What is a Timber Frame Home?

What is a timber frame home?

Timber frame homes use a historically traditional building technique that joins large timbers to create a strong and beautiful structure. These homes are easily recognized by their exposed timbers that create a stunning and unforgettable visual effect.

Typically, timber frame homes are designed with open floor plans, as the need for interior low-bearing walls is eliminated due to the strength of the frame. These homes can incorporate a variety of external building materials, allowing a timber frame to match any style and fit any setting.

Why Build a Timber Framed Home vs. a Conventional Home?

Energy Efficiency

The combination of timber framing and Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs) creates a highly energy-efficient home. SIPs are the most effective way to insulate a home; they prevent air leakage which keeps hot air out in the summer and the cold air out in the winter. Additionally, the use of passive solar techniques, such as strategically-placed overhangs, can shield the home from the summer sun or helps to heat the house during the colder months.

Built to Last

Timber framing is a uniquely durable building system. The combination of joinery, sturdy supports, and the structural integrity of Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs) make timber frame homes much better equipped than standard homes to survive extreme weather events such as hurricanes and earthquakes.

The carved joints in a traditional timber frame home allow the structure to breathe as the materials expand and contract with environmental changes. This extra tolerance prevents undue stress on the house, allowing it to last much longer. And the use of SIPs increases the durability of timber frames even more.

Naturally beautiful homes

The use of exposed wood mirrors the organic elements of the surrounding landscape, enabling timber frames to fit seamlessly in their natural and scenic locales.

Unlike log homes, which only utilize wood as a building material, timber frames use a variety of exterior and interior finishes, allowing you to customize your home to match your unique style.

Quality of Living

Without the restrictions of load-bearing walls, there are countless opportunities for customizing your timber frame floor plan to meet your design goals. The upright supports of the heavy-frame construction allow for more open spaces and a flexible layout, hence why timber frame homes are known for their spacious floor plans and expansive rooms.

Open floor plans allow for better entertainment, as you can be part of the group while you cook and serve food at the same time when guests are over. Without the restrictions of load-bearing walls, there are tons of opportunities for customizing a timber frame floor plan to your design whims.

How much does a timber frame home cost?

A timber-framed home is of higher quality and expense.

Due to the customized nature of timber frame homes, the cost to build one varies as much as their owners. Because we know what a critical element budgeting is to the building process, we designed a Dream Home Budget Calculator. The calculator factors in a wide range of cost contributors to take the guesswork out of budgeting, so you can hone in on what, exactly, your dream home will cost.

What is the difference between heavy-frame vs light-frame building?

Timber framing is an example of heavy-frame construction, which has some mighty advantages over standard light-frame construction.

Heavy frame – Heavy-framed buildings draw their strength from the sturdy vertical columns spaced throughout the interior rather than load-bearing walls found in light-framed buildings. These interior support columns create more aesthetic opportunities than their load-bearing counterparts, such as grand cathedral ceilings, spacious great rooms, and interiors awash in natural light.

Light frame – Most contemporary homes use light-frame construction, which utilizes load-bearing walls and studs to hold the house together rather than the aforementioned vertical supports. These light “stick” frames became popular because they were cheap and easy to manufacture. With the development of hardware store nails and inexpensive dimensional lumber, it became possible to build a stick-frame house without being a skilled craftsperson, unlike heavy-framing a house, which requires specialized tools and expertise. Some building companies use both heavy-framing and light-framing techniques for aesthetic purposes. This typically adds time and cost without additional benefits.

Where does Timber Framing come from?

Timber framing was developed thousands of years ago as a technique for building exceptionally sustainable, long-lasting structures.
For ordinary people throughout the world, wood was the clear choice for a construction material. Wood is easier to shape than it is to forge metal, and stone is much harder to work with, requiring teams of people for quarrying and finishing. Wood, on the other hand, could be harvested and processed by relatively few people. It’s lightweight and, unlike stone, it’s a renewable resource. Generally, wood has always provided a unique combination of strength, workability, and sustainability that other materials lack.
Learn more about the history of timber framing.

What is timber frame joinery?

The art of timber framing with joinery was developed as a solution to the centuries-old problem of trying to join wooden members without metal fasteners. Specialty joints could be hand-carved into structural timbers to fit like puzzle pieces. In some cases, these joints were secured with wooden pegs but often the timbers were locked together by the joints themselves. The creative techniques for joining timbers of all sizes in various configurations were endless.

Many of these same techniques were also used in building the tall ships that crossed the oceans of the world during the Age of Sail. And not only was joinery an efficient way to unite heavy wooden timbers with fewer metal fasteners, but it also created frames that were extremely strong, flexible, and aesthetically beautiful.

What is the difference between a log home and a timber frame home?

Although they are often mistaken for timber frames, log homes are actually classified in a separate building category defined as mass wall construction. Like all mass-walled buildings, a log cabin depends on horizontal layers of stacked material (i.e. logs) for structure and support. This means that the layout of a true log cabin is limited by the configuration of its walls and how the horizontal layers of logs can be arranged.

Compared to log homes, timber framing provides many more design options. Using sturdy upright supports instead of mass walls allows for high ceilings and open floor plans that are not possible in a traditional log cabin. When people think of a “log cabin” with these architectural features, they’re often not thinking of a log cabin at all but rather, a timber framed building with walls made of logs for aesthetic purposes. As a building material for walls, logs are costly and very poor insulators; this is why Woodhouse uses highly efficient Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs), as insulators in home construction.

How do modern timber frames use Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs)?

Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs) enhance the benefits of timber frames in a few ways. For one, they complement the strength of a timber frame by providing additional structural integrity to the building. Additionally, they provide better insulation and a better envelope than mainstream materials for increased energy efficiency.  They dramatically improve indoor air quality by reducing air infiltration into the building envelope. All of which combines with timber framing sustainability to create a superior healthy home.
Timber framing is an ancient art that remains surprisingly modern. An elegant combination of beauty, flexibility, and strength, building a timber frame home is a unique opportunity to participate in the lasting legacy of hand-made homes.

Timber Frame Glossary

Timber frame home

A heavy-frame construction technique that uses heavy wooden timbers and interlocking joinery, often with wooden pegs instead of metal fasteners.


The interlocking system of puzzle-piece cuts at the joints of a timber frame that holds the structure together.

Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs)

A high performance building system made from an insulating foam core sandwiched between two structural facings. Two common types of SIPs are EPS and Polyurethane.

Post and beam home

A heavy-frame construction method that uses timbers. Unlike timber framing, post and beam homes use metal fasteners instead of pegs and joinery to secure the frame.

Log home

A rustic building technique that uses logs to create the structure. Unlike timber framing, the walls in a log home are load-bearing and typically less sophisticated.

Timber Frame Cabin Home

A small, simple timber frame home plan, often designed for temporary or seasonal use.

A-frame home

Traditional A-frame homes have a steeply-angled roofline that begins near the home’s foundation and ends at the top of the roof to form an A-shaped silhouette. The modern-day definition of an A-frame is any home with a prow roof.

Timber frame kits

This is a construction technique from the 1940s in which the major components are prefabricated in a factory then delivered and assembled on-site. Timber frame kits were the genesis of the modern-day building systems, which have evolved much further than simple kit homes.

Timber Frame Building System

An architecturally-designed, professionally-engineered building system designed to meet the modern-day code.

Knee braces

A short diagonal timber placed between the horizontal and vertical members of the frame to make them rigid.


A framework, typically a triangular structure consisting of rafters, posts, and struts, supporting a roof, bridge, or other structure.

Mortise and Tenon

Any joint consisting of a projection on the end of one timber and a corresponding slot on the other.


A joint having an L-shaped mortise and a corresponding L-shaped tenon.

Tongue and groove

A term describing boards which fit together, edge to edge. One board has a projection and the other has a slot.

Timber frame house plans

Home plans that were created by Woodhouse’s in-house design team and often inspired by previous Woodhouse timber frame home designs. Our design team will modify the plans based on your ideas and inspirations.

Timber framing

A traditional building method using heavy timbers to create structures by carefully crafting timbers to fit together with joints secured by large wooden pegs.