Thursday, May 8, 2008

Post and Beam and Timber Frame – What’s the difference? (Part 1)

While there is some confusion and intermingling of terms, there is a difference between a post and beam and timber frame home, and which you choose to build depends largely on your personal taste. Each building system is structurally sound and equally as beautiful. Wood choices for the two are generally the same – Douglas fir, Eastern White Pine, Oak, Cedar, and Hemlock – although individual manufacturers may prefer one species over another. Both can accommodate an array of architectural styles – from southwestern, colonial, mountain, cabin, or ranch, to name a few. Post and beam and timber frame homes can be enclosed and insulated in a variety of ways, from structural insulated panels (SIPs) to straw bale, or many ways in between.

What can and does differ between post and beam and timber framing is if joinery is used and how the frame is assembled.

POST & BEAM: Post and beam construction, also sometimes referred to as timber framing, is a centuries-old method of building homes originating in Asia. Brought to the United States by English settlers in the 1600’s, this method of construction was popular because of the abundance of materials -- basically, wood. These early post and beam frames (then called post and lintel) were filled in with wattle and daub (a mixture of branches and clay) and had thatched roofs. Insulation and roof construction materials have dramatically improved since then, yet the age-old, time-honored craft of building timber homes has endured and is still a very popular and beautiful building choice in the twenty-first century.

A post and beam home consists mainly of vertical posts and horizontal beams which are assembled piece by piece to create the framework of the home. As architectural designs evolve and become more complex, a more careful, detailed engineering review is required. Many post and beam homes utilize metal brackets, bolts, and plates to strengthen the connection between timbers. Some post and beam construction does use joinery to secure beams to posts; most, though are butted together and connected with metal fasteners. Some of these metal connectors may be hidden, others are visible at the intersections of the floor posts and beams and roof timber connections and in some the metal connections are expressed as art being intricate and pleasing in design. Although the complexity and engineering of post and beam homes have dramatically increased since the 1600’s, the basic construction of the home has not. Posts are fastened to the first floor deck and beams are secured to the top of the posts. A second floor deck sits atop the first floor post and beam framework, and the second floor is then erected on top of the deck to the ridge.

In our next blog we'll discuss TIMBER FRAMING, its joinery and types.

Jackie Lampiasi, Marketing Director
Bonin Architects & Associates, PLLC

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