Getting Started with Timber Framing
Explore the stunning beauty of timber frame design to discover the unlimited potential for timber frame construction.
Taking the time to dive deep and become familiar with the nuances, design possibilities and desirable timber characteristics will serve you well. You will discover we are not afraid to talk about the challenges and failures associated with this complex and misunderstood craft.
We address the myths of full timber framing, the technical challenges which can result in the 98lb weakling, and uncover the path that leads to “ugly”. As the Sworn Enemies of Ugly, we are dedicated to creating beauty within every step of the process, from project planning to timber-raising.
The Myth of Full Timber Frame
Misguided ideals born during the enthusiasm of the 1970 revival, and communication shortcuts in planning have led to the false notion of full-timber-frame superiority.
This is unfortunate, because people can become trapped by what we call the full-timber-frame “straight jacket.” Style becomes more inflexible, floor plans, the design and building become more inflexible. Then, money allocation becomes more inflexible. This can lead to customer dissatisfaction, and we have seen this outside of our organization time and time again.
Ugly money problems are no friend of ATF and don’t need to be a part of your experience. Our comprehensive planning and design systems will prevent ugly from ever emerging in your timber framing experience.
The World of Timber Framing Design is at your Fingertips
We make design easy for our clients, but take no shortcuts in planning to achieve a stunning design that will last a lifetime.
As masters in design to build post and beam construction, we have created a proprietary system with all the tools you need to achieve 100% satisfaction. You can gain access to our design specialists by requesting your complimentary Brainstorming Session or consultation.
While you may have a pretty good idea about how you want your timbers to look, there are many decisions to be made on our journey together due to the complexities of post and beam design and construction. Our professional design services are available to expedite your ideas for quicker approval. We are here to help you on your journey and make your timber framing project a memorable experience.
7 Basic Design Styles
Does the word “CLASSIC” give you conniptions as it does me? Like you, we must “back into” a common descriptive language with each client – both parties honing and adjusting communication of how to speak and interpret the styles, concepts, and ideas. The best definition of Classic I have run across is: A style, a model, or thing which once created becomes an enduring idea remaining popular over time- ageless in a sense. Because of this, the perception of classic has grown quite broad and is more of a chameleon compared to the other six categories. What comes to mind for you, in a general sense, when you hear the word Classic? Perhaps proven quality and smooth functionality? Perhaps well-grounded longevity, distinct lines, and tactful? Learn more about this style and how to avoid the pitfalls of this design.
Europe has spawned so many unique styles over the years, achieving “fluency” in architectural speak to describe Euro Style can be a bit like eating an elephant. But because timbers have such an oversized impact (kind of like an elephant!) on the statement of your projects, we do not have to dissect every conceivable style associated with Europe. Learn more about this style and how to avoid the pitfalls of this design.
Rustic style is a very broad term that includes Lodge or Mountain style, Chalet, Log, A-frame, Organic/natural, and Western styles. Whether it is tall or wide, big or small, visitors are left with the impression that it is a log cabin. Many people tire of the extremely rustic décor, leaving them without the long-term satisfaction they envisioned. Important considerations for Rustic Style is to figure out how much Rustic makes sense in and urban or semi urban setting, considering the neighboring properties, resale value, and any covenant criteria. Learn more about this style and how to avoid the pitfalls of this design.
The feedback we have received from clients is that the models we produced and options we presented were invaluable to the process. The only real “aha” that our clients report is that their actual timber home always looks better when it’s finished than the model ever does.
If “modern” were a person, or a client of yours, you would probably notice a restless, curious openness- a desire to try new things. You would probably see formal, cutting edge attire with a flash of color or some other form of surprise. “Modern” might be accompanied by a Chihuahua or bull terrier and be very interested in art, civic duty, or fundraising for charity. If “Modern” had a pet peeve in might be: Apathy or lack of daring. Or perhaps simply clutter?
Learn more about this style and how to avoid the pitfalls of this design.
If I were forced to describe what I consider the epitome of Beach or Coastal Style you might hear the following adjectives: Weather gray, compact, low Space volume, sheltered profiles, and effective use of space- such as an open, multi-purpose room with many windows in a view wall, facing the sea. Circular stairways, sleep cubbies, efficient kitchens, and stowaway Murphy type of beds also come to mind. For our purposes, it is enough to touch on the small things we have noticed regarding the use of exposed beams to influence style for projects located on the Beach or Coast. Learn more about this style and how to avoid the pitfalls of this design.
Craftsman style- The early American version of feng shui? Or perhaps the antithesis of the Queen Anne Victorian style? It is interesting to note how Craftsman style is the iconic remains of the American arts and crafts movement which began in the 1890s. This movement was fueled by frustration of the over decorated aesthetic of the eclectic Victorian style and the desire to emphasize handcrafted work over mass-produced goods. Learn more about this style and how to avoid the pitfalls of this design.
“Ho-hum, predictable, and boring.” Or, “The vanilla of building styles.” This perception is loosely associated with the word, Traditional. But then again, so is safe, reliable, and predictable. In colloquial terms, Traditional style is perceived as the tried-and-true normal. Architecturally speaking, Traditional style might include colonial-style, Federal style, George and style, or Prairie and Farm style. From both perspectives, Traditional Style tends to be some form of a boxy two story with different roof, post, and window treatments. So a project with clean simple lines, uniformed (often mirrored) design touches, with an old, familiar feel, might be good candidates
for the “Traditional” style label. Learn more about this style and how to avoid the pitfalls of this design.
13 Timber Truss Design Styles
The no frills solution this truss presents is ideal in many situations, especially as a “Second Act.” This means that another timber element is the main visual focus, but the Simple Truss is placed so that it presents a secondary visual surprise. For example, it could be used as a secondary feature behind a more ornate Hammer Beam front truss. As you can see, the size of the simple truss is limited to the load bearing capacity of its members, since it doesn’t have webs; this means your typical truss span will max out around 30′.
- Offset centerline
- Iron rods and integrated arches
- Variable slope
- Multiple webs
- Double Top load or DBL B.C.
If you have a space where two opposite walls vary in height, you may be well served with a scissor truss- the peak, or center line is off set and aligns where the two roof slopes converge- a perfect way to elegantly bridge two different wall heights.
Wrought iron rods (horizontal tie rods to be precise) often improve the elegance of a scissor truss. A very elegant scissor truss we had the opportunity to do combined arches and a horizontal tie rod. A modified scissor truss with an arch borrows elements from the Queen truss- the bottom chords begin in the same way as a normal scissor truss but then terminate at a vertical post placed at approximately 1/4 to 1/3 of the span, a tie rod connects the bottom of these vertical posts and an arched berm connects the posts together near the top. It’s a very unique truss which feels like an elegant throwback to castle days.
Another nice twist you can get with a scissor truss is to implement a ½ lap with the bottom members, This allows the bottom chords to each continue to the top member creating an “X” that really resembles scissors. This also increases the strength of the truss because the pieces are interwoven. Bigger spans will allow you to experiment with different web angles and web orientation along with the actual steepness of the bottom members. All of these factors allow you to adjust the intimacy of your timbered space.
The Scissor Truss really blends well with all styles- Western Rustic, Contemporary and Old European. It could perhaps even fit the Cottage Bungalow style if the roof pitch was low enough to keep the space intimate.
As far as style goes, the true cruck truss is definitely limited. If you are choosing the Cruck Truss, you must already have a very steep roof, which means that your starting point stylewise will be Mountain Lodge or old European. The best looking Cruck I have seen to date was built in Australia-This barn was formed with wavy irregular timbers, sawn flat on only 2 or 3 sides, leaving one side of the tree untouched. Of course “best looking” comes down to personal preferences and taste. But, I feel like the rounded, irregular element of the Ausralian Cruck really was consistent with the ancient history and architecture of the cruck system.
I would choose the Lane Truss primarily for cases which structurally require this unique form, the only exception being a situation where a normal vaulted ceiling would seem too high or make the living space feel tall and narrow.
Compression Ring Truss
Variations of this truss configuration are a popular way to construct outdoor living pavilions and barbeque shelters. The main benefit with this truss is the unique open feel from the inside-no webs, no posts, just an open space framed with timbers! There are many ways to get creative with this truss, though. If you desired an Italian feel you could curve the whole roof up to make it like more of a dome. A curve in the opposite direction may lead lend an Asian feel to the structure. A dual pitched roof (meaning that the front of the roof has a different slope than the sides) could give you more of a Polynesian look and feel.
Compression Ring Truss
The Compression Ring Truss is really flexible to any timber style, although with a structure of larger scale it would lose some style flexibility. A bigger building would require larger timbers, which would lock the style to Heavy Rustic. Wherever you end up placing this truss, I recommend it in a location where you desire an open and energetic feel.
A common mistake you’ll want to avoid if you choose the king truss style is positioning the angle of the webs 90 degrees, or perpendicular, to the sloped/top beams. This is a mistake repeated often, probably because it seems easy and natural to align the webs at right angles to the top chords, but it really kills the balance; the center of the truss will appear pinched or cramped, especially so with the lower pitched trusses. I believe it is better to align the webs by eye to achieve the best balance- the same principal applies when your are deciding how much arch a truss should have or how much to raise the bottom member if it fits better- you will need to consider factors such as wall height, room volume, truss spacing and roof slope to arrive at the best variation of the truss for your situation.
A vaulted ceiling typically terminates at the beginning of an upper level or overlooking a great room. Most of the mono truss applications I have seen have been “Secondary Act.” That is to say that the mono truss is normally used as a stylish solution for a portion of your living area which is a hub of your living space. In certain cases, certain style tendencies combined with a unique front door access,(a front door that is alway approached from the side, for example) can create perfect conditions to use a mono truss for your entry solution.
You will see many examples of metal tension rods incorportated in a multi-web truss, usually right in the middle, in place of the main vertical post. The vertical tension rod is an effective way to give the truss a modern touch while also increasing the resistance to tension. Rods lend a very distinct look; the rods can be black, stainless steel, or even rusted. I personally think that the Multi-Web Truss and Tension Rod combo is quite attractive.
Glue Lam Modern Truss
Recommendations simply don’t work as well with this contemporary style of truss, largely because the heart and soul of “Contemporary” style means architectural surprises-Here is an instance where I could visualize aluminum or stainless steel connection plates. Contemporary style will never have a description that can fit into a box!
Glue-Lam Modern Truss
Typically this style has smaller sized members with more space between the trusses themselves, often coordinating with modern visual surprises such as using old corrugated metal in place of wallpaper as wall covering, hanging art from the ceiling. This type of truss will definitely achieve a contemporary look while still retaining the feeling of home.
Think of this truss as Craftsman or European style. This special truss design also balances well if you have a tall space to fill. Also, the queen truss allows for display or storage space. One particular client planned to display an old large canoe, resting in the rectangular “storage space,” created by the spread out queen posts.
Hammer Beam Truss
Hammer Beam Truss
Typical uses are in great rooms, churches, entries, and attached pavilions. When you choose a Hammer Beam truss, you will be locking in the “old” or rustic factor of your living space. This truss is more along the lines of Old European style. With heavier beams, angular beam details and a lower roof pitch this design begins to fit more into the Western Lodge class.
There are two advantages regarding the Hammer Beam truss: Short pieces, and Many pieces. First, short pieces mean you will not have to pay a premium price as short members are less costly. Second, having many pieces means you can influence the overall feel of your living space fairly easily. To add elegance, braces can be curved, and beam sizes can be trimmed. Conversely, adding beam girth and straight braces creates a stronger feel. Due to the fact you have so many braces, your choices can have a big impact.
Personally, I like to use the Hammer Beam Truss for bigger applications that are designed for specialty use. By specialty use, I mean a place such as a church, a gathering hall, park pavillion or even an indoor pool space. Any space designed to handle a group of people on special occasions or events is made more cozy with the Hammer Beam Truss Style
To explain why the Hammer Beam Truss fits so well in bigger applications, I’ve developed a theory. It seems that the Hammer Beam Truss has a special advantage that makes it work especially well in areas of big volume because of its special ability to make bigger spaces feel more intimate. Somehow I am drawn to the principle that a big space or space with a lot of volume needs to be filled with a lot of people. If you are thinking of using the Hammer Beam Truss in your home, you may want to be mindful of this principle. It seems uncomfortable to set up your own personal relaxation space in an area that is oversized. You’ll want to think about proportions and how you want your space to feel.
The Hammer Beam truss is a special truss. After many years in the Heavy Timber Frame building and design industry, it has become clear that a significant percentage of people that become attracted to Timber Living are first attracted via pictures of Hammer Beam trusses. They may ultimately choose a different truss style as they move through the design process, but the fact remains that Hammer Beam trusses have one of the highest “Wow” factors of all truss styles.
Parrell Chord Scissor Truss
Parallel Chord Scissor Truss
This truss is not elegant by any means! This truss fits best in a situation in which there is a high ceiling to work with and a desire to achieve a more rugged and industrious feeling.
When designing the truss itself, I would recommend a straight forward design. Arches should be left out and needless timbers avoided. The same minimalist strategy applies to the timber sizing also; nothing extremely massive, just functional like the barn itself.
“It was awesome working with Bert. He helped us clearly understand our options based upon what we wanted. It was nice to see the steps compartmentalized so we could visualize and make decisions. Bert was exceptional throughout the process. Anyone who sees our entry and back patio will ooooh and ahhhh!”.
Traditional and Hybrid Timber Framing
Experience the warmth and beauty of exposed beam for your residence or building with expert design and build services by Arrow Timber Framing. Post and beam additions will increase the value of your investment and produce stunning results that are an expression of your unique vision.
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Working with the ATF Team, you will receive the highest level of support in every phase of the project, from our initial brainstorming session to managing the project through completion. You will experience the rewards of post and beam construction throughout the entire journey. We work relentlessly, like a dog on a bone, to produce exactly the results you expect, so you are completely satisfied with the results. Ready to get started?
“We reached out to Arrow during Christmas time and needed it finished a short time frame. Bert and his team got it done quickly and it looks great. I’d recommend them to anybody!”
“We are amazed and very very happy. [We] got right to business with Bert and [he] made a model that helped us fine tune exactly what we wanted… One of the things I want to mention is that the design was fairly complex and some trouble-shooting issues came up and Bert and Jim [our general contractor] worked together and overcame those issues”
The White Family
Timber Accents – An Alternative to Custom Design
Many people LOVE the look of artistic timber elements, but cannot justify the investment for a custom designed timber package. These stock decorative timber accents are ready to go for easy purchase and easy installation. You have four styles to choose from. Each style is constructed of high quality green Douglas fir with a light rough-sawn texture, and you can choose from five of our most popular accent pieces. These can be picked up at our manufacturing facility, or, we will ship them to you.
Here are the top three tips to ensure you get an excellent result:
1. Elements such as siding accents, colors and timber accents should be repeated at least three times to establish a theme. An odd number of elements will appear more balanced.
2. Architecture and design uses strength and elegance as basic building blocks. As you personalize your style, you will also be using a balance of strength and elegance. This touches all the choices you will make: colors, textures, space, height, volume, lighting, fixtures, etc. With regards to your timber accents, keep this simple rule in mind: straight angular lines represent strength while curves and arches represent elegance.
3. Don’t fall into the ‘make everything equal and symmetrical’ trap. Acknowledge that beauty and uniqueness can be found in asymmetry. You are welcome to try what I like to call the “fuzzy one-eyed approach.”
Step back from your plans, close one eye, and setting until things look fuzzy. Look at your choices with this faraway perspective – no thoughts about alignment with corners, windows, etc. How do things look as a whole? Do certain spots feel cluttered? Do certain spots feel naked? Too high? Too narrow? Too cramped? After you’ve identified what you might like for your big picture, zoom in and work with the close-up details. This could also be called the zoom-out/zoom-in method. I will typically go back and forth a number of times to get things right for our clients.
Are you wondering what elements would best fit your project? Would you like to get some design advice? Please feel free to call (360) 687-1868 and ask to speak with someone on the design team. Or, book your complimentary Brainstorming Session today! From one timber enthusiast to another, we want to thank you for considering us to help you get what you want!