structural system or it can be accents, which can come in the form of brackets, braces, trusses and roof supports. Post and beam construction often looks like timber framing, but the main difference is that post and beam construction utilizes mechanical fasteners and steel plates to join the timber together. The connectors can be either hidden or exposed, but it should be noted that post and beam frames are never used as the only structural support for a building. There are additional elements required, such as infill framing or sheer panels as this is the best way to create a stable structure.

Post and Beam Framing Requires Tight and Well-Crafted Joints

Post and beam framing requires a skilled carpenter to create well-crafted joints. Only a trained eye will be able to distinguish between a well-done post and beam frame and a true timber frame. Cost and the desire for authenticity tend to be the driving factors when making a decision between the two. Timber framing will, on average, cost 25% more when compared to a conventional home. It will cost 15% more when compared to post and beam construction. Timber post and beam construction shares a lot of similarities with timber framing, when you look at the careful connections and the sheer beauty of it. The difference lies in the purity of the tradition, and the level of craft required.

Post and Beam Framing Video

Is a Post and Beam Construction Right for You?

Post and beam constructions tend to utilize large wooden beams that are placed around 8 feet apart. There are also horizontal beams that are placed across them to support a roof or a second floor.  Post and beam houses often feature a small number of heavier structural features. Take a look below to find out more.

Post and Beam Advantages

Some of the advantages of getting a post and beam construction include:

  • Structural support

The weight of the structure is ultimately supported by posts, so you can have huge expanses of glass. Big windows and high-vaulted ceilings also give you a huge living space.

  • Fire resistance

The timber used needs to be dense and strong, so the whole frame is very fire resistant.

  • Reduced labor cost

Post and beam is often cheaper to construct when compared to timber frame.

Post and Beam Disadvantages

Some of the disadvantages of getting a post and beam construction include:

  • Susceptible to rot

One disadvantage of getting a post and beam construction is the susceptibility to rot. Beams on the outside aren’t often covered, which means they rot over time.

  • Susceptible to infestation

Timber Frame Advantages

Some of the advantages of getting a timber frame construction include:

  • More attractive and elegant design

Timber frames tend to be more attractive as there are no mechanical fixtures holding the wood together.

  • Can last for centuries

Timber frames can give under loads, due to the flexibility of the wood and lack of mechanical joints.

  • Makes the building worth more in the future

Traditional timber frames are seen as being more appealing and therefore can add value to the construction.

Timber Frame Disadvantages

Some of the disadvantages of getting a timber frame construction include:

  • High cost of labor

Getting a timber frame installed can cost more due to the skill required.

  • High cost of material

There is some increase in the cost of materials as well, due to the size and shape of timber required to accommodate the construction.

Building Timber Frame Home

Should you go for a Timber Construction or Post and Beam Construction?

The option you go for will ultimately depend on your budget, the construction benefits you want and the type of building. By using this guide, you should easily be able to decide which one is most suited to your purpose.

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