What’s The Difference Between Timber Frame and Post And Beam Construction?

Timber Frame Blog

While researching timber frame homes, you likely see the words “post and beam” pop up repeatedly. Is post and beam construction related to timber framing? Or, is post and beam just another way to refer to a timber frame.

Although timber frame and post and beam share some attributes, they are two different “ways” of building a home. Hopefully, once you know the differences—you’ll be able to determine which one you prefer over the other.

What Is A Timber Frame?

This classic construction method uses large, heavy timbers connected with a system of wooden pegs and holes. All parts of this system, the structural frame, roof trusses, posts, and beams, interlock together with no nails, screws, or metal brackets.

It’s a very classic look that has stood the test of time. When it comes to strength and beauty, not much will rival a traditional timber frame.

Mortise And Tenon Joinery

The Horyu-Ji temple in Nara, Japan (a timber frame over 1,200 years old) has survived nearly 50 earthquakes that have struck Japan with a magnitude of 7.0 or higher! This structure and many others around the World and the United States are a testament to timber framing's resiliency and strength.

What is mortise and tenon joinery?

Used for thousands of years by woodworkers worldwide, the mortise and tenon joint has been trusted to join two pieces of wood to form a joint. In its most basic form, it is both simple and strong. In fact, the mortise and tenon joint is considered one of the strongest joints—next to the dovetail joint. Although there are many variations, the mortise and tenon joint comprises two primary components:
  1. The mortise hole and
  2. The tenon tongue.
The tenon, formed on the end of the timber is inserted into a square or rectangular hole cut into the corresponding timber. The tenon is cut to fit the mortise exactly. Usually, it has shoulders that precisely seat when the joint fully enters the mortise hole. The joint is then pinned with oak pegs to lock it in place, creating a naturally beautiful timber frame that is both complex and structurally sound. Unlike a post and beam structure, a timber frame is assembled on the ground and raised into place.

Timber Frame Benefits

Usually more attractive, elegant, and expensive. Traditional wood joinery, if kept dry, can endure for centuries. Wood joinery is somewhat elastic and can deflect and give a little under loads. This is one reason that specific examples of Japanese architecture have survived for over a thousand years–despite the destructive earthquakes that occur several times each century.

Timber Frame Disadvantages

Timber framing is more expensive due to the need for highly skilled labor to design, engineer, and fabricate. Depending on location, increases in timber cost can also occur when timber sizes increase during the engineering process.

What Is Post And Beam?

This modern adaptation of the traditional timber frame uses metal fasteners to connect timbers together. The posts are vertical pieces of wood that support the roof. The beams are horizontal pieces of wood that connect the posts together and form the base of the roof truss. The tie beam is a horizontal piece that runs the length of the house.

Compared to the timber framing method, post and beam building typically results in a less intricate connection.

Post And Beam Connection

There are two primary differences between timber framing and post and beam.

  1. Post and beam structures are constructed by placing the wood pieces on top of each other rather than raising the assembled bent into place.
  2. Post and beam building uses metal fasteners to connect the wood pieces. Based on a homeowner’s preferences, fasteners are either hidden from view or boldly displayed.

Advantages of Post And Beam

Post and beam construction generally has lower-skilled labor costs than timber frame construction. Although post and beam structures require plenty of labor, they tend to be less complex in engineering, construction, and fabrication.

Disadvantages Of Post And Beam Construction

Moisture can condense on the steel surfaces, resulting in rusting steel and wood decay. Dissimilar materials (metal and wood) tend to work loose over time.

It All Comes Down To Preference And Price

If your primary goal in a timber home is to have timbers rather than traditional timber frame craftsmanship, then post and beam may be the way to go. However, suppose you are looking for a home or cabin with a classic aesthetic using mortise and tenon joinery. In that case, you may be happier with an authentic timber frame residence.

Integrity Timber Frame brings a modern touch to the centuries-old practice of heavy timber framing. With the combination of cutting-edge building materials, expert design, and our TruFit™ technology, we design and supply timeless homes with 21st-century efficiency. We can engineer any of our home or cabin kits to be delivered to be assembled as timber frames or using post and beam construction.

We will work directly with you to help mesh your personal needs and desires with a design specific to your goals, location, and budget. Please browse through our floor designs and discover elements you would like to see in your timber home or cabin.

Check out our guide: 10 Essential Steps To Build A Timber Frame Home.

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