DIY Timber Frame Construction

Updated February 21, 2017

Timber frame construction refers to a house that is built without nails. It involves framing a house with large wooden beams and then using chisels, mallets and pegs to bang those timber beams into place. Tension, pressure and deign is used to hold the lumber together as opposed to dimensionally-cut pieces of wood like 2x4s and nails. Timber frame has been used for millennia to create long-lasting structures; if you like the look of a timber frame home that combines tall, open spaces with sturdy wood, then you may enjoy embarking on a timber frame project.

Design a structure, such as a home, using a Computer Assisted Drawing (CAD) program that allows for posts, girds, braces and structural insulated panels that will form the roof, walls, window frames and insulation all in one piece. Decide what timber you want to use, such as spruce or pine.

Order your frame from a timber frame construction company and work with them to create a frame that matches your CAD design. When the frame arrives at your building site, assemble a team of workers to help you put the frame together. The factory that creates your frame may also supply a team of workers to assemble it onsite, if you want to pay for a team of workers to help you assemble your timber frame.

Use a dead-blow mallet to fit mortise and tension joints together with wooden pegs. Pound the wooden pegs into pre-drilled holes. Joints should be designed by the factory to be within .132-inch so that you can slip them together and secure them with a few light taps of your dead-blow mallet. Pull larger pieces together with a ratchet puller (also called a "come-along").

Rent a hydraulic crane and use it to hoist frame pieces in the air and hold them steady while workers fit frame pieces together. Gently guide vertical tenons into mortise-bored horizontal plates.

Join prefabricated roof components (rafters and, if large enough, horizontal purlins to support them) together on the ground. Lift the assembled roof off the ground with a crane. Work together with other workers to slide grooves in the roof plate onto horizontal tongues on the posts at the top of the assembled frame.

Fill out the sides of the house with structural insulated panels (SIPs) measuring up to 612 inches thick. Understand that each SIP has a foam core as well as interior and exterior faces. Fit SIPs onto the assembled frame. Finish painting and decorating your home. Once done, enjoy the exposed wooden beam structure from the interior of your home.

Things You'll Need

  • Computer assisted drawing software (CAD)
  • Spruce or Pine timber
  • Electric drill
  • Dead-blow mallet
  • Ratchet puller ("come along")
  • Hydraulic crane
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