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FAQs about Timber Frames

Established in 2006, Arrow-wood has been active primarily in the timber framing field. The recent surge of interest in mass timber structures has caused us to expand our capabilities and add commercial projects to our scope, although residential projects are still about half of our business.

With a design and administration office near Chicago, Illinois, Arrow-wood takes on projects across the country, having built Timber Frames in locations such as Salem, Oregon; Jackson, Wyoming; Naperville, Illinois; and Farmington Hills, Michigan.

What’s timber frame construction?

“Timber frame” — also called “post and beam”, “heavy timber’ or “mass timber” — construction uses fewer pieces of larger-sized timbers to form a building’s structure. Some commonly-seen timber frames are inside churches and barns, but modern architecture is increasingly using large timber elements, typically over 4” and more usually 8” or more in cross-section.

How does timber frame compare to “stick frame” traditional structures?
Stick framing uses many 2” x 4” or 2” x 6” pieces of lumber spaced closely and regularly around the walls to form a supporting structure, and then places light wood trusses or rafters to form the roof. This means the structure and the insulating, protective shell are one thing. Timber frames have a separate timber structure and a wall & roof envelope, so each can perform their function better.
Why use timber frame construction; what are the benefits of timber framing?
Timber frame buildings are generally prefabricated off-site, so they can go together very quickly and accurately on-site, saving labor costs and making the time from breaking ground to move-in much shorter. They can be structurally stronger, it’s easier to make them energy efficient and, as a plus, they are very beautiful inside with the exposed structural wood.
Are timber frame homes expensive?
The timber frame itself does add to the materials cost, yes, but the reduced labor required to put them up and the reduced time required means there are savings on that side. So they are not always more expensive than conventional construction .
Are timber frame homes energy efficient?

Yes, they can be as energy efficient as the best-performing buildings available. Generally, the timber structure is self-supporting so it can be “wrapped” with a very energy efficient outer shell.

Can timber frame homes be insulated?

Unlike conventionally-framed buildings using wood framing, the timber structure is inside, so the outside shell can be insulated without thermal breaks.

Do timber frame buildings use SIPS?

SIPS are prefabricated insulated panels that have few or no heat-conducting connections from the outside to the inside of the panel. These work very well with a timber frame structure to provide a highly-insulating shell and great energy performance.

Do timber frame houses last?

Absolutely! The main structural part of the timber frame is fully protected inside the weather-proof shell, and is extremely strong. In fact, most timber frame structures can easily pass Dade County hurricane ratings.

Will timber frame rot?

Very unlikely. Any exterior timber elements are treated with rot and UV-resistant finishes, and are designed to be protected by deep eaves or metal flashing.

Are timber frame buildings a fire hazard?
Perhaps surprisingly, in fires, heavy timber structures are seen by experienced firefighters as more durable than the typical gang-nailed wood trusses or rafters used in most stick-framed construction. The outer layer of the timbers chars, which forms a protective layer and slows the rate of burning, so the remaining inner wood can continue to support the roof.

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