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Within in the next 10-years, my wife and I would like to replace the old modular home on our property with a new house. I've been having some discussions with a friend of mine who is a huge fan of timber frame construction. Looking at examples of well-done timber frames, I have to agree with him when it comes to the aesthetic appeal of the exposed timbers. He has touted some of the benefits of timber framing to be (not an extensive list):

  • Speed of construction.
  • Squareness of resulting frame (I suspect a well-done platform frame can be quite square as well)
  • Aesthetic (personal taste I guess)
  • Cost of materials
  • Cost of labor (takes more skilled labor, but goes up quickly)
  • Robustness

He touts it as an ideal framing method for non-developer building (i.e.- for building your home.. it wont scale well to a developer putting up hundreds of houses). When I asked him what the drawbacks would be, the only things he could think of were:

  • finding a good crew to do the framing, and
  • sourcing the timbers can take some time.

Neither of these issues would be a deal breaker for me as I have plenty of time, and he is connected with some very good framers. So, my question (perhaps too open ended) are: what advantages and disadvantages am I missing?

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Did you mean "Neither of these issues would be a deal breaker..."? –  tnorthcutt Aug 26 '10 at 18:24
    
I sure did! oops! –  MarkD Aug 26 '10 at 20:46
    
Traditional timber framing (with carved joints) takes a lot of work and is beautiful. Simple post-and-beam construction with metal plates at the joints is faster and accessible to anyone. See Timber Framing for the Rest of Us by Rob Roy. –  Jay Bazuzi Oct 20 '10 at 14:55

1 Answer 1

I can think of one disadvantage to timber framing vs. platform or balloon framing, and that's the need of a crane. Depending on your site, bringing in a crane to install the upper members might be a problem, whereas with stick-built, you're not moving as heavy of pieces, so it's not as much of an issue. (it still might be useful when it comes to roof trusses, though, but it's not necessarily required)

An advantage is that timber-framed structures can span very large areas, so if you like an open design, great rooms, and the like, it's very easy to do. As none of the internal walls need to be load bearing, you can more easily move things around should you need to add a bedroom or remove one down the road.

... but before you built, you might also want to consider comparing to other newer building methods, such as SIPs (structural insulated panels; built off-site, then get craned in and installed in over the course of a few days, so the building envelope isn't open for very long), or ICE (insulated concrete forms; install like blocks, rebar is placed, then you pump in concrete). Both have great thermal characteristics, if you're in a climate that needs it.

With anything that's not platform built, you're also going to want to check with your local permits office -- anything that's not what they're used to dealing with is going to slow things down considerably.

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