Timber Frame Construction

Timber Frame Construction

Timber frame construction is becoming more popular as a type of building method for homes in South Africa, especially coastal areas.


It has the following features:

It is light, and allows quick construction with no heavy tools or equipment.

Every component can easily be done by hand – a house essentially becomes a large carpentry job.

There are a huge variety of products and systems tailored to this type of construction.


It has these negative characteristics:

It is not very fireproof, as it is made of wood.


Every timber framed construction home structure is made of a few basic parts:

Studs are vertical wooden members within the walls.

Joists are the horizontal wooden beams that support the floors.

Rafters are the sloping wooden beams that support the roof.

Sheathing are the sheets that are nailed over the studs to connect them securely and form the wall surfaces.

Siding is the exterior cladding that covers the walls from the outside.


Below are the most commonly used timber framed structures:


  1. Baloon Framed Structures

While this is an outmoded form of wood construction no longer used today, it is good to know what it is and why it is no longer used.

In balloon frame construction, if you had a two-storey house that was twenty feet high, you would use a single 20 foot long vertical stud for both storeys.

The second problem was the gap between the two studs, which acted passageways for the spread of fire from the lower to the upper storey.

For these reasons, balloon frame construction has been superseded by platform frame construction, which is superior in all respects.


2.  Platform Framed Structures

This is the sequence you would follow to erect a 2-storey platform frame house.

Erect the ground floor platform, a horizontal wooden platform over the foundation.

This can easily be done by building each wall flat – on the floor platform – and then tilting it vertically.

Erect the next set of vertical walls in the same manner on the top of the second platform.

As you can see, this system uses shorter, lighter studs that are easy to handle.

It is much easier to build walls flat and then tilt them into place.

Since each floor is a separate horizontal platform, this makes it convenient for construction workers to move around.

These platforms also break the vertical spread of fire.

The only disadvantage of platform frame vs. balloon frame construction is that wood shrinkage plays a bigger role in platform frames.


The History of Wooden Framed Structures

Light wooden framed structures were first created when some bright carpenters realised that the light partition walls they were putting up inside large heavy timber houses were capable of forming a construction system by themselves.

The system was a skin made of timber members covered inside and out by sheeting.

The process was accelerated by the widespread availability of cheap machine-made nails, and properly cut and planed pieces of wood produced by water-powered saw mills.

Unlike heavy timber or brick masonry, wood framing does not require a special set of skills acquired after years of practice.

In modern times, light gauge steel construction is starting to replace light wooden structures.

Timber Frame Construction