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Building the Timber Frame House: The Revival of a Forgotten Craft [Paperback]

Tedd Benson , James Gruber , Jamie Page
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
List Price: CDN$ 28.99
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Book Description

Sept. 1 1981
For centuries, post-and-beam construction has proved to be one of the most durable building techniques. It is being enthusiastically revived today not only for its sturdiness but because it can be easily insulated, it is attractive, and it offers the builder the unique satisfaction of working with timbers. Building the Timber Frame House is the most comprehensive manual available on the technique. In it you will find a short history, of timber framing and a fully illustrated discussion of the different kinds of joinery, assembly of timbers, and raising of the frame. There are also detailed sections on present-day design and materials, house plans, site development, foundation laying, insulation, tools, and methods.

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Building the Timber Frame House: The Revival of a Forgotten Craft + Timber Frame Construction: All About Post-and-Beam Building + Build a Classic Timber-Framed House: Planning & Design/Traditional Materials/Affordable Methods
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Review

Boston Globe If you've been in an old barn and marveled at the great beams and posts, then you know what a timber frame is....Building the Timber Frame House...is a brilliant book on two levels, as a history and philosophical raison d'etre of timber-frame construction...and [as] a no-nonsense, how-to guide.

Building and Remodeling Instructions are so complete that if you have (or can command) basic carpentry skills, this could be your sole house-building source.

Popular Science A delightful handbook.

About the Author

Tedd Benson is the founder and owner of a post-and-beam construction firm in New Hampshire. A builder for ten years, he has specialized in timber framing for six.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
ACCORDING to Jacob Bronowski, a turning point for man began when he developed the capacity and summoned the will to cut and to split materials to form his structures. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Back Cover
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Most helpful customer reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My favorite Timber Framing Book Sept. 19 2001
By Daiku
Format:Paperback
Timber framing is my hobby, and I own several books on the subject, but this has always been my favorite. The how-to section is very thorough, and includes information on tools and techniques. The author's enthusiasm for the subject is what really makes the difference, though. The sections on history and woodworking are especially good. If a friend wanted to try timber framing, and asked me which book to buy first, I would pick this one without hesitation.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
My wife and I built a hybrid timber frame home using this book as a guide. Although we have construction skills, this book was invaluable in guiding us through the process. We can't wait to build another. We highly recommend this book to anyone considering a timber frame house.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential for Timber Framing March 7 2011
Format:Paperback
Building The Timber Frame House begins with the history of timber framing, and maintains it's grass roots feel throughout the chapters. Information is well grouped together for quick reference. The pictures have a sketched look rather than a sharper autocad look, yet they are still clear and understandable, but in some instances could be bigger to avoid information crowding. Benson covers material from foundations to fibre failure with alacrity.
Very Enjoyable - Robin Koykka
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.3 out of 5 stars  24 reviews
59 of 59 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding guidebook for building your own timberframe home April 24 1999
By LGabe1111@AOL.Com - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
My wife and I built a hybrid timber frame home using this book as a guide. Although we have construction skills, this book was invaluable in guiding us through the process. We can't wait to build another. We highly recommend this book to anyone considering a timber frame house.
36 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My favorite Timber Framing Book Sept. 19 2001
By Daiku - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Timber framing is my hobby, and I own several books on the subject, but this has always been my favorite. The how-to section is very thorough, and includes information on tools and techniques. The author's enthusiasm for the subject is what really makes the difference, though. The sections on history and woodworking are especially good. If a friend wanted to try timber framing, and asked me which book to buy first, I would pick this one without hesitation.
21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Book...early work on Timber Framing Oct. 11 2005
By B. Rehart - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This book is one of the classics on Timber Framing for those who want to get into this type of construction or build their own house. It is a very easy read. Though sometimes the author tends towards to much philosophy about life, construction and wood working.

This book has very useful sections on joinery, design, raising, engineering, load physics, etc. Very easy to understand even if, like me, you are not a professional carpenter, contractor or mechanical engineer. I know nothing of contracting or building and understood the whole book.

The book does not mention anything about Scribe Rule and Square Rule techniques and the differences between the two. These old techniques may not have been widely known when this book was written, although they were well known by early timber frame carpenters, before Timber Framing was replaced with cheaper, but faster Balloon Framing.

A book that does go into Square Rule in a more structured way and is equally easy to read is Buid a Classic Timber-Framed House, by Jack Sobon.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Nearly three decades old and more relevant than ever Dec 28 2008
By Reviewer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This book was first written in 1980, though the philosophies presented between its covers are appropriate in these recent years of speculative energy prices and wobbling economic foundations. Timber frame house construction was "green" before that word was media-masticated and spit into popular culture.

The book is well illustrated and instructive, and it is also well written. The authors have both experience and passion for this topic. The hand-drawn illustrations are well labeled with a drafting font that makes it interesting and captivating to read.

The book begins with a historical review of this art, and slowly drills down to detailed diagrams of the many joining techniques. It is amazing that this old style of construction intuitively solved problems in structural mechanics without the need for finite element modeling, or even nails for that matter. The strength of this method of construction comes not from the size of the timbers (though they are substantial), but from the joints crafted from wood with axes, augers, and hammers. Timber framing is like cabinet building, but bigger.

There are many detailed drawings of joining techniques, and the reader quickly realizes that the craftsmanship and careful execution of these joints is the secret to this respected building trade. Flipping through these pages also immediately reveals the compromises that are made in modern home construction. Those who have ever wondered where the term "stick built" comes from will find the answer in this book. Dimensional lumber are sticks in comparison to timbers. Though metal connectors used in today's framing have done wonders for total structural stability, this book shows you that timber framing negates the need for stamped steel reinforcement.

Timber framed structures are built for permanence, preserving the strength of the frame by encasing it completely within the outer sheathing and exploiting the timbers as an aesthetic interior design element. It is amazing that so many barns and houses were built only by hand, because a single timber required two or more men to lift and transport. In this age, a crane is more appropriate. One should keep this in mind if considering this project on his or her own.

The captions in the book are terse and straight forward. "Wood never lies to you." "You don't just hack away obliviously." As said before, the writing is eloquent, and one can feel the earnestness of the writer with every paragraph. This excerpt sounds like it was written this year, rather than 1980:

"To insulate as well as we can and to make houses as tight as we can present new challenges to the building industry. Houses will no longer naturally ventilate because of our inability to get them tight. We can lock them up like thermos bottles if we like. To bring new air into the house, we'll have to design ventilation systems into the plans. With heat loss cut to the bones, we'll have to design natural and mechanical recirculation to keep the temperature even and the air fresh. In this kind of environment, the heat from appliances, lights, and even body heat will contribute significant proportions to the small heating requirements. In houses built this way, energy from the sun, wind, or water could easily replace fuel-fired power sources."
"Energy conservation is the hope of the future. In conscience, we must mark the end of the era of substandard housing that is cheap to build but expensive and wasteful to maintain. In conscience, we should begin a time when houses contain energy-autonomous environments that consume no fossil fuels and are build to last centuries."

Those words are nearly three decades old. They are describing what is sometimes called a "passivhaus" or "passive house", which is also an established building technique but is only recently seeing revival as a "green" building technique. Insulation, rather than expensive heating and cooling systems, is the key to energy efficiency. What the authors are showing is that with a timber frame, the outer skin can be insulated panels that are tightly sealed, making a water tight and nearly air tight structure that is stronger, more permanent, and more energy efficient than any home constructed from dimensional lumber.

And if there is any gripe of the book, it is that there should be more detail on the outer sheathing and insulating techniques, as well as wiring methods. There are a few cross sections (fairly detailed) but they are not as comprehensive as other sections of the book. Perhaps in 1980 the insulated panel industry was not large enough to devote more than a few pages to it. But now, there are composite, structurally insulated panels of many varying types that can be used in conjunction with a timber frame to build a very efficient, very strong, and architecturally pleasing home. And this is yet another example of how things come full circle; one of the oldest building techniques proves itself to be superior to its modern replacement in multiple ways.

On a personal note my building experience comes from the construction of a stick built garage which, at the time, seemed incredibly stout to me. I used 2x6 lumber for the walls rather than 2x4s, and sheathed the walls and roof with 5/8" oriented strand board. I used metal connectors in liberal amounts, reinforced the joints and ceiling joists, and insulated the entire structure so that I could work during the cold months. The garage is a solid, well insulated structure that maintains a comfortable climate by insulation and thermal mass alone. I was striving for a better way of building, and after reading this book I see that my desire was for timber frame construction. I wish I would have known more about it when I undertook the garage project, but now if I ever build my own home, I know how I will build it.

Lastly, the appendix has diagrams for beam loads that is nearly more comprehensive than some textbooks on the topic of strength of materials. Even if you do not intend to build a home this way, this book may still be of value to you if you have any interest in building, construction, or architecture.

For more information on finishing a timber frame home with different structural insulated panel technologies, see Benson's newer book: The Timber-Frame Home: Design Construction Finishing. It has more color photos and addresses the special considerations for foundations, plumbing, wiring, and insulating timber frame homes.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars well written, very informative March 10 2006
By J. Roy - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I have read all the major timber frame books on the market, including both titles from Jack Sobon. Benson's book is packed with information on how to build a timber frame and has an index in the back that allows one to figure out what size timber is needed. This book is one of, if not, the best on this subject.
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