Custom Timber Frame Homes

Timber frame great rooms in North and South Carolina, by Carolina Diversified Builders.
Timber frame great rooms in North and South Carolina, by Carolina Diversified Builders.

In addition to full-log homes, Carolina Diversified Builders offers timber frame and post and beam styles. Both framing methods use large, horizontal or vertical beams on the interior and/or exterior of the home to add structural strength and aesthetic interest. If you’re drawn to the timeless beauty of these homes, you’re not alone.  Timber frame homes have a enduring strength that resonates with all who get to experience them.

We use timber frames handcrafted by local artisans who specialize in handcrafting each beam.

Today’s timber homes rarely come from the same mold. Designs run the gamut from traditional and classic to rustic or contemporary—and sometimes a mix of styles. It’s this plethora of design options that can leave many newcomers to the industry bewildered, wandering through a forest of references to timbers, logs, posts and beams. Here’s how to talk timber and describe what you want in your dream home.

  • How They Differ: Traditional “stick-built” construction uses a skeleton of 2-by-4 or 2-by-6 studs hidden beneath drywall to frame the home. In engineering terms, this is a “distributed load” structure. In contrast, timber homes are “point load” structures, where a few brawny horizontal and vertical beams carry all the weight of the roof and walls.
  • Timber Frame: This age old construction style evolved before the use of nails or screws, where skilled craftsmen join timbers by mortise (wooden hole) and tenon (wooden peg). The configuration allows open floor plans and cathedral ceilings.
  • Post & Beam: Same kind of open floor plans here, but this construction system uses metal fasteners between timbers, which can include plates, screws and through-bolts.
  • Logs: Used for wall systems, posts or beams, these come in two varieties—handcrafted and milled—and dozens of profiles (square, round, D-shaped, etc.), corner styles and tree species. This option also includes half log siding, which also offers the appearance of full log on corner sections.
  • Look Up To Trusses: Either post and beam or timber frame use timber trusses as the focal point of the home’s design–drawing our attention upward when we enter. The truss carries the weight of a second floor or roof system to the walls without any support from below (unless it’s for decorative purposes only). Trusses and their individual components go by dozens of names and configurations.

Hybrid Designs

More and more of today’s timber homebuyers are a combination of conventional construction with a timber frame and log accents. Often called a hybrid design, homeowners typically opt to use timbers in the public area (great room, foyer, kitchen dining area) and conventionally frame the remaining areas (bedrooms, bathrooms, mudrooms, garage, etc.). Logs are used on porches, decks and sometimes for exterior walls.

This is because the cost of the timbers ultimately competes with other upgrades, such as flooring, cabinetry and countertops. It’s a matter of trade offs. With home costs rising, people are looking toward hybrids as a good mix of the reality of budget and the beauty of a timber frame.

Another growing design trend is mix and match different wood species and profiles of timbers. This willingness of buyers to embrace eclectic designs is causing many home producers to expand their product offering to include timber frames, handcrafted and milled logs.

Many producers encourage buyers to use structural insulated panels (also called stress-skin panels) to enclose the frame, as well as the rest of the home, to reduce energy costs by 50 percent or more. It’s a great way to maintain thermal efficiency and enclose the home quickly. It’s also smart considering heating and cooling costs are on the rise.

What About Costs?

While it’s nigh impossible to generalize costs nationwide, timber frame or post and beam homes are comparable in cost to other forms of custom construction. Put another way, custom construction is 15 to 20 percent more expensive than your local production or tract homebuilder that offers few upgrades and no changes to a design.

Timber home producers say finished homes can cost as low as $130 a square foot for modest amenities to $400 or more per square foot for more luxurious appointments. Hybrid designs can save buyers roughly $10 to $15 a square foot or five to 10 percent over a home that uses a full timber frame or post and beam throughout.

Rarely is the choice between going full frame or hybrid based solely on aesthetic or design considerations. It usually comes down to cost.