Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Timber Frame Home Wood Species

Planning on building a timber frame or post and beam home? There are several widely-accepted wood species in the timber frame and post and beam home industry; each with their own characteristics, yet each a beautiful choice for a green home.

Douglas fir: Originating in the Pacific Northwest and holding the distinction as the state tree of Oregon, Douglas fir is a popular wood species choice for a timber frame or post and beam home. Douglas fir is known for its structural strength. Ranging from a yellow/orange-brown to deep reddish brown and having limited knots, Douglas fir checks and cracks minimally compared to other wood species. Large Douglas fir timbers may be designated FOHC (free of heart center) which means that the usual 'bulls eye' heart wood found in the center of most beams is absent. Free of heart timber also checks less and is more stable than timber which does have heart wood.

Eastern White Pine: Eastern White Pine (EWP) is harvested from the Atlantic coast states from Maine to northern Georgia. It can also be found in the Great Lakes area. A blond wood with knots of various sizes and occasional red streaks, EWP is a stable, soft wood that is a favorite choice in the Northeast. Eastern White Pine is a light wood which cracks and checks as it dries over time giving a more rustic and perhaps older look. It is not as strong as Hemlock or Douglas fir.

Western Red Cedar: Western Red Cedar is grown in the Pacific Northwest. With color tones ranging from medium to dark brown, Cedar is saturated with a natural preservative, giving it the ability to naturally repel water, which keeps shrinking and swelling minimal, reducing warping and twisting. Its close, even, straight grain makes it easy to work and finish to a smooth, silky finish. Western Red Cedar is generally free from pitch and holds stains and paints beautifully.

Eastern Hemlock: A moderately heavy wood, Eastern Hemlock is native to New England, and mid-Atlantic and Great Lakes states. Colors range from a pale brown to faintish reddish brown, which darken over time. Hemlock is strong and less expensive than Douglas fir; however it carries a defect called “ring shake”. Ring shake is a lengthwise separation that occurs between and parallel to growth rings, usually appearing after a year or so.

Red Oak: A relatively heavy and strong hardwood species, Red Oak is found in many areas of the US – mountain regions, southern and central states, and the Atlantic coast. The wood is light reddish brown, giving a home an antique look. Oak tends to twist, crack, and check a great deal more than most softwood species.

Southern Yellow Pine: Harvested from the southern Atlantic coast to east Texas, Southern Yellow Pine is a very popular wood species for a timber frame or post and beam home. Available in long lengths and with consistent high quality, it has a bold grain pattern and color ranging from golden brown to reddish brown which darkens with age. When dried properly, Southern Yellow Pine twists and checks very little and stains very well. Most Southern Yellow Pine used in timber frames is now from salvaged or reclaimed structures.

Whichever wood species you choose for your timber frame home, make sure your timber frame design is done by a professional. Visit our website for our services and fee structure! Remember, too, while we specialize in timber frame design, we design green homes using conventional material and green building products such as structural insulated panels. See our projects On The Boards for ideas!

Jackie Lampiasi, Marketing Director
Bonin Architects & Associates, PLLC

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