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Building Homes that Last Centuries

Big exposed wooden beams! Nothing gets your mind churning like walking into a home and seeing them in the walls and ceilings, and we’ve all driven by and been in awe of an antique barn and wondered how it could have survived all these years. 

Well, a lot of it has to do with how the homes, barns and buildings of old were constructed. Timber Framing is the centuries old process of building using large wooden timbers and complex joinery to create the load bearing structure of a barn, home, or building.

While largely replaced in favor of the more common “stick framing” you see in many newly constructed homes since the early 1900’s, Timber framing still exists thanks to many skilled artisans keeping the practice alive. 

Timber Framing isn’t just practiced in Amish communities with old fashioned barn raisings like you’ve seen on TV and movies. Modern timber framing has evolved using some of the latest tool technology to enable builders to take the storied past of timber framing and create new, intricate, and beautiful structures that will themselves last for hundreds of years. 

Today’s instructor is one of the few of these skilled artisans keeping the craft alive. Roland Skuce is the co-owner of Caledon Timber Frames, a Canadian Timber Framing company specializing in creating beautiful timber framed commercial and residential structures and we’re thrilled to have him on the show today. 

Roland grew up working with his family’s custom home building company. Through working with various trades he developed a passion for carpentry and working with his hands. He took these skills to school where he studied Residential Construction Engineering. Upon graduating he decided to pursue his love of carpentry and craftsmanship at the College of the Rockies in British Columbia. After graduating the Traditional Timber-framing Program he moved back to his hometown of Caledon where he has been designing and building timber-frames ever since.

By the end of this class you’ll have an idea of what’s involved in timber framing, why you might want to consider it for your next home project, and will leave you dreaming of possibilities on how you can incorporate elements of it around your home to give it amazing character! 

Why does timber framing last centuries?

The size of the timbers! An 8×8 is the smallest timber they would work with. The methods of joining timbers is also stronger (wooden pegs).

What’s different about timber framing vs commercial framing the average person is used to?

A timber structure is doing all the structural work, so you have a solid layer of solid insulation on the outside and no wood in the wall assembly. They’re extremely airtight and efficient.

What types of things does timber framing allow you to do that are maybe harder or not possible with stick framing?

You have the freedom to change the layout of your home as many times as you want! Obviously you’d need to relocate plumbing, but you have much more flexibility.

What is the process like creating a timber framed structure? Maybe do a hypothetical backyard pergola?

Figure out the size you want and what it’s sitting on (you need to allow for the weight of the structure). Map out where concrete is going to go, pull a permit and get a drawing made up. Dig the holes for the concrete (they go down 4 ft because of frost). Order the timber, set the timber on saw horses and cut it, make sure joinery fits and then they typically put them together on the ground.

What kind of tools are involved in timber framing that are different from normal construction?

The saws are just bigger! All the way up to a 16 inch blade. Timber framing tools are pretty expensive: chain mortisers and portable band saws are some of the tools Roland mentioned.

Are there any ways people can incorporate timber framing accents/elements into a stick framed home?

You can, but they’re more non-structural and decorative. Front entries are a great way to bring timbers in. As far as inside, the roof wasn’t designed to support timbers, so it’s a little tricky with the weight- but doable!

Some great resources:

Timber Framers Guild

Timber Frames HQ

A Timber Framer’s Workshop

Homework:

Check out Calendar Timber Frames on Instagram! Build a saw horse!

Find Caledon Timber Frames:

Website

Instagram

Facebook

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