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  • The Timber-Frame Home

Two decades ago, Tedd Benson helped kindle the dramatic rebirth of timber framing in this country. Today Benson and others are combining centuries-old timber-framing techniques with modern building materials to create houses that are as beautiful as they are durable and comfortable. In this book, Benson traces the history of the timber frame and tells how to create a new house in the tradition of old-world craftsmen.

Today's timber-frame house presents unique building problems. Where do you put plumbing and wiring if you don't have stud-frame walls? How do you incorporate glass into the framing to create dramatic views? How do you insulate a timber-frame home? How do you ensure that the building meets codes? In this one-of-a-kind book, a master timber framer shares extensive experience solving these problems. This new edition brings the latest advances in timber framing to life with hundreds of full-color photos and rendered drawings -- all the information you need to join the timber-frame revival.

Additional Information
About No
Issue Number No
Cover 132
Publication Year 1997
Photos color photos
Drawings and drawings
Other Formats 77704
Isbn 978-1-56158-129-0
Author Tedd Benson
Dimensions 8-1/2 x 11
Pages 240
Format Hardcover















I am one of the fortunate. When I began to timber-frame in the early 1970s, I had no plans to dedicate my life to the building profession, not to mention a career so obscure as the craft of constructing buildings using ancient wooden joinery and heavy timbers. It was a naive youthful yearning that, without plan or preparation, grabbed my life. So I am surprised to be reporting to you now -- these many years later -- that I'm just as engaged, just as enthusiastic, and still very much at the beginning of a journey, not at the end.

My good fortune is severalfold: first, to have stumbled upon my calling; second, to find myself surrounded by a remarkable group of people who have also been drawn to this work; third, to find in timber-frame construction satisfaction in both the built accomplishments and the constant, beckoning enticement to strive for improvement in each next effort.

As a young builder, I wanted to try timber framing as part of my quest for a better process and product in the construction of homes. It disturbed me that carpentry, once an exalted trade, could be seen as an occupation without challenge, often becoming the last refuge for the unmotivated and unskilled. Driving nails is not craft. Further, I found the average American home to be a sterile, drywalled box without an ounce of aesthetic merit. I couldn't understand why either the builders or the occupants submitted to their fates.

Having become enamored with the magnificent timber-frame barns and houses of New England, I became determined to try it in new construction. Eventually, I found a project, then another, and... Before I knew it, 15 years had gone by, I owned a company that had built several hundred timber-frame houses, and I was publishing my second book about timber framing. Now it is almost 25 years since that youthful flight of fancy, an appropriate milestone to be releasing this second edition of The Timber-Frame Home.

The standards and procedures for timber-frame construction are evolving rapidly. Though the fundamental precepts about timber framing are quite old, its integration into the contemporary North American building environment is still young. In an attempt to catch up with some of the developments of the last 10 years, in this edition you will find new joints that make frames stronger, better foundation- and deck-framing details, and some very important information about securing the frame to its underpinnings. Information about foam-core panel exterior insulation has been updated to reflect a more mature manufacturing industry and advancements in the installation procedure. The design discussion is oriented more toward adaptability, with less emphasis on integration. I especially want to note that this book is much more beautiful and easier to read, with completely new illustrations by Brian Smeltz, lots of new photographs, and a great layout job by the good people at The Taunton Press.

An ageless craft practiced worldwide

I am convinced that this is the finest of times to practice timber-frame construction. It is a craft and building style that has been in active use for well over 2,000 years in all parts of the world. In most of the forested areas, some form of timber framing was (or still is) the dominant method of construction. But for most of history, the sharing of knowledge and information among timber framers was haphazard or nonexistent. Now we are lucky enough to be living in a period in which boundaries of time, distance, and nationality have been torn down. We are the first generation of timber-frame builders who have been able to easily learn from the masters in any part of the world and at any time in history. It is thrilling.

When we build a timber-frame home in North America today, it is quite possible that a single frame will employ joinery or frame details from Japan, England, France, Holland, Germany, early America, and turn-of-the-century California. The tools employed probably will have come from at least three different countries, some very modern and some old. The structure will have been subjected to an engineering analysis using test results from high-tech laboratories from around the world and employing powerful computers. Where, then, do these modern timber frames come from and to which time and place do they belong? Why would we deny the best aspects from Japan in favor of that which would make the product purely English or authentic early American? The only reason I can imagine to be so restrained is for the purpose of a reproduction of a style or time period, because to otherwise ignore extant superior knowledge is clearly a shortsighted and unnecessary compromise.

Modern buildings with historical interpretations

Our timber-frame construction does not specifically replicate any particular timber-frame style or tradition; instead, it has grown out of our learning and interpretation from many cultures and environmental contexts. How we make our buildings is a product not only of what we have gleaned about timber-frame methods and details from throughout the world, but it is also hugely affected by modern engineering, architectural influences, local climatic conditions, and all the glittering amenities of our contemporary lifestyle. After all, timber framing is completely useless unless the resulting home is found to be attractive, comfortable, utilitarian, and affordable. In the end, it is the living space for people that matters most, not the method of construction, and certainly not the timbers. It is important that the focus of the work be on the space that's created, not on the components of the structure. In that light, this book is really about how to make timber-frame dwellings efficiently and effectively while creating spaces that are good for habitation--in short, it's about making good homes.

Which gets me back to the beginning. My first imaginings about the potentials of timber framing in residential construction were fired by the desire to improve the quality of houses and the manner of their construction. For my part, little has changed. I still feel strongly that there is a world of work to do toward achieving these goals. The current building standards are too low. I am also still convinced that modern timber-frame construction has enough inherent attributes and potential benefits to be a constantly improving model of the kind of beauty, integrity, and durability that will better represent the best intentions of our society.

Tangible rewards

Those who make good buildings are always both rewarded and humbled. When the work is done, or even when pieces of it are completed, more often than not we stare in wonder at our own creation because our best work always contains more intelligence, beauty, and nobility than we ourselves can summon. When we strive for the most durable architecture and the highest order of construction, we come closest to accomplishing those goals when we lean heavily on the shoulders of the many millennia of builders who have preceded us in the long march of civilization. We recognize the characteristics of beautiful and timeless architecture only because dedicated craftspeople who preceded us have left them on display in surviving buildings both modest and monumental. In our best work, we often emulate without knowledge and remember instead of discover. So, even as we sometimes stand in awe of the fruit of our own labor, there is little room for contentment or smug satisfaction. Good buildings are built by the ages, not just the teams that came together for their construction. What is built by the ages is judged by the ages. It is never 'good enough.'

The Timber-Frame Home

  • by Tedd Benson
  • Hardcover
  • Product Code: TP-FHB72070260
Availability: In Stock
Today's Price: $27.96
List Price: $34.95
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