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|Timber Framing : Columbia River edition : Saturday, 21 October 2017 13:54 PDT : a service of The Public Press|
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The WHY of Modern Timber Framing
by Stephen Morris
Create beautiful, sturdy buildings with this update of a versatile, time-tested method for building post-and-beam homes.
In the Summer, 2005 issue of Green Living we told you how to make your own ecofriendly lumber using portable sawmills. Here's a short primer on why timber framing can be such a good green building option. -SM
Many natural building methods–such as straw bale, cordwood masonry and cob building– benefit from timber-frame construction primarily because these methods can involve infilling between the timbers that make up the building's structural framework. Unlike conventional 2-by-4 stick framing, the center-to-center spacing of timber-frame posts is somewhere between 6 and 10 feet. This makes infilling much less tedious; imagine trying to fill the narrow spaces in regular stick construction with cordwood masonry or straw bales.
Also, there is a great practical advantage in erecting a timber frame first–getting the roof on as a protective umbrella, and then infilling the structure using one or more of these natural building methods.
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Yes, you can accomplish all this with "traditional" wood-on-wood–such as mortise-and-tenon and dovetail–joining methods. But these methods require intricate cuts and exact measurements, and to do it right, a great deal of time and study must be expended, and there are a few specialized tools that need to be purchased. The reality is that most farmers, contractors and owner-builders use methods of timber framing (also called post-and-beam) that they have simply picked up from colleagues, relatives or neighbors. With the advent of relatively inexpensive mechanical fasteners, most builders–contractors and owner-builders alike–rely on other methods of joining, using truss plates, screws and bolts, pole-barn nails and even gravity.
Timber Framing Advantages
Whether you go with traditional timber framing or (modern) "timber framing for the rest of us," you will discover certain advantages and disadvantages in both systems.
To learn more about timber framing, try Timber Framing for the Rest of Us by Rob Roy, a Mother Earth News Book for Wiser Living from New Society Publishers.
Rob Roy is the director of Earthwood Building School in West Chazy, N.Y. [(518) 493-7744 or www.cordwoodmasonry.com]. The school conducts workshops in cordwood masonry, earth-sheltered housing and timber framing.
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