The Craftsmanship of Timber Frame Construction

Timber frame construction is one of the oldest forms of construction that remains in existence today. This type of construction refers to building without using mechanical fasteners to connect the wood. Whereas most building relies on straps, nails and screws, timber frame building uses wooden pegs or joints to hold separate pieces together. Joints from timber frame structures can be found as far back in history as 200 B.C. Timber frame structures have been uncovered in archeological sites throughout the Middle East, Europe and Asia, according to

Today, one can still view timber frame structures that were built in the 1400s. In the United States, one of the most famous standing timber frame structures is the Old North Church in Boston Massachusetts. The church was built in 1723. In the United States timber frame was the construction method of choice until the Industrial Revolution occurred and smaller lumber, that was more manageable for building and required less skill to construct, quickly replaced larger blocks of wood. This method of building is referred to as ‘light frame construction’ or ‘stick building construction.’

Master craftsmen, however, have returned to timber frame construction for details within a home, such as entryways, great rooms and decks, as well as construction of the entire home. At Gerber Berend Design Build most of our current projects include timber frame details in one aspect or another. Timber frame building is more challenging than ‘light frame construction.’ Customized timber frame tools are required for this type of building and we often find ourselves deconstructing the challenge of how to work with 20 plus foot pieces of timber. Our wood is purchased locally and is all new growth wood to help preserve our forests.

In Steamboat Springs, many of the new homes being built use steel plates for structural balance with the timber. While this style is fairly popular, it doesn’t compare to the workmanship or craftsmanship of timber frame, which reflects an old-world style of building. We use timber frame detailing in both contemporary and traditional style homes.

One example of blending contemporary and old world styles is a project we are working on close to the ski mountain. This project is one of the most complicated we have built. In the great room there are three trusses where the wood overlaps and joins together. Looking up, the queen posts come through the other two posts, which are notched on both sides and have a half dovetail at the bottom. The wood is literally woven together. The ridge consists of four pieces of wood, not one continuous piece of wood, with trusses coming through it. There the trusses go through, the ridge beam is mortised and the rafters mortised into that. We set the three main trusses and then set the main beam into that so it all locks together. Above the framing is about 18 inches of insulation.

The exterior of the home also features timber frame details in both the entryway and the deck. The deck also includes steel posts as well as steel beams interacting with the timber for a more contemporary finish.

Another project we recently completed involved building a timber frame structure inside a finished home. The logs were decorative, but the construction process was just as intricate.

At Gerber Berend Design Build we love the challenge of timber frame construction. For us, collaboration between our architects and our builders creates an atmosphere of creativity, quality and craftsmanship that cannot be replicated anywhere else.