Choosing Timbers for your Timber Frame


Submitted by: Bruce Gardner, Co-Owner of Homestead Timber Frames

You have a wide array of wood species to choose from for your timber frame.  Some of the factors to include in making a good choice are:

  1. Strength characteristics of the wood
  2. Color, texture, and durability of the wood
  3. Availability of the wood
  4. Environmental impact of harvesting, processing, and shipping the wood

All timber framing companies have wood species preferences.  Homestead Timber Frames is located in the center of the grandest hardwood forest area in North America.  Our location choice was spawned by access to local timber.  Specifying and using timber local to us minimizes transportation costs, uses trees locally harvested from forests that naturally recover, allows our competence to grow by working within a narrow range of wood species, and provides our clients with a beautiful timber frame using timbers of known provenance and quality.

Homestead Timber Frames employs local White oak for interior timber frames.  The timbers are graded by us and carefully stored until use in a timber frame.  White oak can be planed to a smooth surface and beautifully finished with our natural oil finish.  Construction blemishes are easily renewed; White oak is traditional and durable; and the strength of the wood allows beautiful design flexibility.  A properly designed White oak timber frame becomes an heirloom cherished for generations.

Exterior timber frames are most often built by us of Baldcypress.  Exterior timber frames include pavilions, porches, exterior brackets, bridges, and gates.  Baldcypress is available in large timber sizes of good quality and grows regionally.  Baldcypress timbers gracefully accept surface treatments such as sanding or sand blasting and stain or paint well.  If no finish is desired, Baldcypress weathers over time to a pleasing silver gray which requires little maintenance.

 Homestead Timber Frames avoids using timber species that grow thousands of miles from us.  Timbers from species such as the Redwoods may be sourced from ancient trees, irreplaceable in a dozen human lifespans.  The same may be true for Western Red Cedar.  The environmental impact and expense of transporting all Western woods across the Continent is easily avoided by using our excellent and locally available timber species.  Come visit us and see the wood for yourself.  We will give you a wood sample to take home with you and you can decide what’s best for your timber frame.

Click here to visit our World of Woods for more information on different woods.

An Impressive Entrance


The front entry into your home is the sneak peek into the wonder that is waiting within.  It creates the first impression and can be a wonderful opportunity to express you and your personality.  The grand entrance of your home will be the first and last thing anyone sees when visiting.  Keep in mind that if you are looking to sell in the future it could also be a timber frame trussesturning point for potential buyers.

Smaller timber frame trusses or bent systems that match your timber frame interior over your entry door or as an extended cover over your entry is a great way to welcome guests into your timber frame home. A tiny curve or accent that mimics the style of your front door could provide just the right amount of texture and flow that you desire.  The goal is to create a warm, covered, comfortable landing with good lighting for safety and convenience.

A brightly colored door would really stand out, make a bold impression, and add a bit of personality. By taking a color from your brick fireplace chimney and using it for your door color, combined with your beautiful timbers it could complete your exterior perfectly. Windows the full length of the door on each side would open up the space and seem to make the entry a bit larger. Double doors would also make for a wider and more open entrance.  A detailed accent window, perhaps a round shape or half moon shape would fit perfectly above your door within the space of your extended timber frame trusses.

How a Tenon is Fabricated


Submitted by: Erik Toplis, Timber Frame Designer

A tenon, as related to timber framing, is a projection on the end of a timber used for joining multiple members together.  Timber Frames receive a multitude of hand crafted tenons and each tenon is created with great care and will end up joined inside a mortise.  A tenon starts life as a set of lines on the side of a timber post, beam or knee brace.  Each line is drafted with using the timber frame shop documents as a guide for length, width and placement.  This is referred to as ‘laying out’.  Every member of a timber frame is laid out and checked before it is fabricated.  Once the tenon is laid out it is time to double check the work, grab a saw, and start cutting.  Our crew uses different sizes of circular saws to make the various cuts required in fabrication.  Once the saw is set to the correct depth the cutting can begin.  Depending on the tenon length this is usually a series of four cuts.  One cut on each side defining the position of the tenon and two additional cuts to remove the waste material.  At this point we have the basic shape of a tenon.


The tenon is then evaluated for consistency and accuracy.  Any imperfections are worked away with a chisel.  Using a mallet and chisel, the joiner takes care to skim off waste material and leave behind a work of art that is ultimately hidden within its respective mortise.  Although never seen again, accurate tenon fabrication is crucial for a tight fitting timber frame.  The more accurately the tenon is cut is directly related to how well the members of the frame fit together.  Too short and you end up with a sloppy joint, too long and the tenon sticks out of the mortise.  Our shop crew creates tenons so accurately that they receive a bevel at the end for easier fitment.  Once a series of mortises and tenons are cut, it is on to pre-fitting the frame in sections.  During the pre-fit of the timber frame, the peg holes are drilled through the assembled mortise and tenon joints so that once raised, this geometry translates to the assembled frame and is truly a hidden work of art.  The frame seemingly squeezes itself together along with the raising crew to perfect fitment but in reality it is the skill of the joiner that creates this illusion.

The Future of Timber Framing

Submitted by: Bruce Gardner, Co-Owner of Homestead Timber Frames

Timber Framing

The timber framing revival began in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s.  A few folks,
principally in New England, noticed that there were sound buildings in their communities that were nearing 4 centuries of age.  In comparing these timber frame buildings to modern construction they realized that the skill required in design and construction was greater, the timbers were larger, the buildings were stronger, and the architecture was

Modern timber framing has dramatically advanced in design and application.  Today’s timber frame may be a home, a portion of a home, a barn, a pavilion, a bridge, or simply decorative timber assemblies.  Timber framers have become adept at designing and cutting complex wooden joints, rigging and assembling complicated buildings, and in adapting timber frames to a variety of uses, styles, and budgets.more beautiful.  By the mid-80’s a few of these timber framing folks discovered each other and convened a small gathering of like minded craftspeople.  From this small beginning grew the Timber Framers Guild.  Timber framers have been teaching each other how to timber frame ever since.

Insulating wall and roof systems for timber frame structures have dramatically improved.  The timber frame structure can now be both beautiful and energy efficient.  Because timber components are accurately fabricated in a shop, construction time is reduced.  For example, a timber frame for a 2,500 square foot home can typically be assembled in a week.  Insulating wall and roof systems can be installed in one more week giving a weather tight shell in a total of two weeks.

timber framing

Architects, builders, lenders, and home owners have become ever more aware of the possibilities presented by timber frames.  Both projects and timber framing companies have become more numerous.  The result allows building owners to select a timber framing company close to their site and allows timber framing company craftsmen to spend their work days close to home even when assembling a timber frame.  While not yet commonplace, the continued growth in timber frame popularity insures an expanding use of this beautiful and durable building method, enhancing the quality of local architecture and the utility of the buildings so built


Cherry Key

Homestead Timber Frames used this handcrafted cherry wood key in place of pegs to secure the joint.  The really cool thing about this joinery technique is that as the oak timber frame dries the key will be struck gently with a mallet to keep the joint tight. The lucky owner of this timber frame home taps on the key about once every six months over the next three to four years.

Topping off your Pavilion – Roofing Considerations

Submitted by: Erik Toplis, Timber Frame Designer


Many considerations for the design and fabrication of a pavilion are rooted in how the finished product will look.  Behind the scenes we make sure that the design is structurally sound.  The form and function areas of design are all the while being considered.  This is highlighted in the pavilion roof framing through a form that makes the function a visible design parameter.  This is how a timber frame gets its shade, not to mention the overall ‘look’ of the finished product.

Considering a pavilion roof usually starts with the question of roof style.  The two most popular styles are gabled and hipped.  A gable roof has a peak running parallel with the eaves.  Principal rafters (members running from eave to peak) are the main support in this type of roof framing.  A hipped roof pavilion has a high point to which each eave runs up to.  Hip rafters (members running from each corner to the high point) are the supporting members used in this other style of roof.

Each design has a unique look and the applications are endless.  For example, a gable roof can be square or rectangle with varying roof pitches to accommodate different truss styles and site requirements (existing structures, etc.).  Gable truss style options are also seemingly endless varying from king post, queen post, hammer beam and so on.  A hip-roofed pavilion has a different set of options that are varied as well.  The structure can be square or rectangle but the plate (eave) is of the same height at each side.  More often than not a boss pin is used to join the hip rafters at the high point.  A square structure receives a singular boss pin while a rectangular structure receives two, one at each high point connected by a timber ridge.

Completing the look of a pavilion is done with the roof design.  Large timbers with wide spacing can be used to give a bold and heavy look while smaller members can be spaced closer together for a light and airy look.  Beam spacing is decided in design adhering to roof loads and a timber’s ability to carry that load.  Form and function reside together in harmony and the pavilion roof system becomes the structural focal point of the frame.  Once the pavilion roof system is sheathed and finished in the owner’s selected material, it is time to sit down and look up!

Wiring a Timber Frame Pavilion

Submitted by: Bruce Gardner, Co-Owner of Homestead Timber Frames

Timber Frame Pavilion owners would like to enjoy their pavilion after dark.  Some want ceiling fans.  Many appreciate electrical outlets to power lamps.  The challenge in providing electrical service in an open structure is that of safely hiding the wiring. We have developed a number of effective techniques to meet this challenge.  Our wiring goals are

timber frame pavilion
• To provide safe wiring techniques

• To meet our client’s wiring requests

• To make the electrician’s task straightforward and                       efficient

• To make the wiring disappear


Our first step is that of placing on paper all the fixtures our client wants.  We offer timber frame pavilion
placement suggestions that avoid wooden joints and that enhance lighting effects.  With our client’s approval we determine the best routes and techniques that to use.  Our shop drawings include channels for wiring and pockets for electrical boxes for lighting, fans, switches, and outlets.  We create channels on the top of roof timbers in which wiring is run after the timber frame is raised and before the roof decking is installed.  Ceiling boxes for lights and fans are inset flush into the bottom side of timbers and installed by us to make the electrician’s job straightforward.

Timber Frame Posts present their own challenge.  Posts that sit against a conventional wall are useful for wiring that does not show in the completed structure.  Often all faces of all posts are visible which requires us to be more creative.  We have invented the use of a two step channel.  The first channel is deeper and narrower than the second and will contain the wiring.  The second channel is wider and shallower than the first and is cut directly over the first.  Once the timber frame is raised the electrician runs the wiring in the deeper channel.  With the wiring in place the local contractor installs a fillet strip—provided by us of the same material as the timber frame—over the deeper channel with wiring inside.  Typically the fillet strip, which sits flush with the surface of the post, is screwed in place so that it could be removed later should additional wiring be desired.  As the accompanying photographs show, once the timber frame is complete the wiring is invisible.  While we can’t claim that it’s magic, we do hope the result is magical.


Handcrafted Opportunities for a Timber Framed Wedding Pavilion

Submitted by: Cyndy Gardner, Co-Owner of Homestead Timber Frames

wedding pavilionOne very special moment in every couple’s life is their wedding and our society is witnessing a rebirth of outdoor celebrations for this memorable event.  A specially designed timber framed pavilion built exclusively for people who cater these outdoor weddings is our expertise.  Our team visits the site and can serve as consultants as to the size needed and how it could fit into the existing landscaping and layout of the other buildings.  Our favorite designs come from clients who want to blend their surroundings with the pavilion and create the impression that the intricately designed timber frame has been there for a long time.  We try to match our structures to blend with the setting as well as other buildings it may connect to.  They can be rustic, simple, ornate, hip roofed or gabled – the choices are many and Homestead Timber Frames is ready to help.

A few of our structures have needed to be large enough for up to 250 people to be seated wedding pavilionat round tables for a reception while others want a smaller more intimate gazebo type structure just for the bride and groom to stand in.  The requests vary of course from every size in between and choices in style.  Our goal is to make each handcrafted pavilion we build to be unique to the setting and structured for the purpose it will serve.  All our clients recognize that we offer high quality craftsmanship, personalized design services, and thoughtful ideas for them to consider when planning for outdoor wedding venues.

We stand ready to design and build for you.  Contact us before the next season rolls around.  Then you’ll be ready!


Foundations – Every Pavilion Needs One

Submitted by: Erik Toplis, Timber Frame Designer

Pavilions, just like any other load bearing structure, start with a foundation.  There are various options for transmitting gravity loads to the Earth and the decision on which route to take usually happens in the design phase.  Things to consider include snow load (live load), pavilion weight (dead load), and site conditions.  Site conditions are generally the same once preparations have been made for the pavilion raising.  Soil conditions have already been evaluated and grading and excavation has been completed.  At this point it is up to the general contractor, home owner and timber frame supplier to decide which method to use to anchor the structure.

Here at Homestead Timber Frames, we offer detailed suggestions on how to construct the foundation.  We will specify where to pour a simple slab and where to reinforce for our timber post locations (rebar is sometimes required for larger pavilions).  Most of the time the pavilion posts sit directly on the slab or sit on raised pilasters.  In every case we specify a piece of Plexiglas to mount under the post which prevents the timber frame from wicking moisture out of the concrete.

Moving on, once the concrete is in place and reinforced in the required locations, our crewbegins the installation of Timberlinx.   Timberlinx is a commonly used fastening system to secure timber elements to each other or to foundations.  We prefer using Timberlinx over other systems for mounting our pavilion post feet.  First, a hole is drilled into the concrete at the specified location and to the appropriate depth.  Then a threaded bolt is inserted, leveled, and epoxied into place.  Once the epoxy dries we fasten the top Timberlinx cylinder to the rod leaving it proud of the concrete as specified.  Thirdly, the frame is raised and posts (with pre-drilled holes at their bases) are set down onto the Plexiglas, sliding the Timberlinx into the post.  Finally, the specified Timberlinx screw is inserted into the side of the post and tightened, thus securing the post to the foundation.  A wooden plug is used to conceal this connection and is sanded flush with the outside face of the post.  Almost the trick of a street performer, the post base connection is hidden giving the frame a very clean appearance.  Constructing an accurate and strong foundation is the most important step in preparing to raise a timber frame pavilion, thus our crew often makes a special trip to measure and evaluate the work before raising a pavilion.  Quality from the ground up you could say!

Boss Pins- What are they? How do they work?

Submitted by:  Erik Toplis, Timber Frame Designer

Boss pins are one of the most beautiful and elegant ways to join roof framing members at a central location.  Simply defined, the boss pin is the central vertical member that accepts various hip rafters.  Boss pins can be used in square or rectangular hip roofed structures and these structures can have varying roof pitches.  Designing, fabricating, and positioning a boss pin each hold their different challenges.  Designing a boss pin involves taking into consideration roof pitches, the various hip rafters and their sizes, and the desired final style of the timber frame.  This process can be a bit daunting but is totally worth the payoff.  The designer specifies the size of timber to be used and the various angle cuts as well as the housings and mortises for the hip rafters.  Once this is all translated to timber frame shop drawings it is off to the shop for layout and fabrication.

Laying out a boss pin requires the use of multiple drawings from different views to specify the different details and cuts.   Usually the layout process is done in a couple of steps.  First the joiner determines the overall length and height cuts as well as the housing and mortise cuts.  Following this are various cuts to give the boss pin its desired appearance.  Some boss pins have a great amount of intricate detail for a more elegant look while others are simple to look more functional.  The main focus is to get the angles right so that the frame joins together properly.

The installation of a boss pin is quite the event.  Boss pins are usually flown into place using a crane, with hip rafters and collar tie attached.  The collar tie joins the lower part of the boss pin to the rafters creating a strong triangle along each roof plane.  Once this assembly is in place the crane holds position until another hip rafter is placed into the opposing side of the boss pin.  At this point the assembly is self sufficient and the crane moves aside.  After a couple more hip rafters and collar ties you are left with a completed assembly that is strong, elegant and prepared to endure many decades of time.  The mystery of how the boss pin works is relatively simple.  Differing members are in tension or in compression which results in creating equilibrium and therefore a stable timber frame.