american timber frame houses

American Timber Frame Houses

american timber frame houses

American timber frame houses – with their strong, giant timbers fitted together without hardware – are one of the oldest home styles. They’ve been around for thousands of years and have seen a revival since the 1970s.

They’re versatile, energy-efficient and sturdy. They also allow homeowners to design their homes in any way they want – from an open great room to a formal dining area.

Historical Background

Timber frame houses are one of the oldest types of house construction. They are constructed with strong, giant timbers fitted together without hardware. These structural members form a lattice-like skeleton that is filled with stone, brick or other materials.

Timber framing was a popular method of building throughout Europe from medieval times to the early 1800s. It also became popular in the United States during this time, particularly in New England.

The most common type of timber framing used for building was post-and-beam construction, which is based on the mortise and tenon joint system. A carpenter carved the end of one beam to leave a projection or “tenon” that fit tightly into a hole or “mortise” carved in another timber. The two pieces were then connected with wooden pegs or bents to form the frame.

These joints were important in preventing the wooden pieces from slipping during seasoning and drying. They were also essential for ensuring that the structure would withstand the elements.

In addition to the mortise and tenon system, other carpentry methods were used for joining the wood. These included the use of wooden pegs, bents and braces.

Many types of buildings were built using this style, including barns and town halls. However, the construction of these structures dwindled after the industrial revolution in the mid-19th century when sawmills began to cut smaller dimensional lumber products from trees. These new products were lighter than timbers and were easy to work with.

Once the timber resources in eastern America dwindled, building timber frames declined dramatically. The rise of industrial milling processes shortened the production of wood and made it cheaper to build homes with other materials.

The industrial revolution also paved the way for the development of newer methods for assembling timbers. These techniques made it easier to build large homes with less labor.

As the demand for homes increased in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, people started to prefer other building materials because they were cheaper and more lightweight. This led to the development of “balloon” construction, in which lots of smaller pieces were joined to create a big home.


American timber frame houses are an excellent choice for those looking to build a sustainable and environmentally friendly home. Building a house from timber requires less tree cutting than traditional construction, which significantly reduces greenhouse gas emissions.

Another major benefit of using wood is its energy efficiency. Its high R-value means that it is a great insulator, which can help to keep your house warm in winter and cool in summer.

As a result, timber frames can be very cost effective to construct. They are also easier to work with than other materials, reducing the amount of time and money it takes to complete a project.

The design of a timber frame home is flexible, meaning it can be tailored to suit the needs of your family. This means that you can create a home with open vaulted areas that can be used for entertaining, or smaller, more intimate spaces to relax in.

Additionally, you can choose the colors and accents that are best for your home. This allows you to make it a true reflection of your personality and style.

Using wood for construction is a great way to reduce your carbon footprint, as it has the lowest embodied energy of any material. It also stores half of its dry weight in carbon, which helps to decrease greenhouse gases.

Finally, timber frame homes are very durable and can last for generations. This is due to the use of strong joinery and the construction techniques employed when building the frame.

It is a time-tested and proven method of building. It has stood the test of time and remains a popular choice for home construction today.

In addition to being strong and durable, timber frames are able to resist earthquakes and hurricanes up to Uniform Building Code (UBC) Zone 4. This is because the structural elements move with the ground when they are hit by a quake or storm, so that the home is not broken down.

These homes are easy to build, and can be customized to suit the needs of any family. They are also highly affordable, and can be built in a short amount of time, making them an ideal choice for those interested in building a sustainable and eco-friendly home.

Design Options

Timber frame houses offer a wide range of design options, including unique roof lines, open floor plans and large windows. You can also choose from basic and luxury finishes, which will impact your final price.

Whether you want to build a classic timber frame home or an elaborate one, your builder will be able to recommend the best design for your property and the area’s climate. This will ensure your home will remain healthy and beautiful for many years to come.

Aside from traditional wood materials, you can also opt for insulated concrete forms (ICFs) to keep your home warmer in winter and cooler in summer. These types of structures will also help protect your home from earthquakes, wildfires and high winds.

Another way to save on the overall cost of building a timber frame house is to opt for a single-story design instead of a multi-story home. This allows you to build a smaller foundation and roof, both of which are two of the most expensive components of your construction project.

This can save you money in the long run as well as reduce the amount of work your contractor will have to do during construction. This is especially true if you are building on an existing structure.

An increasingly popular design option for timber frame houses is an open floor plan. This allows you to connect the various spaces of your home, making it easier for family members to communicate with each other. This can also help you achieve a more contemporary feel in your home, which will increase the value of your property in the future.

You can also add window walls to your timber frame home, which allow you to take in the beauty of your surroundings while improving the flow and aesthetic appeal of your living space. This will also save you money on your utility bills as it will help to maintain a more even temperature throughout the entire home.

The design and construction of timber frame houses has evolved significantly over the centuries. Today, professional timber frame builders use modern building science, construction techniques and new technologies to create houses that are comfortable and healthful to live in, beautiful inside and out and energy efficient. They also craft these homes using only the highest-quality materials.


American timber frame houses typically cost 20% to 40% more than stick built homes, depending on the size and complexity of the design. The cost can also vary based on the home’s location, the builder chosen, and other factors.

The cost of a timber frame can be determined by the size and shape of the home, as well as site work, building materials, and interior finish materials. Using these variables, the average cost of a timber frame house is about $30 to $35 per square foot, with larger homes costing more.

There are several ways to reduce the cost of a timber frame house, including reducing construction costs and choosing a simple design. For example, a straight staircase is less costly to construct than a curved one, and fewer, smaller windows can save you a significant amount of money when it comes time to install them.

You can also choose to reduce your material choices. Certain timber species are cheaper than others, and if your budget allows it, you can choose to use lower-grade woods for your frame.

Another way to decrease the cost of a timber frame home is to avoid adding extras and embellishments that will be more expensive than necessary. For instance, if you want to add high-end kitchen cabinets and other features, this will increase your overall cost.

Finally, if you’re looking to save on building materials, consider choosing engineered lumber for your frame. These are made from layers or scraps of wood glued together with synthetic adhesives.

In addition to lowering the overall cost of your frame, these products will be easier to maintain and repair when needed. Plus, they’re more environmentally friendly than traditional materials.

Lastly, timber frame houses are known for being energy efficient. This is because timbers are naturally insulating and can be used to help heat your home in the winter. This is a great benefit because it can reduce your energy bill.

As you can see, timber frame houses can be a good option for those who want to build a custom, sustainable home without breaking the bank. In addition, these homes can be built quickly and easily with minimal upkeep.