Our Timber Frames

Why Build a Timber Frame Home?

 

Timber frame homes are constructed in a unique style in which framing timbers are exposed on the inside of the home, creating an exceptional mix of traditional craftsmanship and modern day design. A timber frame is aesthetically pleasing and can be designed to fit any style of home or floor plan. Since interior structural walls are not necessary, timber frames lend themselves well to open floor plans. These homes are highly energy efficient, due to the insulating systems that enclose them. This makes them ideal for northern climates, where it takes energy to keep a house warm in the winter, and for warmer climates, as they keep the house cool in the summer.

 

 

Building a timber framed home is often less stressful than building a conventional "stick" frame home because of the relatively short amount of time it takes to assemble the timbers on the building site, raise the frame and install the SIPs. By the time we arrive on your site with the timber, the majority of the work has already been completed in our shop. On-site it will take us five days to erect an 1,800 sq. ft. home and another 5 days to install SIPs. When our portion of your project is complete, your structure is weather tight and ready for doors and windows.

 

 

Why Build an Alces Post & Beam Timber Frame Home?

Our timber frames are built the old fashion way, only better. We go beyond the average timber framing specifications to produce the highest quality products that are built to last.

  • We take pride in handcrafting a quality product using hand tools and not CNC computerized machinery.
  • All our joints are secured with traditional mortise and tenon joinery. Through-bolts or metal brackets are not used unless specified for aesthetic or structural engineering purposes.
  • Our frames are assembled and raised as bents as they have traditionally been in the past. A typical 1,800 square foot home is constructed of 4 bents.
  • We house all our joints to minimize the twisting of timbers.
  • Knee braces are fully housed and centered in their respective timber, adding a beautiful shadow line behind the brace and allowing wall finish to be easily applied.
  • We use housed dovetail joints to connect joists and purlins, which keeps them from pulling out of their pockets.
  • We measure every timber end so that the pocket that accepts it can be made to the exact size, thus ensuring a tight fit.
  • We add as many knee braces as the floor plan allows for both structural and aesthetic purposes. In a typical 1,800 square foot home, we may incorporate between 60-80 knee braces into the frame.
  • We install straight knee braces instead of our standard curved braces where walls will be built beneath timbers. This way, builders have an easier time framing interior walls.
  • We make sure knee braces will not stick out of walls or interfere with kitchen cabinets and closets by making them smaller or removing them completely during the design stage.
  • Each knee brace tenon is sized into its accepting mortise at our shop in order to ensure a smooth assembly on site.
  • We use special joints, such as spline joints, to maintain strength in a post where two or more horizontal timbers meet. The hardwood spline connects horizontal timbers on opposite sides of the post instead of using tenons, which require the removal of additional wood from the post, which weakens the joint.
  • We secure all timber joints with 1" hard wood pegs. In a typical 4-bent 1,800 sq. ft. house, up to 260 pegs are used to secure the frame.
  • We start and stop edge chamfers so they don't continue through walls and counter tops.
  • We cut our posts to individual lengths that we determine on-site using a site-level at each post location. This makes up for errors in the deck framing and ensures the frame stands plumb.
  • Each post is cut into the 3/4" deck sheathing to help keep it from twisting.
  • The same crew of 3-4 timber framers that cuts your frame will also assemble, raise and panel it. Because of this, the crew is intimately involved in every aspect of the project and take pride in the final product.
  • The owner, Ky Koitzsch, is on-site overseeing each and every frame raising, thereby ensuring the high standard of quality that Alces Post & Beam is known for.

The Process of Building an Alces Post & Beam Home

To help our customers better understand the process involved in building a timber frame, we have included a description of the major steps. Please refer to our Glossary of Terms for more detailed descriptions of timber frame terminology.

Design — Our architectural design service works directly with our customers or their builder/architect to design a timber frame to custom fit a desired house style and floor plan. For more information about this service, please see Our Design Service.

Choosing Timber Species — Most of our frames are cut from native softwood species such as Eastern hemlock and Eastern white pine but our customers can also choose from native hardwood species such as sugar maple, red or white oak, or American beech. We prefer using softwoods over hardwoods because they are readily available in our central Vermont location, are less expensive for our customers, are more stable and so less likely to move, crack, twist or pull in a finished frame, and because they are easier to work both in cutting and handling since the wood is less dense and lighter. We generally prefer to use hemlock because it has superior strength over white pine, cuts and chisels well, and is easily sourced by local mills. Reclaimed and antique hand-hewn timber is also available for framing but is even more costly than our eastern hardwoods. We no longer offer Douglas fir or other non-native timber species as we have dedicated ourselves to supporting local economies and minimizing the environmental impact of our frames. Species such as Douglas fir are often harvested unsustainably and must be trucked across the country further straining our limited natural resources. Please see Our Philosophy for more details.

Labeling Timbers — One of the most important steps in the timber framing process is choosing the appropriate timber for each piece of the frame. Each timber has its own character depending on the size or portion of the log it was cut from, the slope or aspect where the tree was cut from, and how rapidly the tree grew. Once the timber is cut, these factors combine to produce timbers that differ in straightness, density, stability and edge character. It is important to look over each individual timber to identify these differences and then to use it in the appropriate location. The highest quality timbers are used in places where aesthetics and structural integrity are most important. Timbers that have imperfections such as wane (bark showing on a corner), shake (growth rings separate and compromise structure and sometimes aesthetic quality of a timber) or bow (visible bend in timber) are used for members that are less visible or require less strength. Timbers that have blemished faces but are otherwise structurally sound are used in areas where the blemished face can be oriented to the outside of the building or upwards where the imperfect face can be covered with SIPs or flooring. Each timber is then labeled with a wax crayon with its appropriate "name" or "location" in preparation for layout.

Layout — Layout is the process where information from the timber frame plans is transcribed in pencil to the face of the timber. Mortises, tenons, and dovetails are precisely located on the timber using a tape measure and a framing square. Once the location and orientation of these pockets have been double-checked, we are ready to start cutting.

Joinery — Joinery is the process of cutting timber joints. All joinery is completed in our shop by our skilled crew using specialized power tools such as chain mortisers, large beam saws and routers. Hand tools such as timber framing chisels or "slicks", rawhide mallets, combination squares, and calipers are then used to size and finish the joinery.

Timber FinishAlces Post & Beam offers timber frames cut from planed or rough-sawn timber depending on the customer's preference. Rough-sawn is typically chosen if a client prefers a more rustic look and planed when they prefer a more finished look for their home. Different edge details, such as a 45 degree chamfer, are used to soften the timber corners and remove any imperfections or splits that could splinter as the timber cures and dries in the finished frame. A single coat of LandArk finish (an all natural lineed oil based finish) is applied to the faces of each timber in our shop prior to delivery and assembly. This finish adds a protective sealer to the timber, enhances the beautiful grain and character of the wood, and protects the frame from the elements while shipping, assembling and raising. It also helps to make cleaning the timber easier after the frame is raised. We will gladly apply other finishes if specified by our customer but this will often require an additional charge.

Assembly and Raising — After the joinery has been completed and the timber finish applied, the frame is shipped to your building site where it is unloaded, assembled and raised on the house deck constructed by your builder. Our frames are designed, constructed and raised as bents as they traditionally were in the past. A bent is the framed cross-section of a structure that dictates the height, width and profile of the house. A typical 1,800 square foot frame is constructed of 4 bents each located 12' to 16' apart. Bent members are pulled together using come-a-longs and often persuaded with sledge hammers or large mallets called "beetles". Once the bent is together, joints are secured with strategically placed 1" hardwood pegs. After all the bents are assembled, they are raised into place using our crane and connected with joists and girts.

Next, the roof timbers are installed. In a principal rafter/purlin roof system large rafters are built into and raised as part of each bent. Rafters are connected with roof timbers called purlins, typically 6x8 in dimension,and installed at 4' centers. A "nailer" timber connects the bents where the rafter meets the past and a "ridge" timber connects the rafters at the peak. With a common rafter system, top plates (typically 8x8 or 8x10) run the length of the eaves, and a continuous structural ridge is set on the center bent posts. These top plates and ridge members, sometimes reaching up to 60' in length, are often constructed of shorter timbers joined end to end with a traditional scarf joint. Common rafters, typically 6x8 or 6x10 in dimension are then installed at 4' centers spanning from the structural ridge to the eave top plates. When the frame design does not call for a structural ridge, we also use common rafter systems with collar ties. A typical 1,800 sq. ft. frame can be raised within 5 days but larger more complex frames may take a little longer.

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