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Post and Beam vs Timber Frame: What’s the Difference?

There is often a lot of confusion regarding post and beam frames and timber frames. The main reason for this is that 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, you will soon find that you can make the best choice for your home construction.

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

Posts are vertical, beams are horizontal, and 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 present in both timber frame constructions and post and beam constructions is the articulation of the frame. Builders achieve this characteristic by exposing log or timber components to build a rustic or rugged appearance. When thoughtfully designed and constructed, the beauty of timber 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 erected during the medieval era are still standing as a testament to the quality and longevity of this construction.

Genuine timber frames rely on tight-fitting joinery — the quality of the materials and the geometry required to create an entirely self-supporting structure 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 wood used to make the pegs include ash, oak, or maple. Pegs are sometimes exposed and used to emphasize the importance of the system, making the whole construction even more admirable.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hLBYNP2L2ng
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 respect the tradition. Timber framing is more expensive when compared to post and beam construction, but a suitable timber frame does not need infill framing or sheer walls to achieve structural stability.

About Post and Beam Framing

A lot of mountain-style homes tend to use various elements of timber construction. These elements can be the primary structural system or accents in 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 are either hidden or exposed, but post and beam frames are not the only structural support for a building. Additional elements are 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 distinguish between a well-done post and beam frame and an authentic timber frame. Cost and the desire for authenticity tend to be the driving factors when deciding 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 share many similarities with timber framing when you look at the careful connections and the sheer beauty. The difference lies in the purity of the tradition and the level of craft required.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ot7h3UYa8Do
Post and Beam Framing Video

Is a Post and Beam Construction Right for You?

Post and beam constructions utilize large wooden beams placed around eight feet apart. There are also horizontal beams 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 include:

  • Structural support

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

  • Fire resistance

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

  • Reduced labor cost

Post and beam are often cheaper to construct when compared to timber frames.

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 deteriorate 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 no mechanical fixtures hold the wood together.

  • It can last for centuries

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

  • It makes the building worth more in the future

Many people see traditional timber frames as more appealing and 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

The cost of materials increases due to the size and shape required to accommodate a larger construction project.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4zbfo0JU0zE
Building Timber Frame Home

Should you go for 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. Using this guide, you should easily decide which one is most suited to your purpose.

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