What is the difference between timber framing and post and beam? Many people have a hard time distinguishing between the two methods of building with heavy timbers. Primarily the difference is with the connections.
Timber framing is a method used by our forefathers and their ancestors, who brought with them the skills used in Europe and other countries for centuries. Using traditional wooden joinery to piece together large, usually squared timbers, the connections are carved out to fit together like a complex puzzle. An example of such a connection is a mortise and tenon joint. When the connection is made, it is usually with wooden pegs because the use of metal is not practiced with timber framing; this type of framing requires a high level of skill and can be very time consuming. There are schools that offer courses to teach these methods such as the the ones found here.
Post and Beam, in contrast to timber framing, has a distinct look that provides a more industrial appeal. This method of framing also uses heavy timbers, however the connections are much less complicated; fasteners in the form of metal screws, bolts and plates are used to connect the timber pieces. The simpler connection usually requires less time to craft. A business like Simpson Strong Tie offers plates and bracing that provide a functional solution in their Architectural Connector product line.
Alternative Framing System: T-Rex Connector
One company to offer an alternative to both framing with mortise and tenon, and framing with angle/corner bracing is Connecticut Post and Beam, with their connector.
This extruded aluminum connector is mostly hidden and no special skills are required. Fine Homebuilding called this method “21st Century Post and Beam,” in a recent article in one of their Spring publications, “Building Sheds”. Due to their inquiring customers, Connecticut Post & Beam created a simple connection that balanced the art of timber framing with the industrialization of post and beam. These customers were not interested in spending the time and utilizing the skills needed for traditional methods, nor did they want to use the big metal plates and corner bracing common in post and beam construction. Framing with T-REX presents a viable alternative with a minimal metal look that is not only engineer-approved, but cost effective as well. Plans, connectors and custom tooling are available at Connecticut Post & Beam.
In conclusion, building with larger timbers encourages personal design choices, showcasing either a handmade and rustic look, or a sleek and more modern appearance.