Timber Framing 101

Timber Framing 101 by Clydesdale Frames Company includes answers to frequently asked questions about "what is a timber frame" and the structural nuances of timber framing.

For more specific information related to your needs, there are additional FAQs located on the following pages:

Builder and Designer FAQ

Homeowner FAQ


Frequently Asked Questions about Timber Framing

  • What is a timber frame?

    A timber frame is a post and beam structure where the timbers are fastened using wood joinery rather than steel connections. The timber frame forms a superstructure that is typically self-supported and enclosed with SIPS.

  • Are the timbers structural or non-structural?

    A timber frame is structural. Heavy timbers used in non-structural methods are not considered timber frames.

  • How is the timber frame 'closed in' or enclosed?

    We recommend using Structural Insulated Panels (SIPS) with a urethane based foam. Visit our “SIPS” page for more information. Under our “Green Building” page, we cover how the SIPS and the timber frame work together to help create an energy efficient home.

    We recommend SIPS because while they may cost a little more than conventional construction, they offer increased energy efficiency and a streamlined building process. We spend about 2-3 days on-site to raise a frame (again depending on complexity). After we’re done, about a day is needed with a builder to install the T&G ceiling and any necessary framing for hybrid portions. Once that is done, the panel company arrives and installs the panels in a few days. Now a process that normally would have taken a few months on average now only takes a few weeks.

  • Do the walls of a timber frame sit between the timbers?

    In our designs, they do not. Infilling timbers causes one side of the timber to be heated / cooled opposite of the inside. This effect causes the timbers to move more than normal which causes increased checking and twist. Those two factors lead to higher amounts of air infiltration which decrease the energy efficiency of the home. Because of that, we design our frames so that the SIPS are installed to the outer surface of the timbers.

  • Can I use conventional framing and insulation to enclose in a frame?

    It is possible to use conventional framing. However there are several issues involved with using conventional framing:

    The frame cannot sit exposed to direct sunlight and weather for more than a few weeks. If conventional framing is used, it must be done quickly and cannot suffer large delays. Our timbers are spaced anywhere from 8'-0? to 16'-0? apart. This can cause significant issues for framing with conventional methods. SIPS can span these distances very easily. Insulation is typically applied from the inside of a structure. With a timber frame, it should be applied from the outside. Application from the outside can lead to additional delays as well as leaving the insulation exposed to the weather. Again, it’s possible to use conventional framing but it’s a more time consuming and difficult route. While SIPS may cost slightly higher, they reduce the time needed to enclose in the frame. Read more about SIPS by clicking here.

  • Will you work with any panel company?

    Yes. The process for working with the company you choose will be very similar to the one discussed on our “SIPS” page. In the selection process, let us know who you want us to send plans to and we will get them any information they need.

  • Does a timber frame require anything special?

    The timber frame generates point loads rather than uniform loads commonly found in conventional construction. Because of that, care must be taken in the supporting of those point loads. On our “Building Details” page, we cover this and other things that must be taken into account when building a timber frame home. You can navigate to that page by clicking here.

  • What type of foundation can you build on?

    We can build on full basements, crawlspaces, slabs, and piers. The biggest thing to keep in mind on a timber frame’s foundation is that it must be able to support heavy point loads. Crushed gravel footings or un-filled CMU walls are both examples of foundation types we would shy away from. While they are not a bad idea for conventional framing, they don’t handle heavy point loads well.

  • Can you set on ICF foundations?

    Yes we can. However we advise against ICF foundations when they’re not installed by a foundation contractor specializing in ICF’s.

    If an ICF is going to be used, the core must be 10? of concrete and the top course must have a taper to it that increases the amount of concrete the SIPS can set on.

  • How do your posts attach to the foundation?

    Except in the case of piers or slab foundations, our posts do not sit directly on the foundation. A more in-depth explanation of how we interact with the foundations can be found on our “Building Details” page under the “Information” section.

    The way we attach to the subfloor is broken into two types. If we are sitting on a wood subfloor, we specify that the subfloor does not extend past the outside of the timber frame itself. This allows us to install galvanized tie-straps on the outside of the frame. These are nailed to the posts and the solid blocking under the posts. Because they’re on the outside, they will be covered when the walls are installed or framed.

    The second way deals with our frame setting on concrete. When we set posts on concrete, we anchor steel plates to the concrete before we raise. Because the plates need precise positioning, we will drill the anchor bolts and set the plates ourselves. The steel plates have a tab that knifes into the bottom of the post. Once the timber frame is installed, we drill one side of the posts and drive a steel pin into the tab. Once done, we plug the hole so it’s less noticeable.

  • What kind of steel plates do you need provided?

    We fabricate our own steel plates in order to facilitate our joinery and raising style. There are two types that we use, flush mount or riser plates. Diagrams of the steel plates can be found on our “Building Details” page under the “Information” section. In either case, the idea is to elevate the bottom of the post above any concrete or stone surface. At minimum this separation is 1/4?. That is enough to allow water to drain away and keep the post from sitting in a pool of water. Where code requires a minimum 1 separation, we have other solutions.

Other Resources




Clydesdale Frames Company

Phone: 620-663-6200

Shop Address:
210 East 4th
S. Hutchinson, KS 67505

Mailing Address:
610 Clydesdale Drive
Hutchinson, Kansas 67501


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