Frequently Asked Questions About Timber Frame Homes

Over the last few years, we have seen an increase in the popularity of Timber Frame homes. With increased popularity, comes increased questions. So, we have pulled together some of the most frequently asked questions when it comes to building a timber frame home.

  • What is a timber frame?
  • Are timber frame homes cheaper or more expensive to build?
  • Can a timber frame house be insulated?
  • How long will a timber frame home last?
  • Why build a timber frame home?

What is a timber frame?

If you like the idea of having natural timbers in your home, but not interested in a traditional log home, a timber frame my be the perfect option for you. A timber frame uses a frame structure of large posts & beams that are joined with pegs or other types of decorative joinery instead of the 2X4-stud “stick frames” that are typically used in tract homes.

Almost always, the walls of the structure are positioned on the outside of the timber frame, leaving the timbers exposed for visual effect. Inside, however, the exposed artfully crafted timbers, trusses and accents create a more dramatic look. Timber frames offer a unique style, exceptional strength, sustainable design, are energy efficient and have undeniable character.

One of the biggest advantages of timber-frame construction is that it is so strong it doesn’t need load-bearing walls cutting through the middle of the house, so you can design the layout in any sort of configuration you want, including an open concept for a great room, dining room, kitchen, and entryway.

Are timber frames cheaper or more expensive to build?

Likely, the number one question we get asked, how much does it cost to build a custom timber frame home. The short answer is it depends.

There are a lot of variables to consider when building any kind of custom home, and a timber-frame is no different. On average, timber frame homes will cost more than a traditional stick home built with standard 2x4s. With that said, the cost will depend on the following factors:

  • Square footage of your timber frame
  • The type of wood you choose
  • Your building site’s condition and location
  • how you want to finish your home
  • and so on…

Remember the size, building materials, finishes and fixtures you select will affect your bottom line. Also, keep in mind that there could be additional costs not included in your timber package, such as the foundation, well, septic and mechanical systems — not to mention the price of your land.

To provide a quick summary and comparison, the below is an approximate cost per square foot for log and timber shells:

  • Full Scribe Shell $60 – $150 per square foot
  • Post and Beam Shell $45 – $75
  • Timber Frame Shell $45 – $75

Approximate Cost for log and timber turnkey (move-in ready)

  • Full Scribe $200 – $350 per square foot
  • Post and Beam $175 – $270
  • Timber Frame $175 – $270

*Depending on the type of timber you wish to build with, or the character of wood costs may differ.

If you would like more details on costs to build a custom log home, we have written a detailed article that breaks this question down even further: How much does a log home cost.

We can also offer advice on what kind of structure can fit within your budget. Feel free to download our log home budget worksheet to help you plan and stay on a budget when building your custom home.

Can timber frame houses be insulated?

While the structural frame may be the star of the show in a timber frame home, the enclosure system (your walls and roof) is what protects the house from the exterior elements. Plus, depending on what materials you choose, this can create a high-performance house boasting environmentally- and budget-friendly efficiency. Each homeowner is going to have a personal preference as there are a few options to choose from.

Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs)

Structural insulated panels, or SIPs, are made from a ½-inch layer of oriented strand board (OSB), a layer of foam, which varies in thickness depending on your insulation needs, and another layer of ½-inch-thick OSB. The layers are glued together much like a sandwich.

Using SIPs may possibly reduce the need for knee braces and other timbered elements, saving you some money. They come in a variety of sizes, with all the angles, windows and door openings cut out and ready for installation. They are screwed to your roof and wall timbers and can be used in areas that are not timber-framed in place of conventionally framed wall and roof systems. Installing them is relatively quick and easy as they are prefabricated by the manufacturer before arriving on the building site, and they are a green building material.

SIP homes have extremely low levels of air infiltration because there are fewer gaps to seal. This airtight characteristic makes heating and cooling your timber home more economical in both your monthly energy bill and the smaller size HVAC units your home will require. Homes built with SIPs can keep a consistent temperature and have fewer drafts and less noise infiltration than standard construction buildings.

Conventional Framing

Conventional framing mimics the system used in standard construction (the way that most of the homes in the United States and Canada are built) and consists of 2-by-4-inch and 2-by-6-inch pieces of lumber for the wall framing and 2-by-8-inch, 2-by-10-inch, 2-by-12-inch or premade roof trusses to create the roof. This all gets sheathed in a plywood or OSB layer that ties everything together structurally. To use conventional framing in a timber home, the walls are constructed and stood up and installed around the timber frame.

As the timbers dry and move through the seasons, you will get air infiltration through the gaps that are created between the walls and timbers. This will increase your energy costs as well as potentially giving you moisture problems in the future.

How long will timber frame homes last?

It is true: timber frame houses are built to last, and their durability surpasses conventional stick frames by leaps and bounds. If you want to build a house that will last for many years to come, the timber frame is the only answer to long-lasting framed buildings.

A wooden house can serve for a good 100-150 years with a proper approach to its building. With there is no definitive answer as to how long a timber frame home would last. Advanced technologies in wood production allow us to prevent a lot of negative processes that can take place in wood such as twisting, cracking, decay, discoloration.

With that said, timber frames are heavy and extremely solid, and much more resistant to the effects of earthquakes, high winds, or heavy snows. They are also slightly more resistant to fire damage than common stick framing. Solid wood is very stable at high temperatures and creates its own insulation upon contact with fire.

Why build a timber frame house?

If you are a meticulous person who has a great eye for details, you will appreciate the intricate process of timber framing construction. The architectural grandeur of these homes is without a doubt the main reason why there is an increase in people who opt for this type of construction.

A few other reasons why you may want to build a timber frame home are:

  • Speedy construction
  • Design flexibility
  • Environmentally friendly
  • Durability

Constructing one of these homes is not a superficial decision and quite well sought after. It is a choice of both beauty and practicality. It is a home built using a traditional method that has evolved and been improved to adapt to the ways of modern living. With all the benefits that come with timber frame homes, it is not surprising why more and more people are slowly looking past the conventional stick-built homes and opting for the timber frame homes.

Do you have more questions about timber frame homes? If so, feel free to send us an email and we would be happy to answer your questions.

Looking for more commonly asked questions regarding custom log homes and timber frames please check out our log homes 101 page.