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Timber Frames: A Recap of Design, Material, and Finishes Options

Timber frame structures are among the oldest constructions in the history of mankind. Actually, they date back to 500BC. Over the years, the structures have evolved. However, the basic features have been retained.

If you are planning to build a timber frame structure soon, the first thing that you have to settle on is the design. The design that you choose needs to match your personal style. The second thing to decide on is the material. You have to choose a construction material that’ll serve you better. Lastly, you have to pick the finish correctly as it complements your style.

Timber Frame Designs

As mentioned earlier, the design for a timber frame structure depends on individual taste. The most popular options at the moment are:

Contemporary Design

If you are so particular about a modern structure, then this is your ideal option. The design has a simple and minimalist look. Basically, your structure is customized to fit the taste of your local area. So, expect different style depending on your surrounding landscape.

Farmhouse Design

Are you looking for a timber frame structure that has a country vibe? Then you should consider a farmhouse design. It’s the direct opposite of contemporary design. The center of the construction is bent as two supportive frames are added to each side. The design has a minimalist approach but very classy.

Heritage Design

This design takes an artistic approach. It’s a classic style that involves the use of high-quality wood materials. The materials are chosen carefully to guarantee a long-lasting construction. The design is able to fit perfectly in both a rural and town neighborhood. It’s one of those designs that always trend.

Barn Design

Also known as the Gambrel, this timber frame design is not just perfect for barns but also for houses. It’s distinguished by the presence of a double slope. The roof slopes on both sides and this gives you more space to build a storage compartment below it. It’s ideally a vintage design.

Cabin design

Also known as remote design, a cabin-style takes a traditional approach. Ideally, it’s used when building a small and simple structure. It doesn’t require so much and everything can be timber or logs.

Timber Frame Materials

We talked to Big Timberwork, a leading supplier of timber frames supplies, about what materials are the best and here are their recommendations:

Structural Wood

This timber frame material is also known as framing timber. It’s normally used to build floor joints, frame studs, and roof tussles. The material comes with technical characteristics and that’s why it’s used for such applications. The most popular options in this category are:

Heavy timber: It’s obtained from hardwood and come with fire resistance properties.

Light-structural lumber: It’s obtained from softwood through the milling process.

End-jointed lumber: Also known as finger-jointed lumber and is manufactured from dry wood pieces that are joined by a waterproof adhesive.

Wood Shakes

These are natural wood materials that are known for superior insulation and for versatility. The problem is that the material may rot and can be attacked by mold and pest. So, routine maintenance is a necessity. They are ideal for the roof.

Slate Timber

Slate timber is specifically meant for the roof. The material has a natural look and is resistant to rot and pest damage. The material also comes with fire-resistance properties. Because of such properties, the material is the most expensive. The maintenance is also costly.

Engineered Wood

Engineered wood refers to standard wood that has been treated and modified to possess ecological, physical, and technical advantages. The commonest options here are:

  • Glulam: This is a multilayered material that’s used to make posts and roof frames.
  • Plywood: Plywood may be used to make floor beams, roof supports, and structural walls. The material is strong enough to resist shrinkage, curling, and cracking.
  • Aspenite: This is sometimes known as oriented strand boards. It’s not very strong thus used for exterior sheathing.

Composite Shingles

These are among the most popular roofing materials for timber structure. They are not only affordable but also cheap to maintain. In addition, they come in attractive designs. The only problem is that they don’t guarantee a strong structure since they are lightweight.

Timber Frame Finishes

Once you have built your timber frame structure, the remaining thing is to protect it. You can do with the right finish. The finishes can be categorized into major three groups:

Oil Finishes

Most oil finishes provide a clear finish. But there are a few that will darken with time. A good example is linseed oil. There are also some that will maintain their lighter shade. A perfect example is Tung oil. The problem with oil finishes is that they don’t provide maximum structural protection. They are also relatively safe and may require sanding after application.

Wood Stains

Wood stains are made of a suspension agent that can either be water or alcohol. The stains come in different colors depending on the additive. Some are superficial and others penetrate deep. Either way, wood stains will offer your timber frame structure reasonable protection against weather elements and pests.


Wax provides a clear finish just like oil and offers temporary protection to your timber frames. So, you’ll need to reapply it often. The other thing is that it needs sanding and roofing. Basically, it has a lot of work. However, this does not disqualify the amazing benefits that it has. For instance, the shine gives your structure an attractive appearance. Moreover, a wax application is cheaper than most finishes.


If you are looking for an excellent protection solution for your structure, the perfect finish is varnish. The finish will protect your structure for a long time. In addition, vanish has the best gloss. The only problem is that it’s costly and may be hard to reverse after application.

Whether it’s structural strength or flexibility, design variety or speed construction, you can get them all in a timber frame structure. Nonetheless, you have to get it right in choosing your design, materials, and finishes as they all dictate the performance of your structure. Use the above guide correctly, opt for a Big Timberworks Timber Frame, and talk to the right builder. You will not go wrong on anything if you do.